Saturday midmorning

In the bullpen, Blair was furiously adding to the scribbling on the whiteboard, pausing only long enough to look at the notes he'd made from the case files. Occasionally he'd stop, back up a step and look at the names and numbers, mumble something low, then return to writing facts and figures on the board.

"Can you make any sense of what you're writing?" Jim finally asked.

"Right now," Blair sighed, "I'm just trying to make sure I have all the data down in a semi-coherent form. From the stuff I noted yesterday and then again last night."

"That does not bode well," Rafe commented from his desk.

"Then," Blair continued as though the smartly-dressed detective had not spoken, "maybe I can make some sense of everything that Eddie and his team collected." He looked earnestly at his partner. "It's kinda sad that he tossed it over to us, you know. He's really got a lot of information here."

"It's just not telling us who the perp is," Jim pointed out. "And it didn't help that Sam kept harassing him the way she did."

"At least she won't be doing that to you," Blair grinned.

"Got that right." Jim's face darkened.

"I have a feeling if she tried it, one of us would become suspects in her sudden demise."

Jim shook his head. "Justifiable homicide, and we'd be able to prove it."

"In the meantime," Blair pulled out the map that was attached to another board, "I'm going to start mapping the Goth Slayer's sites."

"It's gonna get a little crowded on that map of yours," Henri warned. "Every last slaying has been done within a four-block radius."

"I got the street map blown up. I'm trying to see if I can see any sort of pattern," Blair stated. "Taboo Mausoleum one week, Ghoul Station next week, Kult Klub next, then Staking Ale, Pagan Place, Crypt Café, then start all over again."

"You'd think the guys in Homicide would have thought of that," Rafe pointed out.

"And they probably did," Jim agreed. "Only thing is, Eddie doesn't have any reference to such a study being done."

"So I'm having to do it over again," Blair finished with a shrug.

"You'd have done it over again even if the study had been in there," Jim commented. "It's your nature to study things ad nauseum."

Blair shook his head. "Would not."

"Would too."

"Would not."

"Would too."

"Would not."

"Yes, you would," Simon snorted from behind Blair. He grinned when the observer started.

"Simon!" Blair complained.

"Just seeing how observant you aren't."

"I don't have eyes in the back of my head!" He glared at his partner, noting the smug grin on his face. "But I obviously have a partner who is a bit lax when it comes to watching my back."

Jim immediately sobered. "Only when it won't harm you," he promised.

"So," Blair asked the tall captain, "what can we do for you?"

"It's more what I'm doing for you," Simon informed him. "Jim said you two were going to need some time to get ready for tonight."

Blair looked at the wall clock. "Sheesh! I didn't even notice the time! Thanks, Simon!" He gathered up papers, stuffing them haphazardly into a file cover. "I'll need all the time I can get to be ready."

"He has to dye his hair," Jim supplied.

"Oh really?" Rafe smirked at the observer as his phone rang.

Blair could see all the other detectives sit up and give him a second glance.

"Henna," Blair corrected his partner. "It's getting hennaed. There's a difference."

"But you're hair won't be the color it is now, right?" Henri asked.

"Well, it'll have different highlights," Blair hedged.

"It's dyed," he agreed with the sentinel.

"Hennaed," Blair insisted. "No peroxide, no harmful chemicals. Not dyed."

"Have it your way," Henri shrugged. "Your hair's not gonna be the same color; that means it's dyed."

"Tint," Blair insisted, "is not the same thing; my natural color will still be seen, but in certain lights the highlights will be more pronounced."

"Whatever." Rafe stood up, putting on his suit coat. "C'mon partner. Someone just tried to shoot the kid. He's in the ED of Cascade General."

"That might be the one thing that'll make him talk." Henri grabbed his sports jacket from the rack as the two headed toward the double doors.

"I know," Rafe nodded. "That's why I want to get to him as soon as we can. While he's still angry about nearly being killed."

As the two walked out of the bullpen, Blair turned to Jim. "Henna hair is not dyed. You can ask my mom. She hennas her hair every so often to bring out her highlights."

Jim canted his head. "Funny, I couldn't tell it had been dyed."

"Jim!" Blair glowered at his partner. "That's my mother!"

"Yeah," he sighed, shaking his head. "You keep reminding me of that little fact."

"Because you seem to keep forgetting that little fact," he grumbled as he gathered up his papers. "By the way, Jim," Blair suggested as he shut his file drawer, "you probably should keep your sense of smell dialed down a bit."

"Thought you said it wasn't dye."

"It's not, and while it doesn't have the harsh chemicals in hair dyes, it still has an odor," Blair answered. "I don't know if you’ll have a reaction to it or not."

