Written by: Jennifer "CrzyDemona" Anderson, A Fan, and Patrick Toman
Story concept by: A Fan, Todd Jensen, Nicodemus, and Patrick Toman
Illustrations by: Jennifer "CrzyDemona" Anderson
Previously on Gargoyles...
"Who would send me all this?" Angela wondered aloud, not noticing Dominique shaking her head slightly and massaging her temples with her fingers. Angela searched among the brightly colored tulips and daffodils until she came up with a small card, her expression changing to one of puzzlement as she read it. "Who's 'Darien'?" she asked, confused.
Dominique sighed again and tried to compose herself a little before responding. "Someone who mistakenly believes that he is getting on my good side by attempting to court my 'eligible' daughter," she said.
Demona could barely hear him. She leaned closer and stared into his dark eyes, her hands still clasped around his. "What is it, Michel? I'm listening," she said softly.
"When your child assumes two forms, a great evil draws near..."
"Child?" Demona whispered, "I have no child..."
"It's beautiful," she whispered as her mother moved up beside her and joined her in looking. "Where did you get it?"
"I... made it for you," Dominique said. She hesitated a moment, then added, "A friend gave me the idea a long time ago."
"A human friend?" Angela asked suspiciously, arching her eyebrows.
Demona took her daughter's hand as she descended the last few steps and led her back into the library, where the spellbook she had used that morning still lay open on the podium next to the long-extinguished candles. "One thing to always remember, my daughter," she said as she turned Angela to face her, a deadly serious expression on her face, "all things in this world have a price - especially those things done using magic."
"No, we used a spell..." Angela blurted without thinking.
"A spell?!" Goliath growled, wings flaring back and eyes starting to glow. Angela winced again. Her father's short but loud interrogatives were not helping her pounding head any.
Goliath looked about ready to explode as he turned back to his daughter, his voice rumbling on the low side of a roar. "So this is what happens when I allow you to spend time with Demona? You dabble in sorcery and come home like this?"
~ Prophets and Angels ~
* * * * *
Her thoughts turned again to Angela. Angela, the single bright star shining in the hollow darkness of a long, painful existence. The terror that touched her was not for herself, but for her young and treasured daughter. Angela had no gift/curse of immortality to see her through whatever dangers the world might bring. The pendant Demona had given her was gone, destroyed -- perhaps another?
She seized on that brief hope until it flickered and died, knowing there was no time to craft another pendant even if she'd had the rare materials readily on hand.
Angela's own talent for sorcery, then? She had it, Demona knew she did.
"No," Demona murmured. "Not untutored, not without training."
"You have to send Angela back to Avalon. There, perhaps, she will be safe! She'll go, if you tell her to. Please, Goliath! If not for my sake, then for hers! For our daughter! Send her to Avalon!"
"I will not force her to go, and she would not leave her clan to save herself. A clan stands and falls together, Demona, or have you forgotten?"
She ignored the barb. "All I want in the world is for Angela to be safe!"
"Safe, with her clan, where she belongs," he said firmly.
Demona flung her hands in the air. "I knew it was a bad idea to come here! I knew you would refuse, but I had to try!" A sudden tear welled, and she dashed it angrily away. "Go on, then! Be blind, await your fate. But remember, I did try!"
She spun and ran from him, diving into the night.
He watched her go, scowling.
Elisa approached. "What was that all about?"
"I don't know. She seemed genuinely upset --"
"She's deceived you before."
"Still, this time there was something different about her. I wonder if I should have listened to her."
She gaped at him, stunned.
"If he won't take steps to protect our daughter," Demona said, "I will!"
~ Signs and Portents ~
* * * * *
Her mother led her through the dark hallway and up the stairs. Hurriedly, still holding her hand with light pressure, she said, "First, I must have you swear to secrecy all you see tonight."
Demona turned back to her. "Your father would no doubt disapprove of what I am about to show you."
"What is it?"
"Swear to me." She made a noise. "Trust me."
"I swear." Demona squeezed her hand.
"What we are about to do is a grave undertaking, something I would never consider under normal circumstances."
"What do you mean?"
Her mother placed her free hand against a closed door. The frame flashed green. Demona opened the door.
At first glance, the room appeared to be the ill-gotten product of a union between Muppet Laboratories and Radio Shack. Shelves lined the walls filled with white and gray powders, liquids clear and vermilion and algae-green. Benches below the shelves held the multicolored guts of laser rifles and other equipment she could not as easily identify.
The center of the room was divided into two areas, one with a square table, four feet to a side, and an empty space, where pungent traces of ash lay strewn in the remnants of a circle. Letters in an unfamiliar tongue were scrawled in chalk at five points on the circle. The shelves on that side of the room were covered in books, filed, stacked, or leaning against one another companionably, some with unbroken laminated spines, some probably older than Demona herself. Odd trinkets, none bigger than her thumb, were piled on one side of the table, scrolls in various conditions in another pile opposite them. Make that Muppet Labs, Radio Shack, and a particularly vivid dream by the Archmage.
"Welcome to my workroom."
Angela turned around twice, trying to take in everything. "Why have you brought me here?"
"In my life, I have seen much of danger and unrest. When humans squabble amongst themselves, gargoyles die. At Wyvern, at Moray, in Paris, frightened humans murdered our kind." She scowled, eyes momentarily lined with ancient pain. "Our kind are never completely safe, but these are more dangerous times than even I have seen. And the humans will be terribly afraid."
"What do you mean?"
"I fear for you. After what Maeve did ... " Her face went dark again, while Angela blushed in hot shame at the memory of her capture. Something was wrong. Not for the first time, she had the uneasy feeling her mother was not telling her the whole truth. More dangerous times? A chill shivered down her wings. Rather than ask, and perhaps receive an answer she could not accept, she grasped onto a flaw in her mother's argument.
"Maeve isn't human. She never was."
"No," said Demona. "But she and her kind are the nightmares that make humans fear the dark. For your protection," she paused, then said quickly, "and that of the clan, I'm going to teach you the art of magic."
Angela's eyes went back to her mother. In confusion, she stammered, "Me? A magic user?"
"I know you have the gift within you. All it requires is training to coax it out." Thoughts of the Unseelie momentarily forgotten, her mother's face was bright, animated.
"I don't know. Father isn't going to like this."
Demona spat, then said, "Your father will be the death of this clan yet. That's why I made you promise."
"What if I talked with him about it first?"
"He would tell you that I am trying to corrupt you." She rolled her eyes. "I am trying to protect you. Look into your heart, Angela. Surely you can see that it is the truth." Demona took her hand again, which Angela had pulled away. "Think of this as a trial. I'll teach you some basic spells. After you learn them, and it will take some time, you can show Goliath, and he will see that it is for the good of the clan, and you, that you learn."
Angela bit her lip. It would make her mother happy. As she said, it would be helpful for the clan if they had someone on hand who knew a little magic, just in case. It wasn't as if they could simply drop Alexander off the building so that Puck could appear. She could hear no trace of guile in her mother's words, no more than their usual colored impression of the world, and she did so want to believe.
Demona smiled. "Excellent. Do you swear to be silent about your lessons, at least for the time being?"
"Yes," she said, more quietly. She would keep the secret for now. If she thought Goliath needed to know, she would tell him. It was that simple.
"Good. Then let us begin."
~ The Scottish Play ~
* * * * *
* * * * *
Offices of Nightstone Unlimited - May 12, 1998
Dominique Destine shuffled the papers on her desk back together and tapped the jumble several times to settle them back into an orderly stack. She looked up at the man sitting in the chair - or rather, on the edge of the chair - across from her, who was waiting anxiously for her to speak.
"Your counterproposal looks interesting, but I will need some time to review it and the blueprints before I make my decision."
Darien Montrose shifted in his seat and nodded. "Very good, Ms. Destine. I'm glad we're starting to make progress. The Exeter property has been a real sticky wicket for both of our companies for quite some time. I'm anxious to get the matter resolved."
"As am I," replied Dominique as she stood up. Mr. Montrose immediately stood up as well. She began re-rolling the thick stack of blueprints that was spread out on the desk and asked. "Shall we meet again in a few days?"
"That would be fine," Darien replied.
"Talk to my secretary on your way out, and she'll schedule you."
"Actually," Darien said, "I was wondering if we could perhaps meet over dinner..."
Dominique looked up sharply.
"... and you could invite your daughter, Angela, so that I could take advantage of my visit to New York to finally meet her in person."
Dominique read the glint in his eye as one she had seen too many times from human males since beginning her own part-time career as a human female. Still, she maintained an outwardly calm demeanor that befitted her position as an executive, even though she was seething inside.
"I don't really think my daughter would be interested," she replied.
"All I want is the chance to find out for myself, from her," Darien said benignly.
Dominique glanced at the clock. If she left now, she would just barely make it home before sunset. She thought it over briefly. She was wearing a suit that she particularly liked -- it was just the right shade of red -- and she had absolutely no desire to endure her transformation here and then have to glide home on a chilly, rainy night in tattered clothing. So she could make up a quick concession and leave now, and get home in time to save herself another visit to the boutique, or she could remain here trying to convince this man that his pursuit of her "eligible daughter" was fruitless.
"I'll talk to her about it when she visits me again," Dominique said.
"Excellent," replied Mr. Montrose. He shifted edgily. "That will be soon, I hope," he added. "I could even make the dinner arrangements if you'd like..."
Dominique inwardly growled, but tried to keep her voice level. "I said I will talk to her. If she is interested, then we'll arrange a meeting."
Darien looked at her for a moment, and straightened his tie in an attempt to cover a gulp. "Yes, yes, I see. Very well then." He stood there for a moment more, then extended his hand automatically. After a brief moment she shook it. "A good evening to you, Ms. Destine."
Dominique began packing her briefcase as he exited the office. As the door clicked shut again, she shook her head and muttered acidly, "Humans."
* * * * *
Dominique curled her fingernails into the upholstery, the feeling of apprehension and anticipation growing within the pit of her stomach. The end of rush hour traffic had been heavy, and the weather had made it even worse. An early evening thunderstorm had broken just as she left the office, and was only now starting to let up. The rain beaded on the window, running down the glass in small rivulets as the limousine turned into the driveway.
Another twinge in her gut made Dominique rise up in her seat. "Let me out here!" she shouted urgently. The car came obediently to a stop halfway up the semi-circular drive, a few yards from the mansion's front door.
Dominique bolted from the car as soon as the door was opened. "Thank you, Gregory, you may go," she blurted quickly, not even turning around as she ran as fast as her high heels would allow through the light drizzle and up the front steps.
Gregory nodded silently, closing the car door as his employer rattled her keys in a desperate search for the right one. As Dominique finally unlocked the door and tumbled into the foyer, the limousine turned back into the street and slipped away.
She cast her purse and keys on the small table just inside the door as she jerked the door shut behind her. She started immediately toward the stairs, and began to take off her suit jacket. The jacket was half off as she lifted her foot for the first step up.
A sudden convulsion shot through her chest, beginning at the top of the ribcage and rocketing downward into the very bottom of her abdomen. Dominique staggered and doubled over, her right arm clutching her midsection and her left instinctively grabbing the balustrade for support.
"No! Not now! Not yet!" she growled against the pain. Then she screamed.
Dominique ground her teeth together as the wings erupted from her back, shredding the jacket and the fragile silk blouse underneath instantly. Her hands clenched up, her fingers gouging deep grooves into the oaken stair rail as human fingernails melded and shifted color to become sharp gargoyle talons. The red patent leather shoes on her feet ripped apart as if made of tissue paper as her the bones of her feet popped, grew, and shifted. An intense pain at the base of her spine made her writhe back in agony, until finally her skirt ripped open and the tail sprouted free.
At last, the pain - and the screams that came with it - stopped. Dominique freed her hand from the balustrade, the wood giving a final, sickening crack as she withdrew her talons. She turned defeatedly to the small mirror on the wall of the entryway. Dominique Destine was gone. Demona had arrived to take her place.
Demona scowled, eyes glowing scarlet as she pinned her arms against her sides to keep her blouse, now ripped completely apart in the back, from falling off altogether.
"Curse you, Darien Montrose!" she growled, surveying the unsalvageable remains of what had been her favorite suit. With an angry hiss, she whirled about, her tail knocking over the little entry table and sending her purse to the floor. It fell open, its contents spilling across the floor amongst the shredded remains of her jacket and pumps.
Demona's eyes glowed brilliant red. With a bloodcurdling screech, she kicked at the purse, punting it into the next room, then took to all fours and fled up the stairs.
* * * * *
Angela's arrival an hour later brightened Demona's mood some, and by then she had tidied up a bit, as well. As she led Angela from the dining room after the dishes from their meal had been cleared away, the younger female noticed nothing awry in the front entry hall. They continued into the back of the house, and Angela paused at the door to Demona's workroom as the elder female came up beside her.
"You try it this time, daughter," the blue-skinned gargoyle said, gesturing to the portal. "You have been practicing, haven't you?"
Angela straightened up. "Of course, Mother," she replied. Taking a deep breath, she concentrated and raised her hand, pressing her palm firmly against the dark wood of the door. A warm, tingly sensation began in her fingertips and raced down her arm, and a moment later the door glowed dimly as the magical barrier was undone and finally gave way under the pressure of her touch.
"Excellent, my child," Demona commended, nodding.
Angela looked at her hand, wiggling her talons slightly as the magic quickly dissipated from around them, then looked up at her mother and smiled. Demona returned the smile, and Angela followed the older sorceress into the small study and set to the first task of lighting a candle for herself near her work area, where she found a new book already waiting for her. Angela picked the book up carefully. While it was "new" in the sense that she had not seen it before, the stiff, deep-grained leather cover and yellowed pages hinted at its true age.
Demona came up behind her. "Your studies are progressing well. You are ready for some new material. Your mastering of the ability to dispel the barrier protecting this room is proof of that. It is time for your training to begin progressing in earnest, my daughter - time for you to start moving beyond the simple spells I have taught you so far." She guided the book back to the table and Angela onto her stool, helping the girl open the volume as one might help a small child open an oversized picture book.
Angela stifled a sneeze as her mother folded back the cover and the dust from within rose up to her nose. She looked at the text, handwritten words in Latin, and inwardly groaned. "I want you to start by reading this introduction," Demona began, slipping into teacher mode, "and when you're done, we'll discuss it."
"Mother?" Angela asked.
Demona looked up from the book and at her daughter for the first time. "Yes, Angela?"
The girl paused a second, forming her thought. "Can't we discuss something besides magic for just a little while?" she asked timidly. Demona looked at her oddly. "I mean," she added with a bit more strength in her tone, "ever since you started teaching me, we've hardly talked about anything else... and we only really see each other once a week."
The book was momentarily forgotten as Demona pulled up a stool of her own. "All right," she said. "You sound like a person with a lot on her mind. What would you like to talk about?"
* * *
Minutes turned to hours and the candle on the table slowly shrank away as Angela regaled Demona with the latest goings-on in her life - from the books Broadway had been reading to her, to the latest antics of Brooklyn's children and their pet, to the story of her human friend Richard Harrison and his newly acquired family. Demona listened to all of it patiently, holding her tongue at times, until Angela reached the part about how Richard's brother, George, had walked out on the child he had sired.
Demona made a disgusted noise. "Hmph, typical human. Useless creatures with no sense of responsibility... what kind of person abandons their own offspring?"
"You abandoned the eggs in the rookery," Angela replied matter-of-factly. Demona gasped in shock, then flinched as the memories hit her like a wall. "I admire Richard," the girl continued. "He's like Princess Katharine, stepping in like that to take care of Quinn and Hope."
Demona shot up from her stool. "I was denied the chance to raise you and your siblings! Katharine and the Magus stole the eggs away before I was able to claim them!"
"That's not how it happened," Angela began.
"How dare you defend them? You weren't there! You don't know what really happened! You only know what you've been told by the humans," she sneered. Angela opened her mouth again, but Demona cut her off with an angry wave of her hand. "Your precious Princess Katharine and her human followers never gave our clan an ounce of respect when we shared our castle with them. We gave our lives for them and they gave us only contempt! But the greatest insult of all came the day they stole away our children!"
Angela balked as her mother's eyes flashed red. Demona drew a deep, ragged breath. "And they have the gall to call us 'beasts.' Humans are the real animals, especially the males." Her eyes narrowed and glowed faintly red. "Disgusting creatures, always thinking with their..."
"Mother!" Angela gasped in shock.
"...hormones," she finished. Demona's eyes widened and lost their reddish cast. She gazed at her daughter curiously. "What did you think I was about to say?"
Angela sat there, open-mouthed, debating whether to reply.
"Honestly, Angela... you've picked up too many filthy human ideas. All that garbage they broadcast on the television and have the nerve to call 'entertainment'... you'd be wise to stay away from it. You're a gargoyle, try to think like one! Just because the rest of your clan has been corrupted by human depravity is no excuse for you to allow your mind to be polluted as well."
Angela gaped in shock. "Mother, please! Just listen to yourself for a moment! Must you always be so harsh when it comes to humans?"
Demona cut her off. "I know, Angela. You were raised by humans. Princess Katharine is a saint and Elisa Maza is the best friend the clan ever had. I've heard it all before." She crossed her arms angrily. "You've given me this lecture so many times, I've lost count. Must I hear it again tonight? I am really not in the mood."
Angela scowled viciously at her mother. "It sounds like you need to hear it again, but I don't know why I should waste my time. Ugh. Sometimes you are more stubborn than Father."
"I'll take that as a compliment, Daughter." Demona said sarcastically as she turned away, picked a book from the shelf, and began to thumb through it.
Angela sighed. "Maybe if you could just spend one day looking things from the human point of view, you might feel differently about them."
Demona turned back, the book open in her talons. "Now why would I ever want to do that?" she asked with mock curiosity. "To see how the other half lives?"
"Yes," replied Angela sincerely.
"I do that every single day, if you haven't forgotten," Demona chastised. "And a wretched, monotonous life it is, I can tell you that. I'd take being a gargoyle over being a pathetic little human any time, were it my choice." Her eyes flashed red for a moment as she thought about Puck. "Infernal trickster!" she muttered.
Angela sighed again. "There's no sense even talking to you," she said calmly.
Demona looked up at her. "Then don't," she replied simply.
"Fine," Angela said. With a flip of her head, she spun back around on her stool and picked her book back up from the worktable, pressing her nose into the pages.
Behind her, Demona frowned for a moment, then retired with her own book to her desk at the other side of the room.
* * * * *
Angela lit a fresh candle off the dying stub of the old one and slipped it back into its holder. She'd slowly grown re-accustomed to reading by the flickering of candlelight or firelight ever since beginning her lessons with her mother. On Avalon, they had had no electric lights, and so the fact that Demona seemed quite averse to using any artificial light when a candle would suffice just as well never had really bothered her. In fact, she found something quite comforting in the dancing light of a flame. "There is life in all things, even a fire," she recalled the Magus having told her and the other Eggs once when she was young. "A fire breathes, it consumes, it grows, and from it's sparks, can give birth to new fires. And deprived of its food or its air, it dies as well."
Perhaps that was why her mother preferred candles to light bulbs. Angela shrugged and sighed and went back to the text she had been given to study. She turned the page and began reading again, not really paying attention to what the words were actually saying, as tired as she was becoming. She yawned and tried to refocus. When she looked at the page again, a heading near the bottom seemed to nearly leap up and grab her.
Angela's eyes got wider the more she read, following the text furiously from one page onto the next. When she had reached the end of the entry, she went back and read it again.
Angela looked up at her mother. Demona was sitting quietly at the far end of the room, hunched over a tome of her own. As on many nights past, Angela couldn't even really tell if she was awake or had fallen asleep from exhaustion. The latter had become almost routine as of late, and Angela had taken, on her own volition, to not even waking her. She would simply let herself out and return to the castle, knowing her mother needed her sleep whenever she could find it -- or more aptly, whenever it could find her.
She looked back down at the text and read the one-and-one-half-page passage again, and at last made up her mind. She spoke in almost a whisper. "Non recorder tuus vitae de statue alati facias ad tenebram super urbanis cadet."
The candle beside her flickered, and a moment later the ones near Demona flickered similarly, as if a soft breeze had carried through the room.
Angela smiled. She closed the book softly and laid it back on the table, rising silently from her chair so as not to wake her mother. "Good night, Mother," she whispered as she departed the room. As she tiptoed past the grandfather clock in the hall, it began chiming the hour. Before the third and final tone had sounded, she was out the back door and off the balcony, winging her way towards home.
* * *
Something stirred Demona from her sleep, and she woke to the clock chiming three. She made a small sound as she opened her eyes, and after blinking several times, she realized she was in her chair in her study. Sleepily, she rose and snuffed out the last candle, then made her way slowly upstairs to her bedroom. She was asleep again by the time her head hit the pillow.
* * * * *
The monotone buzz of the alarm clock pulled Dominique from a dream whose details were forgotten nearly as soon as her eyes had pulled the large red numbers reading "5:45" into focus. She swatted the top of the clock, fumbling with it for several seconds before its annoying droning finally ceased. She rubbed the remaining sleep from her eyes as she forced herself out of the bed, stretching and yawning groggily. Looking out between the partially drawn curtains, she could see just the barest traces of sunlight brightening the eastern sky. Sighing, she grabbed her bathrobe from the bedpost, pulling it around herself as she headed toward the master bath.
She emerged fifteen minutes later, showered, hair wrapped in a towel, and a bit more awake. After stepping into a pair of slippers, she made her way downstairs, still in her bathrobe. Leftover coffee from the day before was poured into a mug and placed in the microwave, and milk was pulled from the refrigerator to be poured on a bowl of cornflakes which was eaten while standing over the sink. The dirty dishes were left for later, and the rewarmed cup of coffee joined her in the trip back upstairs.
Dominique pulled a red suit out of the closet and a pair of pantyhose from a drawer. She disappeared into the bathroom again and returned another twenty minutes later as Ms. Dominique Destine, business executive, ready to face the world for one more day. She hung the bathrobe back on the bedpost, slipped on a matching pair of red pumps, and picked up her briefcase and her purse. She looked at the clock again: 6:30. After one quick final check in the full-length mirror, she headed downstairs and outside to her waiting limousine.
* * * * *
"And now that you're here permanently, this will be your desk," Candice said, concluding the short tour. "Until Ms. Destine bounces you out of here and back down to the mailroom," she added mentally.
