“Are you sure it was a good idea letting Darius go home with Shona?” Dougal asked Owen Harper. The Torchwood doctor was preparing slides from the blood sample he took at the hospital.
“You think she might wear him out?” Owen responded.
“Well, there is that possibility. It’s his first day as a Human, and he’s nursing an injury. She might just break him. But I was wondering if he ought to be in isolation….”
“It was what I wanted,” Owen admitted. “But I can’t think of any reason to force him, and he did have a point. I’m glad to see daylight after a shift down here. If I hadn’t seen it for two centuries I’d want to grab the first opportunity. I’ll give him a day. After that I’m going to bury him down here until I know what happened to him. Vampires don’t turn into humans. It just doesn’t happen. I have to find out why it happened to him.”
“He’s a good man… even before when he WAS a vampire, he was a good man. Whatever happens, I hope he doesn’t get hurt.”
“Yeah….” Owen wasn’t really listening. He was looking at the slides carefully, making notes on a pad beside him. Dougal turned to leave the medical room when Munroe arrived pushing a trolley with a body bag on it.
“There’s two of them, sent down from the morgue for us to look at. Apparently the manner of death is unusual.”
“I’ll help you bring the other one in,” Dougal offered. Owen had left his microscope to look at the corpse. When his two colleagues returned he had zipped the body up again. His lips were tightly pressed together as he looked at the second body.
“They’re the same,” he confirmed. “Both of them drained of blood.” He turned the neck of the peculiarly pale body. There were puncture marks.
“Vampire attack.” Dougal was the one who voiced the words that hung silently in the air.
“It can’t be anything else,” Munroe added.
“It can be lots of things,” Owen contradicted. “In Cardiff we had an alien who shagged people to death, devouring their lifeforce on the point of orgasm. We also had an alien who filtered the iron and minerals out of the victim’s bodies, then there were the Velur. They stole body heat and froze their victims….”
“But only vampires drink the blood and leave puncture marks,” Dougal reminded him. “Owen, you’re clutching at straws. You’re looking for another explanation because you’re worried about Darius and you don’t want it to be a vampire.”
“When did you qualify in psychiatry?” Owen answered. “I’m just considering the possibilities before I decide what action to take. If it IS vampires then….”
He stopped. Vampires were usually Darius’s purview. His motto was ‘Vampires clean up Vampire shit.’ As mottos go it wasn’t the best, but it was the principle that had worked ever since Torchwood Glasgow re-opened for business.
“If Darius isn’t feeling up to it, I’ll investigate,” Dougal volunteered. “I’m immortal. I guess that’s the next thing to unDead.”
“Yeah, I guess so,” Owen answered him. “You’d better start by finding out what you can about the victims – who they are, where they were before they were killed... whatever.”
“Yeah, I know,” Dougal said. “I’ll get on with it.”
He turned and left the medical room. Munroe followed him out, leaving Owen to continue the autopsy by himself.
“If you’re not doing anything right now, can you see what the police know about the two dead men?” Dougal said to his colleague. “I’ve got another lead I want to follow up. I don’t know how long it’ll take me.”
“No problem,” Munroe agreed. “You’re worried about Darius, too, aren’t you?”
“Yes. I am. Have you ever wondered what kind of Human he was before he was vamped? I mean, by his own admission he spent a lot of time getting out of his head on drink, hell bent on self-destruction. That’s how he fell in with a vampire in the first place. Even as an unDead he was always kind of vulnerable. How much more so is he going to be now he’s Human again?”
“He’s got all of us here at Torchwood,” Munroe reminded him. “And Shona… she loves him, whatever she says. Between us, we’ll see him through.”
“Yeah. Anyway, we’d better crack on. The boss will be on our backs otherwise.”
Shona didn’t usually cook midday. She made scrambled eggs and toast for Gabrielle and ordered take out for herself and Darius. It was the first real meal he had eaten since the eighteenth century. He savoured the taste of meat feast pizza as if it was a gourmet meal.
