What a shit hole.

The shacks — housekeeping cottages the sign said — were spaced randomly among the tall pines, which prevented any breeze shy of a healthy cyclone from venting them of their aroma of mold and decay. A cloud of gnats and mosquitoes whined in his ears as he stepped out of the trees and onto the dirt drive that led to a clearing reserved for trailer homes and RVs. He paused to light a cigarette in the dark. He didn’t smoke; it was all for effect, to look casual, non-threatening.

The only trailer in the lot matched the description of the one they were looking for. He sauntered toward it, eyeing the barrel-bellied man in the bib overalls who warily rose from a lawn chair.

There were children; he counted four. An obese woman in a cotton shift shooed them like a mother sow into the back of the trailer as he approached.

“Evenin’,” he shouted to the hulking man.

“How do? Sticky one tonight.”

“Brutal. I feel like I’m walking in soup. Makes it awful hard to sleep.”

“Sure does. Night like this, a man kinda needs somethin’ to … help him relax.”

“I hear whacha sayin’. But the wife says it’s too hot; says it’ll take more than the usual to get her interested in working up a sweat.”

The man laughed as his belly undulated. “Well, then, whacha think would make her want to get slippery for ya?”

It was his turn to chuckle, wink, and play at being a good ole boy.

“Well, sir, she’s pretty open-minded.”

“Uh-huh. Well, you’re a lucky man for having a woman like that. Maybe I have just the — what’s that word? — oh, yeah, incentive.”


The man grinned a wide jack-o-lantern leer. Then he said, “Camille? You come out here, hon. I wancha to meet a gentleman.”

The girl stepped out of the trailer and around the man. He guessed she was barely five feet, three, waifish, bright blond angel hair, and an angel’s face.

“You like her?” the man asked.

“Sweet … I think the wife and I could have some fun with her.”

“She’s for sale.”

“That so? How much for how long?”

“You misunderstand me, mister. You buy her, she’s yours.”

“You her poppa?”

“Nah, but she is distant kin. I got plenty of my own to feed. I’ll let you have her for a good price.”

“To keep?”

“Sure … until you want to sell her to someone else. Or, if she’s all worn out by then, just leave her someplace. I’ll let her go for $500.”

He stepped over to the girl and raised her chin in his hand. He held her for a moment, assessed the touch of her skin, and peered into her eyes.

“She looks kinda young. What is she? 13?”

“She’ll be 14 come September. And, I’ll be honest, she ain’t no virgin, but she’ll do things for you and the missus that won’t make you care what the weather’s like anytime. Truth is, I’ve had her myself. You won’t get much tighter, slippery-slidin’ pussy and a cocksucking tongue like that little girl got. And don’t let her size fool you; she’ll keep going ’till you and the missus pass out and then clean ya’ll up while you’re sleepin’. So, whadya say? $500?”




“I hate to let her go for that, but we’re a bit low on gas and provisions, so I guess you talked me into it, mister. You sure know how to jew a man down.”

The fat man chuckled and offered his hand, which was ignored.

He counted out the bills and dropped them into the hammy hand.

“Come along, sweetie.”

He guided the girl by her shoulder toward his cabin. As they stepped onto the porch and approached the screen door he shouted, “Baby, I’m back … with a little treat.”

The girl preceded him without hesitation. As the screen door slapped behind him, a brunette came out of the bathroom. She held a formidable syringe.

The girl turned on one heel, her hair shot up toward the ceiling like a hundred streamers; the streamers transformed into ribbons of leaves that lashed at his face like razor grass. As he pushed her away he found his hands clasped around a green stalk, a series of mouths along its length bristling with spike-like teeth. His cheeks stung where the razor-leaves nicked him.

“Spike it!”

The brunette came up behind the creature and pushed the syringe into the stock.

“It won’t go in!” she cried.

“Push harder!”

There was a hiss, then the thing shuddered and an ear-splitting shriek made his spine jangle. The thing seemed to wither and rot in his hands. He let it fall.

“Holy shit!” the woman said.

“You let it see the syringe.”

“I know; I screwed up. I’m sorry. I was getting it ready just as you came in.”

“It’s little mistakes like that that’ll get you killed … or worse.”

“I know. Sorry. What the hell was that stuff we injected it with?”

“You didn’t get any on your hands, did you?”

“No, I used the whole hazmat get-up. That’s why it took me so long. So what the hell was it?”

“Ever hear of Agent Orange?”

“Um, no.”

“How old are you?”


“Hmm. Well, it’s a pretty powerful defoliant. It’ll kill any plant life on contact; it’ll kill you too, after a while, if you get it on you.”

“What the hell did you say that thing was again?”

“It doesn’t have a name, actually. It’s called by a dozen or so different things, cane devil, sugar shrieker.”

“What about the other kids in that trailer?”

“I’m sure they’re human. You see, that lovely couple made a living selling kids, and that’s likely what they were intending to do to those others, before they met up with the thing.”

“Selling children? To whom, for what?”

“I shouldn’t have to draw you a picture. You think this thing we just killed was a monster? That white trash cracker and his sow … They’re the real fucking monsters. Weak-minded bozos. This thing was running them, probably running them back home to Louisiana and murdering all the way with those two boobs giving it cover.”

“What then – when they got to Louisiana?”

“The legends around this thing say it spawns from the remains of unwanted infants buried in the cane fields. As usual with legends, there’s a kernel of truth to them. We’ve found that they gestate in the ground and live off a living host. Sort of like spiders; they don’t kill their prey, they paralyze them and come back to eat them at their leisure while they’re alive.”


“Those kids were on their way to getting planted in some cane field to feed the next generation of these things. Let’s hope we put an end to the cycle.”

“Sometimes, I’m not sure I can do this job.”

“What did you say your name was?”

“For the umpteenth-thousandth time: Rachel!”

“Oh, yeah. Okay, Racey, you clean up here and I’ll see to Mr. and Mrs. Hog Jowls.”


“I’m better at remembering nicknames.”

Before she could say anything more the screen door slapped closed and he was gone.

The man at the trailer bolted out of his chair as he approached.

“What’s the matter, friend. You look surprised to see me.”

The man wiped his chin with his palm. “Uh, well, whatsa matter? Didn’t she … uh …?”

“Oh, yeah, she did pretty much what we expected her to do.”

The woman tumbled out of the trailer. She held a hatchet in her hand.

“We don’t want no trouble, mister.” Her voice was like pebbles rattling inside a can.

“Well, Mr. and Mrs. Lard Ass. You got trouble.”

He tugged the revolver from behind his back, leveled it at the man’s forehead and fired. He fell back in a wet thud. The woman was about to scream; a second bullet cut it short.

* * * * *

“You say you’re peace officers?” The dubious deputy held the IDs under his flashlight.