"In short, you'll probably stink the whole place up and I might as well get out the spray."

"No, I'm not going to stink up the whole place," Blair retorted. "And if using that canned chemical keeps you happy, go right ahead. Just keep it upstairs, if you please."

"Not a problem," Jim grinned at the departing form.


Simon looked up at the knock on his door. An eyebrow crept up when Jim entered the room. "Thought you would have headed home with the kid," he commented.

"Yeah, well, Blair needs a little more time to get ready; my costume is pretty much taken care of. With one small exception that is."

"The bike." Simon leaned back in his chair and exhaled heavily. "Jim don't you think it's a little risky?" Sitting up and lifting a paper, he went on, "We're not talking about a cheap piece of merchandise, you know."

"I know, Simon, and I'll be careful," Jim said sincerely.

Simon snorted. "I've seen you drive, remember? And I have the memory of two cars, two cars, not fit to drive after you got behind the wheel." He stopped when he saw Jim's jaw start to clench tightly. "I know you weren't completely at fault, Jim, but, damn it, we're talking about a huge chunk of change that will come out of my budget if the motorcycle gets wrecked."

"I understand that," Jim answered tightly. "But it's not like I'll be in a car chase."

"Couldn't you use a bike from Vice or Narcotics?" Simon pleaded. "Surely they must have more than enough…"

"Simon, each and every bike is well-known on the streets as belonging to a particular rider. If I show up on one, they're going to know that I'm a cop, and the other rider is a cop."

"But you're not going into a biker bar, or even riding with them," Simon argued.

"Even if the chance is infinitesimal of me running into a biker group, it still exists."

Simon shook his head. "Been hanging around the professor too much. He's teaching you those multi-dollar words."

"They do come in handy," Jim grinned.

"So does the kid," Simon grinned back. Then he turned somber. "Seriously, Jim, are you sure there's no way you could borrow one from Impound or Vice or Narcotics?"

"Seriously, I'm sure there's not," Jim told his superior.

"Very well." Simon held up a slip of paper. "This should cover a decent bike."

Jim looked at the amount and looked back at his boss. "You're joking, right?"

"It's for a day, not a week," Simon scowled at the man. "I personally called around to several lots for prices. This is an average. Choose wisely."

"Yes sir." Jim's sigh was almost pathetic as he reached for the voucher.

"Oh, and Jim?" Simon pulled the voucher back out Jim's reach.

"Yes sir?" Jim put his hand down and looked at his boss expectantly.

"You wreck this bike, and I will personally take it out of your paycheck." Simon smiled wickedly as he saw Jim shudder. "And," he added, "your hide."

Jim glared at the captain. "You've made your point, sir."

"Good."


12:00 PM

Blair frowned as he read the instructions, again, on the package insert that was spread on his kitchen table. "If it's this detailed for a simple highlight, what the hell do they put you through for a real dye job?"

Libby, who had been sitting close to his heels, moving only when it seemed he would step on her, merely looked up at him, her short tail wagging occasionally.

Blair pulled the deep roasted coffee bag toward him, then looked at the information he'd downloaded from the internet, then at the perking liquid.

"You know," he informed his pet, "this is almost as bad as dyeing my hair. Certainly is as expensive."

The only response was a thumping on the floor by Libby's tail.

"Something certainly smells good," Jim quipped as he came down the stairs. "Where's the rotten smell?"

"It might be coming up," Blair answered. "I really don't know how this coffee will smell with the henna paste."

"You're wasting some perfectly good, expensive coffee on your hair?"

"Give me the darker color I'm looking for. And I'll be adding cloves too."

"It would have been cheaper to get Midnight Black at the drug store and color your hair," Jim snorted.

"And have all those chemicals leaching into my body?" Blair raised an eyebrow at the sentinel. "No thank you. I'll do this."

"Which is what, exactly?" Jim asked.

"Henna mix," Blair stated. "I had to mix the powder with some red wine last night and let it set. Now, I'm adding the coffee so it won't have quite as much red, and the cloves will make whatever red is left darker."

"So far, so good, Emeril."

"Now, I'm getting ready to put this mash on my hair and let it set for several hours," Blair went on. "You could do me a real favor and make sure Libby doesn't follow me into the bathroom."

"Yeah I can do that," Jim nodded. "Wouldn't want the terrier to become a Labrador, now would we?"

Blair shook his head when Libby gave Jim a lick and wagged her tail in agreement. "You two are incorrigible."

"So what have you been doing since you left the precinct?" Jim asked as Libby settled down next to him.