"Cool," Lydia replied, smiling. She ran a hand across the smooth, polished mahogany. "This sure beats that crummy cubicle." She set down a small box she had brought with her from down the hall and began unpacking a variety of items, none of them work related. A small potted cactus. A portable clock radio. A coffee mug adorned with the face of an orange comic strip cat. A little figurine of a white-shirted engineer with a buzzcut and a tie that curled absurdly upwards, sitting at a small desk and fuming at a small computer.
"So when does the big boss lady get here?" Lydia asked as she finished decorating her desk and sat down in her new chair. She bounced up and down on it a couple times to test the springs.
Candice regarded her levelly as she sat back down at her own desk across the way. "Ms. Destine always arrives at seven A.M. sharp. She likes her messages and her coffee waiting for her, and if she ever says more than three words to you between the elevator and her office door, you're probably in deep trouble."
Lydia blinked, but didn't get a chance to respond as the elevator chimed and the "boss lady" in question stepped out.
"Good morning, Ms. Destine," Candice said, rising from her chair.
Dominique smiled. "Good morning, Candice. How are you today?"
Candice stammered a moment; Ms. Destine had never asked that question of her before. "I'm fine, Ms. Destine," she replied.
Dominique deposited a white cardboard box on Candice's desk. "I had Gregory stop and I picked up some doughnuts on the way in," she explained. "Help yourself." Before Candice could reply, she turned and noticed Lydia, who was still sitting at her new desk.
"And you must be Lydia," Dominique surmised. She crossed to her and, shifting her briefcase, extended her right hand. Lydia rose and shook it, smiling broadly. "Welcome aboard. I reviewed your personnel file last night and I think you're really going to do well up here in the executive offices.
"Thank you, Ms. Destine," Lydia replied.
Dominique nodded and smiled at each of them once again before hurrying off to her office. Once the door had clicked shut, Lydia came over to Candice's desk and took a cream-filled doughnut from the box. The two secretaries looked at each other for a moment.
"I thought you said..." Lydia began.
"Trust me," Candice said, taking a sprinkle-covered doughnut for herself. "I don't know what's up with her, but I do know it won't last."
* * * * *
Dominique finished off her third jelly doughnut and washed it down with the last of her second cup of coffee. As she shook the powdered sugar off the expense reports on her desk, she looked up suddenly. What was that odd, rhythmic thumping? She turned to the window. No, it didn't seem to be coming from outside. She turned back and listened carefully. No, it was definitely not coming from outside. It seemed to be coming from the outer office...
* * *
Lydia gave the volume knob on her radio another small twist upward and bobbed her head in synch with the beat of the song that had just come on. Candice scowled at her and made to speak when...
WHOOSH. The door to Ms. Destine's office flew open, and Dominique herself stood there in it, glaring across the reception lobby.
A half-dozen employees froze in their tracks, as still as figures in an oil painting. Lydia's head stopped bobbing, but the voice on the radio launched into the chorus as electric guitars wailed.
"I don't remember, I don't recall,
I've got no memories of anything at all..."
No one said a word as Dominique strode across the room, homing in on the source of the music in an instant. She snatched the radio up from the desk and stared at Lydia for a moment with piercing eyes. For the briefest of moments, they flickered with pure, uncontrolled rage. Dominique tensed up for just a split second, then a wave of calm washed over her. She stood there with the radio in her hand, everyone's eyes on her, as the song played on.
"Stop staring at me like a bird of prey,
I'm all mixed up, I got nothing to say,
I don't remember... I don't remember..."
Dominique blinked, and felt her cheeks glowing warm with color. "If you're going to play the radio," she said at last, a bit flustered, "keep the volume down." She moved the volume control down a few notches to demonstrate and set the radio gently back on the desk.
"Now, ladies," she said, straightening her jacket. "We are running a business here. Let's get some work done, shall we?"
Candice and Lydia simply stared at each other as their boss retreated to her office, the door closing behind her with a soft click.
* * * * *
Dominique remained sequestered in her office for the remainder of the morning, poring over paperwork at furious pace -- until she reached up for the next item in her "In" basket and realized it was empty. She looked up at the clock and saw that it was a quarter to noon, and gave a small smile at her own efficiency. "I believe you deserve a reward, Ms. Destine," she said quirkily to herself as she grabbed her purse from the drawer and rose from her chair.
She strode calmly into the outer office, pleased to note that although Lydia's radio was still on, the music was barely audible over the hum of the office machines.
"I'm heading out for lunch," she announced to Candice as she passed by. "I'll be back in time for my meeting."
Still smiling, she stepped into a waiting elevator and the doors closed behind her.
* * * * *
Dominique savored the last bite of her "reward," grinning happily as the final forkful of the sweet, creamy desert spread over her tongue.
"I shall have to do this more often," she commented to herself as she set the fork down next to the empty plate. A trio of plump pigeons perching on the railing caught her eye as she dabbed the last of the cherry-topped cheesecake from her lips with her napkin. They returned her stare curiously, one of them ruffling his feathers and bobbing his head in that peculiar way birds do, almost as if he was pointing at something. Dominique looked down at the table, spying the bread basket with several pieces she hadn't touched still remaining in it. She looked back up at the birds again as one of them cooed. A funny grin played across her lips as she reached for the uneaten breadsticks.
After a quick glance to make sure none of the café's staff was looking, Dominique crumbled one of the sticks in her hand and cast the crumbs to the ground beneath the table. The three birds seemed to look at each other for a moment before hopping down as one and, after a short squabble over the largest piece, beginning a feast of their own.
Dominique watched them for a few moments, looking up as the largest skittered out of the way of her waiter's foot as he returned with the check. The man nearly stumbled as the bird flapped between his legs, and Dominique stifled a chuckle as he awkwardly regained his balance and continued on as if nothing had happened. She accepted the bill and looked it over for a moment before withdrawing a platinum card from her purse and slipping it into the leather folder and handing it back to the man. She entertained herself again by watching the three pigeons battle each other for crumbs until the waiter returned with the slip for her to sign. Under "gratuity," she quickly penned in a figure, and then signed her name to the line with a small flourish.
Rising from her seat, she handed the document back to the young man with a "thank you" as she tucked her credit card back into her purse. He glanced at it and his eyes went wide as they scanned across the number she had written in.
"Thank you, ma'am," he replied, hurrying to hold the gate for her as she left the confines of the sidewalk eatery for the bustle of the street. She nodded appreciatively at him. "Please come again," he called after her as she left."
His words were lost to the air as the sounds of the city enveloped her once more. Dominique paused at the corner, waiting for the light to change, and glanced down the street toward Washington Square Park. Over the rumble of the traffic, she could hear music. Curious, she decided to take a different route back to the office, and started toward the sound.
The music had ended by the time she reached the edge of the park, but a banner strung across the street proclaimed the annual art show which now stretched before her for several city blocks. Her eyes lit up with curiosity, but she wasn't quite sure where to begin looking. She side-stepped a white-faced mime who was pressing his hands frantically against an invisible glass wall and headed towards a grassy area where some activity was going on.
Dominique pressed her way into the crowd that had gathered to watch a group of tumblers performing. For several minutes, she watched in fascination and awe at the acrobatic stunts, "ooh-ing" and "ah-ing" along with the rest of the crowd. When the group was done, she joined in the applauding, as well. As the crowd began to break up, she checked her watch. She had an afternoon meeting and she was going to be late if she didn't head back now. She looked down the street, at the block after block of displays still waiting to be explored, and made a mental note to come back tomorrow. Turning away, she hurried back to Nightstone.
* * * * *
Lydia walked past Ms. Destine's office door. It was open slightly so it was her duty, as office gossip, to dare a peek through the crack. Her boldness had proven to her that Ms. Destine was, in fact, still at her desk and was humming as she looked over financial reports and her meeting notes.
Lydia leaned over to Candice, Ms. Destine's personal secretary. "Psst! What is she still doing here? She usually leaves hours before now or she has kicked us all out. Something has GOT to be up... what is the scoop?"
Candice looked back over her shoulder at Ms. Destine's door and then looked at the clock on her own desk. She gasped. "I honestly don't know why she is still here, but I am not going to risk being here when that good mood wears off."
She opened her desk drawer and grabbed up her purse out of the bottom of it. She quickly turned off her computer and headed for the elevator. Lydia was quick on her heels.
"But Candice, why don't we ask..."
"Hush up, Lydia... let's go!"
The elevator doors opened and the two women stepped inside, Lydia still nagging Candice as the doors shut.
Dominique walked out of her office just as the doors closed completely. "Candice, could you please pull up the last meeting's notes..." She looked up to find that Candice was already gone.
"Hmm, she didn't even say good night."
Dominique shrugged and turned back to her office, shutting the door behind her. She walked over to the small wet bar in the corner by the window. She leaned down and opened the mini-fridge beneath the counter. To her disappointment, it was nearly empty. She picked up the small carton of milk and was pleased that there was a little left. She poured herself a small glass.
The glass was full but there was just a small bit of milk left in the bottom of the carton. She looked back over her shoulder and, remembering that there was no one in the office, she smiled. She quickly moved the carton to her lips and tipped the end up to drink the last sip.
After tossing the empty milk carton into the trash basket, she picked up her full glass and went back to her desk. She sat and leaned back in her soft leather chair to admire the beautiful sunset just outside her office window. She pulled open her desk drawer and reached her hand into a nearly empty box of chocolates. She popped one of the tiny treats into her mouth and then quickly made a face as she bit down into it. "Coconut... bleh. No wonder it was still in the box."
She reached for her milk to wash down her most hated chocolate. She stopped before the glass reached her lips. Something wasn't right. Her back itched and her stomach seemed to tighten up. The itch soon turned into a searing pain that ripped through her entire body. Dominique began to scream.
Every nerve in her body seemed to be on fire. Her ears were filled with the horrible sounds of popping and grinding bones. She screamed again, but her voice seemed more like that of an animal's than her own.
Then, quick as it started, it was over. She shook her head a bit to try to clear it but it seemed only to make the room spin a bit more. She soon realized she was on the floor, her chair tipped over on its side and her milk spilt in a puddle beside her.
With her head spinning so, she reached to rub her temple. She quickly pulled her hand back, wondering if she had hit her head harder than she thought. She dared to touch her forehead again. Bony, pointed ridges seemed to adorn her head. She moved both her hands slowly over her face.
Then, her hands! They were BLUE! She tried in vain to rub the blue off her hands. She flinched as she scratched the back of her hand with her sharp... talon?? Wait... there was something else wrong. She mentally counted her fingers. Eight. She blinked and counted again. Eight again. She was missing one on each hand! She was so shocked that she briefly searched the floor for the missing fingers.
She scrambled to her feet, or rather, tried to. Her balance was off and she nearly tripped backwards over her upturned leather chair. She ran carefully to the full-length mirror that was on the wall in her office bathroom. She stopped dead in her tracks and took a step back. There before her in the mirror was a MONSTER! A blue-skinned, fanged, taloned, bat-winged MONSTER! She looked at the tattered remains of the expensive tailored suit that barely clung to the creature in the mirror. And it even had her red hair!
Dominique looked down at her taloned hands and at her tattered clothes, then back up to the mirror.
"Oh my..." was all she managed to mutter before she fainted.
* * * * *
"Oh, what a headache." Dominique slowly sat up, only to confirm in the mirror that the monster was still there and that SHE was the monster.
She carefully got up off the bathroom floor, holding onto the sink for support as she tried to figure out how to stand on her new feet.
When she was finally standing on her own, she glanced at the mirror again. Her gaze started down at her impossible feet and tail and worked up past her knee spurs. She then looked up at the small hands that adorned her wings. WINGS! For Pete's sake! She had WINGS! She concentrated on them for a moment, got them to move around a bit, then let them fall limp at her sides.
She looked at her ears next. Pointed and large. She ran her tongue along her new fangs and ran her hands over her pointed brow. Then she looked into her own eyes and spoke out loud to the image in the mirror. "What has happened to me? This is impossible!" She turned to look at her back and flicked her tail around, startling herself. "OH!"
The questions continued. "Who did this to me? HOW did they do this to me?" She shook her head as plots from a hundred "B" horror movies ran through her head.
Dominique gave up the interrogation of her reflection and walked back into her office. She picked her chair up and set it right, glanced over her shoulder at her tail and wings, and decided it was best if she just stand.
She looked at the desk and was relieved to see that the milk had only landed on the floor instead of all over her spreadsheets, graphs and reports. She glanced at one spreadsheet titled 'Nightstone Yearly Budget - Genetics Division - 1996'.
Her face brightened up a bit. "Genetics! That's it!" She looked down at her hands again. Could it be that she had been genetically mutated? She flipped through the old budget and found a name that fit the bill. Dr. A. Sevarius. She had fired him over a year ago. Could this be his sick, twisted revenge for losing his job? No, if she recalled correctly, Dr. Sevarius always had someone else pulling his strings. He wasn't one to strike out on his own. So who did that leave? A business rival? Possible, but why not just kill her? Why do this to her?
Her new ears seemed to ring briefly. Wait, that wasn't her ears. It was the elevator! She marveled at how keen her hearing was now. Then she heard the voices.
"Candice, do you always want her to be a bitter old hag?"
"No, Lydia... but..."
"Come on! Just ask her if she wants to join us for dinner. It couldn't hurt to ask!"
"I don't know how I let you talk me into this.... "
"OH NO!" Dominique-turned-creature tried to straighten out her suit and hold together the torn remains. Then she realized that it wouldn't matter how presentable she looked. She was no longer human! She looked for a place to hide then eyed the large window in her office.
She quickly moved to the window and opened it as fast as her large, clumsy hands would let her. She stepped outside the window onto the ledge and quickly closed the window behind her.
"Ms. Destine? Are you here?" Candice's trembling voice came from behind the glass.
* * *
Dominique pressed her body against the cold wall. The ledge she was perched on was plenty big, perhaps a bit too big. Almost like it was built for this very thing. Curiosity got the better of her and she knelt down to examine the ledge. Then her eyes drifted past the outcropping and down to the street.
She was suddenly frozen in place, her eyes never wavering from the tiny cars moving like busy ants below. Her head began to spin and her heart seemed to pound in her throat. Tiny beads of sweat broke out over her newly acquired browridge and wave of nausea hit her.
She jumped a bit as she saw something move out of the corner of her eye. She forced her head to turn and look back into her office, only to find that Candice was moving toward the window. She jumped and leaned back against the outside of the building again. Unfortunately, her balance was still off and she slipped against the smooth stone and toppled off the ledge.
Dominique reached out and caught the edge of the platform with one taloned hand, smiled and sighed a bit of relief. Just then there was a spine-jarring scrape of stone. Her talons tore through the carved marble and she plummeted toward the concrete below.
She flipped head over tail, too terrified to even scream. Almost as if it was on reflex, she extended her wings. A small squeak escaped her lips as her new wings caught the wind and her decent slowed significantly.
Sheer luck, not skill, guided her toward the roof of the building across the street. She brought her feet forward to land but forgot to angle her wings for the landing. Her feet touched down onto the roof while the rest of her continued forward at the same speed. Her chin planted firmly into the tar-covered roof. The entire weight of her body balanced on her face for a moment then dropped with a thud to the rooftop.
The reluctant gargoyle sat up and blinked a few times then began to dust herself off. "Well, any landing you can walk away from..." she muttered to herself then laughed nervously. She looked back up to her office window, rubbed her eyes, then looked again. My goodness! She must have fallen at least fifteen stories! She got up and walked on shaky feet to the edge of the building. She looked down and stepped back with a gasp. Her hand covered her mouth. She cast a look back over her shoulder and flared her wings. "You two got me into this mess!" she started angrily, then sighed and closed her eyes. "... thanks for getting me out."
Dominique turned and sat down on the rooftop. She looked at her hands again, a tear rolled down her face. When would this nightmare end? All she wanted was to go home and curl up on her bed. With a sniffle she wiped away the tear from her cheek.
Then it hit her. "How am I going to get home!?" She asked out loud to no one.
She got up and walked to the far edge of the roof, the edge that was closest to her home. She looked down to the alley below. There was no way she could just hail a cab. Not when she looked like this! There had to be another way.
Her wings rustled in the night breeze as if in response to her thoughts. No, she couldn't possibly be thinking that. It was only luck that she was alive now! Still, an impossible urge forced her up on the short wall that encircled the rooftop. Dominique took a deep breath, opened her wings and hurled herself off into the air. The night echoed the animalistic scream that escaped her lips as gravity began to take over.
* * * * *
Dominique sat straight up in bed, her heart pounding and sweat beading off her face. She looked around her bedroom; the sun was just peeking into the window. She heard herself sigh. Yes, she was home, in her own bed. It was all nothing but a vivid dream. She looked at her hands. Human hands. Just a dream, nothing more.
A cold breeze swept over her damp skin and she got the chills. Her eyes moved to the French doors that led to her balcony. They were open, the linen drapes flapping in the morning breeze. "How odd," she muttered. Rationalizing that she must not have latched them properly the night before, she flipped back her comforter to get up and shut them.
Her heart skipped a beat as she saw that she was still wearing the tattered remains of the business suit she had worn yesterday. She leapt from the bed and ran to the freestanding mirror in the corner of her room. She was human, but her clothes hung from her frame in shreds. The images of her nightmare flooded her mind. Wings... talons... falling off her office ledge... flying home... no, not flying... she had tried flapping her wings and that didn't work well... gliding was more accurate. No, it had to be just a dream.
She continued to reassure herself of that as she grabbed the first thing she could find in the closet -- a one-piece dress in faded denim -- and hurried into the bathroom. She showered and changed in record time, and as she hurried downstairs, hair still dripping wet, for a badly needed cup of coffee, she discarded the tattered remains of yesterday's clothing in the small wastebasket just outside the bathroom door.
* * * * *
Lydia stood near the window, arms folded and coffee cup in one hand, steadying a pair of binoculars against her eyes with the other. Peering through the mini-blinds, she stared down at the point where the Nightstone Building's courtyard met the street.
"I bet she had a hot date who kept her up all night," Lydia speculated. She lowered the binoculars and turned to Candice, who was sitting at her desk and already hard at work. "Think she'll tell us about it?"
Candice gave her a disbelieving look. "Where did you get those things, anyway?" she asked.
"I could tell ya," Lydia replied, grinning. "But then I'd have ta kill ya."
Candice stared at her for a second, unamused, then went back to her paperwork. "Lydia, if I were you, I'd just get to my desk right now before Ms. Destine walks out of that elevator and sees you loafing at the window."
Lydia rolled her eyes and made a small noise. "You act like she's a monster or something. She seemed perfectly pleasant yesterday." She turned back to the window, raising the binoculars to her eyes and surveying the traffic again. "And I bet she would've gone out to dinner with us, too, if she hadn't run out of here for her hot date."
"Whatever," Candice said under her breath.
"OK," Lydia said, spinning around to face Candice again, "if you know her so well, why is she..." she paused and checked her watch, "...almost two hours late?"
Ding. The elevator interrupted before Candice had a chance to answer. The doors opened, but it took the two secretaries a second or two to recognize the casually dressed woman who stepped out.
"Good morning, Ms. Destine," Candice said, rising from her chair as Dominique approached.
"Good morning, Candice, Lydia," Dominique nodded to both of them. She stopped by her personal secretary's desk and hovered there uncertainly.
Candice looked into her boss's bloodshot eyes. "Are you feeling all right, Ms. Destine?" she asked after a moment.
"Yes," Dominique said. "I just... didn't get much sleep last night."
"There's a fresh pot of coffee in your office, and I left all your messages on your desk," Candice replied brightly.
"Thank you." She nodded again at Lydia before shuffling off to her office. As the door latched shut, Lydia took another sip from her mug and smiled at Candice knowingly. "See," she said. "I told you so."
Candice shook her head and went back to work.
* * * * *
Dominique poured herself a big cup of hot, black coffee, and walked over to her desk, which was still covered with the papers she had left there the previous night. Her chair was right where it was supposed to be. She cautiously made her way around to the backside of the desk and found nary a trace of anything spilled upon the floor. The carpet was spotless.
"Because it was all just a dream," she reminded herself. She gave a small sigh and pulled out her chair. Smoothing the long skirt of her dress under her, she sat down wearily in the plush leather seat. Setting her coffee cup down beside her, she started shuffling through her papers and tried to focus on the reports that were still unread. After a minute or two of organizing, she picked up what looked like the most interesting of the budget reports, opened it on the desk in front of her, and started reading.
* * *
Dominique jerked her head up at the sound of the intercom buzzer.
"Ms. Destine? Ms. Destine?"
It took Dominique a moment to recognize the voice as she brushed her hair from her eyes. "Yeh... yes, Candice?" she said hoarsely. She made a face; her mouth was dry.
"Go on, ask her," she heard Lydia whisper in the background.
"I was just wondering... a few of us are going out for lunch, and... we thought maybe you'd like to come?"
"Lunch?" Dominique looked for the clock. She gasped in shock at seeing that it was nearly noon. She looked down at the report still lying in front of her, opened to page three and now wrinkled from having been used as a pillow. "No," she said quickly. "Not today."
"OK, Miss Destine." The intercom clicked off and Dominique sat up in her chair, shaking her head to clear it. How could she have fallen asleep? She got up and hurried to her office bathroom and looked at herself in the mirror over the sink.
"Ugh," she muttered as she saw her own reflection. Her hair was all mussed up, her lips were dry and chapped, and her make-up was smeared.
She blinked. A blue-skinned face with fangs, a fiery head of red hair, and glowing red eyes glared back at her from the mirror. Dominique screamed and jumped back.
The towel bar on the wall behind her jabbed her painfully in the back. She cried out again and staggered forward, catching herself on the sink before she her head hit the mirror. She looked up into her own reflection again -- the image of a disheveled human woman with panic in her eyes. She grabbed for the tap and turned on the cold water, and leaning over, she splashed several handfuls on her face.
"Pull yourself together," she ordered herself as she wiped her face dry with a towel. "It was just a stupid little dream."
She fiddled for several moments with her hair, brushing it back into place, but didn't feel like reapplying her make-up. She walked back out into the office and looked again at the pile of papers on the desk. Then she looked out the window, at the bright, sunny day waiting beyond the thin pane of glass. She made up her mind a second later, grabbed her jacket and her purse, and headed out the door.