Another cruiser pulled up behind them. The sheriff emerged, surveyed the scene and growled, “What the hell we got here?”

“Got a call of shots fired from the owner and found two people shot through the head outside the trailer there. Took a .44 Bulldog off him, and a pretty little Beretta off the lady. They say they’re law officers.”

The sheriff took the IDs from the deputy.

“They don’t look like any badges I ever seen. What’s that say? Palatinus? And the rest, what the heck language is that?”

“I think it’s Latin, sir.”


The sheriff spun away from the deputy and strode toward the suspect. His eyes narrowed. “Garreth Locan, that you?”

“Yes, sheriff. I assure you, we are law officers.”

“What’s this thing here? On your badge?”

“That’s the papal seal.”

“Hey, what? Papal, huh?

Before he needed to answer, several more cars pulled up, unmarked. Squads of suits emerged and surrounded the deputies.

One approached. “Special Agent Mullens, sheriff, we’ll take over from here.”

“What? Now we got the Federal B-I pokin’ their noses in our jurisdiction? Well, Agent Mullens, I got two bodies and two homicide suspects that ain’t going anywhere ’til I get some answers.”

“You couldn’t hold them anyway, Sheriff. They have diplomatic immunity.”


“They’re traveling under Vatican passports with consul privileges. Now, sheriff, I can’t really explain except that sensitive matters of state are involved. We’ll take over.”

“Well, shee-it!”

The sheriff nodded at the deputy who uncuffed the suspects. “Let’s get out of here.”

As the sheriff’s cars rumbled away trailing dust, Mullens turned toward the pair.

“Locan, get what you were after?”

“Yes, and what you were after too. There’re four young kids in that trailer … merchandise.”

“The killings? These two responsible, like we figured?” he asked, pointing to the bodies aswarm in a cloud of flies.

“Not directly. The killings were done by what we were after.”

“Do I want to know?”

“If you like.”

“Never mind. New partner?” Mullens held out his hand to Rachel.

“Yeah, meet Racey McDaniel.”

“Racey?” Mullens grinned.

“Rachel,” she insisted.

“Well, once you’ve been nicknamed by Locan, it’s like being baptized again; there’s no undoing it.”

“We’ll see.”

“Got a message for you, Locan. Didn’t come through the usual channels. ‘C & C will meet you at the tavern in Oriskany. Three days.”

“Upstate New York? Well, then, we’d better saddle up. Good to see you, Mullens. Be careful of things that go bump in the night.”

“I’m more worried about thing’s that go bang in the night.”

* * * * *

Rachel hadn’t said anything since they’d left Sloane’s Hideaway in the Pines. Now they had entered the Interstate and were hurtling north toward a rendezvous in New York that he hadn’t seen any need to fill her in on. She thought, after two weeks of traveling and working together, that she deserved a briefing. She hadn’t screwed up that much. He never offered much conversation anyway, but now he was dumb as a rock. It irritated her.

“You just shot those people,” she said when she couldn’t stand the silence any longer.

“Yes … yes I did.”

“I didn’t think that … That’s not what we’re about … or is it?”

“We hunt and destroy monsters; I told you, those cracker-ass cretins were worse than the cane devil we killed.”

“But they were people.”


“You killed them in cold blood.”


“I don’t think I can do this.”

“You said that before, but here you are.”

“Not by choice.”

“Ha! None of us are. We took the horse by the door.”


“What did you do?” he asked.

“I didn’t do anything.”

“They don’t make you do penance for nothing.”

She shrugged and thrust out her lower lip in a petulant pout.

“Didn’t they tell you?” she demanded.

“Yes, but I’d like to hear it from you. It seems you’re a very dangerous young woman.”

“I’ll tell you, but you have to tell me first; how’d you become a Paladin?”

“I killed a priest.”

“I heard there was more to it than that.”

“Yeah, well things get exaggerated.”

“I heard he was a vampire.”

“Not exactly. He just had a disease that brought out the worst in him. See, he was an evil rat-shit bastard anyway. He was a pervert in a roman collar, but something had happened to him; he’d come across something that infected him. Anyway, he was moved around a lot and then he was assigned to our parish. I was seventeen and my mother would rather we go hungry than miss church.”

“Sounds like my mother.”

“Uh-huh. So, anyway, right after Father Fred showed up a lot of the little kids in the parish started dying. I remember the state health department coming in and giving us all vaccinations and taking blood and urine and who knows what else. They couldn’t figure out what the hell it was; the rest of the city was in a panic wanting to quarantine the neighborhood. Meanwhile, my little sister is getting ready for her first communion. The nuns rounded up all the kids for their first confession, but Mary was scared, so she asked me to come along.”

“Something happened?”

“I stayed in the shadows on the other side of the church and kept an eye on her. She goes into the confessional, but a second or two later, Mary steps out and Father Fred opens the door to his stall and brings her in with him. I thought that was odd. A lot of time went by; I got up, walked across the church and headed toward the confessional. Some fat tub of a nun tried to stop me so I tossed her on her ass, and then I flung open the confessional. He’d locked it, but it broke.”

“What did you see?”

“Mary was unconscious on his lap. I thought it was some kind of snake; it was his tongue. He tried to retract it. It was longer than my arm. I didn’t think about it. I grabbed him by the throat with one hand and drove my fist into his chest with the other. The next thing I know Mary and all the nuns behind me are screaming and I’m holding the prick’s heart in my hands squeezing it into mush.”

“Your sister?”

“She got sick; she almost died, but after a few weeks she pulled through. And no more kids died after that. I was taken into custody, of course. My mom had a hard time after that, being the mother of a priest killer, after all. The neighbors gave her a lot of shit right up until she died.”

“But, didn’t they see …”

“Nobody saw anything. Or they just ignored what they’d seen. Anyway, a few days later this big hulking monsignor shows up in my cell. He believes my story, but then he shows me the horse by the door and says, take it or leave it. I took it.”

“That monsignor, was he a tall black guy with a French accent?”

He laughed. “I thought they’d have retired him by now. So he made a visit to you too.”

“Yeah, except he didn’t mention anything about a horse.”

He shrugged. “Monsignor Hobson.”


“Nothing. Go on with your story.”

“I don’t know where to start.”

“Well, let’s see, I expect your family was pretty religious, and pretty strict about it.”

“Yeah, but I believed … I really believed.”

“I’m guessing it was your mother’s idea that you enter the convent.”

“No … it was mine.”

“Now, that’s surprising.”


He looked her up and down. Suddenly she was acutely conscious of her bare legs.

“You don’t dress like a nun. Black leather hot pants, black-silk whatever it is – I suppose it would be a blouse if it covered your tummy. Oh, and let’s not forget the cleavage-enhancing bra with the lace top showing. Nice legs.”