"Fixing up the bathroom so it won't have henna all over it," Blair told him. "I don't intend to redo my bathroom just yet, and definitely not in this color."

"You sure dyeing your hair wouldn't have been cheaper? Not to mention easier?"

"Probably, but then I'd have to wait forever before the chemicals would have been out of my system and my hair." Blair checked the paste in the tub. "Jim, does it seem to you as though the Slayer knows as much about police procedure and forensics as we do?"

"That thought had crossed my mind," Jim admitted. "But with all the cop shows on television, most of the general population is as knowledgeable as we are. It's a wonder we can stay ahead of the perps."

"You think it's just a really smart killer?"

"You mean, do I think it's a rogue cop." Jim frowned. "It's possible, I suppose. But who? And why?"

"Well, one could argue that Jenice has a reason," Blair noted. "And if she hadn't had those therapy sessions, I'd suspect her."

"But because she went, you don't?"

"It was more what she said to Sam in the breakroom yesterday," Blair responded. "She understands about vengeance and how futile it is."

"Interesting," Jim nodded.

"But we still have someone who is as knowledgeable as we are and about three steps ahead of us," Blair sighed.

"And we can never be absolutely sure if every time a Goth is hit, it’s due to the Goth Slayer," Jim pointed out. "Sometimes a hit-and-run is simply a hit-and-run."

"That's the part that's probably getting to most of community." Blair stood up, taking the tub of pasty material with him. "How do you prove that this hit-and-run is simply a hit-and-run?"

"You can't," Jim's voice sounded from outside the door.

"But as far as the Goth community is concerned," Blair continued, wrapping himself in an old ratty robe before carefully applying the material over his head and hair, "every incident is an attack by this Slayer."

"True."

"And there's no way you can convince them that they aren't being targeted." Blair wrapped his concoction-covered tresses with a plastic wrap. "It's impossible."

"You're right."

"We have no way to prove any one attack is a Slayer attack, and we have no way to prove the attack is not an attack. Talk about a perfect crime…"

Blair stepped out of the bathroom and looked up at his partner. Jim took one look at his friend and fell against the wall, laughing.

Libby, who was standing by him, looked up at the laughing man, then turned her head toward Blair. Her head tilted as she studied the observer, a questioning expression on her face.

"What?" demanded Blair.

"Oh, Chief, I wish I had a camera right about now," Jim finally wheezed out. "Priceless blackmail material! Right, Libby?"

The dog continued to study Blair, a strange, questioning look on her face. She walked around the robed-clad man, sniffing him carefully. Looking up at him, she gave a questioning sound as though to say, "You sound like my master, and you sort of smell like my master, but you don't look like my master."

"Not you too, Libby," Blair moaned as he wrapped the robe tighter around his frame. "The things I do for this job."

"Next thing he's going to be bitching about the sacrifice he's making," Jim snorted, speaking to Libby.

"Well, I am!" Blair huffed.

"I can't wait to see you in that outfit." Jim pointed to the black velvet garb hanging on the bedroom door. "Definitely a Kodak moment."

"Two can, and will, play that game," Blair promised. "I can hardly wait to see you looking like Sid Vicious."

"Actually, I'll look better," Jim promised.

Blair shook his head letting a grin grace his lips. "Yeah, you probably would. How about we have Sam take a picture of the two of us and use it for the Halloween picture later this year?"

"Sounds like a plan, Partner."

Blair sat down on a kitchen chair at the table. "Jim, I've been thinking."

"That could dangerous, Chief." Jim grabbed another chair and sat down across the table from Blair.

"I'm serious, Jim." He frowned at his partner. "I've been trying to figure out why you're having difficulty identifying the scent at the crime scenes."

"And?" Jim raised an eyebrow. "Have you come up with anything to help?"

"I've come up with several hypotheses."

"What have you come up with?" Blair heard the tenseness in his voice.

"I'm thinking that, first of all, the scent is very common, and therefore you smell it every day and a portion of your mind is trying to ignore it."

"So I'm somehow giving myself mixed instructions?"

"Exactly!" Blair started to nod his head, then thought he'd better keep it still, at least while he was wearing the wrap and henna paste. "You've trained yourself to ignore the common everyday stuff at a crime scene to uncover the clue, and up until now that has been beneficial for us. But now, the common everyday stuff is the clue, and your ability to ignore it is working against us."

"Any ideas on how to fix the problem?"

"Only have you categorize and identify every scent the way we did in the beginning," Blair sighed.

"Not until I take few Tylenol we don't," Jim grunted. "I remember those exercises gave me monster headaches."

"I remember, too," Blair nodded.