Afterwards, as promised, Gabrielle settled for a nap in her room and Shona let him come to bed with her. He was a little nervous about it.
“I don’t know how good I’m going to be,” he admitted. “My shoulder is still a little sore and….”
“I’ll be gentle with you – just this once,” Shona promised.
She led the way. He did his best to match her passion, but he was fighting both the injury to his shoulder and something that never used to affect his libido – weariness.
“I’m sorry,” he told her when they lay together afterwards. “It wasn’t how it usually was.”
“We don’t usually have sex in the afternoon,” Shona reminded him.
“That’s not the main difference though,” he pointed out dismally. “Ever since the first time – when it was just about sex – before we admitted to having feelings for each other… Shona… it was the thrill of having sex with a vampire that attracted you. And now I’m not a vampire. I’m… just a very ordinary man, and I don’t think I can satisfy you the way I used to satisfy you.”
“Don’t talk bollocks, Petkus,” Shona answered. “You’re still drop dead gorgeous and I fancy you like mad. If you’ve given up blood-sucking, then that’s fine by me. It’ll save me a fortune in Elastoplasts.”
“You mean it?”
“I mean it. Now shut up and go to sleep for a bit. I’m bloody worn out looking after a kid AND a man. I need an afternoon nap.”
With that she pulled the duvet over herself and buried her face in the pillow. In a very short time she was asleep. Darius watched her for a little while, then he, too, drifted off into unaccustomed sleep.
He woke much sooner than she did, aware of an unfamiliar discomfort. Writers of fiction about vampires had always focussed on the more romantic biological features of being unDead – no heartbeat, no breathing. None of them had ever drawn attention to the fact that blood was a whole food. Every part of it was used by their unDead bodies. There were no waste products to evacuate.
After pizza and three cups of coffee had been digested by his newly Human body, Darius Petkus had a full bladder and a heavy feeling in his bowel. He rose from his sleeping lover’s side and went to the toilet for the first time in two centuries. It wasn’t a milestone he wanted to celebrate especially, but it proved as much as breathing and having a pulse, or feeling exhausted after sex in the afternoon, that he was, for whatever reason, fully Human now.
He showered and dressed while Shona slept on. She really was worn out from staying by his hospital bed all night. He kissed her cheek and she didn’t even respond.
He heard a noise from the other bedroom and went cautiously in. Gabrielle was awake and sitting up in her cot. He approached carefully, speaking softly in Lithuanian, the way he had done all of her life. This time she seemed less frightened of him. She let him lift her into his arms and didn’t mind his kiss on her cheek.
“Let’s go for a walk, my little love,” he said. He dressed her for outdoors and put her into the pushchair with the rain hood to protect her. He took Shona’s doorkeys and put them in his pocket before he left the flat and negotiated the lift.
He wasn’t especially familiar with North Kelvinside, at least not by daylight, and not from the ground level. Even so, he knew there would be shops somewhere nearby.
He found what he was looking for after a short walk, and again he was sharply reminded of the change in his existence. Butchers shops usually played hell with his olfactory senses. He could smell them from a hundred yards. Vampires would have to be starving to make use of the blood and offal discarded in the bins behind a butcher’s shop. It was their equivalent of a tramp scavenging for scraps of food at the back of a restaurant. But even so, the smell was distinctive and overwhelming.
But now as the automatic door swung open and he pushed Gabrielle’s pushchair over the threshold he just smelt what everyone else smelt – scrupulously clean floors and the meat/cereal smell of freshly made sausages. He joined the queue and waited his turn to purchase the first real meat he had eaten in two hundred years – not counting the toppings on the pizza, anyway.
Dougal walked to Queen’s Gardens and Lady Moira’s domain. He chose to walk because he needed to think. First of all, he needed to think hard about what he was going to say to the acknowledged aristocrat of Glasgow Vampiredom – or rather to her flunkies in order to persuade them to let him have an audience with her.
He was also thinking about Darius. Of course he was safe with Shona. She was probably shagging the life out of him, and inbetween he would have the quality time with his daughter that he always longed for. It looked like a dream come true for him.