Maybe she had dressed to get his attention, but now he made her feel cheap, and practically naked. He made her feel small, like a little girl. A big daddy figure, he was, but some daddy. She watched him in profile a moment. His face could have been carved out of granite, but his lips were soft, full. And his eyes, darker than brown, but not quite black. A full head of hair, dark, wavy, except for that white flair by his temple.

Finally, she answered, hoping her voice didn’t waver. “I didn’t think you noticed.”

“I’d have to be dead not to notice. So, you went to the convent and it was all your idea.”

“Mother was proud.”

“Mother? You called your mom ‘mother’?”

She didn’t reply.

“Okay, so what happened at the convent?”

“I … I fell in love.”

“Oh? In a barracks full of women?”

“You must know; they must have told you. I wasn’t expecting it. I liked boys … I mean, I was attracted to them.”

“But you were attracted to girls too.”

“That’s why I went into the convent.”

“Excuse me; you cloistered yourself up with a few hundred women because you were afraid you were attracted to women?”

“Okay, it was stupid. But, I thought … you take a vow of chastity. I thought the life would keep me in line.”

“Yeah, heard that before. So?”

“So, there was another postulant. Sister Anita. She was so scared. We became friends, and then we came to the notice of Sister Arthur Francis.”

“Mother superior?”

“No, but her second in command. The MS was pretty far gone with senility.”

“Power abhors a vacuum.”

“She was such a vicious bitch. And a mean butch. She’d been abusing a lot of the young sisters; everyone just looked the other way. Anita and I tried to avoid her whenever we could. I guess, it was because we looked out for each other so much, that it developed into something more.”

He nodded but said nothing.

“We couldn’t avoid Sister Arthur Francis forever. She could tell what was going on. Then one night she paid a visit to Anita’s cell. She made her … well, afterward she said Anita would do whatever she wanted or she would make my life a hell.”

“Why do you suppose she picked on Anita, instead of you?”

“I don’t know.”

“Sure you do.”

“Maybe, it was because I’d have put up a fight.”

“Of course, you were stronger. She was afraid of you.”

“I don’t know about that, considering what happened.”

“I’m listening.”

“Anita had been crying all day. I snuck in to see her that night, to comfort her as much as I could. We ended up … making love. It must have been a set-up. The bitch had been after her all day; she knew I’d try to go to her that night. Anyway, she came barging in with this … it looked like a broom handle. She called us every filthy thing you could think of. Then she starts to undress herself and tells us to lie across the bed. That’s when she announces she’s going to beat us, and afterward we were both to … to … pleasure her. That’s just how she said it, ‘pleasure’ her.”


“The next thing I know Sister Arthur Francis is writhing on the floor screaming, her hands plastered to her eyes. Anita’s screaming too, hysterical. The other sisters came running and I got put in a cell by myself. They locked me in. A couple of days later the big black monsignor arrived. He said Sister Arthur Francis had been blinded and I was in a whole lot of trouble. Then he gave me the choice. I agreed, and the next morning we landed in Rome. Took me right through customs. I didn’t even have a passport.”

“So, you blinded the bitch.”

“I don’t know how I was supposed to have done that. I was mad, mad out of my mind, angry for what she’d done to Anita. I just remember coming off the bed and going for her.”

“You don’t remember a flash of blue light?”

“No. But … hey, now that you mention it, I remember snatches of conversation between the monsignor and Jacoby.”

“Captain Jacoby.”

“Yeah, something about a flash of blue. What … what does it mean?”

“Don’t know. Maybe we’ll find out in Oriskany.”

What did Oriskany have to do with her? She drew her knees under her chin and clasped her arms around her legs. “I never saw Anita again. I don’t know what happened to her.”

He said nothing.

* * * * *

She had fallen asleep almost ninety miles back, but now she stirred.

“Hey, can we pull over? My bladder’s getting ready to burst.”

She said it just as he pulled into a roadside hotel.

“Thank God! A real shower and a clean bed. That cabin made my skin crawl. Two nights in that dump … made me afraid I’d pick up some mold infection, or something.”

“Wasn’t it a hole?” he agreed.

It was almost 2 a.m. The night clerk had been dozing and didn’t pay much attention to them as he checked them in. He handed them a key and mumbled something about a complimentary breakfast.

The room was standard, two beds, air conditioned. She began to peel off her clothes, then stopped, cast him a look, and said, “Ooops.”

“Take your shower. I can wait,” he said.

She nodded, gathered her things and stepped into the bathroom. A few moments later he heard the spray of water and a heartfelt moan of pleasure. He smiled, and then retrieved a document from a valise.

The document was stamped: POR OCULES TUAS SOLUM.

“For your eyes only. Well, no shit.”

He frowned as he read the document, then muttered, “Fuck them.”

A squeal followed by giggles drew his eyes away from the paper. He slipped it back into the valise and shoved the valise into his bag.

She emerged from the bathroom with an oversized towel wrapped around her. She shivered in the air-conditioned room and pulled it even more tightly.

“Pick your flop,” he said and gestured toward the beds. “I’ll take a shower while you get dressed for bed … that is, if you do get dressed for bed.”

She smirked and grabbed her bag, plopping down on the bed closest to the door.

Later, he stepped out of the shower and wrapped a large towel around his waist. Its mate was big enough to mostly cover the girl, but not him. He turned the light off before he emerged and made his way to the far bed. She hadn’t drawn the curtains and moonlight filled the room, so he could see her form under the bedclothes. He couldn’t tell if she was asleep.

But he sensed her eyes on him as he tossed away the towel and then slid naked beneath the sheets. He curled up with his back toward her.


“Hmm? I thought you were asleep.”

“Can’t … too much going on in my head.”

“Better try.”

“Do you believe in God?”

“Oh, brother.”

“Oh, humor me a little, will you?”

“Do you?”

She was silent for a long time, then, “I used to. Then I didn’t; now I’m not so sure. The things I’ve seen since …”

“Since being drafted into the Palatinae? You couldn’t have seen that much yet.”

“The cane devil. Jesus! How about that?”

“Supernatural creature? Is that how you figure it?”

“Well, yeah.”

“So, you figure if there are evil, supernatural monsters in the world, they must have a counterpart — God and his angels and whatever, right? Well, the cane devil is probably a perfectly natural species. It scares the hell out of us because of the legends that have grown up around it. It’s likely been around as long as we have … mankind that is. Everything we call supernatural is probably just something natural that science hasn’t figured out yet.”

“Then what about vampires?”

“What about them?”

“How do you explain them?”

“Diseased. They have some malady that makes them crave blood. Just like a diabetic can’t make his own insulin, he has to get it by other means. They’re pretty pathetic, really, worse than junkies.”

