Chapter Seventeen

~ VtVS ~

"The woman was all over the place," Taggert grumbled as he and Keesha retraced Katherine Bell's steps the week before the Bacchanalia.

"She worked for a lot of charities," Keesha said, sliding into the passenger seat while Taggert claimed the driver's side. "Of course, she can't just sit still."

Taggert turned the ignition key. His customized Trans Am roared to life. He guided the sports car onto the street and released a deep grunt. His life was on the road to Ferncliff. He had no love life whatsoever. His kid sister was driving him nuts. Her father was preaching doom and gloom. And now, this case had him running around like a dog with its tail between its legs. He needed to catch a break and he needed it now!

"You okay?" his partner asked. "What's going on with Gia? Is the new apartment still too small for the both of you?"

"Raising a kid who thinks she's grown is worse than anything I ever imagined." He braked at a stoplight and continued, "She does everything we agreed on, but I can't shake the feeling something's wrong."

"Did you tell her about her father's visit?"

Taggert grimaced. "No. The man's a nutcase."

"Marcus, some people get visions," Keesha said. "That doesn't make him crazy. Does this mean you haven't followed up on the lead he gave you?"

"I looked into it, did some asking around." The light changed and he gassed the engine. "Nothing turned up. I think it's just Art's way of trying to squirm his way back into Gia's life. Too bad he didn't stick around when she was born."

"Has he asked to see her?"

"He didn't when he came by the station. I haven't seen him since and if he's spoken to Gia, she hasn't mentioned it."

Keesha nodded. "Did you tell your mother?"

"And worry her?" Taggert snorted. "Not a chance."

"Well, you said something is wrong with Gia, or you feel that something is. What if Art is right?"

Great. Keesha would voice aloud the same thought that had nagged at him. Taggert didn't want to believe in his mother's ex-boyfriend. The man was a punk who ran out on his responsibilities. He was probably a liar, too. No way could he be right. No way.

Static sounded from the police radio. Dispatched announced that an unidentified female was found in an alley. She appeared to be near death. Taggert accepted the call, flipped on the siren while Keesha stuck the flashing light on the roof of the car. The crime scene was only a few blocks away. They reached it in less than five minutes.

The paramedics hadn't arrived yet and a crowd started to form. Taggert yelled for them all to get back. Keesha went to the victim and covered her with her jacket. "Taggert!" she called, beckoning to him. "Come here!"

"What's up?" he asked, kneeling on the woman's other side. Her face was deathly pale and her skin was cold to the touch. He searched for a pulse and found it on her wrist. It was just barely there. If the paramedics didn't arrive soon, the woman could die.

"I think I know her," Keesha said. She brushed blonde bangs from the woman's forehead. "She looks like Stone's sister, Gina. What do you think happened to her?"

"Her clothes are intact," Taggert said. "I don't think she's been raped. There are no stab or gunshot wounds."

"What's this?" Keesha pointed at two puncture wounds on the side of Gina's neck. "You know what it looks like, but...nah."

"It looks like bites," Taggert said. He leaned closer and gave the victim's injury a closer look. "They're pretty deep. What the hell could have bitten her on the neck like that?"

"A vampire."

Taggert gave Keesha a hard look. "Very funny."

Ambulance sirens wailed. Seconds later, Frank Scanlon and his partner ran toward them pushing a gurney and carrying medical supplies. Taggert and Keesha stepped back and allowed the paramedics to do their job. Frank told them he wasn't sure if Gina would make it. Then, he and his partner rushed her away from the scene.

Taggert glanced at Keesha. "Time to canvas the area."

"I'll take the group on the left."

He nodded. "With this number of spectators, somebody should know something."

"We hope."


Dinnertime came and went. Taggert called home and told Gia he had to work late. She made the right response, but inside she jumped for joy. Finally, she was alone at night and could follow her heart!

She changed from a pair of sweats into a pair of hip hugging black jeans and a skintight red top. She shrugged on a jacket, grabbed her purse and hit the street.

Port Charles at night wasn't much different from her old neighborhood. Of course, it wasn't as exciting, but it was something she could live with. Looking over her shoulder for her old boyfriend was a habit she hadn't liked. She was glad she didn't have to do that anymore.