"And the next idea?" Jim asked. "Hypotheses implies more than one, and first implies there'll be a second."

"The second hypothesis is that you've linked the scent with someone and neither your conscious nor subconscious wants to believe what your senses are telling you. Sort of like when you got those spikes when you saw the triangle knife that Lila had," Blair finished, with a worried, measuring glance. He wasn't sure if Jim was really over that particular lady.

"It's possible, I suppose," Jim sighed with a shrug. "You were right about the knife and Lila; you could be right about my mind and the scent. Of course, the first guess could be right too."

"We have to figure out which one is right." Blair watched as Jim stood up.

"Later, Chief." He headed toward the stairs. "Right now I have to go and collect my ride."

"Your ride?"

"Yeah, my ride," Jim grinned. "It's the only part of my costume I don't have."

"Oh, right," Blair nodded. "You mean Simon actually signed a voucher for you to rent the bike?"

"Yes, he did."

"Bet it came with strings attached," snickered Blair.

"What makes you think that?" Jim stopped on the stairs.

"I know your driving record. I know Simon." Blair leaned back in the chair. "I also remember the look on Simon's face when you trashed his new car."

"Okay," Jim admitted, a sheepish grin on his face. "He's only giving me a day with the bike."

He started back up the stairs, then stopped and looked at his partner. He began laughing again, then shook his head and headed further up the stairs to the Loft. Blair sighed heavily and looked at the clock.

A whine at his feet brought his attention to the remaining occupant of the room. Libby looked up at him, that same quizzical expression on her face.

"I know, I look dorky," Blair said. "Still, I would have thought that at least my dog wouldn't make fun of me."

Libby dipped her head, her brown soulful eyes studying the floor. Slowly the eyes came up and met his.

"I understand," he said, holding out a hand. "You can laugh at me; I probably do look pretty silly." The dog stood up and walked toward him, then laid her head in his lap. He grinned and scratched the terrier between her ears. "But next time," he said, "at least pretend to be on my side until after Jim leaves, okay?"

Libby looked up, starting to lick his face, then seemed to think better of the idea and settled for licking his hands instead.


Jim walked around the lot at 'Cascade Motor Sports', evaluating the different motorcycles, mentally dismissing most as being too "civilized" for a biker that had been out of the city for a while. He kept track of the ones that were definitely worthy of being ridden by an older, seasoned biker -- the Kawasaki Ninjas, the Suzuki Katanas and Honda CRXs. He also noted a few that appealed to him personally.

"So, tell me," the salesman said, "you find anything that fits the bill?"

"Several, actually," Jim nodded. "I'll need to check them a bit closer…"

"You know, we could probably turn this into a test drive," the salesman suggested.

Jim felt his jaw tense as he looked at the medium-built, balding blond. "Look, Harold," he said tightly, catching the man's name on his tag, "I believe I said I'm renting. I don't mean I'm looking to buy. Can you understand that, Harold?"

"Er, yes, right," Harold gulped.

"Good."

Jim turned on his heel and headed toward the group he had deemed worthy of an easy rider. He sat on them, wanting the one he chose to be easy on his butt.

Once he'd whittled the number down, he rechecked the remaining ones, revving their engines, listening for signs of missing and other problems which would not be found in a biker's motor.

He found himself having to continually turn away from one beauty that was definitely calling to him. As he had told Harold, he was here to rent a bike, not to buy.

Still… His glance slid back one last time to the silent siren that was calling to him. Steeling himself, he walked over to the cruiser he’d chosen to use that night, ignoring the one that he truly wanted to ride.

"You've got a good eye," Harold said, holding the voucher as Jim put the borrowed ramp on the tailgate of his truck.

"Thanks," Jim acknowledged as he rolled the bike up the ramp, then secured it in place.

"Exactly when can we expect the cycle back?" Harold asked.

"Probably around this time tomorrow," Jim guessed.

"And, er, it will be in the same condition, correct? I mean, I watch all the cop shows and every time they borrow anything it comes back in pieces…"

"Yes." Jim managed to stop himself from snapping. He couldn't blame the guy if his only information came from cop shows. "I don't intend to get into a car chase, bike chase, shootout, or any other kind of mayhem you could think of."

"It's just…it's not in bad condition, you know? It could still be sold for quite a bit of money," Harold went on. "And that money could come out of my pocket if it's ruined."

"I'm well aware of the value of the bike," Jim said patiently.

"Yes, I suppose you are."

"It'll be returned tomorrow in the same condition that it is now."

"That's all we – I – ask," Harold said.

"Good." Jim jumped off the bed of his truck, and headed for the cab. "'Cause that's all you'll get," he muttered as he closed the door and started the engine.