“So, there are no true vampires?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“But …”

“Some, the decent sorts, just want to live quiet lives and be left alone. They find ways to keep a low profile.”

“Decent sorts?”

“Sure, they can’t help being what they are, no more than we can …”


“Never mind. Go to sleep.”

He listened as her feathery breaths became deeper and regular. He got up and retrieved a small penlight from his bag, then approached her bed, bending over her and straining to hear. Satisfied she was fast asleep he gingerly rolled the bedclothes back. She was lying on her stomach, clad in an oversized t-shirt that had bunched up just below her buttocks. His fingers slid beneath the fabric; delicately he lifted the shirt higher, over her round, moonlit globes, then over her hips exposing the small of her back above her tailbone.

He directed the beam to the place flanked by the dimples of Venus.

“Hmm.” He rolled the garment back down and reached for the bedclothes. In an instant she came awake and lifted off the bed like a rocket, standing on the bed and bracing her back against the wall.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” she demanded.

“Checking out your back.”

“You mean my ass!”

“I mean your back. Your ass, well, as lovely as it is, it was not my point of interest.”

“Jesus, Locan, if you wanted to … I mean, you could have asked.”

“To see your back?”

“No! I mean you and me … naked.”

“Sit down.”

She didn’t move.

“You don’t wear panties to bed, eh?”

She dropped into a sit and bunched her t-shirt at her crotch.

“You have a mark on your back, just above your tailbone.”

“Yeah, I have a birthmark, so what?”

“A blue disk; a perfect circle, no irregularities.”


“Very unusual.”

“Yeah, and again, so?”

“I’ll tell you in the morning.”

“No … they told you something about me, didn’t they? I knew it; I knew something was up when they partnered me with you out of the blue.”

“Don’t worry.”

“Don’t worry … this from a guy who put a bullet through two people’s brains like he was scratching an itch.”

“Fair enough. So, let me say this: I won’t hurt you, Racey. Never.”

“Then tell me what’s going on?”

“Later, after we’ve slept.”

“I can’t sleep.”

“Trust me?”

“I … okay … I will … just …”


“Sleep with me … if you’re here next to me … I won’t be thinking … I won’t …”


He slid beside her, then he lifted her t-shirt over her head. Instantly his nostrils filled with the scent of skin and just the faintest essence of … coconut?

She clasped her arms around his neck and shoulders and rolled onto him.



This girl was too soft, too supple, she smelled just too good. Her hair was too lush, too silky, and her lips were just too … too …

He kissed her and pulled her against his chest. He felt her cushion his cock between her thighs as she trailed kisses down and down until he felt her pubis brush against his cock and her nipples trail down his thighs. Then his cock sprung free again and tapped her under her chin. She responded by taking him into her mouth.

Her tongue snaked along his length, setting off little electrical charges that built rapidly. He was not going to be able to hold back his fluids much longer. He forced himself over on his side, flipping her to the edge. Her lips glistened in the moonlight; her eyes conveyed a question.

He rose onto his knees and clasped her ankles. He straddled them as she rose onto all fours lifting her ass to his face. He positioned himself behind her, took hold of her hips and pressed his cock between the plump folds of her pussy. Then he was inside her, listening to her moan with each thrust. And just below his eyes, the perfect blue disk seemed to pulse.

He felt her shudder, then allowed his fluids to surge out of his cock and flood her cunt. A sparkle caught his eye, like tiny pulses of lightning off her fingernails. Her head was buried in the pillow. He didn’t think she had seen them.

* * * * *

They awoke just before they shut down the complimentary breakfast. They were awake, rested, and a little sore.

“Are you going to tell me now?” she said, then downed a glass of orange juice in a single gulp.


“Always, after a workout.”

“Pretty sassy for a nun.”

“I never took my vows.”



“Okay,” he said. He put his hands flat on the table and stared at them awhile.

“Yes?” she pressed.

“Jacoby is a little worried about you. Cardinal LeRocque is a lot worried about you. Me, I don’t think there’s much of a problem.”

“Problem? Jesus, why did they put us together? You’re not a trainer.”

“Okay, I’ll tell you. Promise me you’ll sit there and not let on, no matter what I say.”


“I’m supposed to evaluate you and if this problem should manifest itself …”


“I’m supposed to kill you.”

She coughed up the remains of a muffin she’d been nibbling on.

“For crissakes, Locan. What the hell problem are they talking about? It’s like I’m one of the things they send us out to hunt.”

“Hmm. Remember what I told you about the cane devil?”

“I dunno, what?”

“That is was probably some creature that evolved naturally, like you and me, or a lion, or a lizard.”

“Yeah, so?”

“Okay, so science pretty much agrees that mankind originated in Africa thousands of years ago. We were a bunch of monkeys’ cousins and then we climbed out of the trees and stood up straight, and began this long walk that eventually brought us out of Africa and into the Middle East and Europe and Asia, and all along the journey we kept becoming more and more what we call human today. Following?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Okay, well, somewhere along the line the family split. Some of us followed one path, some followed another … I’m talking the evolutionary path now.”


“So we have the Neanderthals and then we have the Cro-Magnons, who eventually evolve into us. The Neanderthals, well, looks like they hit a dead end. The point is, the human stalk split.”

“Yeah, okay, we survived and they didn’t.”

“Okay, so what if there were other stalks from the same tree, and they survived and evolved just as we did, but separately … but not so separately that you could tell us apart that easily, except for one or two very important differences.”

“What … differences?”

“Like being born with a blue disk over your ass.”

She froze, her eyes narrowed and bored into his.


“What … what are you saying?” Her chin trembled.

“Look, you’re a good person, a bright intelligent girl. I won’t let anything happen to you, or tell you anything I don’t think you can handle. But you’re going to have to brace yourself from time to time.”

“What the hell am I … supposed to be?”

“Oh, I don’t know for sure. A hybrid probably. Somewhere back in your family; maybe your great-great-great grandma fell in love with some guy and they had babies with blue dots on their behinds.”

“You make it sound so mundane. What am I?”

“I promise you, we’re going to find out.”

* * * * *

Back on the road they stopped only briefly for a bathroom break and a light meal. He drove on into the night, and would not stop for accommodations until the early morning hours.

“You can’t appreciate the size of this country until you’ve driven across it,” he said after a long stretch of silence.

“You should let me drive.”

“Yes, I should.”

She huffed. Then stretched.

“You’re a killer,” she said, her voice flat.

“So are you.”

“Am I? I couldn’t kill another human being like …”

“Like I did?”

“Yes. Sorry.”

“Hmm. You said you were religious.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Did you say you believed in God? I can’t remember.”

“Yeah, I mean, I believe in something. I just believe there must be something … someone.”