But was it? Dougal wasn’t sure why exactly, but something about Darius’s sudden re-emergence into the Human race made him uneasy. If he even knew WHY it happened it would be a start. If he knew it was going to be permanent or just some kind of ‘respite’ it would be a relief.
And what if being Human again didn’t make him happy? Darius wasn’t Pinocchio longing to be a real boy. He had never once complained about his unDead life. Since he and Shona became lovers it had been a happy life more or less. Gabrielle’s birth had been the sort of joy it was for any parent.
But Dougal could not see Darius and Shona becoming a happy regular family. Neither of them was made for marriage. Parenthood had been thrust upon them but the way they made that work would have appalled any proponent of traditional family values.
Besides, any Torchwood agent knew his life expectancy was incalculable – well, any agent apart from himself, Jack Harkness and Darius the unDead. In an uncharacteristically intimate conversation on a long drive to a UFO crash, Shona had confessed to him that she was glad Darius couldn’t die. If anything happened to her, the soldier, the one who took the risks, he would be there for Gabrielle. She wouldn’t be alone.
But now Darius was Human, too. He could die. Gabrielle could lose both parents if they came up against some alien horror that Torchwood couldn’t handle.
Dougal shook his head and pushed ideas like that out of his mind. They were bad for a soldier, and bad for a Torchwood agent. He gave his attention again to how he was going to persuade Lady Moira’s butler to let him through the front door.
Darius took Gabrielle to the park after the shopping. It had stopped raining for a brief period. The swings were wet, but he wiped down one of the safety seats for infants and lifted his daughter in. He swung gently at first, then a little faster. She gurgled with laughter and he encouraged her in English and Lithuanian. He was delighted when she repeated the word for ‘faster’ in his native language. Well, very nearly, anyway. It was a complicated word for a baby to manage.
“Hello, I don’t think I’ve seen you here before,” said a woman’s voice. She was wiping down another swing for a toddler in blue overalls and a hat with a panda on it. “Isn’t that little Gabrielle Stuart?”
“Yes,” he answered. “I’m her father. I don’t usually get to come out with her at this time. It’s a refreshing change.”
“Ah,” the woman said. “I didn’t know there WAS a man around. Shona never mentioned you, and I just assumed that she was another unmarried mum. I know she’s a working mum and has to juggle her time….”
“Shona is a wonderful mother,” Darius said defensively. “I also work very difficult hours in my profession. As I said, it is unusual for me to be out at this time. But I spend as much time with my daughter as I can spare. She is precious to me.”
The woman was, of course, looking for gossip in a very unsubtle way. Darius answered both her direct and indirect questions as honestly as possible.
“I hope that I will be able to spend more time with Gabrielle like this,” he added. “If my circumstances allow. It is pleasant here in the park.”
He looked up at the sky. There was, despite all expectations, a break in the clouds – a patch of blue. Slivers of sunlight broke through. His eyes watered looking at it, but he smiled joyfully. He was looking at the sun for the first time in…..
He had to stop thinking that way. This was a new life, separate from the one he had lived for twenty-seven years before he was unDead. All of that was over. This was the new beginning, day one of a life in which he hoped he would learn to take sunlight for granted in time.
Dougal had been successful in crossing the threshold of Lady Moira’s house and had been shown into the drawing room. He was even offered tea before Madam was ready to see him. He accepted. He couldn’t think of a way to refuse that wouldn’t seem prejudicial against his vampire host.
It was served on a silver tray in a fine bone china pot with matching milk jug and sugar dish and a cup and saucer that looked too delicate for him to hold. Not breaking something so valuable was added to his list of anxieties.
Finally Lady Moira swept into the room. She looked magnificent in a velvet gown and pearls around her neck, her hair and cosmetics immaculate. Nobody would guess that she had been sleeping – possibly in a coffin – twenty minutes ago.
“I sleep in a bed Lieutenant Drummond,” she said to him. “I trust that you have a good reason to wake me at this hour?”