7:00 PM

Blair walked around his living room, trying to get comfortable in the outfit of black velvet trousers and satin vest with white lacy shirt that Jeremy had selected for him. The trousers were a snug fit, a bit tighter than he was accustomed to wearing. Jeremy had been rather put out when Blair had insisted on the "looser" pair.

"You'd look much better in these," he had told Blair, trying unsuccessfully to get him to take the tighter pair.

"I might look better," Blair had told him as politely as he could, "but if I tried to sit down, I'd split the pants, and then, there goes my rental fee."

"Ah no sweat, man," Jeremy had grinned. "The ladies will love the split pants. And so might a few of the guys."

"Uh, no thanks," Blair shook his head. "I don't want to do more than just fit into the scene."

Jeremy wiggled his eyebrows at the observer. "You'd do more than just fit in if you got these."

"That's what I'm afraid of," Blair shuddered. "I'm taking these." He grabbed the larger pair.

Blair sighed and continued walking around. "I should have gotten an even larger pair," he confided to his pet.

Libby gave him that same quizzical expression she'd been giving him all afternoon.

"Aw, come on, Libby," Blair said, sitting down and holding out his hand to her. "I know I don't look like myself, but I'm still me; honest. Even if I look like a modern day version of Heathcliffe."

Libby walked over, placing her paws on his thigh gingerly, then lifted her head up and let her nose rest on his chin. Seemingly satisfied, she brought her nose to his and licked his chin.

Blair stood and checked out the trousers, making sure that none of Libby's coat had shed on the outfit. While he personally wouldn't have minded, he had a feeling that Sam might. He stopped in front of the mirror and sighed. The lace at his throat and wrists was going to drive him nuts before the night was through.

A whistle at the top of the stairs stopped Blair's inspection.

"Well, well," Jim continued, coming down the stairs. "You do clean up nice."

"Ha-ha," Blair snorted, giving his partner an ill-mannered salute. "You should try wearing this getup."

"No, no," Jim shook his head, grinning devilishly. "You were right; I'm definitely not the Goth type. This," he waved to his simple tee shirt, jeans and boots, the black leather jacket slung over his shoulder, "this is me."

"Oh I don't know." Blair’s grin was equally devilish. "I remember how you look in a tux and cummerbund. I'll bet we could find an outfit to fit you."

"Speaking of fit…" Jim raised an eye at the pants.

"Don't even go there, man," Blair shook his head. "It was bad enough trying to convince Jeremy to behave while I was trying on the damned outfit."

"Well, you do look sort of…" Jim stopped. "I mean, if this were a Vice operation…."

"Never mind," Blair shook his head. "I get the idea. Why do you think I was trying to go dressed in my regular clothes?"

"I guess trying to override Sam's suggestions is fairly difficult."

"Try damn near impossible," Blair muttered as he continued to pace around his living room.

"I'll give you some time to get settled before I show up," Jim went on. "And I'll stay until you tell me to go. But I'll be outside…"

"Jim…" Blair stopped in front of his partner.

Blair, you need to be careful," the sentinel said heatedly.

Blair rolled his eyes in exasperation. "I'll be careful, Jim."

"You've all but set yourself up as a target!" Jim exploded.

"I know that," Blair shook his head. "I told you I'll be careful and I will."

"It's just that…"

"I promise I'll look both ways before I cross the street, Dad." Blair grinned up at Jim as the doorbell rang.

"Smartass!" Jim cuffed the observer as he turned to answer the door.

Blair casually flipped him the bird and laughed as he opened the door.

The laugh died in his throat as he stared at the woman standing in his doorway. He felt his jaw move, but no words came out of his mouth.

"Oh do quit emulating a landed fish and invite me in, Blair," Sam sighed as she put a manicured hand on his chest and gently pushed her way into the Lair. "See how easy that was?"

Blair continued to stare at the black clad woman. A part of his brain took in that the skirt was much longer in the back than it was in the front. The hem of the skirt front was just this side of being indecent, and the low neckline barely covered her breasts. The lacings from the corset, or whatever it was she was wearing around her waist, gave her plenty of cleavage to salivate over. If one salivated over that, the more rational part of his brain added. Sleeves of black silk covered her arms from shoulder to wrist.

If he was Heathcliffe, Blair decided, Sam was definitely no Catherine. She more closely resembled Elvira, Mistress of the Night. Her hair was long, loose and black as the night.

He closed the door and moved to stand by the statuesque black-haired technician, letting his eyes wander to the edge of the skirt and openly appreciating the long, slender limbs that were exposed.