“Hmm. Well, remember when you were a kid and they taught you that everyone has a soul, and the soul is – what? — a bit of God Himself? The nuns used to say he passed his breath into every baby that was ever born.”

“Yeah, I heard that too, at sisters’ school.”

“Well, I’m not sure about God, but I believe in the soul. I just don’t believe everyone has one.”

“But … that doesn’t make any sense.”

“No? Look at people, good or bad. The one’s with intellect, the one’s who have a deep thought, even if it’s just once in a while. I think they have souls. But look at the rest. Like that lovely couple we left behind us. Something like that just lives to feed its appetites. And it’s not just what we’d consider the scum of the earth. From white trash right on up to the nouveau riche yuppie shithead who’s acquired his latest BMW, or yacht or mansion … you know the type, they calculate their own worth and everyone else’s according to how many things they’ve accrued. They have no souls, because as insubstantial as a soul might be, it takes a lot to fill the void where it doesn’t exist. So they fill it up with things.”

“So, what are you saying, that it’s okay to kill people like that?”

“I’m saying if it has no soul, it isn’t murder when you kill it.”

“Did that cane thing have a soul?”

He shrugged. “Maybe. But that was self-defense.”

“Maybe you think too much,” she said, then yawned.

He pulled into another hotel. A sleepy clerk checked them in. Another room, much like the one they spent in the night before. This one they entered from a balcony. Outside it began to rain; droplets beat against the window.

They stood together in the darkness by the window. A lightning flash illuminated the courtyard; another caught a naked couple in the room directly across from theirs having sex in their window, a fleeting image of a woman with her breasts pressed against the glass.

He chuckled. “You can’t enjoy sex if you don’t have a soul.”

“Why not?”

“Because if you don’t, fucking is just about the fucking, it’s just chalking up another pussy or prick, just another fuck to tally on top of the ones you’ve already had. Just so you can say you had more tail than the other guy.”

“And if you have a soul?”

“Well, then it’s about …”

“Making love?”

“Or … something else. In any case, you do it with another person. Some people have sex, and it’s no different than if they were masturbating.”

“You think too much.”

* * * * *

“Let me take a shower at least,” she protested weakly after he tossed her on the bed and tugged her shorts and panties off.

“Uh-uh,” he said. He knelt and breathed deeply, his nose pressed against her dark pubic patch.

He spread her thighs apart. She didn’t resist.

Then his tongue laved her swelling vulva. Her own tongue slipped along her lips as his licking became more determined.

He kissed and sucked; he also stroked her clit with the tip of his nose. Each time she felt like she would levitate off the bed. His lips sealed to her pussy as his tongue probed the walls of her cunt and she grabbed handfuls of bedclothes in her fists. Tongue, lips, nose – his fingers stroked her pubic hair – he used them all like a master conductor creating a piece of music, and she was singing the aria. She came with a shudder and a squeal and lightning flashed like it was inside the room and blue fireflies danced in her eyes.

It was an exhausting orgasm; she wanted to lie still forever and let it just drain away. But he turned her over and lifted her ass.

“Please …” she mewed, knowing it was futile, knowing that he was going to take her from behind again.

“I hate nuns,” he said as he plunged his cock into her. “I never thought I’d enjoy fucking one.”

“Unngh! I told you – owwww – I never took my vows.”

“No, you’re a nun, and I’m doggy-fucking your nunsensical brains out. Hear me, Sister Racey Pink-snatch?”

“Oh my God!”

“Convent slut! I’ll make you do more than say your rosary on your knees.”

“God!” she gasped. “You bastard … fucking … fuck me … geeesh … I can’t … coming again!”

She almost bucked him off the bed. His cock slipped out trailing an arc of semen.

Afterward, they took a shower together and toweled each other off. Then they fell naked into bed.

As she slid into slumber, Rachel whispered. “I have a soul.”

“I know.”

* * * * *

She was barely more than half his age, he thought, as his mind crested a wave of coddling comfort on its way to slumber. He liked the way she nestled in his arms; he liked screwing her from behind. He never should have let it get this far. He didn’t care.

Now his thoughts veered off onto other avenues, taking him for a ride toward the inchoate realm of dreams. He was a child listening to his mother’s mother, sitting rapt as she spun stories about his great-grand uncle, the Civil War hero, the sniper with a sixth sense. Then a worm bored into his dream, corkscrewing out of the darkness. His eyes snapped open and he bolted up in bed. A woman outside the window, standing on the balcony, held a pistol in a combat grip. It was aimed right at him.

He reached for his revolver as metal knocked against his temple.

“Move and you’re dead,” the voice said. Another knock against his skull, he could tell that it was the barrel of a gun hitting him.

“Who the fuck are you?”

Another knock to his scalp, this one opened a wound.

Movement in his peripheral vision caused his eyes to slide sideways away from the voice. It moved along the wall like a shadow.

“Where’s the bitch?” the voice demanded.

“Huh? Bitch?”

Then the window exploded into a thousand shards, a blue flash, like an electrical arc illuminated the room. The voice in his ear became a scream. Locan knocked the gun away and rolled out of bed taking his assailant by the lapels, and slamming his head against the wall. He cocked his arm and sent his fist crashing into the man’s face. His nose and teeth crumbled. Locan cocked his arm again and drove his fist into the face, now wet and pulpy, again. The man seized, then he went limp.

He stood and spun around. Rachel stood outside on the balcony naked. He ran to the door and stepped outside. A woman’s body hung backward over the railing, its head dangling by a strip of flesh.

Rachel stood trembling. Her face andbreasts painted with blood.

Somewhere a woman screamed. People began to pour out ofdoors and onto the balcony.


He grabbedRachel’s arm and pushed her back into their room. He guided her to the bathroom where he grabbed face cloths to wash away the gore.

“I … I don’t know what happened. I just woke up; I knew they were there, I just knew they were there. I saw her holding the gun on you; I don’t know why she didn’t see me.”

“You’d gone dark.”

“What? Dark?”

“It’s like becoming invisible, but you aren’t really. You blend into the shadows.”

“It was like … like …”


“Like back in the convent. I can’t remember.”

There was a pounding at the door.

“Police … get your hands up.”

“We aren’t dressed.”

“Get your asses where we can see them or you’ll be dressed for the undertaker.”

The officers grabbed their wrists and spun them around.

“Can she have a blanket?” Locan asked.

“Shut up!”

Outside pulses of blue and red lights turned the place into a party club. Locan and Rachel were made to sit on the bed. Finally, one of the cops tossed some blankets over them.

More cops arrived, as well as the coroner.

The one who appeared to be the lead investigator stared at the IDs one of the officers handed him. He leaned toward another plainclothes cop.