* * *
Dominique made her way slowly down the street, taking in the displays. It wasn't as warm as it had been yesterday. It was pleasant in the direct sunlight, but a breeze made it a bit chilly in the shade, so she wore a light jacket, zipped partway, and tucked her hands into the pockets from time to time to warm them. Still, it was better than the snow, which had lingered much longer than she could remember being usual for New York, and she gladly shook off the slight chills as the wind ruffled the long skirt of her dress.
At first, it seemed to be working. The music in the background, and all the friendly people walking about... and the artwork. Within a short distance, she had forgotten all about the stresses of work and her strange dream of the night before, as she examined paintings and sculptures of such quality that she almost couldn't believe they were out here, on the sidewalk, instead of in a museum.
As she neared the end of the first block, she stopped to inspect a finely crafted stained glass piece, taking off her sunglasses to fully take in the brilliant greens and blues as the sunlight glinted off of it. She was turning away, just about to slip her glasses back on, when something else caught her eye. The hand holding the sunglasses fell limply back to her side, and she moved toward the painting as if pulled by a magnet. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up and her heartbeat quickened. Stopping about four feet away, she stared, unnerved, at the image on the canvas. A moonlit cityscape, and over it, a winged creature gliding... a creature that looked hauntingly similar to the one she had seen in the mirror -- no, she corrected herself -- in her dream last night.
"Looks like you have a customer, girl," said a bearded man in a denim jacket and faded blue jeans. He elbowed the young woman beside him and pointed.
Andrea Calhoun brushed a stray piece of her windblown hair from her face and looked in the direction he had indicated. A tall woman with flame red hair pulled up in a loose braid was examining the one painting which Andrea had not yet packed away with a critical eye and an intensity that made her instantly nervous. The young artist quickly assessed this latest "potential sale" as she had all the others for the past day and a half -- by taking a short inventory. Long skirt denim dress, sneakers, and a plain-looking jacket. Probably one more "just looking."
"Hello, Ma'am, may I help you?"
Dominique looked up, slightly startled, at the young woman who had approached her.
"Are you the artist?" she asked after a moment.
"Yes, ma'am. I'm Andrea Calhoun. Pleased to meet you." She extended her hand.
Dominique shook it firmly. "Dominique Destine," she replied. "I'm very interested in this painting of yours."
Andrea gulped. The Dominique Destine? One of the wealthiest and most powerful people on Manhattan, right here, interested in her painting? She mentally kicked herself. This was only one of the most well known people in the city, and here she was, writing her off as a browsing housewife.
"Can you tell me about the subject matter?" Dominique asked, turning her eyes back to the canvas.
"Certainly," Andrea replied hesitantly. "It's a gargoyle in flight," she explained.
"A 'gar-goyle'?" Dominique mouthed the unfamiliar word.
"Yes," Andrea answered. "Isn't it beautiful?"
"It's... fascinating," Dominique replied. She reached out her hand but stopped when her fingers were about two inches from the canvas. It was not just that the creature -- the "gargoyle" as she had called it -- looked so much like the one in her dream last night, though that in itself was eerie enough -- how had this woman painted what she had dreamed about? It was that the painting was so lifelike that it made it seem almost as if such creatures could be real.
Andrea fidgeted nervously as Dominique examined the painting some more. Finally, the red-haired woman's eyes settled on the small placard attached to the mat which read "price on request," and the question that Andrea was dreading was asked.
Andrea almost couldn't believe what she was hearing herself saying when she replied, "I'm sorry, but... this painting is not for sale."
Dominique blinked and turned back to her, making eye contact again. "Why not? Is it sold already? I'll pay double."
Andrea had no doubt this woman could do just that. "No, it's not the price," she admitted. "It's just that... it's one of my first paintings..."
"And you don't want to part with it?" Dominique finished for her.
Andrea nodded, suddenly hopeful that this woman would understand.
Dominique thought quickly. She wasn't even really interested in the painting itself as much as she was in what this artist might be able to tell her about the story behind the image on the canvas. "I'll tell you what. Why don't we talk about this over lunch? My treat," she suggested.
Andrea only thought for a moment before accepting. It was past noon and she was hungry -- what harm could there be? "Sure, I was just packing up for today anyway. Just let me get my stuff together," she replied. Dominique smiled, and Andrea hurried back over to her table to grab her jacket and her portfolio.
"You ain't never gonna get no sales if you keep doing like that, girl," the bearded man told her as he leaned forward in his lawn chair and accepted a twenty dollar bill in payment for one of the many pewter dragons sitting on the fold-out table in front of him.
Andrea ignored him and picked up her stuff, hurrying back to where Ms. Destine was waiting.
"Here, let me help you with that," Dominique offered as Andrea struggled to juggle her purse and hold the portfolio open to slide the last painting in. Dominique took the painting in her hands and looked at it one last time before lowering it into Andrea's portfolio with all of her other pieces.
A few moments later, both women were in the back of a cab and on their way to lunch.
* * * * *
"... until I learned what I really have is just an opinionated blue-collar outlook," Andrea concluded wryly.
Dominique froze, her fork halfway to her mouth, and stared at Andrea for a moment. The young artist stared back at her, grinning innocently. A split-second passed before both women broke into unrestrained laughter. As the fit subsided into chuckles and giggles, Dominique took a long sip from her glass, not even caring about the people at the nearby tables who were casting disapproving looks in their direction.
"I still can't believe they let them in here dressed like that," a stylishly attired blonde whispered none too softly to her companion. "I mean, they're wearing denim for goodness sakes! Brendan, this is the last time we are coming here."
Dominique didn't hear the comment. She was too busy enjoying herself. In fact, she was starting to wonder why she didn't do this more often. Aside for a few business meetings over lunch, she couldn't recall having been out just to eat and talk with anyone since she had spent the day with her daughter over a year ago.
Her daughter, Angela. She hadn't heard from her in a while, but it was mid-May and finals should surely be over. She made a mental note to call her up later and see how she was doing.
"Dominique, is something wrong?" Andrea had noticed the momentarily distant look on the woman's face.
"Hmm?" Dominique phased back in to reality. "Oh, Andrea... it's nothing. I was just thinking that I haven't seen my daughter in a while... she's been away at college."
Andrea did a double take. "You have a daughter in college? Wow... you barely look old enough - and I mean that as a compliment." Dominique blushed slightly, unsure of what to say. "Maybe sometime you can give me a few of your secrets," Andrea added kiddingly.
Dominique grinned again. "Maybe," she said, chuckling. She set down her glass and went on. "Actually, Angela, my daughter, is only a bit younger than you. Maybe the two of you can meet sometime. I think you'd both really hit it off."
"That'd be fun," Andrea replied. "I really haven't had anyone to pal around with since Helen..." she broke of the thought abruptly, pain flashing in her eyes.
Now it was Dominique's turn to ask, "What's wrong?" Without even noticing that she was doing it, she reached across the table and put her own hand on Andrea's.
Andrea averted her eyes for a moment, then gave a ragged sigh. "Helen was... is my sister. She... she disappeared about three years ago."
Dominique's brow furrowed in concern. "I'm sorry," she said softly. "I know how you must feel," she offered. "My third husband went missing over a year ago." Andrea didn't reply immediately, and Dominique grew quiet, a puzzled expression on her face as she thought about her other ex-husbands.
"It's all right," Andrea said, quickly wiping away a tear. She looked back up and saw that Dominique's eyes had that distant look in them again. "Dominique?"
The red-haired woman shook her head and blinked, clearing the bizarre mental picture of Angela's father, naked save for a loincloth, from her mind. "I'm sorry," she said, embarrassed, "I don't mean to keep blanking out like that..."
"Something's been bothering you ever since you saw my painting," Andrea observed. "Do you want to talk about it?"
Dominique hesitated a moment. Andrea gave her a reassuring nod, and finally she spoke. "It's a dream I had last night," she began shakily. "I... imagined that I had turned into a creature like the one you painted... a 'gargoyle' as you called it." Andrea leaned forward, her interest peaked. "The dream was so real... but... what's most frightening to me is that until today, when I saw your painting, I had never even heard about 'gargoyles' before."
Andrea laughed. Dominique recoiled back in shock, thinking she was laughing at her dream, but Andrea shook her head and took her hand reassuringly. "My goodness," the young woman exclaimed, "where on earth have you been living for the last year?" Dominique stared at her, sincerely confused. "Gargoyles are real," Andrea explained. "It was only the biggest news story last year. Why, for a while, you couldn't even pick up a newspaper or turn on a TV without hearing about them."
Dominique looked at her skeptically.
"It's true!" Andrea insisted. I've seen a few of them myself." Dominique's eyes widened, and Andrea went into a story she had told and retold dozens of times. "About a year and a half ago, one of Castaway's goons broke into my apartment. Three gargoyles came swooping in through the window and saved me. I was a little scared at first, but then I realized that they only wanted to help me. They stayed until the police came... one of them, a female, even tended to my injuries."
Dominique gasped. "The robber assaulted you?"
Andrea blushed slightly. "Actually, he threw some of my paintings into the fireplace... I burnt my hands pretty badly trying to recover them." She held her hands out and allowed Dominique to see the backs of them. Looking closely, the older woman could see that the skin was just a bit lighter in some places than others, evidence of healed injury. "The doctors said if it hadn't been for that kind female gargoyle tending to my hands quickly like she did, the scarring might've been much worse," Andrea continued. "I might've even lost some of the feeling in my hands."
Andrea didn't need to complete the thought. Dominique realized right away the impact such an injury could've had on an aspiring painter such as this talented young woman. "You were very lucky," she said, at a loss for words but wanting to say something.
"If I ever get the chance to see those gargoyles again, I'm going to thank them," Andrea declared sincerely. "Especially the female. She had such kind eyes... I'll never forget those eyes, or her voice..." Andrea trailed off, leaving Dominique a moment to think.
"So that's what these 'gargoyles' do?" Dominique asked after a moment. "They fly around and fight crime, like Superman?"
Andrea giggled. "Something like that... though none of the ones I saw wore red tights." Dominique smiled and giggled herself. "Seriously," Andrea continued. "They're protectors. They don't want to hurt anybody. And don't listen to anyone who tries to tell you otherwise."
Dominique nodded. It was a lot to take in, but she was doing her best.
"If you ask me," Andrea added somewhat angrily, "Castaway and his Quarrymen all got what they deserved. I hope those hate-mongering hoodlums rot in prison forever."
Dominique was taken slightly aback by the malicious undertone in her words, but Andrea wasn't finished so she didn't interrupt.
"You know my sister, the one I told you about?" she asked. Dominique nodded. "Well, last year, my idiot brother-in-law, her husband, made up his mind that he knew what had happened to her after hearing one of Castaway's first public speeches. He thinks 'the gargoyles took her.'" Andrea sighed in exasperation. "I mean, what evidence does he have that gargoyles had anything to do with it? Stupid, superstitious bigot. I don't know what Helen ever saw in him...."
Dominique nodded in agreement, though she wasn't exactly sure why. To be certain, she was actually more perplexed now than she had been a few minutes before. For though she was still positive she had never heard of gargoyles until today, she knew who both the Quarrymen and John Castaway were and also was certain she had never liked them either.
Andrea took a sip from her glass of ice water, and once she had calmed down some, she could see that Dominique still looked a bit bewildered. "I'll tell you what," she offered. "If you want to learn more about gargoyles, why don't you come with me this afternoon to a meeting of People for Interspecies Tolerance?"
Dominique thought for a moment. She still had a lot of questions and wasn't sure now that Andrea could answer them all. And the office could certainly survive without her for one afternoon. "Yes," she replied as the waiter deposited the check discreetly on the table, "that sounds like a fine idea. Thank you, Andrea."
* * * * *
Dominique left the PIT meeting with more questions than answers. She hailed a cab and started to head back to the office. Her mind was still working over the irony of running into Andrea and her painting. Her body still ached from her restless night's sleep. "I am working too hard." She muttered to herself.
Gazing out the window of the cab, she made a decision. She retrieved her cellular phone from her purse and called the office. "Candice? Yes, I won't be coming back into the office this afternoon, please reschedule my appointments. Thank you."
As she hung up the phone she redirected the cab driver to take her home.
* * * * *
Dominique walked in the front door and kicked off her shoes. She set her purse down on the small entry table along with the PIT pamphlets and the 'I DONATED TO INTERSPECIES PEACE' button that they had given her. She had enjoyed the meeting and her lunch with Andrea. If only she could stop thinking about that nightmare.
She rubbed her sore shoulders and headed upstairs to her room. Looking herself over in the mirror again she again verified that she was still human. Upon examining her face, she cringed. Just look at those circles under her eyes! Shaking her head she headed for the bathroom.
Leaning over her ultra large bathtub, she turned on the water. She moved to the vanity next to the sink and looked over her collection of bubble baths and bath salts, picking the eucalyptus and spearmint scented bubble bath simply because it claimed to help reduce stress. She poured a capful into the running water and smiled as the soothing smell reached her nose, then decided to add another capful to the already bubbling water.
As the tub filled to nearly the brim, Dominique slipped out of her confining business attire and put her hair up in a large gold clip. She was still cursing pantyhose as she stepped into the hot foamy bath. She sat down and leaned back, sinking to her chin in scented bubbles.
Forcing herself to relax, she pushed all thought of these "gargoyles" out of her head. A vision of her daughter filled her mind. Recalling back to last year, she remembered their day out shopping and having lunch together, and the 'Take our Daughters to Work Day' they had spent together last April.
She took a deep breath and wondered how Angela was doing in college. When she got out of the tub, she would have to give her a call. Dominique smiled at that idea, then frowned. She couldn't recall Angela's campus phone number. That was strange. She thought a bit more. Even stranger was the fact that she couldn't recall what school Angela attended.
She struggled with the memories a bit more. It just seemed as if the information was never there. She finally concluded that she needed a vacation. All this stress was affecting her mind.
Making a conscious effort, Dominique tried to relax again, only to find that the water was now cold. How long had she been sitting here anyway? She pulled her hand out of the water to examine it; her fingertips were pruned. Obviously, she had been in long enough.
With a sigh she climbed out of the bath and, grabbing a large fluffy towel, she dried off. Pulling the towel around her body, she headed back into her bedroom.
* * * * *
Dominique opened the door to her large closet and took a step in. She began to search for something comfortable to lounge around in for the rest of the day. Hmmm, suits, suits and more suits. She seemed to have a never-ending supply of them. Most of them were red and none of them were comfortable.
She saw the small dresser in the back of the closet. Surely there would be a pair of sweats or a nightshirt in there. Still hugging her towel around her, she opened the top drawer of the dresser.
Pantyhose. There must have been thirty pairs of wretched pantyhose. With a groan, she shut the drawer and opened the one below it.
She looked rather shocked as she removed a slinky halter and.... Dominique blinked... Loincloth?? Grinning as she examined them, she then looked back into the dresser to find some gold jewelry. She lifted what appeared to be a bracelet out to inspect it further. She slid it on her wrist, but that didn't seem quite right. She then pushed it up, over her bicep, like an armband. There! That was better. She remembered wearing all of this stuff before, but couldn't for the life of her remember where.
"Why on earth would I have worn this?" she said out loud to the halter in her hands. Settling on the idea that it must have been a Halloween costume, she tried to resist the urge to try it on.
Her towel dropped to the floor and she slipped into the skimpy outfit. It took only a moment to dress and a bit more to don all the jewelry.
As she walked out of the closet, she was admiring the tiara and was remotely reminded of her ex-husband. Dominique frowned a bit until she caught a glimpse of herself in the full-length mirror again. She placed the tiara on her head. It seemed a bit big but that didn't stop the grin from spreading over her face.
Then she seemed to recall wearing that same outfit to Central Park in the middle of the day. No... that would be ridiculous. She turned and looked at how the loincloth was cut so curiously in the back. Central Park? In this? She would have been arrested for sure!
She reached up and pulled the large clip out of her hair and let her flame red locks pour down over her shoulders. Striking a pose in front of the mirror, Dominique began to burst out with laughter. "Maybe I should wear this to the next board meeting."
Her hearty laughter echoed throughout the mansion just as the sun set. Dominique took in a breath that was intended to continue the laughter, but what echoed through the mansion next... was a scream.
* * *
Dominique watched in morbid fascination as her body changed before her eyes, the full-length mirror capturing it all.
Her skin began to change, not just to that sickly blue color, but the texture of it changed as well. She held her hands up before her face and her pinky and ring fingers seemed to melt together.
Her face suddenly felt tight as the bone beneath it reformed and her brow began to take the same shape as the tiara.
With wide eyes she watched her ears stretch like rubber to form sharp points and fangs replace her canine teeth.
Dominique's face twisted in pain as the bones in her feet popped and ground together, breaking and reforming, the skin of her foot stretching and the muscles molding themselves to the new shape.
She doubled over as she felt her internal organs rip free and move about her body, but her eyes were glued to the mirror in sheer horror.
With a final, animal-like, scream, her spine snapped free and twisted about, the bones reshaping and moving. From her half-bent position she witnessed wings pull free from the skin on her back, springing from her shoulder blades.
The pain ceased. Dominique, once again, stared at the nightmare that was her.
She balled her taloned hands into fists and tossed her head back. "NOOOOOOOOO!!!!"
* * * * *
A shrill, persistent ringing was the first thing to greet Dominique's ears as her senses returned to her. It took her a few more seconds before she realized it was the telephone, and she immediately made to answer it, not so much running as scampering on all fours to the nightstand upon which it rested.
She fumbled with the receiver for a moment, trying to grip it in her thick gargoyle fingers, and it clattered noisily for a moment against the marble topped stand before she was able to place it to her ear and speak.
"Hello?" she said quickly, tension filling her voice.
"Hello... Mother?" came a suddenly uncertain voice from the other end of the line.
A look of recognition came over Dominique's face and she relaxed a bit. "Angela?"
"Yes, Mother, it's me." There was a brief pause. "Are you all right?"
Dominique looked down again at her blue skin and taloned hands, then made up a quick half-truth. "I'm fine, daughter. You just... caught me getting out of the tub." She winced at realizing how unconvincing she had sounded, and tried to put more confidence in her voice as she added, "I wasn't expecting you to call tonight."
"I just wanted to see how you were doing," Angela replied. She paused. "I thought I might stop by later tonight, and we could talk."
"No!" Dominique replied - much too sharply, as she realized immediately. "No," she repeated in a more controlled tone. "I... have a lot of work I need to finish tonight," she fibbed quickly.
"But perhaps we could get together tomorrow," she offered. "You... you could come by the office and we could have lunch again."
"Lunch?" Angela's voice sounded genuinely confused this time. "Mother, are you sure you're all right? If something is wrong, you know you can tell me."
"I'm fine, Angela. Really." She tried hard to sound sincere, and waited for her daughter's reply.
"I'm coming over right now, Mother," Angela announced calmly. "I'll be there as quickly as I can. And don't try to stop me."
Dominique's heart rate doubled. "Angela, please, I'm fine," she said, panicked. "You don't..."
"Yes, I do. I'll see you soon."
A click ended the call and replaced Angela's voice with the steady hum of a dial tone. Dominique sat, momentarily stunned, against the side of the bed for several moments before she slowly replaced the telephone receiver back in its cradle.
She pulled herself up onto the edge of the bed and stared numbly at reflection in the darkened window across from her before the full meaning of the conversation that had just taken place finally sunk in.
"I can't let her see me like this!" she said aloud as panic began to set in. Her mind began to whirl. She closed her eyes and leaned back, taking a deep breath and trying to clear her head. A moment later, she opened her eyes once more, took one more look at the blue skinned, winged reflection staring back at her, and scampered off in search of a place to hide.
* * * * *
Angela gave silent thanks that she had made it away from the castle without encountering any of the other members of the clan, who might've asked her where she was off to in such a hurry all by herself. She angled her wings and pulled them in a bit tighter, trying to increase her speed as she made her way over the city toward Destine Manor. A funny, queasy feeling filled her stomach. It had begun the moment her mother had answered the phone, and it grew progressively stronger the closer she got to Demona's home.
"It was only a simple spell," she said to herself as she banked her wings into an updraft. "What harm could it have done?" She spotted the home, angled into her descent, and tried not to think about the possible answers to her own question.
She spiraled down slowly, circling the property several times and looking for anything that seemed out of the ordinary. The house was dark, and there were no cars in the driveway or on the street. In fact, it looked as if no one was home. But that in itself was not unusual -- Demona always kept the drapes tightly drawn and it never looked like anyone was home.
She set down softly on the patio, right beside the small platform her mother had had installed as a perch for her to take off from, and walked to the French doors. To Angela's surprise, the curtains on the door were partially open, but the room inside was dark. She rapped gently on the glass, waited a few moments, and then tried the handle.
Angela peered through the glass one more time before reaching into her tunic and withdrawing the key her mother had given her several weeks before. She slipped it into the lock, gave it a twist, then tried the handle again. The door swung open silently and easily. Angela peered into the darkness beyond for one more moment before stepping inside.
* * *
Dominique crouched in the back of the closet, listening to the sounds of the house over those of her own breathing under the heavy blanket she had pulled over herself. Her eyes were wide open, but it was pitch black. Strangely, though, she paid little attention to the darkness, amazed as she was by the sounds she could hear when she tried with her transformed (and now pointed) ears. Sounds she had never even noticed before. The dripping of water in the pipes. The creaking of the rafters as the wind blew against the roof. The scraping of tree branches against the siding.
She was focusing on listening for the car pulling into the driveway which she assumed would announce Angela's arrival, when a different sound made her suddenly jump. A rapping of knuckles on glass. She tried to tune out the other sounds and focus on that one. It had come from downstairs... and a moment later, it was followed the shick of a deadbolt, the click of a latch and the padding of feet on the hardwood floor. Dominique sucked in her breath and tightened her grip on the blanket. Someone was in the house.
* * *
Angela closed the door behind her as she entered the living room. The tiniest bit of light filtered in from the streetlights around the edges of the blinds, but it was plenty for Angela's sensitive gargoyle eyes. She looked around the room, which appeared pretty much as it always did except for the lack of light from the candles which her mother usually kept burning in abundance. It was also deathly quiet. So much so that Angela nearly startled herself when she called out, "Mother?"