"Wow!" Jim whistled appreciatively. "That getup almost makes me want to trade places with you, Sandburg."

"Get your own date, Ellison." Blair moved to stand between his partner and the young woman. "This one's taken for the evening."

"Nice outfit, Beautiful," Sam smiled at him.

"You too," Blair stated as he continued to ogle her slender figure wrapped in the black silk and satin.

"And I love what you've done to your hair. Not bad. And much better than dyeing it black."

"Well, uh, thanks." Blair gave her a shy grin. "I guess we're ready, Sam."

"Not quite, Beautiful." She took his hands in hers and led him to the kitchen table. "I need to go over some ground rules. And you need some makeup."

"Now Sam," Blair tried to pull away as Jim exploded in laughter on his way to the stairs, "I thought we were going to discuss that. I mean, do you know what is in that stuff, clogging your pores?"

"We did discuss it, Beautiful," Sam smiled at as she managed to push him down on the chair. "You didn't want any; I told you I'd do it for you. Remember?"

"But –"

His words were cut off as Sam deftly began applying the facial makeup. Blair tried to wriggle away from Sam, but was stopped by a sharp glare.

"Now, first of all," Sam continued to decorate Blair's face, "when we enter the night club, I'm not Sam any more."

"You're not?"

"No, I'm not. I'm Twisted Illusions."

"Interesting pseudonym," Blair observed.

"And I won't be calling you Blair," Sam went on.

"And what's wrong with my name?" Blair wanted to know.

"It's a nice enough name but it's not a Goth name."

"Sam, I'm not trying to become Goth," Blair stated. "I just want to talk to them."

"Blair, you have to at least appear to embrace the culture, or trying to embrace it; they won't talk to you otherwise."

"Point made," Blair conceded. "All right, if I'm not Blair Sandburg, who am I?"

"You're Beautifully Chaotic."

The laughter at the top of the stairs increased in hilarity.

"It's not that funny!" Blair retorted.

"Oh yes it is," Jim wheezed. "And fitting."

"Jim –"

"Especially the chaotic part," Jim went on. "Now the beautiful part…"

"He will be once I'm finished." Sam grinned at Blair. "He'll have women and men fighting for his attention."

"Sam!" Blair squeaked. "I'm not after that –"

"Yes, you are; it's a part of our culture."

"Terrific!" Blair moaned as Jim sat down on a step, still laughing.

"It's a pity I couldn't convince you to come as a Goth too, Jim," Sam continued. "I know I could have found you a fitting costume; there are biker-types in the Goth community as well."

"I've seen what they wear, and don't wear," Jim got out as he gasped for breath. "No thanks."

"Pity." Sam paused in her ministrations and looked at him. "I even thought of the perfect name for you."

"Oh yeah? What?"

"You," Sam looked up at the man, "would be Lucid Nightmare."

"I imagine more than Goths would say they agree with that name," Blair snorted.

"Nightmare, yeah," Jim nodded. "I like that; but lucid – no. It needs to be Worst Nightmare."

"So, we'll change it," Sam smiled. "The name changer is only a guide after all."

"Want to come along as a Goth, Jim?" Blair looked at his friend, a silent 'I dare you!' in his eyes.

Jim shook his head. "No, thanks. I'll stick to this getup. I don't think that style would suit me."

Sam leered up at him. "I know I could find a style to suit you."

"When Hell freezes," Jim grinned back. "Not a second before."

"Don't you have something to do?" Blair growled at him. "Something besides crossing words with my date?"

"I'm going, Chief." The sentinel made his way up the spiral case, still chuckling. "Call if you need any help."

"Oh, I'll be able to help him, Jim." Sam turned the lecherous grin back to Blair.

"Terrific," Blair muttered. "Libby, I could use a little help here."

His answer was a confused yip from the terrier.

"Would you sit still?" Sam fumed at him ten minutes later. "Honestly, my two-year-old niece can control herself better than you do!"

"Blair has the Energizer Bunny embedded inside him," Jim said from the stairs.

Blair stared at him, mildly shocked to see the doo-rag made from cloth with stars and stripes covering Jim's military-cut hair. He could see the whisper of a five-o'clock shadow on Jim's jaw.

"I should feel insulted by both of you," Blair growled.

"Don't be," Sam grinned. "The last person I made up fidgeted like a baby."

Blair stood and walked around, trying to at least look comfortable with the nearly too-tight clothes and face makeup.

"Well?" He turned and looked up at Jim. "How do I look?"

"I'm not the expert, Chief," Jim answered. "But you do look better than that turkey we saw on the tube yesterday."