“Look at these. Vatican passports … diplomatic passports. What the hell are these, badges?”

He stepped over to Locan while Rachel was taken to be interrogated in another room.

“This your name? Garreth Locan?”


“Who the fuck are these dead people?”

“I have no idea. They broke in.”

Outside someone yelled, “Careful how you move that body; her head’s going to fall off.”

“Did you do that?” the detective asked, gesturing back toward the voice.


“Who did?”

“Can’t tell you …”


“Very well, sergeant.”

“It looks like you were expecting trouble,” he said, holding up his and Rachel’s pistols.

“They were never fired.”

The sergeant shook his head. Another cop approached him and handed him a cell phone.

“Yeah, did you run those IDs? Christ, they’re legitimate? We can’t even hold these people? It’s a fucking massacre here. What? Mullens? Yeah, hang on.”

He uncuffed Locan and handed him the phone.


“For Christ’s fucking sake, what’s with you two?”

“Mullens … do you have any idea who the hell these people are?”

“They used to be a husband and wife hit team. Do you believe in coincidences?”

“Not really.”

“They were hunting down the runaway wife of one of the biggest money launderers on the West Coast. We were too, trying to get to the lovelorn couple before they did. They were contracted to kill her and the boyfriend. We’d just located the couple at the Quality Inn about a half mile from where you’re staying. Then all hell broke loose. Seems you and your partner are the victims of mistaken identity; although, the way things turned out, maybe you weren’t the victims.

“Anyway, the couple we got here, the guy looks a lot like you, and the wife, well, she’s blonde but she was traveling as a brunette.”

“You’ve explained things to the local constabulary then?”

“Yeah, you’re free to go, but I gotta tell you, Rome’s been in touch. They’re mightily put out that you haven’t been maintaining a low profile; in fact, they’re pissed. They want you and your partner back there the day before yesterday.”

“Thanks, they’ll have to wait.”

“For crying out loud, try not to kill anyone for a while, will you?”

“You know me, turn the other cheek.”

“Shit. Get outta there.”

They were allowed to dress and take their belongings. A police car escorted them back to the Interstate.

Rachel sat still, her legs drawn up as she gnawed on the knuckles of one hand.

“Hey, cut that out, will you? You’ll draw blood.”

“I killed her didn’t I? They were the couple we saw making love in the window.”

“Were they?”

“You know they were. Did they have souls?”

“Doesn’t matter — self defense.”

“God, it was horrible, but why can’t I remember? Going dark?”

“Yes, a pretty useful talent in our line of work.”

“Stop! Just tell me what’s happening to me. I was dead asleep and I woke right up. I knew they were there before I even knew I was awake.”

“Sometimes your senses will become acutely heightened.”


“For instance, when you’ve just had really good sex.”


“Or whenever you feel threatened, or angry … or even happy.”

“When are you going to tell me what’s happening to me … what I am?”

“Soon, Racey. Very soon.”

“Rachel,” she insisted, though her chin trembled and a tear spilled over her cheek.

“I promise you.”

* * * * *

He could feel Rome breathing down his neck; they wanted an answer or a result. And, if he didn’t check in soon, they’d send someone after them. Not another pair of Paladins, but a pair of blockhead Swiss Guards who’d follow their orders without reservation – like a pair of Nazis.

They checked into a hotel in Utica, cleaned up and then started out for the Village of Oriskany.

They sat in the car outside the tavern for a while.

“I think we’ll have some answers for you, maybe more than you were hoping for,” he said. “The thing is, you need to hold yourself together, no matter what they tell you.”



They entered the tavern and he took her hand and paused. He nodded toward a couple at a corner table.

The man was tall. Rachel could tell even though he was sitting. Black hair flecked and streaked with silver. She wondered at his age, but couldn’t put a number to it.

The woman was long and lean, a cowl of the blackest hair draping her shoulders. She wore a deep blue satin blouse, black leather mini skirt and nearly knee-high boots. Her legs crossed under the table, her thighs pale in the shadow. They were so long, Rachel guessed she had to be six feet tall or more.

She squeezed Locan’s hand.

“The man’s name is Connor,” he told her. “He’s been on the Paladins’ hit list since there were Paladins. I could shoot him right now and walk away – no questions asked. I’d probably even get some half-assed decoration from the pope.”

“Then why …?

“I never would, but even if I wanted to, they haven’t invented a bullet fast enough.”

“But … what is he?”

“A species unto himself.”

“The woman … She’s striking.”

“Wait until you see her up close. Her name is Clare.”

Locan took Rachel’s arm and guided them to the couple’s table. Connor rose to greet them. He was taller than Locan, but he had the same, dark fathomless eyes.

“Locan, good to see you again,” he said. His voice was lightly accented, but Rachel couldn’t place it. “And this lovely lady?”

“This is … Rachel … Rachel McDaniel.”

Rachel turned a bemused glance at Locan as Connor took her hand and kissed it lightly. A tingle ran up her arm.

“Clare?” Connor nodded toward his companion.

Clare extended her hand; Rachel took it in hers. This time more than a tingle coursed up her arm. Tiny sparks, like a company of blue fireflies danced around her wrist and marched toward her elbow. She released her hand and looked into Clare’s eyes. They shone pale blue, like backlit arctic ice. Rachel shivered.

Clare smiled.

“Remember,” Locan bent to her ear. “Hold it together.”

“Rachel?” Connor said. “Hasn’t Locan rechristened you with a nickname?”

“Racey,” she answered.

“Racey!” Connor laughed. “Of course.”

A waitress in a white dirndl dress asked for their order.

“The steaks here are splendid,” Connor said. “Shall we order, once and all around?”
Locan nodded. Rachel assented.

“Very good,” Connor smiled at the waitress. “Make mine very rare.”

“Bloody rare,” Clare added. The waitress, shaken, retreated a step when she noticed Clare’s eyes.

“Um, medium please,” Rachel said.

“Medium well for me, dear.” Locan nodded.

Rachel tried not to stare at Clare, but her eyes were mesmerizing. Clare looked right back, a smile, or perhaps a sneer curling her lips.

“Your accent,” Rachel asked, her voice suddenly timid. “Are you French?”


“So, Locan,” Connor said, lifting a glass of dark red wine to his lips. “How’s the fiend-hunting business treating you?”

“So far, so good. And the benefits … out of this world.”

“Ah yes, traveling in the company of charming young women,” he nodded toward Rachel. “Seems to me you normally worked alone.”

Locan nodded and smiled. “Maybe they think I’m getting too old for the job and I need someone to watch out for me.”

“Old? You’ll excuse me of course, old is a concept I have trouble grasping.”

The men laughed. An invisible nod passed between them, an inside joke Rachel was not privy to.