* * *
Dominique jumped again. Yes, someone was in the house. It was her daughter. She bit back the urge to respond to the cry out and shrank back even more into the corner of the closet.
* * *
"Mother, are you here?"
Angela waited for a response, but only silence answered her. The uneasy feeling in her stomach grew stronger, and she moved further into the room and, finding the matches right where they always were, she lit several candles. Even though she really didn't need them to see, for some reason the warm glow they cast upon the walls made things seem more familiar. She picked up one of the glowing candles and took it with her as she went into the front hall and approached the stairs.
"Mother?" she called again, directing her voice and her eyes up the darkened stairway. Again, no reply. Again, her insides tightened. Candle held before her, she raised a taloned foot and began to climb the stairs.
* * *
Dominique counted the footsteps, each tread of the stairway making a similar but distinctive creak as her daughter made her way up them. Fifteen steps.
"Mother?" she heard Angela call again. Each time, the voice was filled with more and more worry; each time it became harder for her to resist answering back. But then she thought again of what her daughter's reaction would be to her currently monstrous form, and she pressed her lips tightly together and willed herself to be silent.
Soft footsteps echoed down the hall. Then a call again, louder this time.
"Mother, where are you?" This time, there was more than worry in her daughter's voice. There was fear, too.
Dominique pulled the blanket back from over her head. She could barely take it anymore. She pulled herself slowly along the floor to the front of the closet, stifling a cry of pain as she shifted position and one of her many dress pumps, hidden by the darkness, jabbed her in a sensitive spot at the base of her new tail. Pulling the offending shoe from beneath her, she moved close to the doors and crouched down to where she could peer through the louvers.
She had drawn all the curtains and turned off all the lights before shutting herself in the densely packed walk-in closet, but she could now see a dim flickering of candlelight coming from the hallway. She could only assume the source was her daughter, searching for her.
* * *
Angela looked into the master bedroom. She saw the bed was unmade, with the clothes her mother wore in her human form lying scattered on the floor. She was becoming genuinely alarmed now.
"Mother, where are you?" she called out as she stepped into the room.
* * *
Dominique gave a small gasp and fell back on her tail at seeing the figure that entered the room, speaking with Angela's voice. She quickly pushed herself back up and peered between the louvers again, blinking quickly several times, her jaw half-open in shock at what she saw. Standing in the room (and seemingly surveying the clothes Dominique had left scattered upon the floor) was a lavender-skinned creature with a feminine figure, long dark hair, and bat-like wings much like the pair currently gracing Dominique's own backside. The girl-creature was barefoot and dressed in a rough tunic, and she vaguely resembled...
* * *
Angela was reaching for the jacket hanging on the bedpost when a rustling noise behind her made her whirl about, her wings reflexively rising from her shoulders as she came to face the closet doors. She pricked up her ears and held the candle out in front of her.
"Mother? Is that you?"
* * *
Dominique jumped back at the creature's sudden motions. She swallowed hard, rubbed her eyes with her hands, and blinked again before peeking once more back through the louvers. To her ears, it had sounded undeniably like her daughter's voice, but her eyes just couldn't quite accept the source.
"Angela?" she questioned, timidly.
* * *
Angela took a step toward the sound of her own name. It was coming from inside the closet. Her expression held relief mixed with confusion, as did her voice. "Yes, it's me -- it's Angela. Mother, are you in there?" she replied.
* * *
Dominique's eyes went wide as her fears were confirmed by her daughter's voice coming plainly from the second creature's fanged mouth.
"Oh, no..." she cried as she got to her feet and pushed the door open in one quick simultaneous motion. She rushed to Angela and pulled her into a protective embrace. "No, please, no... not you, too."
* * * * *
Angela was momentarily speechless as Demona hugged her ferociously and then immediately began fawning over her.
"Look at what have they done to you, my child," Demona lamented, teary-eyed. Angela found herself being held by the arms and turned from side to side as Demona inspected her -- something she hadn't experienced since her hatchling days, when Princess Katharine would dote on her and her rookery siblings over even the tiniest suspected injuries incurred during their normal play.
Dominique ran her hand gently across Angela's forehead, feeling the bony crest that was quite similar to her own, stopping only when the girl flinched and raised her own hand and took Dominique's by the wrist.
"Mother, what's wrong? Look at what who has done? What are you talking about?"
Dominique stared at her daughter -- yes, this was her daughter, she was sure of that now -- for a moment. "You've been turned into..." she tried to remember the word but failed in her haste to speak, "...some sort of creature... I have, too!" she exclaimed incredulously.
Angela felt that sick feeling in the bottom of her stomach return in force. "Demona, no... I don't understand... we've always been this way -- we've always been gargoyles."
"Gargoyles," Dominique repeated. Yes, that was the word. Then she paused. "Wait, who is 'Demona?'"
Angela stared at her a moment. "You are, mother," she said meekly. "Don't you remember?"
Dominique blinked. "I am Dominique Destine. You are Angela Brigitte Destine, my daughter. And we are human... at least, we are supposed to be." She paused as a sudden flash of insight lit up her eyes. "Oh no... they must have gotten into your head, as well. My poor child..." She trailed off as she took Angela into another fierce hug.
* * *
Angela put her arms tentatively around Demona and did her best to return the hug, though her mind was far from the room at the moment. The spell had seemed so simple and harmless when she had found it the other night. A spell of forgetfulness - it seemed like the perfect thing to give her mother the opportunity to see the human world through fresh eyes, unburdened by a thousand years of prejudice and hate. But though it was only supposed to last one day, it seemed now like it was still affecting her. And if Demona didn't remember being a gargoyle, or remember being Demona...
Angela trembled at the realization that Demona wouldn't remember any magic, either -- and that she, as still little more than a fledgling apprentice, had no idea what to do.
* * *
Dominique stroked Angela's hair reassuringly. "Don't worry, my child. I'll find a way to make you human again - to make us both human again - and return your proper memories to you." She finally loosened the bear hug she had Angela in and backed off enough to take another look at Angela's face, examining the features once more. They were definitely similar to her own -- especially the bony crest on the forehead. "It has to be some sort of genetic mutation," she mumbled. "And if it can be done, it can be undone."
Angela's eyes were distant, and she barely registered what her mother was saying. She blinked several times, her mind returning to reality as her mother began pacing in a small circle and talking to out loud to herself.
"I'll have to find a doctor I can trust. And we'll have to have tests run. I'm sure I have blood samples in storage somewhere that would have our original DNA..."
"Mother, what are you talking about?"
Demona stopped pacing and looked up at her. "Getting us back to normal, of course!" she said. "I have a business to run. You have school coming up again soon... and you'll still need to see a counselor after you are made human again. So we can't afford to waste any time."
She spoke as if it was all perfectly clear to her. Angela tried to remain composed but succeeded only moderately in hiding her bewilderment and confusion. She knew, however, that Demona was just as stubborn as a human as she was as a gargoyle, so she realized there was nothing more to gain at the moment by continuing to try to persuade her mother that she had always been a gargoyle -- even if it was the truth.
"Stupid spell," she cursed under her breath.
"What was that, Angela?" Demona asked, breaking off her stream of consciousness mutterings once again.
Angela looked up. "Nothing," she said quickly, her mind already elsewhere again. She could do nothing for Demona herself... but Owen was back at the castle -- maybe Puck could help her. "I... I need to go," she added.
Demona froze. "Go? Go where? And looking like that?"
"I... have some friends... who are already working on trying to cure me," she fabricated quickly. Her tail twitched nervously as she waited for her mother's reaction.
"Why didn't you say so before? Who are they?"
"I can't tell you," Angela began. Demona balked. "Not yet," she added. Quickly, she formed the rest of the story in her head. "I met them at college; they say they are close to finding a cure. They don't know that you've been affected, too, but I'll tell them."
Demona was silent for a few moments. "Go on, then," she said. "But be sure to stay in contact with me. In the meanwhile, I'll work on some ideas of my own."
Angela managed a small smile. "Thank you, mother." They hugged again briefly, and as they separated Angela added "You'll be OK here alone, won't you?"
"Yes, I'll be fine. Now go, and be careful that you are not seen."
"I will." Angela gratefully took her leave, along with a candle to guide her back downstairs, leaving her mother to her pacing and planning.
She made one quick stop as she passed back through the downstairs part of the house, detouring to the back of the mansion to the study. She gasped as she touched the door and it swung easily open. "She didn't reinstate the protective wards?" the girl wondered aloud. She shivered as she entered the dark room, and hurriedly picked her way to the back table she used for her lessons. The soft glow of the candle she carried revealed the book still there, right where she had left it.
Without a moment's hesitation, she snatched the book up in her talons, and held it protectively against her chest with one arm as she exited the room and hurried back through the darkened lower level of the house. She exited the way she had entered, and only looked back once -- to make sure her mother was not watching from the upstairs window -- before mounting the platform on the patio and speeding back off through the sky to the castle.
* * * * *
"So Demona does not remember who she is?" Sata asked.
"Sorta. She has amnesia about being a gargoyle. She thinks she's Dominique Destine, a human," Lex corrected.
Broadway scratched his head. "But isn't Dominique Destine really Demona?"
"Yes, but she doesn't remember that," Brooklyn said.
"Remember what?" Broadway asked, befuddled.
Angela sighed. Some of the clan were understanding, and a few were still trying to figure it out, but all she knew was that if she had to try to explain it all one more time, she was sure she was going to lose it.
"I... think we have the basic idea," rumbled Goliath, seeing the tired look on his daughter's face.
"Aye," spoke Hudson, turning to Angela, "though from what you be sayin', it sounds like this lapse of memory Demona be sufferin' may not be an entirely bad thing. She sounds a lot... nicer."
Angela nodded uncommittedly and accepted Goliath's massive, reassuring arm around her shoulders. She leaned up against her father for a few moments, wishing the funny sensation in her stomach would just go away.
Elisa, who had been silently thinking throughout most of this, finally spoke. "Do you have any idea what might've caused your mother's amnesia, Angela?"
The feeling of discomfort Angela held within her stomach jumped up by another factor of ten. She nearly choked on the word as she backed away from Goliath and said, "No."
"Are you feeling well, Angela-chan?" Sata questioned, noticing the disturbed look on the young female's face.
"Och, she's just worried about her mother, aren't you, lass," Hudson answered, clapping a taloned hand gently on her shoulder.
"Yes," replied Angela softly. "I just... need to be alone for a while."
She slipped quietly from the room, not noticing Elisa's pensive eyes following her, as the other adult members of the clan continued to discuss the news of Demona's apparent memory loss.
* * * * *
Angela waited in the hall outside the TV room, listening to the mingled sounds of the television and Brooklyn and Sata's children.
"You gotta jump over the fireball then land on his head," Ariana instructed.
"Quiet, sis-twerp, you're ruining my concentration."
"Get the mushroom! No, don't jump now - you're gonna fall in the lava!"
A somber, electronic tune announced the unfortunate end of the round.
"See, I told you," Ariana said proudly.
"If I had been riding the dinosaur, I coulda made that jump," Graeme commented. The controller clattered to the floor. "These games are lame, anyway. Hologames are more fun."
"Uh-huh!" Ariana agreed emphatically.
"C'mon," Graeme announced. "I'm starving... let's go see if the adults are done talking about Aunt Demona yet."
"I dunno why they're always so mean to her," Ariana said, her voice growing louder as she and her brother approached the door. Angela ducked back against the wall, hidden from sight in the shadows as the twins hurried off.
"Aunt Demona?" she said softly to herself as she entered the now empty room. Shaking her head, she hurried over to the sofa and lifted the middle cushion, giving a little sigh of relief that the spellbook was still there. Picking it up, she tucked it under her arm and caped her wings tightly about her. After glancing furtively down the hall, she hurried back out of the room.
* * * * *
Elisa pulled the library doors shut and walked beside Goliath to the couch opposite the fireplace. Elisa slipped off her jacket and lay it over the back of a chair, warming her arms off the small fire burning in the hearth. Goliath watched her, waiting for her to join him on the sofa.
"So what do you think, big guy? Is this legit, or just another one of Demona's schemes?" she said as they sat down.
"I do not know," Goliath answered. "Angela certainly seems distraught. If it is another scheme, my daughter would most certainly not be taking part in it."
"Of course not," Elisa agreed. "But Demona could be just acting." She paused, almost not wanting to say her next thought. "She could be using her," she added softly.
Goliath shook his head. "No... I do not think she would do such a thing. Not now, with all that is happening. She would not risk endangering our daughter." He said the last words with a certainty that made Elisa look up at him.
"Even not counting tonight, she's not the same Demona she was before she met Angela, that's for sure," Elisa agreed. She leaned over, resting her head against Goliath's arm, and looked up at him. "You see, I told you letting Angela visit her would work out okay."
Goliath raised a brow ridge, and lifted his arm, creating a nook that Elisa slid smoothly into. "I just hope whatever has happened to her can be remedied soon," he said as he resettled his arm around her. "I hate to see Angela so worried and upset."
"Me, too," Elisa agreed. She put her hand on Goliath's arm and leaned her head against his chest as he trailed his talons through her dark hair. They grew quiet, resting in each other's embrace and listening to the fire. After a few moments, their eyes met. After a few more, their lips followed suit.
* * * * *
"So you are saying the source of your mother's amnesia is actually a magical spell which you placed upon her two nights ago, during your weekly visit," Owen summarized calmly as he finished getting Alex into his cartoon-character adorned pajamas.
Angela twisted her foot nervously on the carpet. "Yes," she replied.
"And neither your father nor the clan know of this fact, nor do they know that Demona has been tutoring you in the arts of magic," he continued flatly as he carried Alex across the room and placed the sleepy toddler into his bed.
Angela stared at the floor. "I haven't told them," she admitted. "Yet," she added a moment later.
"I see," replied Owen. Alex sleepily mumbled something unintelligible and Owen rose again and began intently searching the room for something. "I must say that I am honored that you have chosen me over one of your clanmates as a confidant," he continued as he searched the bottom of the toy chest. Angela frowned at the dry sarcasm, but he spoke again before she could respond. "I assume that you think I might be of some assistance in this matter?"
Angela bent down to pick up a winged teddy bear sitting near the wall, half behind a table scattered with plastic building blocks of multiple colors, and approached Alex's bedside. "I think he's looking for this," she said as Owen emerged, empty-handed, from the toy chest and turned back to face her.
"Indeed," Owen replied. Angela placed the fuzzy in the toddler's arms and the boy squeezed it and giggled contentedly. Owen held out his hand expectantly. "If I may?"
Angela quickly handed him the spellbook, which she again held clutched against her chest.
"Hmm," he said as he scanned the page that she had marked with her talon. She waited nervously as he flipped ahead and back, scanning adjacent pages, as well. At last, he closed the book and handed it back to her. "No counterspell," he stated simply. "Miss Angela, you do have a problem."
"I know," Angela said, sighing, as she reclaimed the book. "I checked already. But... I thought you might be able to undo the spell," she explained softly, getting back to the real reason she had come to the nursery. "It was supposed to wear off on its own, but it didn't... and I don't know what I did wrong."
"You dabbled in sorcery!" she could hear Goliath accusing already. She flinched.
"The spell you cast was human magic," Owen stated. "Even if I could manage a way to allow my... other half to appear, I would not be able to help you."
Angela sighed. "I know, 'mixing magics is dangerous.'"
"One of your mother's first lessons, no doubt."
Angela was silent for a moment.
"Someone should at least keep an eye on her during the day," she said, thinking out loud more than anything else.
"I have my own duties here," Owen stated.
Something flashed in Angela's eyes. "You have to put that spell on me - the same one you put on Demona - so I can be human by day, too," she said desperately.
"No," Owen said decisively. "That would be much too complex for Alexander to deal with, aside from the fact that you really have no idea what you are asking."
Angela's shoulder's sagged in defeat. For a moment, she entertained the thought of asking instead just to be turned into a human again, but then she thought of how confused that would make Demona when she saw her again. Angela looked down at Alex, who was already drifting off to sleep, and sighed again.
Owen turned his attentions back to tidying up the nursery as Angela silently left the room.
* * * * *
Angela opened the door just a crack and peered cautiously into the hall, making sure no one was around before she opened it the rest of the way and emerged from the narrow stairwell that led to the small west tower. She pulled the door closed quietly, making sure it latched, and then departed quickly.
She padded slowly down the hall, turning ideas over in her mind. The book was hidden away safely now, and she would return it to her mother after everything was sorted out. Still, it made her nervous just having it in the castle. Maybe she should just tell Goliath the whole truth. Her stomach turned again. She stopped and shut her eyes for a few seconds, only to be greeted by the image of the massive clan leader towering above her, eyes glowing.
"This is what happens when I allow you to spend time with your mother?! You dabble in sorcery and come home like this?!"
She snapped her eyes back open and shook her head. No, not yet. Not until she had exhausted every other remaining option. She thought for a moment. She still had a couple of other books that her mother had given her, hidden in plain sight in the library. Perhaps she might find something in one of them that would be of help. It was getting late and she was tired, but she had to try. With a little bit more resolve, she turned toward the library and set off through the stone passageways again.
* * *
Elisa was just pulling shut the library's heavy wooden double doors as Angela rounded the corner. Both human and gargoyle seemed momentarily surprised to see each other.
"Good evening, Elisa," Angela said, stopping where she was, only a few feet from the detective.
"Hello, Angela," Elisa replied, a bit quickly. She brushed her hand self-consciously over her hair, smoothing a few errant strands back in place, and then tugged at the bottom of her jacket, straightening it. Angela looked at her oddly for a moment. She seemed a little disheveled... and was she blushing slightly? In the dim light of the hallway, it was hard to tell. "If you're looking for your dad, he's in the library," Elisa added, seeming eager to get the conversation moving.
"Oh," Angela said, her secret hopes of studying her spellbooks evaporating. "No, I wasn't looking for him... I just..."
Elisa read the dejected, worried look on Angela's face. The girl looked even more upset than she had when she had wandered off by herself earlier in the evening. "You need someone to talk to?" she asked. She took Angela's hand and cupped it between her own. "Come on," she said, "let's go find someplace quiet and talk."
* * * * *
Elisa leaned against the cold gray stone of the tower parapet, her hair rustling in the stiff breeze, listening quietly as Angela finished pouring her heart out. She was still in a little bit of shock over some of the things Angela had admitted to her, but she was finding it hard to be angry with the young female, who was on the verge of tears as she finished.
"I don't know what to do, Elisa. I just wanted to give her one day to see what it was like to just be human. Now she's trapped by the spell and it's all my fault."
Elisa took her into a comforting hug without even thinking twice and held her for several moments while she worked through the sniffles and sobs she had been holding back for most of the conversation.
As Angela's tears slowed and she and Elisa stepped apart, Elisa asked the question that both of them knew was coming. "So why haven't you just told Goliath what you've told me?"
Angela turned away and faced into the wind, her head down. "I'm afraid to," she admitted meekly. "You know much he dislikes magic and Demona. If he knew she was teaching me..." She shivered slightly.
"He's still your father, Angela. He might be upset at first, but he wouldn't stay angry forever." Angela didn't reply. Her cloaked wings rustled slightly as a chilly gust buffeted her. Elisa placed her hand on Angela's shoulder. "You can't hide this from the clan forever, Angela."
"Are you going to tell Father?" Angela asked.
"No," Elisa replied. Angela turned back to face the human woman, her eyes questioning. "It's not my place to tell him. That's up to you."
Angela impulsively hugged the dark-haired woman, nearly lifting her off her feet. "Thank you, Elisa."
"I know you'll do the right thing, Angela," Elisa said as she felt her full weight return once more to the soles of her high-top sneakers.
Angela nodded and glanced at the sky, which was already brightening in the east. "Could I ask a favor, Elisa?" she inquired softly.
"What is it?"
"Could you keep an eye on my mother, just for the day? I'm worried about her, out there, alone."
Elisa inwardly sighed. She had hoped to catch up on some badly needed sleep, but upon seeing the puppy-dog look in Angela's eyes, she found herself saying after a moment, "I'll check up on her for you."
Elisa found herself captured in another firm gargoyle-style hug as Angela thanked her a second time. They stepped apart again just as Goliath emerged from the stairs, looking surprised to see both his daughter and his Elisa on the tower.
"We were just talking about some things. Girl to girl," Elisa explained. Goliath gave her a slightly confused look. "Female stuff," she added, trying unsuccessfully to stifle a chuckle as she crossed to him.
"Oh," he said. "I have not interrupted, have I, Elisa?" he asked seriously.
"No, big guy, we we're just finishing up," Elisa replied, taking his arm and making no effort to prevent her laugh this time. Angela, however, had remained silent the whole time. Both of them looked at her for a few seconds.
"I should get to my perch," Angela said as she stepped toward the ledge. Goliath nodded, and Angela spread her wings and disappeared over the side of the tower. Elisa followed Goliath to his perch and as he climbed up on the parapet, she watched as Angela spiraled down to her place near Broadway.
"Do you have any new ideas about the problem with Demona?" Goliath asked.
Elisa looked at Angela for a moment longer, then up at him. "No," she replied. "Not yet."
"I see." Goliath didn't say more. Sunrise froze him in stone in a solemn, contemplative pose.
* * * * *
Dominique climbed into bed and stretched out. Her intent was to get a few meager hours of sleep in before work tomorrow. It seemed that her mind was the only part of her that didn't ache for rest. So many questions flooded through her sleeplessness, not to mention the difficulty of getting comfortable with so many extra appendages.
She finally rolled onto her stomach and stared out her bedroom window. The warm colors of dawn were slowly creeping across the sky.
"Ugh." She grunted as she flopped onto her back. The sun's first rays began to shine through the window onto her skin.
Dominique felt her stomach twinge. "NO! Not again!"
Once more, she felt her insides pull apart. She curled herself up into a ball and clenched her teeth together. She felt the tingle then snapping of her backbone as her tail seemed to be sucked back up into her body.
She arched her back and screamed as her shoulder blades burned. Her wings withered to stubs and seemed to stab back into her torso.
The last talon on each hand ripped in two and her claws grew backwards to be replaced with flimsy human fingernails.
She cried out again as her high arched feet cracked and shortened and her brow felt as if it has been torn open with knives of ice.