Gia passed the brownstone where Lucas lived with his mom and his sister. Stopping by never crossed her mind. Lucas was a cool kid, but that's all he was. A kid. She liked having him as a friend, but didn't want him to get any ideas. Especially since a man had caught her eye.

Her footsteps decided on her destination. As if in a trance, Gia didn't question where she was going. She just went. Before she knew it, she was on the outskirts of town and standing in front of a cave that Lucas and his cousin, Lucky, called the catacombs.

"You came."

Caleb's voice was deep, hypnotic and stirring. Gia felt drawn to him and when he suddenly stood in front of her, she swayed towards him.

His arms closed around her slender waist. "You're more beautiful than I realized. Come with me."

"Where?" She sounded sensual and breathless, like a woman on a secret rendezvous with her lover. A shiver rippled down her spine.

He smiled. His fingers tugged on a braid before pushing it behind her ear. "Does it matter where?"

"I have school tomorrow," she said. "If I'm not home before my brother gets back, he'll kill me."

"You could stay with me," Caleb suggested. "I wouldn't harm a hair on your head."

Whoa! Now, that was fast. What happened to the romance? Gia stepped back. "I can't. I just stopped by to say hi."

"Are you sure that's all you stopped for?" He raised her fingers to his mouth. After he kissed each one, he paused for a moment and suckled her knuckles. Gia's knees weakened, and he abruptly dropped her hands. "I suppose it is," he said. "I won't hold you. Thank you for the visit."

Gia felt disoriented. What just happened? He went from wanting her to stay to dismissing her? Why? What did she do that was wrong?

"Nothing," Caleb replied as if he heard her wayward thoughts. "The time isn't right for us, but it will be soon. I'm preparing everything now. A family where you won't be judged and all you'll feel is love. And me, a man who will love you unconditionally and without demands. All of this will be yours, Gia."

"Do you promise?"

His eyes seemed to glow with a red light and he gave her a wide smile. "With all my heart."


V glanced at Robert as he paused in the doorway. "Would you like an escort to your car?"

She smiled and shook her head. "You're late for your dinner with Alexis. Go, Robert. I'm fine."

"It's late and a young woman was found assaulted in an alley not too far from here," he said, giving her a stern look. "I'll stay until you're done."

"No, you won't." V stood, moved across the room to him and pushed him through the doorway. "I'm a big girl. Don't forget I worked in law enforcement. These hands are lethal. I can take care of myself."

Robert's accent became more pronounced even though he only pronounced a single syllable. "V."

"Go! Alexis will have a fit if you're not there soon."

Robert hesitated. He and V had a glaring contest. V won when he looked away and sighed. "Stubborn women are my lot in life. Good night, V and be careful."

She smiled. "I will. Good night."

He left and she closed the door after him. She had a few files she wanted to cross-reference for a case Mac was working on and then she fully intended to go home. Ninety minutes passed and her task was completed. She set her report and the files on Mac's desk so he'd have them first thing in the morning. When she returned to her desk in the outer office, she stopped in her tracks. A man stood in the doorway and she hadn't heard him enter.

"We're closed for the night," she said, trying to keep her tone even. "You'll have to return in the morning."

The man shook his head. "I'm not here for a case. I'm here to speak to you."

His voice was one she could have sworn she heard before. It was calm and soothing. His was the voice of a teacher, a father and a confidant. She'd heard the voice in her dreams every since she was a little girl. After her parents were killed and she moved in with her aunt, that voice filled her head and told her everything would be alright. V stepped forward and demanded, "Who are you?"

"Arturo," he said. "Finally, we meet face to face, Venus."

"How do you know my name?"

He gave her a bright smile. His even white teeth were dazzling against his deep, bronze tan. He ran a hand through his thick, fashionably cut salt and pepper hair. "I know a good deal about you, but I couldn't tell you how. It just comes to me."

"Are you saying that you're psychic?"

Arturo shrugged. "You tell me. You remember the dreams and the soothing words. I can't explain it, but I dreamed about you when you were a young girl and I wasn't too much older. I never realized any of it was real until recently."