“And Rome?” Connor asked. “Still fervent about their crusades.”

“Fervent … fervent to a fault.”

“I miss Rome,” Connor mused, swirling his wine in the glass. “I used to know a girl there, the youngest sister of senator … oh, the name escapes me. A sweet girl …”
Rachel’s head turned slowly toward Clare, the source of a low frequency rumble that grew louder as Connor spoke.

Was she growling? God, Rachel thought, she is growling.

The waitress returned with the steaks, putting a period to Connor’s story of the girl in Rome.

Dinner conversations continued, just normal small talk that Connor would punctuate with a historical anecdote.

After dinner, Connor ordered a round of dessert liqueurs. Rachel sensed an intimacy, as if a veil of shadow had been drawn around their table.

“Rachel,” Connor said. His voice was deep, calming. “Locan has asked my assistance and I cannot refuse because I owe him a debt that cannot be repaid in one lifetime. But even if I did not, I am glad to help, that is, Clare and I are glad to help … you, to understand.”


“Do you believe in God?”

“I … where have I heard that before?”

Connor smiled. “It doesn’t matter, whether you believe in God or Mr. Darwin. But let’s keep this simple. The human family tree came into being; it split off into various branches. Some withered, others thrived. So now we have the human species as we know it, ostensibly alone, but what if that species is not alone; it has … cousins it is not even aware of.

“Let’s say God has stepped away from his masterpiece, the ‘paragon of animals’, and sees that as masterful as it is, it is not perfect, it has flaws.”

“Yes?” Rachel had no idea where this was going, but she loved listening to his voice.

“So, he creates this companion species, not to supersede homo sapiens, but to … take out the garbage, as it were.”

“I’m not sure I understand.”

“That’s all right, you’ll reach your own conclusions soon enough. The thing you need to understand now is that both these branches of man could, and have interbred from time to time. Rarely, due to circumstances that are rooted deep in history, but such unions have occurred.”

Rachel began to tremble, sensing an impending epiphany she wasn’t certain she wanted to experience.

“Clare,” Connor said. “Rachel looks like she could use a bit of fresh air.”

Clare stood. Rachel thought she would keep going up and up. Clare took her hand and drew her onto her feet, but she still towered over Rachel.

“Come on, petite soeur.

Locan and Connor watched the ladies leave.

“You care for her very much,” Connor said. “A dangerous thing to care for one so much, in your line of work.”

“I know.”

Connor raised his glass. “You’re a good and noble man, my friend.”
“I hope she goes easy on her.” Locan said.

“She’ll open up a new world for her.”

“Yeah … I just hope she’s up for it.”

Connor laughed. “She looks tough enough to me.”

* * * * *

Outside a clear twilight sky cast the first stars over the heavens.

“Follow me,” Clare said.


“Across the road, to the edge of the forest.”

Rachel complied, her eyes captured by the sway of Clare’s hips, and her pale, sculpted thighs. Women’s thighs excited Rachel, in all their shapes and textures. Clare’s were smooth, muscular, strong. Rachel thought about touching them, even kissing them. A tickle began to swirl in her belly.

They crossed the road and Clare stepped into the trees.

“Do you smell them?” she asked Rachel.

“Smell? Who?”

“Give free rein to your senses. There now, smell them … beer, sweat, sour breath, bowel stink?”

Rachel filled her nostrils and nearly retched. The clean smell of pine vanished; she felt like she was standing in a very dirty men’s room.

“What the …”

“I don’t like them,” Clare said.


“People … I’ve seen the worst of them. But … Connor … He’s shown me many have worth, they can even be noble.”


“These swine are only here to do harm. Shall we have our fun with them?”

“I … I don’t know …”

“You’ve shifted?”

Rachel shook her head. “Shifted?”

“It’s frightening at first, when you don’t control it, and it comes over you all of a sudden.” Clare said. “Like the first time you pass blood.”

Rachel said nothing; her mind was astir with questions she couldn’t form into words.

“You were in the convent,” Clare said. “So was I, a long time ago.”

Then she grinned. “You may want to leave your clothes here. We can return for them later.”

“Leave my clothes?” Rachel asked.

“I go through so many clothes. They don’t survive the shift. It can get … expensive.”

Clare began to unbutton her blouse, and then she turned her back to Rachel and shrugged it off her shoulders. Her bra instantly fell beside it.

Her skirt was already set low on her hips. Rachel watched her, dumb as the trees, as Clare shook it off her hips. There, above her tailbone, a perfect blue disk.

Clare turned. “Well?”

Rachel stripped, quickly, clumsily.

Clare held out her hand. “Come along, little sister.”

Rachel took her hand and the night turned into a sea of blue light.

She was running, bounding through the forest, a step behind a sleek black animal, its silky coat streaming as they traversed clearings, streams and columns of pines. Even the stars passed by in a blur. The sheer sense of speed was exhilarating. Then she realized … she was running on all fours. She could hear Clare clearly communicating a change in direction … not as a voice, but as pure thought. Her senses had never been so keen, she processed a cascade of aromas and sounds, heard a mouse rustle in its nest, a pair of night birds mate on a branch yards away, and felt the wind as it rushed past. And she could see into the darkness.

They were close. Clare had told her. The stink of the men became stronger. Ahead of them a creature moaned in fear and despair. Flashlights marred the dark. They had chased a black bear up a tree and were throwing things at it, trying to get it to fall. Some wielded bats and swigged from cans.

It was all a blur of screams as they tore into their company, doing no real harm other than hurtling into their bodies and knocking their legs out from underneath them.

Rachel bowled one of them over and now she stood, stock still, a rage pulsing in her core. The man looked into her eyes and screamed. “Oh, Jesus! Please!”

There was a snarl, ferocious, announcing the arrival of hell itself. It was Rachel, baring her fangs. Then the scent of urine stung her nostrils. The man had pissed himself and passed out.

Clare called her to withdraw. The bear jumped from the tree and bolted into the woods. The other men had scattered screaming, all but the one who fainted beneath Rachel’s fierce gaze.

This is all so … wonderful, Rachel thought.

* * * * *

Connor and Locan stood at the edge of the pines staring at two piles of ladies’ clothing.

“They shouldn’t be much longer,” Connor said, and clapped Locan on the shoulder.

Several yards up the road, two men stumbled out of the trees and onto the roadway. One tripped, and then he tripped again.

“Get your ass up and let’s get outta here!” his companion demanded.

“Jesus … Jesus-Jesus-Jesus … what the fuck were they? Did you see Harry? I think one of ’em got him. Should we go back for him?”

“Fuck that! Harry’s on his own. I’m never going back there again.”

“Jesus … what the hell … they were wolves … they were wolves, man! There ain’t supposed to be no fucking wolves around here.”