Then, once again, it was over. This time her breathing didn't slow down. She began to panic. Realization set in. This would happen every dawn and dusk! How could that happen? No one had that kind of technology. Why had they chosen her!?
She staggered out of bed and over to the mirror, pulling the golden tiara from her forehead and casting it angrily onto the dresser. She checked herself from a dozen different angles before she was satisfied that she was indeed again human. "I'll find out who's responsible," she vowed aloud, more angry now that frightened. "No one toys with Dominique Destine and gets away with it." Heading back to the closet, she flung open the doors and grabbed the first suit she saw which was not red. The flimsy 'Halloween costume' was quickly shed, hitting the floor as she stormed angrily into the bathroom.
* * * * *
Across town, another woman opened another closet. Elisa hung up her red jacket and surveyed her selection of "undercover clothes" which hung on one side, while Cagney circled her feet, rubbing her ankles to reaffirm his marking of her as "my human."
"What do you think, cat?" she asked, standing with her hands on her hips. She reached in and pulled out a shiny black jacket and a blue vest and looked them over. Cagney meowed, then slipped between her legs to make sure he hadn't missed a spot.
"I wonder how much she really doesn't remember," Elisa mused. After a second, she decided not to take the risk. Slipping the hangers with the jacket and vest back into place, she drew out another pair of hangers bearing a long, deep blue jacket and a matching dress with a high collar and a very short skirt. Turning around, she tossed the items onto the un-slept-in bed and then went back to the closet, this time to the top shelf.
"Looks like 'Salli' is back in town," she said as she slipped the stylishly cut blond wig off its faceless holder and deposited it expertly on her own head, checking it quickly in the small mirror on the closet door before turning back around. Cagney, now sitting on the bed, cocked his head to the side and looked at her for a moment, then curled up on top of the pillow for a nap.
Elisa sighed. "I wish I could do that once in a while," she said enviously. Sighing again, she returned to the closet, trying to find the boots that would complete her outfit.
* * * * *
Dominique grabbed her purse off the table and checked herself in the mirror one last time before heading out the door. Her limousine was waiting as always, and her driver opened the door as she approached.
"Thank you, Gregory," she said as she slid down into the soft leather seat. The driver nodded and closed the door securely. A few seconds later, she was on her way to work in air-conditioned silence.
* * * * *
Elisa stood impatiently beside her Fairlane, oblivious to the stares she was attracting from some of other tenants of the building as they made their way through the parking garage to their own cars. Adjusting her light blue fingerless gloves, she looked at her watch and then brushed a persistent strand of blonde hair from her face once more, then continued glaring at the garage's entrance door.
A low rumbling almost like a jungle cat's purr preceded the sleek, low riding black sports car as it rounded the corner and cruised into the garage. Elisa stepped out into the aisle in front of it, into its headlights, standing with legs apart and hands on her hips as it rolled to a stop with its front bumper a mere six inches from her shiny blue thigh-high boots.
A head covered with neatly combed red hair leaned out the driver's side window. "Bluestone. Matt Bluestone," he announced, affecting a hint of a British accent.
"You're late," Elisa snapped, stepping around to the side of the car as Matt got out, leaving the engine idling with its low mechanical purr filling the air.
"Traffic," Matt said, "I got stuck behind this slow moving manure truck."
Elisa glared at him. "Save it, Matt," she said as she slid into the seat he had just vacated. As she surveyed the instrument panel, she felt the seat beneath her automatically adjusting to the contours of her body. She saw the clock on the dash. "She's probably left for work already," Elisa griped.
"So what's with playing dress-up and secret babysitter to Demona all of the sudden anyway?" Matt asked as he stood there holding the door.
"Angela asked me to," Elisa replied, as if that explained it all. Matt recognized her tone. He decided not to pursue it.
"Just don't do anything crazy with this car, OK, Elisa?" he said as he shut the door with a soft click. "I had to pull some major strings with the guys down in Narcotics just to get the keys."
"Speaking of keys," Elisa said. "I suppose you want these?" She dangled the keys to her Fairlane in front of him. He reached out his hand and she jerked the keys back, teasingly. He sighed and held his hand open, palm up, waiting. "Don't hurt my car, Bluestone," she ordered, dropping the keys into his hand.
He jangled the keys in his hand. "You just be careful with this car, 'Salli.'"
Elisa smiled at him as she took hold of the steering wheel. "I know how to handle a stick, Matt," she said, grinning. A moment later, Matt Bluestone was staring at black rubber marks on the concrete and smelling exhaust as the little convertible disappeared up the exit ramp.
* * * * *
"Yes, Ms. Destine. It's me, Mr. Montrose again. I was just calling back to inquire about the possibility of you and your daughter joining me for brunch this morn-" Click-beep.
Dominique punched the "3" button for the third time, deleting the last of Darien's voice mail messages, and then clicked the speakerphone over to its intercom setting.
"Yes, Ms. Destine?" the secretary's voice answered back.
"Please make sure I'm not disturbed this morning. I'm working on some important research."
"Of course, Ms. Destine."
Dominique took a sip from a steaming mug of coffee and turned her attention from the phone to her computer. With a few quick keystrokes, she accessed the company's personnel records and began searching through them, one name at a time.
* * *
Dominique clicked on "print" and turned away from the screen and rubbed her eyes. She yawned, then reached for her coffee mug and brought it to her lips. Cold. She grimaced and swallowed the last of it anyway.
She got up out of her chair, using the short trip across the room to the laser printer as good an excuse as any to stretch her legs. Her heels were killing her, so she kicked them off as she walked, leaving them where they fell on the floor. A moment later, she stood by the printer in stocking feet, reading the first pages as the last ones finished printing. The words printed on paper were much easier on her eyes than when they were on the screen, and she continued reading as she scooped the last few pages from the printer tray and headed back to her desk.
Her eyes narrowed as she scanned down the list of names printed on the page, and she turned back to the computer quickly to cross-check it with another file. A moment later, she was on the intercom.
"Candice, call Mr. Xanatos and schedule me a meeting with him for right after lunch."
"You mean today?" Candice asked.
"Yes," Dominique replied, her eyes still on the computer screen. "Tell him it's urgent. If you need to, ring it through to me and I will speak with him directly."
"Yes, Ms. Destine. Right away."
"This must be it," Dominique said to herself. "I'll figure out your little game, Xanatos."
She tapped her fingers impatiently on the mouse pad, reading and re-reading the information on the screen. Finally, the intercom buzzed. "Ms. Destine?"
"Your meeting with Mr. Xanatos is set for one o'clock," she said, her voice still showing surprise that it had been that easy to make the arrangements, "at the Eyrie Building."
"Thank you, Candice." Dominique replied calmly. She checked her watch -- it was nearly noon. She logged off the computer and began gathering her things.
* * * * *
"What do you suppose her intentions are this time, sir?" Owen inquired from the office doorway.
David Xanatos swiveled his chair away from the magnificent view of the city beyond his office window. "I don't know, Owen," he said, leaning back in his chair and grinning his trademark grin. "But I intend to find out."
"Do you think it was wise to invite her to come here?"
"By having the meeting here, I have the home field advantage," Xanatos commented. "Besides, I have complete faith in you, Owen. I know you won't let her pull any tricks."
"Thank you, sir. I shall make the required precautionary arrangements and inform Mrs. Xanatos at once."
"Very good, Owen." Xanatos paused. "Just for curiosity's sake," he added. "What do you think Demona is up to?"
Owen adjusted his glasses. "I'm not certain, sir. But I suspect that she's not quite been herself lately."
* * * * *
Dominique pulled her jacket back on over her crisp, v-necked white silk blouse and checked herself in the mirror one last time. She smoothed her skirt, which matched the jacket in a shade of a light pastel mint-green - a color that set off both her green eyes and her flame red hair, which was still pulled back neatly in a braid. She leaned in close, checking her skin for any signs of a bluish tint, and counted her neatly polished, clear-lacquered fingernails. Ten, to match ten fingers. Just like there should be. She shook off a momentary shiver, picked one last microscopic piece of lint from her skirt, and stepped back into the office.
A few seconds later, after she had retrieved her shoes from the floor, slipped back into them, and grabbed her briefcase off the desk, she strode confidently out the door and past her bustling employees.
Candice approached her and matched her stride toward the elevators. "Your car is waiting downstairs, Ms. Destine. Will you be back this afternoon, or shall I reschedule your other appointments?"
"I probably won't," Dominique replied. "Please go ahead and reschedule them."
The two women came to a stop near the bank of elevators, and Candice reached out and hit the "down" button. "Will do, Ms. Destine." Dominique's personal secretary moved off and Dominique waited patiently for the elevator.
Ding. The elevator doors slid open, and Dominique moved to step inside when...
"Ms. Destine! I was just on my way up to see you." Darien Montrose stepped out of the elevator and moved just far enough into the hall to allow the passengers behind him to get off while blocking Dominique from moving to get in before the doors had shut again.
"I was just on my way out," Dominique explained impatiently as she sidled around him and hit the "down" button herself this time. "I have an important meeting, and I cannot be late."
Darien looked surprised. "But what about our meeting?" he said, perturbed.
"It was scheduled for two o'clock. It's just past noon now... but I don't think I'll be back in time. You can talk to Candice about rescheduling it."
"I know I'm rather early," Darien admitted. "But I was hoping to perhaps get you and your daughter to join me for lunch first- even though you never did return my message."
"Angela has been very busy with some matters related to her schooling. I haven't had a chance to speak to her yet," Dominique lied. She really wasn't very enthusiastic about introducing her daughter to this man to begin with; she certainly didn't want them to meet now, while Angela was dealing with recovering from the affliction of being genetically altered and brainwashed into thinking she was a gargoyle.
Ding. The elevator doors opened once more and this time Dominique was between them and Darien. "We'll have to talk about it some other time," she said as she backed in. She jabbed her finger on the "close door" button and the last she saw of Mr. Montrose was him opening his mouth to speak as the doors slid shut.
With a sigh, Dominque pressed the button for the lobby and leaned back against the wall of the elevator, closing her eyes as she tried to regain the composure she had just lost during that brief conversation so she would be ready for what lay ahead that afternoon.
* * * * *
Fox brushed the cobwebs aside and stifled a sneeze as she ascended the last few stairs. She stepped into the musty room, placing her hands on her hips and surveying the mass array of boxes, old suitcases, and trunks piled against the walls and on the floor.
She let out a deep sigh, stirring a cloud of dust particles and sending them drifting through the narrow beams of sunlight penetrating through the room's dirty windows. Her eyes drifted slowly over the individual boxes and bags, until at last she turned as if to leave, overwhelmed by the immensity of her self-appointed task.
"No," she said, stopping herself at the stairs. "No," she said again, more forcefully, turning back around. "You can do this, Janine. You've battled Evil Ninjas, angry gargoyles, and outcast fay. You can deal with a few old memories."
Pushing up her sleeves, she moved to the nearest stack of boxes and set to work.
* * * * *
'Salli' tossed the wrappings of the hotdog away and picked her gloves back up from where she had discarded them on the dashboard to avoid getting mustard and relish on them, watching as Dominique Destine emerged from the Nightstone Building.
"It's about time," she said to herself. Having arrived just in time to see Dominique enter, she had sat out front, waiting and trying not to fall asleep, for most of the morning.
She started the car back up and waited, following the red-haired executive with her eyes as she crossed the courtyard and stopped near a bearded, dark-skinned man who was playing saxophone near a tree. Salli's dark eyebrows raised in surprise as she watched Dominique open her billfold and deposit a couple of dollars in the musician's case. The man nodded appreciatively as Dominique stepped away to the curb and into her waiting limousine.
Salli pulled into traffic, keeping one eye on the limo at all times to avoid losing it in a sea of taxis, luxury sedans, and other limos. She had been driving for a number of minutes before she suddenly realized that she knew where Dominique was going. As the limousine stopped to let Dominique out, Salli coasted past in her little sports car and watched nervously as Ms. Destine entered the Eyrie Building.
* * * * *
David Xanatos leaned back in his chair, his elbows resting on the arms with his hands steepled just below his chin. He listened intently, his eyes focused on the figure at the other end of the long table.
"I'd be willing to personally make an initial cash investment of one million dollars, but naturally I'd want to wait until all the legal paperwork is finalized before committing any of Nightstone's resources. I'd also like very much to have an opportunity to speak with..." she looked down at the papers she was holding, "... Dr. Goldblum before we proceed further."
Xanatos sat up in his chair a little. "Dr. Goldblum?" he repeated.
"Yes, Dr. Daniel Goldblum," Dominique read again. "The man you personally hired last year to head up the medical part of the Foundation. I must say, you made an excellent choice in hiring him. I've reviewed the credentials which Nightstone had on file for him and he appears to be more than qualified."
"Ah, yes, that Dr. Goldblum." Xanatos nodded. "I'm sure we can arrange something." He paused, watching Dominique's reaction. He picked up the briefest flicker of hopefulness in her eyes, but nothing more. "I must say, though," he went on, "you still haven't really answered the question I asked when this meeting began." Dominique shifted slightly in her seat, and Xanatos gave a small smirk. "Why do you want to become a partner in the Xanatos-Renard Foundation to Aid the Homeless, Ms. Destine?"
"I simply want to help people, Mr. Xanatos," Dominique replied, smiling "just as I'm sure you do. Besides," she added, "now that Renard is gone..." She let the final thought go uncompleted.
"Well," Xanatos said, "I'll take your proposal to the other trustees and we'll see how it goes from there."
Dominique's smile dimmed slightly, as if she had been expecting something more immediate, but she rose from her seat and attempted to cover her disappointment. Ever the gentleman, Xanatos rose with her. "Thank you for your time, then, Mr. Xanatos. When shall I expect to hear back from you?"
"I don't imagine it will take long for a decision to be reached," he said, extending his hand, "especially considering how your reputation precedes you with the other trustees." He smiled a smile that Dominique found rather unsettling, but she nonetheless shook his hand.
"I'm sure it does," she replied.
"Owen will see you to the elevator," Xanatos said as they concluded their handshake. As if on cue, the bespectacled majordomo appeared in the doorway.
"Thank you." Dominique tucked her papers back into her briefcase, picked it up from the desk, and turned to the blond man.
"This way, Ms. Destine." They walked a short distance in silence to an elevator that was already waiting. "Good day, Ms. Destine," Owen said as he held the door while she stepped in.
"Thank you," she replied. "And a good day to you, too, Mr. Burnett," she added pleasantly.
* * *
A moment after the doors slid shut, Dominique slipped a hand into the inside breast pocket of her jacket and pulled out a thin electric device that vaguely resembled a TV remote. As the elevator began to descend, she flipped a small switch on it and pointed it at the elevator controls. A second later, there was a soft beep and the elevator halted, then began to move upward.
* * *
Observing the action through the elevator's hidden surveillance camera, Owen frowned. "It appears that our systems are in need of another upgrade." He turned to his employer, who was watching from behind him. "Shall I summon security, sir?"
"Not just yet," Xanatos replied, grinning. "Let's allow her to explore a little bit first."
* * * * *
Fox smiled wistfully as she set the small gold-painted, dried macaroni covered cigar box aside, and paused to wipe a tear from her eye. Shifting her position on the old steamer truck she sat on, she turned her attention to another half-open cardboard box. Grabbing it, she was pulling it from the top of its pile to bring it down beside her when something fell to the floor from behind it. She set the box down and bent to retrieve it. It was a book.
"Another photo album?" she wondered aloud. She picked it up, and seeing the age of it dismissed that thought immediately. Curious, she opened it carefully, afraid of damaging the delicate pages. Her eyes lit up at what she saw. "Latin," she whispered. She read a few lines softly to herself off the page she had opened the book to, then slammed it closed quickly as the realization hit her. "A spellbook!" she nearly squealed. Her eyes danced as she silently considered her options for a moment. "I should tell David," she said. She started to rise, but stopped herself. "Later," she added, grinning in a way that would have made The Puck proud. She wiggled in her seat, getting comfortable as she composed herself, then slowly opened the book again, to the front this time.
Photo albums and kindergarten art projects forgotten, Fox started reading.
* * * * *
Dominique walked slowly down the corridor, each high-heeled step on the stone floor seeming to echo into infinity. She stopped after only a few feet, bent down, and slipped her shoes off. Carrying them in her hand, she continued on. The stone was cool on her stocking feet, and she padded along slowly, not quite sure what she was looking for. Turning down a new corridor, Dominique found herself at a dead end, and was forced to turn around.
* * *
"This is odd," Owen commented.
"Quite," Xanatos agreed. "That area of the castle hasn't been remodeled, and she should know exactly how to get around. Demona grew up here."
* * *
"Now where is that office," Dominique muttered angrily. She had been wandering the halls for several minutes, and they all looked so much alike and were winding so much that she was finding it nearly impossible to keep track of where she had already been. Finally, she caught sight of a tapestry with a frayed bottom -- almost like it had been chewed on, she thought absently -- that she was certain she just had seen not more than two minutes before.
"Great, I've been walking in circles," she grumbled. Looking around for a new direction to go, she spied an archway beyond which a set of stairs spiraled into the darkness. "It can't hurt to look," she reassured herself as she started up them.
The old stairs were unlit, and after a few seconds, she reached a point where there was no more light behind her and she had to feel her way along the wall to continue. Her heartbeat began to quicken, but just as it did, she again saw light, this time from up ahead. As she circled up and around, another arched doorway came into view. She made her way to it and a moment later she stepped out and found herself in the courtyard of the castle, standing on one of the balconies that ran around the perimeter about twenty feet above the paving stones and plantings.
The sun was about forty-five degrees to the horizon, casting shadows from the statues that sat perched on the battlements onto the ground below. An odd feeling of déjà vu came over Dominique as she looked at them, and, slowly, she turned her head around to look at the statues themselves. She gave a small gasp as she saw them.
Without even thinking about it, she started up a set of exterior stairs and began to move closer to the statues. As she moved closer, she entered a patch of shade and the sun glare suddenly vanished, allowing her to see much more clearly. She stared, eyes wide and mouth open. Standing there on the parapets some twenty-five feet above her, and resembling some avenging angel out of mythology, was a gargoyle statue... a gargoyle statue that looked exactly as her daughter had last night.
"May I help you?" The annoyed voice of Owen Burnett echoed off the stone.
Dominique tore her eyes from the statue to find the majordomo standing a few steps above her on the stairs, glaring at her through the lenses of his gold-rimmed glasses. She gulped involuntarily.
"The elevator opened up and I couldn't get it to work again," she said quickly. "I was trying to find your office and I made a wrong turn."
Mr. Burnett frowned. "I apologize for the elevator. We recently upgraded it after a break-in. There must still be some bugs in the system. I will personally escort you downstairs."
He led her back into the castle, back through the corridors, and back into the elevator. He personally pressed the buttons, watching the numbers quickly lower to one, and then escorted her through the lobby out onto the sidewalk.
"Mr. Burnett, you don't have to wait with me," Dominique said, uncomfortable in the presence of his stony gaze.
"I insist, Ms. Destine," Owen stated. He raised his arm to hail a cab, and a few seconds later one of the big yellow vehicles pulled up to the curb. Using his good hand, he opened the slightly dented rear door and Dominique slid inside without even sparing him a "thank you."
"Where to?" an accented voice asked through the hole in the hazy plexiglass screen that separated the rear seat from the front.
Dominique gave a quick glance at the low-quality photograph and unpronounceable name on the "Your Driver" card and then told him "Nightstone Unlimited."
A few dozen yards behind the cab, a little black convertible pulled around the corner. 'Salli' turned off the radio, stifled a yawn, and focused her attention back on tailing her subject.
* * *
Owen stood by the curb and watched as the cab containing Ms. Destine pulled back into the heavy traffic of Central Park South.
The squeal of tires on asphalt barely registered above the honking of horns and the other sounds of the street. Owen turned slowly, just in time to see at close range the angular emblem on the chromed grill of the white sport utility vehicle that had just skidded up on the curb.
Owen jumped back just in time to avoid being struck, but as the vehicle sped past and bounced roughly back off the curb and into the road, the tires threw up a spray of muddy water and slush from the gutter.
Thoroughly drenched, Owen glared at the truck as it receded into the distance. He would've gotten the license plate number, but a coating of mud and road grime obscured the tag. And the tinted windows prevented even a brief glimpse of the driver.
Still dripping, Owen went back into the building.
* * *
As the cab waited at a red light, Dominique shifted in her seat. She didn't want to go back to work, but it was still only mid-afternoon. She didn't want to go home and just spend the rest of the day waiting nervously for nightfall, either. After a few seconds, she opened up her purse and fished out a business card and her cellular phone, then dialed the number that was on the card.
"Hello, Andrea?" she greeted. "It's me, Dominique. I was just wondering if you might like to join me for a late lunch." She nodded her head and smiled. "Wonderful. I'll have my cab swing by and I'll pick you up. I'll see you in a little bit. Goodbye."
Dominique clicked the phone shut and knocked on the screen to get the driver's attention, redirecting him to the address on the business card. In traditional New York style, he executed a left turn from the right lane just as the light turned green, heading off in the new direction.
Dominique sank back into the vinyl upholstered seat and closed her eyes, oblivious to the honking, brake squealing, and cursing behind them as a determined blond in a small black German sportscar duplicated the maneuver and forced her way through the gridlock.
* * *
"Oh, man, what happened t' you, Mr. Burnett?" Harold rose from his chair at the front desk and, finding nothing else resembling a towel within arm's reach, offered Owen his handkerchief as he approached.
"A minor mishap, nothing more," Owen replied, deadpan. He accepted the handkerchief and used it to wipe his glasses clean, placing them back on his face before picking up the telephone on the desk. He punched a button and a second later, Xanatos' voice responded.
"Sir, Ms. Destine has left the premises. I will be back upstairs shortly. I must first make a stop at my quarters to change my clothes."
"Is something wrong, Owen?" There was a pause. "Did Demona..."
"No, sir," Owen replied, wiping some of the muck out of his hair, yet somehow maintaining his usual dignity. "I was splashed by a passing motorist while standing by the curb."
There was a slight chuckle from the other end of the line. "Very well, Owen," Xanatos replied. "Carry on."
* * * * *
Angela watched as her mother, in human form, picked up the sledgehammer. "You are not one of them," Dominique said, "you are one of us. It was these monsters who mutated and brainwashed you."