V felt like she could trust him, but that was stupid! She'd never set eyes on him before. Just because his voice was similar to the one from her childhood dreams didn't mean he wasn't a crackpot. Besides, a woman was found near death today. She would be a fool to trust a stranger.

"You're not a fool, Venus."

"V," she corrected. "Don't call me Venus."

He held up his hands, palms facing her, in a gesture of defense. "I meant no harm. Is there someplace we could talk?"

"We're here. We're talking." She folded her arms across her chest and waited.

He paused for a moment, as if contemplating their surroundings. Finally, he shrugged and sat on a nearby chair. "You asked if I was psychic. I suppose I am. I get visions. I see things and know things."

"What does this have to do with me?"

Arturo ignored her question. "A young woman was hurt today. I wish I could have prevented it, but thoughts of my daughter... Well, concern strains my subconscious. It distracts me and I miss things." He gave V a long look. "Please, sit. You have nothing to fear from me, and you know that."

V swallowed hard. She knew that he wasn't a threat, but she didn't want to let her guard down so soon. He continued to stare at her, his brown eyes pleading yet firm. She gave up. He wasn't a crackpot. V wasn't psychic. She relied on gut instinct and hers said she had nothing to fear from him. She sat behind her desk and asked, "Do you know who hurt her?"

He nodded. "I still don't have a name, but I know who he is. Better than that, I know what he is, and I know what he tried to do to her."

"What do you mean by that?" V leaned forward. "What is he?"

"He's a vampire."

V bit back an expletive. He almost had her. Damn. Art was a crackpot. So much for her gut instinct.

"I'm not a crackpot," he insisted, reading her thoughts again. "The victim has two puncture marks on her neck. Right here." He indicated by pointing to his own neck. "This information wasn't released by the police. Ask around. You were in law enforcement. They will tell you. And when you find out the truth, call me." He stood and placed on the edge of her desk a business card with only a telephone number written on the back. "We have much work to do. But don't delay. My daughter's life is at stake and I will not fail her again."

He left before V could respond. She stared at the card for several minutes before she picked it up. What did Arturo want from her? We would have much work to do? Was he a raving lunatic, or what?

There really only was one way for her to find out. She left the office and headed over to the precinct. As she pulled into the parking lot, she saw Detective Marcus Taggert heading for his fiery Trans Am. She rolled down her window and called him over. He came and she quickly saw the worry lines etched across his forehead. She extended her hand without thinking and he took it. His grip was firm and his skin was warm and smooth. V felt a surge of excitement course through her and it was worse than what she felt when she met Jasper Jacks. This surge was damn near explosive. She almost dropped his hand, but something in his eyes made her hold on.

"What's going on? You look awful."

"Nothing, just work," he answered. He squeezed her fingers before releasing her hand. "What brings you here this time of night?"

"I wanted to ask about the girl who was found in the alley today," V said. "The news wasn't too informative."

"We haven't disclosed everything to them, so they don't have much to go on but speculation," Taggert said. "They know from past experience they don't want to speculate too much."

"Marcus, I have a question. I hope you won't think I'm crazy, but was there anything unusual about this woman? Did she have any strange wounds?"

His eyes narrowed. "How did you know? Who leaked this to you?"

"No one leaked anything! I was just wondering," V said. "That's all."

"You can't tell anyone," Marcus said as he leaned into her window. "There were puncture wounds right about here." He lightly pressed his fingers against V's neck. "It look like a damn vampire had sunk his teeth into her. We're checking it out."

"A vampire?"

He stood and stuffed his hands into his pockets. "Not a real vampire. That's stuff for the movies. I'm just saying that's what it looks like. Probably some kind of cult. No one had seen the victim in awhile. She might have gotten mixed up in the wrong crowd."

V wasn't convinced. She offered him a tight smile and told him good night. When she braked at a stoplight, she pulled out her cell phone and punched in Art's number.

"That was fast," he commented a smile in his voice.

"Yeah, whatever," she said. "I don't get this. How did you know and what makes you think we can do anything about it? It's not like I know anything about...vampires or how to stop them."

"You'd be surprised," Art said, his voice serious. "You know more than you think."


"Because you're a slayer," he replied. "V, you're a vampire slayer. If anyone can stop them, it's you."

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