“Shut up! Let’s get outta here. And if Harry don’t show up, we know nothin’, right?”

“Shit! Poor Harry.”

“Fuck Harry.”

The two hurried past Connor and Locan, wheezing, trying to run stiff-legged from exertion. They didn’t notice them standing just inside the trees. Connor grinned as they passed.

Minutes later an effusion of blue luminescence illuminated the forest, and then another. Clare and Rachel, naked, stepped out of the trees. Connor had brought a cape that he placed around Clare’s shoulders.

Locan awkwardly retrieved Rachel’s skirt and sweater and held them out to her, but she stood unabashed. He thought her eyes sparkled.

“It was so incredible, Locan. My God … it was so incredible.”

He nodded. “C’mon, better get you dressed.”

“Huh? Oh, yeah.”

They returned to the tavern and seated themselves at a quiet booth by the bar.

“My mother loved a man,” Clare said, staring into the glass of clear amber liquid in her hand. “I am his child. I think, Rachel, that perhaps your grandmother, or great-grandmother loved such a man … perhaps the same man.” She sipped from her glass. Rachel thought a veil of melancholy shaded her face.

“Your … abilities,” Connor said. “Very rarely pass down through the male line, and when it has, it has not ended well. As for you, Rachel, I would guess at puberty a restlessness overtook you. But I suspect you were raised in a disciplined family and that helped you suppress it. Still, were there times you wanted to tear your clothes off and go running into the night?”

“Yes … I did try to suppress it. I tried to suppress … a lot of different feelings.”

“You can control your shifts,” Clare said. “Your spirit is strong. You wanted to tear that filthy slob to pieces tonight, didn’t you?”

“Uh … yes. I never felt such pure, righteous …”

“Lethal?” Connor said.

“Yes, lethal rage. It was … intoxicating.”

Clare chuckled. “Just be careful what you eat.”

“Huh? Eat?”

“I think,” Connor said. “You’ve had more than enough placed on your plate for one evening, Rachel. Your questions will be answered, they’ll all be revealed. Decisions will need to be made, however. A long life awaits you.”

“How long?”

He shrugged. “I can’t say.”

He stood, and Clare stood with him. He took Rachel’s hand and kissed it, then Clare bent down and kissed her cheek.

“Bonne chance, little sister.”

Locan and Rachel remained.

“He said I’d live a long time, Locan.”


“Locan … how old is Connor?”

“Well … I’m not so sure. That debt he says he owes me. Seems an ancestor of mine, a Paladin, caught him napping one evening after a long pursuit. Had him cold. But, for whatever reason, he let him live. Just stuck his sword into the ground and they had themselves a nice chat, like a couple of gents.”

“His sword? When was this?”

“I dunno, around 800 I guess. Connor’s tangled with Roman legions …”


“Uh, yeah.”

“And Clare?”

“Oh, Clare’s just a baby.”

Her eyes pressed him for an answer.

“Okay, she was born late in the 16th, maybe early 17th century.”

“Jesus, Locan. Are they … immortal?”

“Connor says no, but he has no idea how long he’ll live. They can be killed, so …”

“So what?”

“Nothing … just don’t get reckless.”

“Oh my God … Locan.”

“I know it’s a lot to dump on you all of a sudden. The main thing is, I need to convince Rome that you’re not a threat.”

“Why … why are they hunting them?”

“I don’t know. Fear, mistrust … history.”

Rachel tossed back her drink.

“They kill … Don’t they?”

“Not anyone you’d miss,” Locan replied. “Like Connor said, they take out the garbage.”

Rachel frowned and squeezed his hand.

“C’mon kid, let’s get out of here.”

* * * * *

She had lain in his arms about an hour, but he could tell she was awake. The poor kid, he thought. What a pile of brick to be dumped on one girl.

Then she stirred and climbed on top of him, nestling his cock between her thighs. It didn’t take long for him to stiffen. She raised her hips and sheathed him with her warm, slick cunt. No words, just a swivel of her hips and a steady grind that increased in intensity. He just laid back and let her fuck him, let her take control. A roiling began in his balls; he didn’t want to release until she reached her climax.

He watched as her deep red nipples swirled in circles with each swivel of her body.

“Oh, God … Locan!”

Blue sparks danced around her shoulders and a flight of blue fireflies flittered around the bed.

“Racey! Sweetie, be careful!”

“It’s okay … I’m … in … control …”

Locan closed his eyes. “Oh, Jesus!”

Rachel shuddered; she’d soaked him. Blue electricity sparkled all around them, and then subsided.

She bent over, her breasts flattened against his chest.

“Yum,” she cooed. “I want to eat you up.”

He traced his fingertips over her back, all was smooth, soft.

“Whacha looking for … fur?”

“Um …”

“It’s okay. I’m in control.”

“You can say that again.”

“But …”

“But what?”

“I thought you liked doggie sex.”

“Jesus, Racey.”

“I just want to lick you all over.”

“Yeah … sure … ohhhh … down girl.”

He closed his eyes and surrendered to ecstasy.

She giggled.

* * * * *

Cardinal LeRocque hesitated a moment before he placed is hand on Rachel’s head and pronounced the final benediction as she was inducted into the company of the Palatinae. She looked up at him and smiled like a little girl who’d just received her first communion.

Jacoby stood with Locan. A dwarf, the top of his head barely reach Locan’s elbow.

“It took some time,” Jacoby said, “reassuring the cardinal.”


“I said you said she was okay, so she was okay with me.”

“Thanks again.”

“You lied, I lied.”

“She’ll be one of the best,” Locan said.

“I know that. But we both know what she is; she does too, I see. Well, her abilities will no doubt prove useful.”

“No doubt.”

“You fucked her, didn’t you?”


“What the hell were you thinking?”

“I … I guess … It’s a lonely life, captain.”

“Well … I can’t blame you; but I won’t condone it. It was a blockhead thing to do. It seems to have turned out all right, but … it was a damned dangerous thing to do.”

“Yes sir.”

“Well, go congratulate her. It’ll be your last chance.”

Rachel ran into Locan’s embrace.

“Thanks … for everything. We …”

“There can’t be any more ‘we,’ Racey. They won’t let us stay together. In fact, they’ll try to arrange it so we never cross paths again.”

She pressed her forehead to his chest.

“I can’t imagine hunting monsters without you, Locan.”

“You’ll be fine. I know you’ll be able to take on anything out there, except maybe a pooka.”

“A pooka.”

“A mischievous entity that gets into your head and makes you do embarrassing and humiliating things. There’s no defense, you just gotta let it get tired of you and move on. There was a guy …”


She clasped his head in her hands, stood on her toes and kissed his mouth, a wet, lingering kiss.

© 2009 Robert Buckley. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

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