“It’s a good reason as far as I’m concerned. I hope you think so, too. If not, accept my apologies for disturbing your Ladyship’s rest.”
“Apology accepted in advance, do go on.”
“Darius Petkus.” Dougal noticed the almost imperceptible movement of her head when he said the name of his troubled colleague. She was interested, even concerned. He quickly related what he knew about Darius’s miraculous humanity. She became very interested, leaning forward in her chair and asking sharply relevant questions from time to time which he endeavoured to answer.
She didn’t waste his time disbelieving the story. He was relieved at that.
“The thing is… we don’t know what happened or why. And I was hoping… hoping that you might know… of vampires who stop being vampires. I mean… I was thinking… while I was walking up here… about Dracula….” Lady Moira made a disgusted noise in her throat. “Yes, I know… the ramblings of a sick Irishman who should have got more fresh air. That’s what Darius says about it. But the vampire hunters in the book say that killing the one who made a vampire will restore the victim to humanity. Could that have happened in Darius’s case?”
“No,” Lady Moira answered. “That is not true. It would only work if the new vampire himself killed the one who made him within a very short time of it happening – within a few hours, when his own blood is still in his body. I know Petkus’s story. It was nearly six months before he had the courage or the will to fight back. And bear in mind that it happened so very long ago. If it did happen now, the years would catch up on the Human form - more than two hundred of them. Petkus would be a very dried up corpse by now.”
“Then that didn’t happen,” Dougal concluded. “Lady Moira, if you know of anything else that could cause this….”
“There is a very remote possibility. But tell me, Lieutenant, do you regard Petkus’s humanity as a curse of mortality or a cure for his ‘vampiric disease’?”
“Neither,” he answered. “I never thought of Darius… or indeed your Ladyship, or any of your kind… as diseased, as wrong. I would never think that way. You… may not know… that I live with another man. It has taken longer than my lifetime to get society generally to accept that WE are not suffering some mental disease and that we are ‘normal’. I would not harbour the same prejudice against anyone else. As for a ‘curse’… It isn’t for me to say. I don’t know what Darius thinks about it. I think it might depend how much he values walking around on a wet November afternoon. There may be other reasons why being Human might be good for him. But I feel sure there will be downsides, too. That’s why I want to find out as much as I can about his condition, starting with how and why it happened. So this remote possibility….”
“It is no more than legend,” Lady Moira said. “It has not happened in the memory of any Vampire I know. And that… as you realise… is a very long memory. But the legend speaks of an artefact….”
Dougal was the one on the edge of his seat now, listening to the rags of a story that her Ladyship had not told for centuries, and wondering if it might have any bearing on Darius’s situation.
When Darius got back to the apartment, Shona threw a shoe at him. It must have been intended to miss. She was far too accurate a shot to have done that accidentally. But the strength of her anger was adequately demonstrated.
“You stupid, stupid LITHUANIAN,” she yelled. “I woke up. You were gone. So was Gabby. I didn’t know what to think. I was ready to call the POLICE.”
“I’m her father,” he reminded his lover. “And I took her out shopping, and to the park. Surely there is nothing more normal than that? She enjoyed the trip, and I bought steak – for supper.”
“I hope you don’t expect me to COOK it,” Shona responded. Her anger was a little deflated. Of course, he had a point. He had every right to take his daughter out if he wanted. It ought to be something he took for granted. She unfastened the buckles and lifted Gabrielle from the pushchair and told him to fold it and put it away. He did so then went to the kitchen with the groceries. He made coffee and brought it to the living room where Gabrielle was playing with her toys on the rug and Shona was watching her from the sofa.
“I’m going to cook,” he said passing her the mug of coffee. “I CAN, you know. And I SHOULD. You do enough looking after our daughter.”
“Like I have a choice in the matter? She needs one parent, at least.”
“She has two. She always did. But now… I don’t have to be a part time father any more. If… if you’ll have me.”
“Is that some kind of proposal?” Shona asked.