Angela looked down at herself, at the human form that her mother, with the help of Nightstone Unlimited's genetics division, had given her once again. After all the psychiatrists she had been sent to after her mother had kidnapped her from the Eyrie building, she wasn't sure what to believe anymore. "But Mother..."
"This is the only way to stop this from happening to some other poor girl. They must be destroyed to keep us all safe." She held the hammer out, and after a moment Angela took it. She felt its weight in her five-fingered human hands as she gripped the handle. She looked at her mother again. Dominique nodded reassuringly. Silently, Angela hefted the hammer into the air and raised it over the stone form of Broadway.
* * *
Angela woke up a roar. She turned and looked at the rest of her clan and breathed a sigh of relief. Broadway leaned over, looking at the expression on Angela's face and returning one of concern. "Is something wrong, Angela?"
"Nothing," she said, more harshly than she would have liked.
She started inside, to be alone with her thoughts, but had not taken more than a few steps into the Great Hall when Owen stepped into her path. "Your mother was here earlier," he said softly. "She was most shocked when she viewed you. If she continues to have her sense of reality challenged in this manner, she may lose touch with reality. Your mother believes she is human, and has always been that way. Her experiences are producing evidence which, when taken from that context, is inexplicable. Thus, she has and will continue to rationalize them to her mind until the strain is such that..."
Angela glanced at the others, who were moving in the general direction of the kitchen with Bronx, a yipping Nudnik, and the twins leading the way, with Lexington not far behind. She looked at Goliath for a moment, then turned away from Owen and started towards him.
"Angela, can you spare a minute?"
The young female turned, startled by Fox's sudden appearance at her side. She nodded without even realizing it, and a second later found herself pulled into an alcove by the auburn-haired woman.
"What is it, Fox?" she asked finally, and a bit anxiously.
"There's something I want to ask you about," Fox replied edgily. Her eyes darted up, checking that Owen had moved away. "I found this book up in the west tower today..." she began, producing a leather bound volume from behind her back.
Angela's stomach did cartwheels, and her mouth fell open. Her talons moved before she could consider what she was doing, yanking the book from the human woman's hands. Fox didn't have time to react. Angela darted away, leaving Fox staring after her, momentarily dumbfounded.
"Angela?" Fox called, still unsure of what had just transpired. She looked down at her empty hands, then began moving after the fleeing gargess. "Angela!"
Goliath looked up at hearing Fox yelling his daughter's name just as Angela crashed into him, not looking where she was going.
"Angela, are you all right?" he asked gravely, steadying her as she tried to stagger back.
Her mouth moved wordlessly for a moment. "Father, I..."
"What do you think you're doing?" Fox demanded as she came up beside them. She grabbed for the book, but Angela drew it tightly to her chest. "I just wanted to ask you to help me with some Latin translations," she explained through gritted teeth as she and Angela began an awkward tug-of-war.
"No!" Angela protested, twisting away.
"Give it back!" Fox replied, ducking around to maintain her grip.
Goliath simply stared in shock, his brow furrowing. "Angela, what is going on?"
"That book is mine!" Fox replied, half in response to Goliath and half in accusation at Angela.
Goliath's brow shot up. "Angela?" he demanded.
By now, the whole clan had turned, watching the spectacle in the middle of the room, their expressions ranging from puzzlement to shock and disapproval.
Graeme nudged his sister. "Catfight," he whispered, giggling.
"Go tend to the beasts. Now," Sata intoned. The twins turned immediately, knowing she meant business.
"Come on, kids, I'll go with you," Lexington offered softly, herding them on.
Brooklyn glanced over at his mate and shrugged. Coldstone and Coldfire traded uncertain glances. Hudson scratched his beard and put up his arm to block Broadway, who looked as if he were about to intervene.
"Don't be hasty, lad," he cautioned gently.
Fox's grip finally slipped as Angela spun away. "Ow!" she cried in mild pain as the tip of the gargoyle's trailing tail whipped her on the arm.
"Angela!" Goliath shouted. The lavender female froze, while Fox caught her breath and pushed up her sleeve, rubbing at the red welt that was quickly forming on her forearm. The human woman glared at Angela, her eyes like daggers.
"What is the meaning of this?" Goliath demanded.
"I found that book in the attic. It's a spellbook, and it had belonged to my father," Fox stated, still staring icily at the girl.
"No," Angela protested. "It..." Goliath's eyes narrowed, and Angela averted her gaze. "It belongs to my mother."
"One of Demona's books of sorcery?" Goliath growled.
Fox shook her head. "That's ridiculous. I found it in the tower with the rest of my father's things. How could something of Demona's get in there?"
Angela took a ragged breath, holding onto the book as if she were drowning and it were a life preserver. "Because I hid it there," she admitted.
Fox blinked. "Say what?"
"Why are you hiding one of Demona's spellbooks in the castle?" Goliath demanded. "And what are you even doing with it to begin with?"
Angela swallowed hard. "Father," she said softly, "There's something I need to..."
Angela was interrupted by the soft chime of the elevator. Goliath and the others turned to look as the doors opened and a strangely attired yet oddly familiar blond woman stepped out. She took only two steps before she stopped, obviously surprised to find the whole clan there. "Hi, guys," she said cheerily, a hint of exhaustion in her tone. "Guess I missed sunset, huh?"
"Elisa?" Goliath said, recognition dawning. He gaped at her, eyes lingering on the little bit of bare leg visible above her thigh-high boots.
The twins and the two gargoyle beasts had disappeared around the corner, but Lexington stepped back into the hall. He, too, stared at her for a moment, a bit wide-eyed, as did Broadway and Brooklyn.
Elisa took in how the whole clan was gawking at her, then her eyes darted upward and caught sight of her own blond bangs. Blushing slightly, she reached up with one hand and pulled the platinum wig off. Her natural hair cascaded from under it like a dark wave, falling back into place behind her shoulders. "Sorry," she said, "I guess I didn't realize I still had this thing on."
Sata narrowed her eyes and elbowed her mate as Lexington blinked his cybernetic eyes and shook his head, but it was Broadway who was the first to reply.
"Are you undercover again, Elisa?" he asked.
"Yeah," Lexington added. "Are Dracon and Brod causing trouble again?"
"Or the Yakuza?" Brooklyn chimed in.
"None of the above," Elisa said, running a hand through her hair. She stepped further into the room, toward Goliath, who was still staring. "Dracon's still behaving himself, as far as I know, and Brod is still in prison," she reassured them. "I was undercover today, but I was just doing it as a favor for a friend." She gave Angela a meaningful glance, then looked up at Goliath again. "What's the matter, big guy?" she asked.
Goliath cleared his throat and snapped out of his momentary trance. "Nothing, Elisa," he began, "I just..."
"Father?" Angela said, almost in a whisper, her voice cracking.
Goliath turned back to her, suddenly remembering that she had been trying to say something just a moment earlier.
Elisa looked over and noticed Fox for the first time. She stood there, scowling, with her arms crossed, glaring impatiently at Goliath and herself, and Elisa grew suddenly silent at seeing the intense look on the other woman's face. Goliath cleared his throat. "Yes, Daughter. What is it?"
As if they sensed something important was about to happen, the others drew in closer as Angela twisted the edge of her tunic nervously in her hands. "I know what's wrong with Demona," she said softly. She looked to Elisa. The human woman nodded gently, almost imperceptibly. "I- cast a spell on her."
The growl rose from the back of Goliath's throat, beginning as an almost inaudible rumbling and crescendoing into a bellow as his eyes glowed white. "You what?!?!"
Angela winced, feeling as low as a rat slinking in the gutter, but she did not step back. She stared at her own feet, closing her eyes to hold back tears as she hugged the spellbook tightly. After a moment, she felt a gentle hand on her shoulder.
"Let her explain, Goliath," Elisa said calmly. Goliath took a few deep breaths that for a few moments were the only sound heard in the hall. "Go on, Angela," Elisa encouraged as Goliath's eyes lost their hot glow.
Angela finally looked back up. "I cast a spell on my mother, from this book. I wanted her to understand what it was like to be human, so maybe she would learn to accept them."
Goliath considered his daughter's words in silence for a few moments. "How long have you been practicing sorcery?" he asked at last, his voice tight but controlled.
"Mother has been giving me lessons since last fall," Angela replied. "She wants me to be able to defend myself and the clan when the Unseelie make their attack. I know I should've told you, but Mother made me promise not to because she knew you'd be angry."
Goliath took it all in silently, as did the rest of the clan. Finally, Elisa spoke. "You did the right thing by telling us, Angela." She handed the girl some tissues from her pocket and hugged her.
Fox watched quietly, the anger fading from her face. She sighed, and turned away, departing unnoticed as Elisa accepted the spellbook to hold on to so Angela could blow her nose.
"Yes," Sata added, stepping forward and placing a taloned hand on Angela's shoulder. "Your dilemma was difficult, but you have acted most honorably in admitting the truth."
"Why don't you tell us the whole story?" Brooklyn suggested, stepping up beside his mate. He glanced over at Goliath. "You're willing to listen, right?"
Goliath settled his wings over his shoulders and looked at his daughter and the small group now clustered around her. "Yes," he replied simply.
* * * * *
"...So that's what happened," Angela concluded sadly. "And I don't know why the spell hasn't worn off yet."
Goliath finished digesting his daughter's story, including the end where she had described how she had confessed all of this to both Owen and Elisa the previous night. Until just now, he had not even realized just how much emotional strain Angela had been under for not just the past few nights, but for the past several months, as well. For the first time since the evening had begun, he reached out to her, taking her gently by the shoulders.
"Daughter," he began, "I can not be angry with you. I did not know how truly fearful you were of my response to your mother's tutoring of you."
Angela managed a small smile. "I'll never keep a secret from the clan again," she said, wrapping her arms around him, "I swear, Father." Goliath returned Angela's hug, though it was obvious the presence of the others watching made it a bit uncomfortable for him to do so.
"There remains, however," he said as Angela released him, "the problem of what to do about Demona." Angela nodded meekly. "Your attempt to show her what it was like to live as a human was a noble idea," he said, "but you should not have used magic without considering the consequences- especially to do something as serious as erasing someone's memories."
"Lad, this is Demona you are speaking of," Hudson said. The elder gargoyle stepped forward from where he had been standing, listening quietly but attentively the whole time. "Perhaps the child's plan was not the most well-conceived, but it may do Demona some good to remain this way for a little while longer. She may just learn something from the experience."
Lexington spoke up next. "I don't think we should do anything. Demona hates humans and wants to destroy them all. Becoming what she hates the most may be some form of..."
"Poetic justice?" Broadway finished for him. "Yeah, it would serve her right," he agreed, not noticing the hurt on Angela's face.
Owen stood by impassively, noting with barely the raise of an eyebrow that his employers were both now standing in the doorway at the far end of the Great Hall, listening but not intruding.
"Remember the Hunter's Moon?" Hudson asked, knowing full well there was no one there who would either not remember or have heard the story retold to them by now.
"Yeah, she nearly wiped out the whole planet with that carrier virus," Broadway replied.
"Aye," Hudson said. "I be thinkin' it might be safer to leave her the way she is, just for the sake of humanity."
"Father, you can't do that!" Angela objected. "Despite what she has done, she was once a member of this clan and your mate and second-in-command. She may not be a friend to the clan, but she's given up being our enemy. You said yourself, denying someone their memories is wrong." She growled slightly in frustration with herself. "Ugh, I should never have cast that spell in the first place!"
"What's done is done, Angela," Elisa consoled her. "I know one thing, though," she added. "Like Angela said, I followed Demona around today, and she really has changed. She was actually being pleasant to people... she even gave some change to a street musician. And after she came here, she had lunch with someone and I think she made a friend - a human friend."
She paused, drawing a breath, and Angela waited nervously for her to continue.
"But just because she's nicer now doesn't mean it's right to force a new life upon her," Elisa said. "Broadway, Lexington, you were both turned into humans for a day. Didn't you learn that that isn't who you are?"
The two rookery brothers looked at each other, then nodded meekly.
"Even if she does make a pretty decent human, that isn't who she is," Elisa continued. "Demona is a gargoyle who's human by day, not a human who's gargoyle by night."
Brooklyn put his arm around Sata and nodded. "'This above all: to thine ownself be true,'" he quoted softly. Sata looked at her mate oddly, as did several of the others.
"There is much to be considered," Goliath stated after a moment. "I need some time to think... and I wish to speak with Angela, alone." Angela looked up, a bit surprised.
"Of course, Father," she replied. She joined him and the two lavender gargoyles exited to the courtyard, leaving the others to talk amongst themselves.
* * *
Brooklyn and Sata stepped off to the side to confer privately with each other.
"What do you think, Brooklyn-san?" Sata asked. "What is to be done about Demona?"
"I know she had her memories when we met her in the future," Brooklyn said softly, "but we don't know how long it took for her to get them back. This might be a turning point in her life."
Sata nodded. "We must do what we think is right," she replied. "We cannot spend the remainder of our lives doubting our every decision based on what we know of the future."
"Well, we can't exactly make the wrong decision." Brooklyn said. He put his arm around his mate. "Time travel is funny that way."
"Let us just be glad our time travels are over," Sata said. She glanced over at Elisa, in her shiny blue leather get-up. "Now if only we could put an end to the wandering eyes," she added demurely.
Brooklyn ran his talons through her dark hair and kissed her.
* * *
Angela made her way back along the parapets, passing Coldstone and Coldfire as she headed back inside to the Great Hall. The cyborg and the android went over to Goliath, who was standing, gazing out over the city.
"Brother," Coldstone said in greeting.
"You have been quiet tonight, my brother and sister," Goliath said, his eyes fixed on some distant object. "Do you not have an opinion to offer as well?"
"We were unsure whether our voices were welcome," Coldfire replied. "We are still but newcomers to your clan."
Goliath turned to them. "This is your clan. You have always been a part of it." He paused. "And I would welcome your counsel. The decision I am faced with is not an easy one."
"The clan is divided on this issue, that is true," Coldstone offered. "We, too, both remember your angel of the night rather than this Demona you say she has become."
"But despite what horrors she may have committed," Coldfire added, "the decision to let go of her anger should be left to our rookery sister, not enforced upon her by a spell."
"I agree," Goliath said. "But the others are right as well. What if we do restore her to as she was before, but before she gives up her vendetta against humanity, she causes the death of more innocents? Can any of us bear the responsibility for that?" He turned his gaze back out over the city again. "And I also wonder if she might not be happier, starting over... even if it is as a human." He pictured his Angel of the Night as she had been before she became Demona, when she was young and happy. When had been the last time he had seen her smile as she had all those years ago?
A quiet moment passed as Coldstone and Coldfire looked at each other. It was Coldstone who finally spoke again. "The detective, Elisa Maza's observation was most wise," he said.
The mention of Elisa's name grabbed Goliath's attention again, and her image instantly replaced Demona's in his thoughts.
"We all must accept what we are and who we are," concluded Coldfire, "however difficult or painful the truth may sometimes be."
Out of the corner of his eye, Goliath saw that Coldstone had taken her shiny metallic hand into his own, squeezing it, and saw the faint glimmer of understanding in his rookery siblings' expressions as they turned silently and headed back inside, too, leaving him to his thoughts.
* * *
It was a long while before Goliath rejoined the clan. He looked tired when he re-entered the room, and a little bit older, too. "I have decided," he announced as the clan gathered around him. "No matter who they are, denying an individual their life is unjust. We must restore Demona."
Angela nearly squealed in happiness. Elisa smiled at her, letting her know she understood her relief. "Well then, first things first," the detective said. "We need to figure out how we're going to help her."
"Angela has already tried talking to her, and there has been no sign that her memories will return on their own if given time," Goliath stated. "We have no choice. We will need to break the spell which Angela cast."
"Owen, would you be able to help us?" Angela asked, noting that he was still standing there quietly, listening and watching.
"Perhaps," he replied, "though not directly. But I told you that last night."
"I know," Angela said. "I meant, could you help us figure out what I did wrong, and what we can do to fix things?"
"Yes," Elisa added. "Aside from Demona, you're really the only person we know who knows about this kind of thing."
"I believe, then, that I may be able to provide some assistance." He thought for a moment. "Please tell me, Miss Angela, what was the exact wording of the spell?"
Angela closed her eyes and thought for a second, picturing the incantation in her mind and translating it from the Latin. "'You will forget your life as a gargoyle until darkness falls over the city,'" she recited. She opened her eyes. "I had thought that it would wear off at sunset."
Owen thought for a moment. "I believe therein lies the problem, Miss Angela. You see, an essential part of casting magical spells is the phrasing. Technically, 'until darkness falls' does not necessarily equate to sunset."
For the first time in her life, Angela silently wished she had paid more attention to the Latin lessons the Magus had given her and the other Eggs when they were hatchlings. For want of a different verb, she, her mother, and the clan would not be facing the problem they now had to solve.
"What else could it mean?" Coldstone's deep voice broke the silence. Coldfire stepped closer to her mate and took his hand as the gathered members of the clan again all turned their eyes to Owen.
"If we are to take the spell's words literally," the majordomo said, "the enchantment will not be broken until all light in New York, both natural and artificial, is extinguished."
"And 'darkness falls over the city,'" concluded Brooklyn, suddenly seeming to gain some insight.
"You mean turn off all the lights?" Lexington asked. "A blackout?"
Owen nodded. "That may be the only solution. However, creating one would not be an easy task to accomplish."
"What is a 'black out'?" Goliath questioned.
Elisa stepped anxiously to the front of the group. "It's nothing good, Goliath."
"It's when all the power goes off," Lexington said.
"And all the people go crazy," Elisa added. "Even just a small power failure is enough to keep an entire precinct busy all night. There'd be absolute chaos if the whole city were to be blacked out again."
"Again, lass?" questioned Hudson.
"There was a citywide blackout that happened about twenty years ago," she explained quickly. "I was still just a little girl at the time, but my dad was on the force then, and I still hear him and Morgan telling battle stories about it from time to time. It wasn't pretty." She had the entire clan's attention now, particularly Goliath and Angela. "There was looting and rioting -- the whole town just went mad."
"There naturally would be some risks, Detective," Owen stated flatly. "I was about to get to that point myself."
"'Some risks'?" Elisa bit back. "You're talking about knocking out the power of fourteen million people and giving the street gangs and the mobsters and the petty crooks -- and maybe even the Unseelies -- an open invitation to tear up and terrorize the city!"
Angela bit her lip and looked to her father, but it was one of the two newest members of the clan that was again the first to speak up. "But if it may the only way to restore our rookery sister," Coldfire asked, "would we be right to reject it out of hand?"
"A wise warrior considers all options," said Sata.
Goliath absorbed the words of his clanmates while Elisa fumed. "Goliath, you aren't actually considering this, are you?" she said angrily. The big lavender gargoyle turned his attention back to her. "You guys are supposed to be protecting the city, not endangering it! There's got to be another option here."
Owen stepped away, unnoticed, as several gargoyle voices spoke at once and the discussion-turned-argument began in earnest.
* * *
"What do you think, Owen?" Xanatos crossed his arms and rubbed his goatee, a thoughtful expression on his face as he continued watching and listening to the clan from his vantage point in the door at the far end of the Great Hall.
"I'm not sure, sir. I do not think they will reach a consensus, if that is your question."
"I've never seen them fight like this," commented Fox from where she stood to the other side of her husband. "Angela looks completely bewildered, but Elisa looks ready to draw blood."
"Indeed," agreed Xanatos. "If Goliath had shoes, I wouldn't want to be in them right now."
* * *
"Why can't we just put Demona in a dark room or something?" Broadway suggested, trying to come up with alternatives.
"That wouldn't work," Lexington replied in a "what kind of moron are you" tone. "You heard what Owen said about the conditions of the spell."
Brooklyn and Sata drifted off to the side and conversed amongst themselves once more, while Elisa whirled furiously on Goliath again. "This is insanity, Goliath! I won't stand by and watch you risk the safety of the entire city just because a complete blackout might break the spell."
"Brother, we must act to aid our rookery sister. By any means necessary," Coldstone rumbled forcefully.
"Aye, lad," Hudson said, addressing Goliath as well, "but we should nae rush blindly inta a course of action."
Angela sank back into the sidelines as voices grew louder and tempers flared. It didn't seem like there was any hope of resolving anything now. She sighed worriedly. Two nights ago, she hadn't even imagined that any of this would be happening now. She had never realized the kind of trouble such a seemingly innocent spell could cause, both for her mother and herself, and now for the clan.
"Enough!" Goliath bellowed, eyes flaring. Elisa and several others stopped talking in mid-sentence, but Elisa was the only one who did not reflexively take a step back from the burly leader as he rose up on his toes, muscles flexing, and threw open his wings.
Goliath surveyed the room a moment and took a couple of deep breaths before speaking. His gaze traveled from Angela, who stood forlornly off to the side, then to Owen and the Xanatoses, standing just inside the door at the far side of the room, and then settled on Elisa, who now stood glaring at him with her hands planted firmly on her hips.
"We will find a way to restore Demona's memories to her," he began, holding his voice remarkably calm, "but this is clearly a problem which will require more thought. In the meanwhile, we cannot neglect our duty to patrol the city."
"I'm going to go check on Demona," Angela said quietly. She turned and left the room, Xanatos and Fox stepping away from the door to let her pass. Not a word was raised in protest or acknowledgement until a split-second after her tail had disappeared around the corner.
"I'm going with her," Broadway announced, and then he also hurried from the room.
"Sata and I will go fetch the kids... we'll take uptown tonight," Brooklyn said.
"We will patrol the Central Park," Coldfire volunteered, gesturing to Coldstone and herself.
"Lexington and I can take Bronx and cover the south part of the island," Hudson said.
Goliath's eyes darted to each member of the clan as they spoke, and returned in the end to Elisa.
"I've still got to change and I'm already late for my shift," she said, finally speaking. Then she turned and walked from the room without another word.
* * *
Fox stepped back and took her husband's arm as Elisa stormed past. "And a good evening to you, too, Detective," she said in an aside after Elisa was out the door.
Xanatos stifled a chuckle and glanced back over at Goliath, who was now left standing by himself as the remaining gargoyles trickled out of the room. "Owen, I think you know what to do," he said. "Why don't you get started and I'll join you momentarily."
"Of course. If you'll excuse me, Mrs. Xanatos?"