Libby walked over to Blair tentatively. She sniffed the clothes, and the hand that was scratching behind her ears. She looked up, tilting her head and perking her ears. Still looking and smelling strange, her expression said, but still her master. She gave his hand a quick swipe of her tongue, then trotted over to her water and food dish.

"So how long do you think you'll be staying, Jim?" the technician asked.

"As long as I need to be there," he answered. "I'm backing up my partner, after all."

"Well, after you're finished backing him up, you can go home. I'll give him a ride home," she told him loftily.

"Uh, Sam, Twisted Illusions," Blair broke in, "this is strictly business. I'll catch a ride home with Jim."

"My car's more comfortable than that bike Jim has."

"I'm riding home with Jim," Blair stated determinedly.

"We'll see, my Beautifully Chaotic man," Sam purred as she led him out the door, the sound of Jim's laughter even louder in Blair's ears. "We'll see."


Saturday 9:00 PM

Blair sat in the booth in 'Ghoul Station', watching the crowd move and mingle together. Sam – Twisted Illusions – sat next to him, a drink in her hand. It was one of the few traditional booths in the place. Most looked like something one would see in a bordello. And they were all being used as though they were in a bordello. Those not otherwise engaged in the plush booths were on the dance floor, gyrating to the loud music blaring from the machine in the far corner. Blair toyed with his drink and frowned momentarily. The music was going to play hell with Jim's hearing.

"You should get up and join them," she whispered in his ear. "Dance, flirt, become one with them."

"I don't think they'd believe that I was trying to become one with them, especially since I'm not," Blair pointed out.

"We didn't go to all this trouble just for you to sit here," Twisted Illusions reminded him.

"We went to all this trouble," Blair clarified, "because you said they wouldn't talk to me otherwise. Well, Twist, I got made up like a Halloween castoff, and you know what? They still aren't talking to me."

"Hey Twist."

Several young women, both dressed in exotic and erotic fashions similar to Twisted Illusions', stopped by the booth, gazing hungrily at Blair while talking to her.

"Who's this?"

"A friend, Disturbed Angel," Twist answered. "Beautifully Chaotic. He's –"

"– taking a look around, trying to decide if it's the way of life for me," Blair finished. "I wasn't sure when we first got here."

"And now?" one of the other women asked as she slid into the booth and pressed herself against him suggestively.

"It's –" Blair cleared his throat and tried to put a little distance between himself and her, only to find Twist had moved closer to him as well. "Well, it's definitely gotten friendlier in the past few minutes."

"Just remember the rules, Tongue." Twist smiled warningly at the woman. "Beautiful, this is Vicious Tongue. And hers is definitely that."

"Only when I'm talking," Vicious Tongue said, starting to lick his neck, letting her teeth nip, but not breaking the skin.

The third woman slid into the booth by Vicious Tongue. "I'm Liquid Dreams." She maneuvered herself until she somehow had herself between him and the table, sitting on his lap. "I can give you many."

"We all can," the woman identified as Disturbed Angel added from behind him.

Blair gulped and sought rescue from the woman he'd come with, only to find her lips on his neck, nibbling as eagerly as Vicious Tongue.

"See?" Twist whispered lustfully, "I told you it would be worth it.

"Yeah, well, I don't know," Blair shook his head. "I mean, there are some folks out there who don't like Goths." The last was said in a squeak as a several slender fingers started to approach sensitive territory. "Ladies, please! We're in public!"

"Don't worry, Beautiful," Twist murmured as she continued to nibble him on that side. "Everyone else is equally occupied."

"Or soon will be," promised Liquid Dreams as she tried to kiss him.

"But –" Blair managed to dodge the eager lips and tongue momentarily as another tongue started to lap at his ear. "Um, ladies, what about this Goth killer I've been reading about?"

The lips disappeared from his body, and all but Liquid Dreams moved away from him. Not too far, but enough to let him clear his head.

"I mean this all seems like the kind of life I want to live, but I'd like to live it for a very long time. You know what I mean?"

"We know." Liquid Dreams was the first to recover and moved further onto his lap. "We just don't want to think about – that other."

"But once you leave here," Blair managed to talk around the impatient lips and searching tongue, "you have to, don't you?"

"Twist," Disturbed Angel sighed as she pushed her body into the booth, "your friends can be so –"

"– so normal," Liquid Dreams pouted, squirming in his lap, as though trying to encourage certain portions of his anatomy to respond.

"Well," Blair gulped, feeling himself break into a cold sweat, "I've been called many things in my life, but normal has never been one of them."

"Is that a bad thing?" Disturbed Angel questioned as she began to insinuate her body next to his.