“No. You would never let me propose. But… I would like to spend more time with you both. If I could….”
“You want to move in here?”
“If you want me.”
“I want you. But let’s not make any quick decisions about anything. We need to take things slowly.”
Darius looked disappointed, but he understood why she said it. Until today they had been happy with their separate lives. Too much had changed, too soon. They needed time to think about what their future should be.
Dougal walked back from Lady Moira’s house. He had even more to think about than he had on the way there. It was starting to get dull overhead. The nights drew in quickly at this time of year and on a cloudy day like this dusk began about two o’clock. By four, vampires could be walking among the commuters going home from work and late afternoon shoppers.
And one of them was a killer vampire.
That was only one of a series of problems that occupied his mind. He stopped and sat on a bench while he made a phone call. The bench was wet from the day’s almost non-stop rain and he must have looked an idiot there, but he felt the need to sit.
“Munroe, where was Darius mugged last night?” he asked when he got through to the Hub. “And did the police mention if anything was actually stolen from him?”
“It was on Pollokshaws Road, by the old St. Andrews Print Works,” Munroe answered. “The only other building near by is a Seventh Day Adventist Church. I doubt if anyone was there at that time on a weekday. He was just lucky a police patrol came by a few minutes later.”
“What about his belongings? Was the mirror with him when the ambulance picked him up?”
“The police report doesn’t say anything about it. Did the muggers take it?”
“If they did, then that’s part of the problem. But, listen, there was something else. The two dead men this morning – did you identify them?”
“Yes, they’re on the police database. Edward and Michael West.”
“Brothers?” Dougal asked. “Or domestic partners?”
“Brothers. Two of three, all known to the police for theft, robbery with menaces, GBH. Nice bunch of lads. I’ll bet their mum and dad are proud.”
“Yeah,” Dougal agreed with the same note of sarcasm. “Do they have an address?”
Munroe told him. It was no more than half a mile from that part of Pollokshaws Road where Darius had been mugged by three men.
They mugged a vampire. Two of them got killed by a vampire.
That was too much of a coincidence, especially coupled with what he knew from Lady Moira.
“Oh, shit,” he swore. “Ok, can you put me through to Owen, now? I need to know if he’s found anything in Darius’s blood sample. I have a really bad feeling that he has.”
He spoke to Owen, who confirmed his worst fears. He gave his side of what he knew.
“All right,” he concluded. “I’m going back to Lady Moira. Her people will deal with the vampire problem. They don’t want killers in their community any more than we do. Then I’m going to see Shona and Darius. It’s better if I do it. I’m closer to both of them than you are, Owen. Shona and I are both soldiers, and Darius and I both know what it’s like to outlive our friends. Let me handle it.”
Owen agreed to that, though with reservations that he expressed at length before Dougal reached Queens Gardens again. After that there was no turning back. Wheels were set in motion.
He took a cab to North Kelvinside. Lady Moira offered one of her cars and drivers, but he always felt that was a little too ostentatious and certainly for this occasion. He wished he was in a Torchwood car, though. The device that made red lights turn green would have been useful in the time of evening known as ‘rush hour’ even though it went on for much longer than that. It was getting on for seven o’clock by the time he reached the apartment block and wondered when exactly it had changed from just being a block of flats to ‘apartments’ and why it made any difference at all.
There was a smell of steak frying through the hall when Shona let him in. He followed the smell to the kitchen and saw Darius happily preparing a meal for two. He hated the idea of spoiling that happiness. He wished he could just walk away again and leave it. But Darius knew as soon as he saw him that something was wrong.
“The mirror that you were bringing to show to Lady Moira,” he said. “Was it stolen by one of the men who attacked you?”
“The mirror….” Darius stared at him as if he had just woken up from a coma and remembered his name. “Yes, yes, I think they did take it. I forgot that it wasn’t with my things.”
“I think we’re going to find that his name was Leon West,” Dougal said with a deep sigh. “His two brothers who helped him rob you are dead. They were victims of a vampire attack.”