Fox nodded as Owen slipped out the door, then addressed her husband again. "You've got that look on your face, David."
"What look?" he replied with mock innocence.
"The one you always have when you're planning something," she purred.
"Would you care to join me, my dear?" he asked, holding out his hand, palm up.
"Always," she replied. Smiling, she placed her hand in his. Xanatos lifted her hand to his lips and kissed her knuckles, and then, together, the two of them approached Goliath.
* * *
Goliath waited until the rest of the clan had left before turning to go himself. As he did so, he ran straight into the Xanatoses.
"Patrolling solo tonight, Goliath?" Xanatos asked, his tone jovial.
Goliath growled slightly. "I am not in the mood to discuss it. What do you want?"
"We want to help," Fox said earnestly.
"I think there might be a solution that will work for everyone... even the Detective," Xanatos added. Goliath's expression remained hard, but his eyes betrayed his interest. "Come on," Xanatos said, smiling broadly as he clapped his hand on the big gargoyle's shoulder. "Let's talk."
Together, the three of them left the room.
* * * * *
"Come on, Angela. At least tell me why you're mad at me." Broadway glided up alongside his beloved and looked at her with pleading eyes. Angela ignored him, keeping her eyes focused on some point in the distance that only she could pick out, and banked her wings rolled away from him again.
"Angela!" He matched her movements and again came up beside her. "Please, Angela?"
She kept her eyes straight ahead but finally spoke. "You should know why," she said, pain in her voice.
Broadway's brow furrowed as he thought for a moment. "It's... it's what I said about Demona again, isn't it?" he questioned softly.
"I know that you don't like her very much," Angela replied, finally turning her face to him. But she's my mother, and I love her... and I just wish sometimes that you and the others could accept that."
Broadway looked into her eyes. They glistened in the starlight with unshed tears. "I'm sorry, Angela," he said sincerely. He held out his hand to her and, after a moment, she took it and squeezed it, letting him know that once again he was forgiven. She gave him a small smile, which he returned with a larger one.
Angela pulled Broadway a little closer. "We're almost there," she announced, pointing to a familiar house with her free hand. Together, they began their descent, hand-in-hand, to Destine Manor.
* * *
Broadway and Angela caped their wings after setting down on the upstairs balcony, and Angela started towards the doors.
"Wait," Broadway whispered. "What are you going to do? And what about me?"
Angela stopped. She hadn't even really thought about it until just now. "I'm going to see how she's doing," she decided, "and maybe see if she remembers anything about being a gargoyle yet. And you... I guess you'd better wait here."
"Okay, Angela," Broadway said. "Good luck."
"Thanks, Broadway," she replied as she opened the French doors. As she stepped into the bedroom and let the doors close behind her, she added, to herself, "I think I'm going to need it."
Outside, Broadway sat down in the shadows to wait.
* * * * *
Angela cloaked her wings about her and looked around the bedroom. It was empty and messy; she bent down and picked a pair of pantyhose from the floor and looked at them, shaking her head as she folded them as nicely as she could manage and set them on the dresser. She gathered up a few other articles of human clothing and deposited them on the bed. Resisting the urge to straighten the sheets as well, she crept silently through the second floor, and, not finding any sign of Demona, started down the stairs. There was light coming from the living room; she could see it by the time she was halfway down. It was steady light, from electric lamps rather than candles, and Angela's small hope that maybe Demona had recovered on her own dwindled to an infinitesimal one.
Angela ran her hand over the curled oaken balustrade as she reached the bottom of the stairs and approached the open doors to the living room slowly, peeking around the corner before entering, not wanting to burst in and frighten her mother. She raised a hand to her mouth to stifle a giggle as she looked into the room.
Demona sat on the couch, hunched over a laptop computer. Tongue stuck in the corner of her mouth, she was trying slowly and with much frustration to type on the machine's small keys with her large gargoyle fingers. She was wearing her usual clothes, but she had forsaken the accompanying gold jewelry and had her hair pulled up and held back in a poufy ponytail with a scrunchie.
Angela couldn't help but smile. "Mother," she called gently, not wanting to startle her. "It's me, Angela."
Dominique straightened up and turned around, her face brightening at seeing her daughter. She moved the computer off her lap and placed it on the coffee table as she rose.
"Hello, Angela," she said. "How are you feeling tonight?"
Angela stepped fully into the room. "I'm fine," she replied quickly. "How are you feeling?" she asked hopefully.
"As well as can be expected, considering the situation," Dominique answered, holding up her blue, four-fingered hands, wiggling the talons, and examining them.
Angela's expression fell.
"You said last night that we've always been like this," Dominique added. "Maybe it's so, but it's still going to take me a while to get used to it."
Angela was encouraged by that, but unnerved at the same time. "Maybe if you were to come along with me and Broadway tonight, it might help you remember better," she offered optimistically.
"Broadway?" Dominique questioned.
"He's... a friend of mine," Angela replied. "He knows about us- about what's happened," she added.
Dominique looked at her altered daughter oddly. "You mean go out, into the city?" she asked. Angela nodded affirmatively. "But I can't go out dressed like this!" Dominique balked, gesturing to her skimpy attire.
Angela resisted the urge to laugh. "Mother, if things go right, no one will see us anyway," she reassured.
Dominique frowned, thinking for a moment. She looked back at the laptop still sitting on the coffee table, and down again at her clumsy new hands. She could finish her research later; right now, being with her daughter was more important.
"Okay," she said softly, stepping towards Angela. "Lead the way."
Angela smiled and held out her hand. Dominique took it in her own and followed as Angela led her back upstairs, down the hallway, and through the master suite.
"The balcony?" she questioned aloud as Angela opened the French doors. "Why did we come up he - oh my!" Dominique jumped back a foot, startled, as something large, blue-green, and winged moved out of the shadows.
"Mother, this is Broadway," Angela said proudly, gesturing to her "friend."
"Um, hello," the large gargoyle said, extending his hand - also with only four fingers, Dominique noted - timidly.
Dominique hesitated a moment, then shook it. "Hello, Broadway," she returned, eyes wide.
"Broadway and I met at school," Angela volunteered, a split-second in advance of Dominique's question.
"Were you human once, too?" Dominique asked the big male cautiously.
"Twice, actually - ouch!" he replied, stopping as Angela elbowed him. He turned to her, and she gave him a strange look. "Oops, sorry, Angela," he said softly.
"We should really get going," Angela said aloud before Demona could ask any more questions. "Are you ready, Mother?"
Dominique stared at the two of them for another second and then shook away the odd thoughts swimming in her mind. "As ready as I'll ever be," she replied.
Angela smiled and turned to Broadway. "Good. Let's go."
Dominique gulped as Angela and her new friend spread their wings and began to step up onto the balcony ledge. "Wait," she said hesitantly. "I- I don't know how to use these. Not very well, at least." She gestured to her own wings, which hung limply on her back.
Angela stepped back down and took her mother's hand. "Sure you do. Why, you're one of the best gliders I've ever seen." She helped her mother up onto the railing and squeezed her hand reassuringly. "Don't worry. Just spread your wings. The rest will come naturally."
Dominique shivered as she remembered her only previous experiences with gliding from two nights before. She still didn't know how she managed to stay aloft long enough to make it home, and frankly the thought of doing it again terrified her.
Angela felt her mother's hand tremble in her own. She looked to Broadway, and he registered her thought instantly and climbed up on ledge on the opposite side of Demona. "We'll both be right beside you," Angela reassured her as Broadway took Demona's other hand in his own. "And we won't let go until you tell us to."
Dominique looked at Angela, then at Broadway, who smiled at her kindly, and then back at her daughter again. "You promise?" she asked, a bit fearfully.
Angela nodded. "Yes, I promise. You'll be perfectly safe."
Dominique swallowed and said, "OK."
"On three?" Broadway asked. Angela and Dominique nodded. "One... two..."
Dominique closed her eyes and tightened her grip on the hands she held. "Three." She jumped with them, feeling her feet leave the ground, gasping as they began to fall, then gasping again as she felt the air fill her wings and found herself suddenly being pulled upward. She dared to open her eyes, and found the earth falling away beneath her as the three of them rode a warm updraft. She looked up, ahead of them, and her eyes went wide in astonishment at the flickering skyline laid out before them, the noise of the city lost far below beneath the rush of the wind in her hair.
Angela looked over and smiled at seeing her mother's wide-eyed, astonished expression. "I told you it was easy, Mother," she said.
Dominique looked over to her daughter, who was using her wings to glide like she had been born to it. Angela smiled broadly, and at that moment Dominique couldn't help but do the same. "It's marvelous," she finally admitted, words failing her.
They circled around in a wide arc, with Dominique gazing awe-struck at one landmark after another, marveling at seeing them from such a dramatically different angle. The Chrysler Building with its chromed spire. The twin towers of the World Trade Center. And the tallest building of all, Xanatos's Eyrie, with its oddly shaped medieval castle crown silhouetted against the starlit sky.
"I- I think I'm ready to try it by myself," Dominique said, her eyes still on the skyline. She heard Angela giggle and turned to her daughter.
"You already are, Mother." Angela said, smiling devilishly. "You have been ever since we passed over the Brooklyn Bridge."
Dominique checked to find her hands hanging empty at her sides. She was actually gliding! By herself! A sudden feeling of exhilaration rushed over her; then she turned back to Angela. "Hey! You promised!" she said, mock accusingly. Her grin betrayed her, and Angela giggled and spiraled off.
"Try to catch me!" she yelled back, mirth in her voice. "I dare you."
Never one to back away from a challenge, Dominique duplicated Angela's maneuver with her own wings and set off after the girl. "What makes you think I can't?" she hollered laughingly over the wind as she began the pursuit.
Broadway just shook his head and smiled, then followed after both mother and daughter.
* * * * *
"Heads up, Ari-chan!" Graeme called mischievously. His twin sister looked behind her just in time to bank to the side and avoid a soggy snowball between the wings.
"Missed me!" she yelled back as she dipped down to another rooftop to scoop up talonful of slushy snow of her own, which she quickly molded into a solid ball and flung back at her brother.
"Ow!" cried Graeme as his sister's shot made contact with his shoulder. "No fair! That was a slushball!" he yelled.
"It was not, Graeme-kun, you big wuss," Ariana hollered back.
"Kids! Both of you stop it with the slushballs before someone gets hurt," Brooklyn ordered as he swooped down between them.
"See, I told you it was a slushball that you nearly hit me in the side of the face with," Graeme said to his sister.
"Enough bickering," Sata said forcefully, pulling up beside her mate. "We have work to do." She pointed down to an alleyway below where several shadowy figures were hurriedly loading boxes into a truck.
"The first robbery of spring," Brooklyn quipped. "Isn't that supposed to be a good sign?" Sata and the twins rolled their eyes and began their descent. "What?" Brooklyn shrugged, and followed after his family.
A few moments later, the Brooklyns were perched on a nearby rooftop, surveying the scene, watching as men wearing dark coveralls hurried in and out of the back of a warehouse, loading boxes into the back of their truck. A quartet of men in similar dark attire stood guard, grim-faced and wielding impressively sized high-powered guns.
"I don't think these guys are amateurs, dad," Graeme observed helpfully, whispering.
"I've counted at least six different men besides the ones with the rifles," Ariana added.
"Shh." Sata ordered. She strained her ears to hear snippets of the conversation below as one of the men with the guns shouted some curt orders. She frowned. "They are speaking in Japanese. They must be Yakuza."
"Glad to know the Unseelie haven't put them out of business," Brooklyn said sarcastically. "So what'd he say?"
"Couldn't you hear him, Dad?" asked Graeme.
"Not with you chomping on that gum like that, Graeme-kun," Ariana whispered.
"You're just jealous 'cause you don't have any more," Graeme retorted.
"Kids, both of you need to be quiet," Brooklyn admonished. "Sata?"
The jade green gargoyle gave her hatchlings a warning glare. "He said 'Hurry up - we leave in five minutes,'" she translated.
"Well then," Brooklyn said, flipping open the comlink on his gauntlet. "I guess we'd better call for backup and get moving."
* * * * *
Dominique leaned against the rail encircling the platform of Lady Liberty's torch and gazed out across the bay at the Manhattan skyline, still lightheaded and feeling the adrenaline rush from the aerial acrobatics Angela had just finished guiding her through. She looked over to her daughter, who was standing a short distance away, holding hands with her friend -- Broadway, she reminded herself of his name. The two of them were talking softly, and after a moment or two, Angela smiled and laughed at something.
Dominique looked away again, watching the reflection of the city lights ripple on the waves, and sighed deeply. Angela sure seemed happy as a gargoyle -- which was going to make de-brainwashing her once she had been restored to her proper human form all the more difficult. Of course, after experiencing the rush of gliding with one's own set of wings, Dominique could understand what part of the lure must have been. She looked at Angela again, still smiling, and almost hated thinking of taking that away from her daughter. Almost immediately, she mentally slapped herself. "What am I thinking?" she whispered to herself, pulling her eyes away and gazing at her own blue, taloned feet. "This isn't natural -- I have to make her human again."
* * *
"Thank you for helping me tonight, Broadway." Broadway smiled, and Angela gave him a small kiss.
"She seems so different. Do you think she remembers anything yet?" the big blue-green gargoyle asked, looking over Angela's shoulder at Demona, who stood silently, staring out at the ocean.
Angela sighed. "I don't know," she said, turning to look at her mother. "I want to believe that she is, but I just don't know."
Broadway massaged his love's tense shoulders for a few seconds before a repetitive beeping from his belt interrupted them. "I hate being always on call," he sighed, and went to answer it.
* * *
"Mother, we have to go."
Dominique looked up, startled from her thoughts by the urgency in Angela's voice. "What is it?" she asked.
"Some friends need our help," Angela responded guardedly. "We'd take you back home, but there's no time. You'll have to come with us." She looked at her nervously. "Do you think you can keep up?"
Dominique felt suddenly worried. "I can try," she replied. That was an understatement. She had no intention now of letting Angela out of her sight.
Broadway led the way, and one by one, the three gargoyles leapt from the torch and headed off across the bay.
* * * * *
Angela and Broadway touched down noiselessly on the rooftop behind Brooklyn, Sata, and the twins. Demona landed a few seconds later and stumbled slightly as she did, but Angela quickly steadied her and pulled her into the shadows near the rooftop's edge where they could not be seen by the people in the alley below.
Dominique blinked in disbelief at seeing four more gargoyles staring back at her.
"What's going down?" Broadway asked in a whisper, sounding vaguely for a moment like a detective from an old movie.
"There's about a dozen of them. Four of them we know are heavily armed, but the others are probably packing, too. They've been hard at work and their truck's nearly full. We need to move now if we're gonna put and end to this little late night shopping spree," summarized a beaked, brick red gargoyle who was clad in armor. Next to him was a jade-colored female in Japanese attire, and two smaller gargoyles, one male and green, the other female and red.
Angela noticed the total confusion on her mother's face. Quickly, she interrupted. "Mother, this is Brooklyn, Sata, Graeme, and Ariana."
Brooklyn broke his train of thought long enough to give a quick wave and say "hey" before turning back to Broadway. Sata gave a small formal bow. Graeme and Ariana waved and mumbled greetings.
Dominique took a good look at the two smaller gargoyles and gasped in shock at realizing they were children, no more than grade school age. Her mind whirled. Who could be so cruel as to do this to children?
"What about Demona?" Dominique heard the jade female ask.
"She'd be safer up here," the beaked gargoyle replied.
"Mother, wait for us right here," Angela said, moving her gently into the shadows.
"Angela, what is going on?" Dominique asked fearfully.
"I don't have time to explain. Just trust me," Angela replied. "Now just stay here and keep out of sight."
Dominique nodded meekly and watched as the six other gargoyles split up into groups of two and disappeared into the darkness cloaking the surrounding rooftops.
For a few seconds, the silence was broken only by faint voices from below in the alley, and then the slamming of a car door. Dominique nearly jumped out of her skin and the next sound -- a horrible, animalistic shriek. Then chaos seemed to break loose. There was shouting and screaming, followed by a staccato burst of gunshots.
"Oh my gosh... Angela!" Dominique vaulted from the shadows and hurried to the edge of the building over which the sounds were coming. Her jaw dropped in shock at the scene that lay before her.
In the alley below, the six gargoyles were taking on a group of armed criminals who outnumbered them two to one. Two black-clothed men were already laid out cold on the ground near the front of their truck, and Dominique gasped as Broadway picked up both of their machine guns and snapped them in two as if they were dried twigs. Gunshots rang out again, and Dominique flinched away as the shots went wild and struck just below her on the wall, sending small fragments of cinder block flying up at her. She looked back up in time to see Brooklyn taking out the third gunman with a hefty punch as Sata tossed the fourth and last one hard against the wall.
Her eyes searched frantically for Angela, and she found her with the two children, their backs together in a tight triangle as they faced off against three men who had encircled them, all of whom had taken up martial arts postures. Dominique watched as if spellbound. Finally, moving as one unit, the men attacked. Moving also as one, the gargoyles responded. Graeme ducked a blow and went between the man's legs, causing him to loose his balance as he grabbed for the small green gargoyle. Ariana blocked a punch with her bo, and then lashed back with a furious series of hits with the wooden stick. Dominique gasped again in astonishment as her daughter parried a kick by whipping her tail around and wrapping it around the man's leg, then send him to the ground by pulling his feet from under him.
"How on earth did she learn to fight like that?" she wondered aloud, completely amazed by the abilities her daughter was displaying in using her new genetically altered form.
The man Ariana had whacked repeatedly was down for the count, so the little red gargoyle teamed up with her brother to face off against his opponent, who had rolled back to his feet. Angela stepped over the man she had just taken down, knocking him back to the asphalt with her foot as he tried to sit up again, and moved into a new defensive stance as another of the Yakuza thugs produced a pair of nunchucks and began twirling them threateningly. Angela growled, her eyes glowing red, but the man faltered only slightly under her ferocious gaze.
Dominique winced as Angela ducked another blow from her attacker's flailing nunchucks, then jumped and nearly cheered as Angela landed a blow of her own, sending the man reeling back but not taking him down. She dared a quick glance around the rest of the alley again. The two children had extended the female's staff between them and, had they been taller, might've clotheslined the man they ran at. Instead, the staff caught him in his midsection -- but it still did the trick. Another one was down and out of the picture. Broadway was busy tying up the ones that had been taken down earlier, while Brooklyn and Sata were taking on a few more men who had emerged from inside the warehouse.
A blur of movement behind Angela caught Dominique's eye. The man her daughter had taken down first was getting to his feet again, and Dominique gasped as he drew a length of chain from inside his uniform and moved towards Angela. Terror gripped her as he extended it and she realized he meant to bring it down around the unsuspecting girl's neck.
Everyone in the alley, both gargoyle and human, froze at the bloodcurdling shriek. Looking up, they saw Demona hurtling down. Angela spun and moved aside just in time to see the light glint off a chain and a blur of blue as Demona barreled headlong into an attacker she had not even seen. Demona rolled three times with the man before kicking him off of her, sending him in a long, low arc into the side of the building. She was back on her feet before he impacted, hissing, with her eyes glowing red. She reached for the second man who had been attacking her daughter before he even had time to run, grabbing him by the arm and heaving him headlong into another brick wall.
Graeme and Ariana gave Demona a wide berth as they scurried back around to where their parents were. The fight over and forgotten, the others slowly gathered around, staring at Demona in confusion and surprise as the red glow of her eyes faded and her breathing began to return to normal.
Dominique looked around in shock, glancing up at the rooftop fifty feet above, where she had been just a moment earlier, then around the alley, at the still bodies of the two men. Her eyes traveled across the five gargoyles who had formed a rough semicircle around her, each one staring at her with a mixture of shock and baffled surprise on his or her face. And then she saw Angela.
Angela yelped, startled, as Demona grabbed her by the arm and pulled her into a tight, protective embrace. Her mother's wings fell around the two of them like a cocoon as Demona began to plead with her.
"Angela, please! You must come home with me before you get yourself killed! Please! I'll find a way to make you human again! Whoever did this to you, whatever hold they have, I will find a way to break it! You don't have to do this -- you don't have to risk your life like this! Please, Angela. I'm begging you."
Tears filled Dominique's eyes, and she held her child close, trembling. Angela didn't answer her. After a moment, she looked up at the others again. "I'll help your friends, too, Angela." She spoke louder, addressing her words to them all. "I'll help all of you. You can all be human again." Her voice trailed off as she began to sob. "Please, just let my daughter come home."
Broadway looked on sadly, while Brooklyn and Sata wore expressions with concern mixed in, as well. Graeme and Ariana were just confused.
"What's she talking about, Okasan?" Ariana asked, sounding a bit frightened.
"Sata, why don't you take the kids and start on home. Broadway, go along with them, would you please?" Brooklyn said, keeping his voice low.
"What about these guys?" Broadway said, gesturing to the unconscious bodies.
As if in response, the sound of police sirens began in the distance.
"I called Elisa before you guys got here," Brooklyn explained. "Besides..." he rolled one of the fallen thugs over with his foot "... I don't think they're going anywhere."
Angela stood, still locked in an embrace with her mother, rocking her gently from side to side as she cried. Angela closed her eyes, remembering how Demona had done the same for her all those months before, and tried not to cry herself.
Brooklyn ushered the others away as the sirens grew nearer, waiting until they had disappeared into the darkness up the sides of the alley before approaching Angela and Demona.
"Are you two coming, Angela?"
Angela and Demona finally broke the hug. Angela turned, supporting Demona against her. The azure-skinned, red-haired female looked exhausted and haggard, her wings drooping defeatedly.
"I'm going to take her home first," Angela said softly.
Brooklyn looked at Demona sadly and nodded. Then he looked at the alley wall, where the others had climbed up back to the rooftops. "Do you need some help?"
Brooklyn carefully helped Demona over the edge of the roof, then steadied her as Angela climbed the rest of the way up.
"Be careful," he said as he handed care of Demona back to her daughter. "We'll see you back at the castle."
Brooklyn hopped up on the ledge, spread his wings, and a moment later he was gone. As police cars pulled into the alleyway, Angela lifted Demona up in her arms and did the same.
"Where are we going?" Demona said weakly as Angela caught the wind in her wings.
"Home," Angela replied.
* * * * *
"Just try to get some rest, Mother. Everything will be back to the way it should be very soon. I promise."