“What?” Darius let go of the steak pan. Shona grabbed it instead. She carried on with the cooking while Darius listened to the far worse news that was to come.
“Lady Moira told me a story,” he said. “One she would doubtless have told you if you’d made it to her house. We would have known, then. We would have buried the mirror in the deepest part of the archive and never let it see the light of day.”
“The mirror has something to do with all of this?”
“If Lady Moira is right, it is called Zrkadlo duše in Slovakian, I think she said – somewhere Eastern European, anyway. It means ‘mirror of souls‘. I’m pretty sure it must be an alien artefact that wound up in Eastern Europe at some point in history. What it does... is trap something about the person who looks into it. It trapped the vampire part of you. That’s why you were able to see your reflection. I’m guessing the next person to look into it was Leon Wes, and his humanity was taken – in exchange for your vampirism. You became Human as soon as he looked at the mirror. While you were being carted off to hospital, he went and murdered his two brothers, drinking them dry.”
“But I would never... ever... kill,“ Darius protested. “I would never… So how could he?”
“Because it’s your humanity that makes you reluctant to kill. The vampire bound to a violent criminal wouldn’t know when to stop. That’s why Lady Moira’s people are going to the address tonight. They’re going to deal with West their own way.”
“They’ll kill him?” Shona asked.
“Yes,” Darius said. “He has killed twice. He will kill again. That puts us all at risk. He must be destroyed. It is the way we survive.”
It escaped nobody’s notice that Darius spoke of the vampire community of Glasgow as if he was still part of it.
“Good,” Shona commented. “One less blood-sucker in the world.”
“Yes. But… the thing is,” Dougal added. “When THIS one is killed, the change that the mirror brought upon both of them… it will revert. Darius will be a vampire again. Leon West will be a Human – a dead Human, but Human.”
Darius and Shona looked at each other. Neither spoke. Shona turned the steaks over in the pan. Darius reached out to touch her on the shoulder.
“It… was good while it lasted,” he said to her. “We had a day. It was a good day, wasn’t it?”
“It was an ordinary day,” Shona answered. “Nothing but eating, sleeping, shopping, rain….”
“Sex,” Darius reminded her.
“Sex, yes. But we have that anyway. The other things....”
“Darius, there’s something else,” Dougal told him. “If you DON’T become a vampire again, you’ll die in a matter of weeks, possibly days. You’re over two hundred years old. For a vampire, that’s all right. But for a Human, it’s impossible. Owen examined your blood. The cellular breakdown is already beginning. You don’t feel it yet. You won’t at first. But in a day or two the years will start catching up on you. You’ll die of extreme old age.”
“Shit,” Shona swore.
“I have no choice, then,” Darius conceded. “I must become unDead again or I am just dead.”
“I’m sorry,” Dougal told him.
“When?” Shona asked. “When does it happen?”
“The execution of West will take place at dawn,” Darius said. “That is the way it is done. They will confine him through the night, and kill him when he is weakest, at the coming of the new day.”
“Yes,” Dougal confirmed. “That’s what Lady Moira told me.”
“So we have until dawn?”
“All right,” Shona decided. “Then these steaks aren’t going to waste.”
“The steaks aren’t exactly the priority,” Dougal pointed out.
“Yes, they are,” Darius answered. “If these are my last few hours as a Human, then I intend to make the most of them – starting with a really good meal. Then I’m going to put my daughter to bed and read her a story before she goes to sleep, and spend a few precious hours with the woman I love. Yes, there will be sex. That will be one of the things I shall enjoy as a Human one more time. After that, I’ll be ready.”
“You’ll need him back at the Hub, I suppose?” Shona said.
“Owen thinks it best. He wants him in the medical room where he can keep an eye on his condition.”
“Sunrise is eight-o-four tomorrow morning,” Darius said. “That is when it will happen.”
“We’ll be at the Hub for seven,” Shona confirmed. “Tell Owen to be ready. Meanwhile… there’s only enough steak for two, so get the fuck out of here, Dougal. This is our time.”
Dougal left them. He was an intruder on the privacy they badly needed now. He phoned Owen and told him what was happening, then he went home, to his own apartment and the arms of his own lover, for a few short hours before his work began again.
It rained hard during the night. The sound of it against the window had accompanied Shona and Darius’s love-making. It was still raining when they woke to the early alarm that they set. When Shona dressed Gabrielle and Darius made breakfast it was still raining. It was going to be a sunrise in name only. The sun was unlikely to be seen very much on this new November day.
“You didn’t eat much breakfast,” Shona told him as she strapped Gabrielle into her child seat in the back of the car and Darius fastened his seatbelt on the passenger side. “I thought you would have taken the opportunity.”
“I spent a lot of time in the bathroom this morning,” he pointed out. “The waste products of last night’s steak supper. If I am going to be unDead again in a few hours, with no working digestive system, I don’t know what will happen to the food left in my body.”
“TMI,” Shona told him.
“Apart from that, I’m all right about it,” he assured her. “I had this chance, this short chance, to be normal, to be with the two of you. I will treasure the memory.”
“Yeah.” Shona kept her eyes on the rainswept road and the brake lights of cars in front of her, but her thoughts were on the ordinary, yet extraordinary day they had shared.
“It isn’t fair,” he added with a catch in his throat.
“Life isn’t fair. If it was, you’d have died of old age in about 1850 in Lithuania and I would never have heard of you. We’ve got plenty to be glad of. We have our daughter. We’ll always have her.”
“Yes,” Darius agreed. “Yes, we will.”
There was nothing else to say. The journey continued in silence apart from the gurgling half-words that Gabrielle murmured as she watched the glow of street lights and shop windows through the rain-streaked car windows. She didn’t know about the crisis her parents were going through, only that she was up early and out in the car.
When they reached the Hub, the whole team was waiting. Toshiko took Gabrielle from Shona and brought her to sit with Genkei in the playpen. The two youngsters were happily oblivious of the anxiety among the adults and that was how it ought to be.
Owen insisted that Darius was lying down in the medical room with a whole collection of probes attached to monitor his vital signs. The sight of the monitor displaying the peaks and troughs of his heart rate and his blood pressure were still amazing to him. But the time was passing all too quickly.
“Stop looking at the clock,” Owen told him. “Or I’ll have it smashed. You’ll know soon enough. We all will. Lady Moira said her man would contact Dougal when their part was over.”
“Eight o’clock,” Munroe commented in a low voice. “The traditional time that executions took place in British prisons.”
“Military executions were always at dawn, whenever that happened to be,” Dougal added.
They both looked at Darius lying quietly on the examination table and put such thoughts out of their heads. He wasn’t the one being executed. It was a man who had killed his own brothers because the vampire hunger had come upon him. Killing him wasn’t just a punishment for that act of double murder, it was a kindness, bringing peace to his soul.
And it would save Darius from a painful and drawn out death as a Human being and give him back the unDead existence that he had come to terms with.
It was for the best all round.
They all told themselves that, yet eight o’clock still seemed like a dreaded hour. Four minutes past, the actual time of sunrise in Glasgow on this November morning, came with the sweeping of the second hand on the clock above the medical room door.
Dougal’s mobile phone rang a few seconds after that minute. He stepped out of the medical room to take the call. He thanked Lady Moira’s man for the courtesy then closed the call and ran back in. Darius didn’t need a clock or a phone call to know it had happened. He felt it in his soul. He was screaming now and pulling against the restraints Owen had fastened around him when he was quietly accepting of his situation. His face turned grey and his eyes glowed. The scream turned into a growl. The heart monitor showed wild fluctuations and then flatlined with a monotonous beep before Owen switched it off.
“Keep back from him,” he called out. “All of you. Dougal, your nano-genes won’t protect you from a vampire bite. Shona, neither will the fact that he loves you. Right now he doesn’t know who he is or where he is. He’s more dangerous than he’s ever been.”