Dominique felt her own warm bed beneath her. She looked up at her daughter standing over her, drawing the blankets up around her.
"Angela, please. Stay..."
"Shh. I'll be back tomorrow night. You need to sleep."
Dominique was too exhausted to argue. She closed her eyes resignedly, listening to the sound of the door latching as Angela departed. The girl was right -- she needed sleep. The past few nights of trying to deal with her new form had been both long and tiring, and the days had not been much better.
She shifted her tail and rolled onto her side, hugging the blankets tighter to herself, and lay there for several minutes. She was tired. Her eyes were closed. So why wasn't she asleep yet?
Something was bothering her. She thought back to the fight, they way she had dove in at seeing Angela in danger, not even thinking. Shrieking and growling like an animal in a frenzy. She shivered. That couldn't have been her, could it? Angela had been insisting all along that they had both always been gargoyles. Was it possible that maybe, just maybe, her daughter was right and she was somehow wrong?
"No," she mumbled to herself. "That's crazy. I'm human. I've always been human."
She tossed and turned, rolling over to her other side, trying to ignore the wings against her back and the tail squirming around under the sheets that wanted to dispute that claim. She shut her eyes tighter, trying to will herself to fall asleep, but images and fragments of conversation replayed in her mind.
"He thinks the gargoyles took her..."
Standing there on the parapets some twenty-five feet above her, and resembling some avenging angel out of mythology, was a gargoyle statue... a gargoyle statue that looked exactly as her daughter had last night.
"We'll see you back at the castle."
Suddenly, it all fell into place. Dominique tore off the covers and hurried to the French doors. Throwing them open, she ran out onto the balcony and, without a moment's hesitation, leapt off and turned her wings toward the Eyrie Building.
* * * * *
Angela found the clan assembling on the parapets as she returned to the castle. She touched down in their midst and stepped quickly to her father.
"What's going on?" she asked.
"Xanatos and Fox have a plan they wish to present to us," Goliath replied, "a plan which may allow us to break the spell upon Demona. I have agreed to hear them out."
Angela's interest was fully captured now. She jockeyed with a few of the others for a position where she could see what was going on as Owen set up what appeared to be a portable white dry-erase board and then helped Fox unroll a large map and attach it to the board.
"If I could have everyone's attention, please?" Xanatos asked loudly, his voice carrying quite well in the crisp air over the low din of gargoyle conversation. As a hush fell over the assembled crowd, Angela finally got up to the front of the group where she could see clearly the map of Manhattan and the surrounding area that had been placed on display.
"Thank you, David," Fox said sweetly, taking over the podium as it were. She picked up a pointer stick and held it as if she meant business, adopting a pose that would not have drawn an involuntary chuckle from Angela had she been wearing a suit rather than slacks and a pullover top and been standing in a boardroom rather than on the windswept top of a castle.
"You all know why we're here, so I'll try to make this quick," Fox explained. "You need total darkness to break the spell on Demona, and we've figured out a way for you to get it. These X's," she pointed her stick to marks on the map, "denote the locations of the electrical substations that service the greater Manhattan area. There is no 'main switch' that exists where one could just turn off the power to the whole city, but if certain combinations of these main junction points were to all fail simultaneously, there would be a total loss of power to the whole city. It would only last a few seconds, until the system recovers, but I think it would be enough."
"With a little investigative work, we've worked out one of those combinations," Xanatos continued. "The trick will be in the timing. There are nine locations that must be hit all at the same time, not including the one in the basement of this building which Fox and I will see to. You're going to have to spread yourselves thin on this one -- even the children are going to have to help."
Brooklyn and Sata stood proudly behind their son and daughter. "I think they're up to the challenge," Brooklyn said.
"Most definitely," agreed Sata. Graeme and Ariana exchanged smiles.
"What about the consequences for the city?" Goliath rumbled.
"The risk is minimal," Xanatos replied, "if the timing is right."
"As I said, the blackout will only last a few seconds," Fox added.
Goliath thought for a moment. "Perhaps I should speak with Elisa first."
"There's no time for that," Fox replied. "There's not that much nighttime left."
"I think we should go ahead, Father," Angela interjected. "Elisa will understand."
A low growl rumbled in the big lavender gargoyle's throat. "All right," he said at last. "Tell us what we must do."
"Excellent," said Xanatos. As Owen stepped forward and began handing out synchronized digital timers to each member of the clan, Xanatos took the pointer from his wife and began to detail his plan.
* * * * *
"WHOA!!!" Dominique was heading straight for the castle wall. She had intended to land on the side of the castle so she couldn't be detected by any of Xanatos' security cameras but she had miscalculated her velocity and the wall was coming at her far faster than she could handle.
She hit the wall hard, knocking the wind out of her. She nearly blacked out but did have the sense to bury her talons into the stone wall. "I will never get used to this," she complained as she held on tight to the wall.
She heard voices and pressed herself against the cool stone. She tried to concentrate on the conversation. Xanatos, yes, it was his voice. Dominique tried to discern which direction the voice was coming from but it seemed to echo off the courtyard walls.
She climbed up the wall as quietly as she could and peered over the top. Looking down into the courtyard, she half expected to see Xanatos right on the other side of the wall. The acoustics of the courtyard were really throwing off her enhanced hearing.
Her dark eyes darted around looking for her business rival. He wasn't in the courtyard at all. THERE! Up on the parapets! His monsters surrounded him, and standing there right next to him was Angela.
Dominique growled... GROWLED?? Ugh! She had to find a way to reverse this soon! It was as if the mutation was getting worse!
She took a deep breath and shut her eyes as she pushed off the wall. The reluctant gargoyle crossed her talons as she waited for her wings to catch the wind. It took much longer than she expected but Dominique finally got the height she needed to land on the backside of the parapet where Xanatos had called his little meeting of monsters.
She listened hard to his words. Then it all made sense! He was giving them battle plans! He was going to use them to do all his dirty work!
She concentrated again on the voices only to hear her very own daughter accept her assigned target for this "mission."
Dominique covered her mouth with both hands. She couldn't believe what she was hearing! Xanatos not only turned her and her daughter into creatures, but he had twisted her brain to use her for his own diabolical schemes!
He was a fool to think that she would sit back and let this happen! Dominique stomped around the corner just as the large lavender male spread his wings and took to the air. She paused and frowned as she watched him glide off. Why did that one seem so familiar?
The thought soon passed from her head as she came up behind Xanatos. "YOU MONSTER!" she accused.
Xanatos spun on his heels to face her. He quickly suppressed his surprise. "Wait one minute, Demona. This is all for your own good."
"MY own good? Are you mad? You have kidnapped and brainwashed my daughter. But you weren't satisfied with that..." She began to poke him accusingly in the middle of his chest with her talon. "You had to use genetic mutation to turn her and me into winged FREAKS! How could you do something so horrible?!"
Xanatos had to try to stifle a laugh. Demona just wasn't nearly as intimidating as she was when she remembered how to act like a gargoyle. He began to wonder if she was going to start beating him over the head with a handbag next.
Dominique watched as Xanatos began to fail at his attempt to suppress his laughter. "Have you no soul!? I will stop you at any cost, Xanatos, and I will start by taking my daughter back."
She pushed past him and headed for the edge of the parapet.
"Demona, wait!" Xanatos pleaded.
Dominique looked back over her shoulder, as she stood tall on the merlon. "That's MS. DESTINE to you!" Then hurled herself out onto the night air, determined to find her daughter... and stop her.
* * * * *
Angela circled her target twice before landing inside the gates of the small electrical substation. She checked her timer. Still over a minute before everyone would be in position. Angela checked the door off the small maintenance shack for a padlock, but finding none, she grabbed the whole door, pulled it off, and tossed it aside.
She heard her name being called and looked up.
"ANGELA!" Dominique screamed out as she dove down at her daughter. She grabbed Angela in the midsection and they both tumbled head over wings away from the door of the shack.
Dominique pinned Angela to the ground. "I can't let you do this!"
"Mother! You don't understand!" Angela countered as she struggled to pull from her mother's iron grip.
"I won't let Xanatos control you like this!"
"Mother, please! I don't want to have to hurt you."
Dominique gasped. Her own daughter would cause her harm simply for one of Xanatos' plans?
Angela saw the stunned look on her mother's face and knew that this might be her only chance. She quickly wrapped her tail around her mother's neck and lifted her up.
Dominique choked and released Angela's wrists, grabbing for the tail wrapped tightly like a constricting snake around her neck.
Angela tossed her mother aside and ran for the relay switch inside the shack.
Dominique quickly got to her feet and followed Angela into the small building. Angela had pulled the lock off the main switch and was watching a small timer on her wrist.
She lunged towards Angela then pulled her to the opposite side of the maintenance shack, pinning her arms to the wall.
Just then, the timer on Angela's wrist started to beep. Angela's heart skipped a beat. She looked over her mother's shoulder to the switch directly behind her. Then looked Dominique straight in the eyes. "I am so sorry, mother."
Angela pulled her foot up and placed it on Dominique's stomach. With one powerful movement of her leg she shoved the blue gargess into the power relay.
Angela had to cover her eyes as a shower of fire and light rained over her. The sound of electricity cracking and popping was nearly deafening, but she could still hear her mother's scream as 150,000 volts coursed through her body.
Everything went black. Angela could barely make out her mother's form as it slumped to the ground.
Outside the shack, all was dark. The stars showed brightly in the unpolluted sky.
The dark silence was not to last. With a spark and a whir the substation hummed back to life and lights all over the city flicked back on.
Angela moved to her mother's side and lifted her head. She was hot to the touch and smoke was rising from her fiery mane. She felt her neck for a pulse and her heart dropped when she couldn't find one.
"Oh no..." Angela began to shake her mother by the shoulders. "Mother! Wake up!"
Still no breath... no pulse.
Angela put Dominique back on the floor and tilted her head back to start CPR just as Elisa had taught her. As she pinched her mother's nose closed, Dominique began to stir.
Wide eyed, Angela checked again for a pulse. There! It was there! Steady as it could be!
Angela breathed a sigh of relief as Dominique slowly sat up. The blue gargoyle held her head as the memories of one thousand years flooded back to her. She cried out a bit and Angela moved to hold her.
"I'm sorry, this is all my fault." Angela explained.
"What happened?" Demona managed.
Angela pulled back and guilt covered her face. "I cast a spell on you. I thought it would help you to better understand humans." Her eyes looked down to her lap. "But something went wrong. I didn't think out the consequences of the spell as well as I should have."
"Angela! After all I have tried to teach you! You DARE to pull something this foolish?"
The young gargess flinched then looked up into her mother's eyes. "I will never touch magic again."
As Demona's memories continued to return to her, she began to recall a few of her own magical mishaps during her own apprentice period. Her expression softened.
"Angela, my daughter, we all make mistakes at one point or another. Do not let this keep you from your lessons." She punctuated her words by drawing Angela into a warm hug. As the two gargoyles helped each other back to their feet, Demona added, "Let me tell you the story about when I summoned the Nuckelavee...."
* * * * *
With Angela safely returned to the castle, Demona returned to Destine Manor and headed back downstairs to get a quick snack before she tried to sneak in a few hours of sleep. She still had work tomorrow and she would be a bit behind after all this.
As she walked through the entry towards the kitchen, she noticed the PIT literature and pin that sat on the little table by the door. She picked them up and smiled a bit, put them back down and continued on to the kitchen.
* * * * *
Lydia set a small radio on Candice's desk. "Listen! They are talking about the blackout last night!"
Lydia turned up the sound. Candice sighed and began to wonder if Lydia even had a desk of her own. "Ms. Destine will be in at any moment now. You don't think that good mood is going to last very much longer, do you?"
Lydia didn't hear a word she said. "I think it was extra-terrestrials! They have come to take over the Earth and they are starting with Manhattan..." She rambled on.
The elevator doors opened and Dominique came storming into the greeting area in front of Candice's desk. She paused and gave Lydia a cold stare. Lydia picked up the radio and scuttled away as fast as she could, without a word of protest or explanation.
Candice made a note to learn how to give Lydia that same look.
Dominique turned back to Candice. "Give me five minutes, then I want you in my office to discuss my schedule." She finished her demand with a slam of her office door.
Lydia peeked back around the corner and Candice mouthed the words "I told you so" to her.
Candice quickly gathered up the mail and set it on top of a large package that had arrived the day before, took a deep breath, and made her way into Ms. Destine's office.
She sat the mail on the corner of the desk and leaned the package against the side.
Dominique looked up from her desk. "Who is that from?"
Candice tried to keep her voice steady. "A Miss Calhoun delivered it yesterday." She handed her employer the note that accompanied the package.
Hastily, Dominique opened the note. The cold frown on her face was soon replaced with a warm smile and Candice could swear she saw happy tears in Ms. Destine's eyes.
* * * * *
Darien Montrose pulled up to the gate and hit the switch set into the leather-covered armrest to lower the window on his immaculately clean rental car.
"Yes?" came a feminine voice over the intercom speaker.
"It's me, Ms. Destine. Mr. Darien Montrose," he replied, lowering the sun visor with his other hand and checking the part of his hair critically in the tiny make-up mirror.
"Come on up, Mr. Montrose," the voice replied. A moment later, the gate opened and Darien gingerly inched the huge luxury car forward, up the dark driveway of Destine Manor.
* * *
"Mother, I don't think I'm ready for this... not so soon after..."
Demona removed her talon from the gate control button and cut her daughter off. "You must believe in yourself, Angela. You have the power now - don't be afraid of it. I know you can do this."
"You do?" the lavender female asked doubtfully.
"Yes, I do," Demona reaffirmed. She took Angela by the arms and gave her a quick hug as automobile headlamps panned across the front window, backlighting the burgundy colored drapes. "Now come on," she added, taking Angela by the hand and leading her toward the adjoining room. "We don't have much time."
* * *
Darien parked in the circular drive just across from the front door and looked out the side window at the dark mansion looming ominously above him. Staving off a shiver, he reached for the small roll of breath freshening candies tucked into a slot on the dash and popped one in his mouth. He sucked it away quickly, checking his hair and tie one last time in the rear-view mirror before stepping out of the car.
* * *
Outside, a car door slammed. Angela jumped slightly, nearly knocking her wings into the nearby table and upsetting the candles resting upon it.
"Don't be nervous," Demona encouraged as she handed her daughter a small velvet bag filled with what seemed to the untrained eye to be nothing but fine, loose sand. "Just do it like we practiced," she added, nodding.
Angela bit her lip. "Okay," she said finally. She took a deep breath and concentrated, visualizing the words before she spoke them, wrapping her tongue carefully around each syllable.
"Lude oculos, lude capita.
Non vide quod videas, sed ut velim id esse.
Oculo, visui, puerum meum humanum face."
As Angela spoke the words, she opened the bag and drew out a pinch of sparkling dust and threw it over her mother and then herself. The two gargoyles both closed their eyes as the dust settled to the floor, the candles on the table fluttering slightly.
* * *
Darien stepped to the front door, crunching down on the remnants of the breath mint and swallowing the sugary shards as he searched for the doorbell. Finding it, he pushed it, and was mildly surprised when it rang a pleasant chime, and not a keening death knell.
"I wonder who the architect was, anyway... Bram Stoker?" he commented softly as his eyes focused in on the ghastly looking gargoyle-head doorknocker.
He blinked, and suddenly the door was wide open, and he was staring not into the brassy eyes of a snarling gargoyle, but the piercing green eyes of Dominique Destine.
* * *
"Mr. Montrose, do come in," Dominique invited pleasantly, standing aside and gesturing into the foyer.
"Yes, thank you, Ms. Destine. Good evening to you," he said as he hurried in. "It's still a mite nippy out there after sunset, isn't it?" he added, rubbing his hands together as he turned to face her. His hostess was wearing a stylishly tailored evening dress in a stunning shade of scarlet nearly matching that of her hair, which was swept back in a lavish braid.
"I never notice," she replied dryly as she secured the door and stepped back toward him, her heels clicking softly on the marble tile. "Come, this way," she directed, indicating for him to follow her. "Angela is waiting in the living room."
Darien needed no further encouragement. He hurried after her post-haste, down a short hallway and around a corner, and through a pair of oak and etched glass French doors, into the living room, where a roaring fire blazed in the hearth.
"Angela, my daughter" Dominique called as she entered the room, "our guest is here."
A wide smile spread across Darien's face as a figure rose from the cover of the cushions on the sofa and turned to face them. A young, slender, dark-haired beauty, clad in a billowy white silk blouse and a long plaid skirt, stepped around the furniture and came up to greet them. Angela Destine stepped up beside her mother.
"Angela, I'd like you to meet Mr. Montrose. Mr. Montrose, my daughter, Angela Brigitte Destine."
Darien started to extend his hand, but Angela curtsied first. "Mr. Montrose," she said softly.
As she rose back up, he abandoned the handshake in favor of a half bow of his own, arm swept across his waist as he had been taught as a young man at finishing school. "Miss Destine," he replied, his enchantment apparent in his voice.
Angela and Darien stood there for a moment, looking at each other. "Why don't you two make yourselves comfortable while I go fetch some refreshments?" Dominique finally suggested. She gestured to the sofa across from the fireplace, and waited until Angela and Darien had circled around from opposite sides of the overstuffed couch before exiting the room for the kitchen.
* * *
Darien smiled, watching as Angela smoothed the folds of her pleated skirt underneath her and sat down demurely on the edge of the seat. Angela looked up at him and smiled back. For a moment, the only conversation was between the logs crackling in the fire.
"I've been waiting a dreadfully long time to finally meet you," he said at last.
"Mmm... I've heard," she replied, almost purring. Darien jumped a little at this, and that encouraged her. "I imagine you're quite... anxious by now, you know, to get to know me better." She smiled slyly and slid herself towards him a bit, pulling her skirt from its neat folds and exposing a bit of her legs.
Darien cleared his throat, a hundred now seemingly unneeded witty lines going out the window. "Well, yes... I suppose you could say that," he agreed as he reclined back and allowed her to approach.
Angela smiled again, devilishly.
* * *
Dominique watched on the closed-circuit monitor in the next room, headset over her ears, and smiled slyly. "And you thought you didn't have it in you," she said softly to herself, her voice filled with motherly pride. Carefully, she removed the headset and set it back down, turning her attention to the silver tray laden with crackers, cheese, and three glasses of wine, which rested nearby.
* * *
Darien leaned in as Angela puckered her luscious red lips and prepared to deliver a kiss. She was inches from his face - close enough that he could smell what brand of shampoo she must use - when suddenly his vision blurred and twisted. He blinked his eyes, thinking for a moment that a contact lens had come loose, but when Angela came back into focus again, he pushed back from her in horror.
"What's wrong?" Angela questioned innocently as Darien leapt back against the cushions.
Darien stared at her in disbelief. Where a moment ago had sat a sweet young college girl now rested a purple-skinned, bat-winged, fanged, rag-clad, hideous monster. He gasped for breath.
"What?" Angela demanded indignantly, as if she didn't understand. "Does my breath stink or something?" She cupped a hand to her mouth as if testing the theory for herself.
"You -- you're a MONSTER!" he stammered finally, still scrambling backwards on the couch, to the point where now his feet were on the cushions and he was sitting on the sofa's back.
Angela shot to her feet. "Darien! How could you say such a horrible thing?"
Darien jumped and tumbled backwards onto the floor, but hurriedly scrambled to his feet.
"I only wanted a little kiss!" Angela continued insistently, placing her hands on her hips. "You could've just said 'no.'"
Darien wasn't listening. He was running. He turned away and... WHAM! He collided with Dominique just as she re-entered the room. Gourmet cheese spread, crackers, and wine flew everywhere, the latter mostly onto the front of his shirt and jacket. As he staggered back, wiping the stinging liquid from his eyes, he took a better look. No, not Dominique - another monster... this one with blue skin and insane red hair!
"Stay away from me! Both of you... you... whatever you are!" he screamed as he bolted for the other doorway. He vanished around a dark corner, the sound of running footsteps followed by the clack of the door latch.
Demona stood there amidst the spilled hors d'ouvres, smiling smugly, as Angela came over beside her. Together, they listened to the gunning of an engine and the squealing of tires on asphalt as Darien Montrose took off into the night.
"Good thing I left the driveway gate open," Demona said slyly, casting a proud smile on her daughter. Angela's eyes brightened at the bit of humor, but worry returned a moment later.
"He won't be bothering us anymore, but what if he tells the authorities, Mother?"
Demona scoffed. "He wouldn't dare. They'd put him in a straightjacket and lock him up in a heartbeat." She paused. "Not that I'd mind seeing that," she added.
Angela smiled again. "Me neither," she added. Mother and daughter shared a chuckle, and Angela put her arm around Demona as they turned back to the fireplace. They had watched the flames dancing for several silent seconds before Angela noticed the new painting hanging over the mantle.
"Where did you get that?" the girl asked, staring at it in wonder.
"It was a gift... from a fr-," Demona began, "from an artist I just hired to help spruce up the Nightstone offices."
Angela smiled at her mother's slip of the tongue. "But I thought you hated humans," she accused mildly, still smiling.
Demona shrugged, and a small smile formed on her lips. "Some of them I can... tolerate."
Angela just hugged her again and sighed contentedly as the fire bathed them in its warm glow.
* * * * *
Darien Montrose shivered in his seat again as the image of the purple she-beast passed once more in front of his eyes. A horn sounded to his left, and he jerked the wheel to the right, swinging the huge car back into the center lane. A green highway sign flew past overhead. He read it and started moving right, towards the exit. He didn't notice the needle on the speedometer creeping towards eighty.
He did finally notice the blue and red lights behind him, right after the siren sounded a short warning whoop and a voice over a loudspeaker ordered him to pull over.
Darien fumbled in his coat pocket for his wallet and the car rental agreement as the uniformed policeman approached.
"I can explain, Officer," he began as he rolled down the window. "You see..."
Lt. Estrada leaned back as the driver's side window opened and the odor of sour wine hit him in the face. He frowned, tucking his ticket book back in his belt pouch.
"Sir, would you please step out of the vehicle..."
* * * * *
* * * * *
"Memories are the little threads that hold life's patches of meaning together."
- Mark Twain
* * * * *
"I Don't Remember," lyrics by Peter Gabriel © 1980. Used without permission.