Munroe and Dougal were both armed. Owen had talked to them about the possibility of the process going badly wrong – of Darius turning into a murderous creature who knew nothing of the friends he had in the living world. Both kept their hands on the weapons and watched closely, hoping they didn’t have to deal the coup-de-grace to their friend.
“Back!” Owen yelled as the restraints broke and Darius leapt from the table, his lips drawn and his fangs protruding. He wasn’t talking to him. He was telling his colleagues to keep out of the way of a demonic creature that could rip them apart in an eyeblink.
“Darius!” Shona cried out. She took a step forward as everyone else pressed themselves against the farthest wall and the two men took the safety catches off their guns. “Darius Petkus, you filthy bloodsucker, put those fangs away and listen to me.”
There might have been a momentary pause in the snarling blood-rage. The glow in his eyes might have flickered for a second, but he was too deeply lost in the miasma of conflicting signals from his unDead mind to remember that Shona was anything more than a fresh supply of blood to slake his hunger. He sprang from an animalistic crouch and knocked her to the ground, covering her with his lithe body.
“No, keep back,” she cried out to her colleagues. “Don’t shoot him. Don’t….”
Munroe and Dougal had moved forwards. Their guns were aimed at his head, but they didn’t have a clear shot. Shona wrapped her arms around Darius’s neck and rolled him over until he was beneath her, pinned to the floor.
“Darius Petkus, jus sušikti vampyras, Dievas Apleistas pasmerktuju padaras iš pragaro, aš tave myliu. Griti i mane ...griti i mane, ” she screamed in his ear before kissing his cold grey cheek. “Aš tave myliu. Aš visada myliu tave, net jei esate kraugerys.“
“Shona, it’s not working,” Dougal called out to her. “He’s gone. Everything that he was… he’s gone, Shona. He’s just a vampire, and he’ll kill you.”
“No,” Shona insisted. “No, he won’t. He’s….. ”
“Mano paties painciu.” The voice that spoke was hoarse and dry and almost lost in the midst of Dougal’s protestations. “Aš myliu tave aminybe.“
“You‘d better, you fucking bloodsucker,” she answered. “You’d fucking well better.”
“He’s back?” Dougal put the safety catch back on and holstered his gun. So did Munroe. “He’s ok?”
“I’m back,” Darius answered. “Dieve visagalis, I have been i pragara... in hell. I felt everything that West felt when he turned. The blood lust rose in him so strongly, he couldn‘t help himself. He killed his two brothers because all he could think of was blood. He was in agony. He....“
“He‘s at peace now,” Dougal assured him. “And you’re back with us. You’re ok.”
“I’m hungry,” he said.
“You’re insatiable,” Shona told him. She leaned forward, kissing his lips first then resting her head on his shoulder. He bent forwards, his mouth pressing against her neck. Dougal’s hand reached for his gun again, then he withdrew it.
“His first feed, as a newborn vampire,” he said. “Willingly given by the woman he loves.”
“Bram Stoker never imagined anything like that,” Owen remarked. He opened a box of sticking plasters and had it ready when Darius was finished. Shona accepted the first aid with a rather stiff but genuine ‘thank you’.
“Ok, if that’s all the medical attention anyone needs, how about clearing out of here. I suppose you’re going to be pulling a sick-day. You can clear off to your lair. Shona, you might as well go with him. Keep him out of trouble for a while at least.”
Shona did just that. Dougal and Munroe went back to the Hub wondering if they really could just sit down and do routine work after such a dramatic start to the day.
Toshiko met them and handed Dougal a crumpled Next carrier back containing something that tinkled ominously when he shook it.
“One of Lady Moira’s day servants delivered it,” she said. “Though what the heck you’re supposed to do with a bagful of broken bits of a mirror….”
“I’m going to bury it in the darkest deepest place in the Hub where it will never again reflect a scrap of light,” Dougal answered. “And in fifty years time if anyone is stupid enough to go down there… well, me and Darius will probably still be here to give them a bollocking for it, anyway.”