Blair gulped as he tried to figure out just how the four women were all so deliciously and yet so indecently close to his body. It certainly made honest discussion next to impossible, especially since his brains seemed to be turning to mush.

"Well, uh –"

He decided trying to talk with Vicious Tongue's tongue halfway down his throat was counter-productive. Instead he turned his attention to keep from swallowing the appendage and not make a total fool of himself doing so.


Jim rode to the nightclub, taking the long route down Harris Street on the way to 'Ghoul Station'. He told himself it was to give Blair time to get acquainted with some of Sam's friends. He knew better, in his heart of hearts. He'd only have this beauty a short time, and he'd really have even less to enjoy it, so he was going to make the most of it while he had it.

But even he could only prolong the ride to 'Ghoul Station' so long; all too soon he was parking the machine in front of the club.

Jim sauntered up to door and moved to push it open, when another man, about Blair's height and build, bumped into him. Jim scowled down at the man, his sensitive nose catching the heavy odor of alcohol and the lighter fragrance of drugs. The stranger was dressed much the way that Blair had been attired, his hair loose, as Blair's was, with four dark-haired beauties, dressed as Twisted Illusions had been, draped over him.

"Ooh! Look!" cooed one of the women. "A metal Goth."

"I want a piece of that one," another licked her lips.

"I don't think he's really one of us," the man said. For all the alcohol Jim had smelled, the man's speech was remarkably clear. "Are you?"

"Don't know what you're talking about," Jim grunted. "I'm just going in for a drink with some buddies."

"You have friends in the Ghoul Station?"

"Ghoul –?" Jim let his voice rise with his eyebrow. He looked at the name engraved on the doors. "What the –?" He stepped back and looked at the other bars. "What the hell happened here? Urban renewal or something?"

"Or something," another female answered. "Perhaps we can share a drink and talk about it."

"Then party," the fourth added as Jim opened the door and walked in.

A pale man stepped in front of Jim. "Hey, pal, you look lost."

"I'm not lost." Jim kept his eyes on the black-clad man as he deftly stepped around him.

"Let me rephrase that," the bouncer growled as he moved back in front of Jim, trying to block his progress. "You're lost. Let me help you find where you need to go."

"And I said," Jim glowered angrily, carefully pushing the man out of his way, "I'm not lost. This place may have a different name, but this is where I come to get a drink when I'm in town."

"Been out of town awhile, haven't you?" the bartender said.

"A few years," Jim admitted grudgingly with a shrug.

"Let him pass, Fairie Corpse. 'Cause if you don't, I have a feeling you're more 'n likely to become one. And we've had enough around here as it is."

"Thanks," Jim nodded at the bartender. "Beer."

"Don't thank me," the bartender pulled a bottle of beer from the refrigerator behind the bar. "Just doing my job and trying to keep the cops out of here. Once you've had your drink, you make tracks. Head toward the docks. You'll find your kind there."

"What happened here?" Jim asked, leaning against the bar, displacing a few Goths as he did so. Of course a few others started to settle around him, only to receive a harsh glare, sending them on their way.

The bartender shrugged as he continued to fill orders. "Owner got stupid and careless and lost the place in drug bust."

"My usual, Scooter," the male Goth who had been at the door with harem ordered, shoving his way to the bar, bumping into Jim.

"Watch it, Shorty," Jim grunted.

"You watch it," the smaller man said with a threatening tone.

Jim looked down at him. "Oooh! Don't hurt me! I'm sooo scared."

Then he gave the Goth his most sinister grin as he picked up his drink, deliberately bumping into the man as he made his way to a booth along the wall not far from where Blair was being smothered by the black-garbed vixens. He pretended to take a sip of the ice-cold brew, fearful that a real swallow would make him choke. It was next to impossible to swallow while one was laughing. He'd never thought he would see Blair helpless in the arms of women.

The jukebox started up a round of noise that made Jim grimace. Quickly turning his hearing down, he glared at the three males that looked ready to dump more coins in the machine. They glared back, but a woman's whispered word in one's ear stopped any more selections for the moment.

Jim adjusted his hearing so he could hear the discussions around him, including Blair's struggles to hold a conversation while avoiding several women's tongues in his mouth.

"Uh, mph, ladies," Blair tried to speak, "pl-mmph. Ladies, please!" Deep sigh, then, "Discussion first, if you please. Then, we'll see about this ménage."

"Promise, Beautiful?" a woman asked.

"Of course it's a promise," Twisted Illusions' voice purred. "And Beautiful has never broken a promise, have you?"

"Uh," Blair answered nervously, "no. Not intentionally, at any rate."

Jim took another sip of the beer and tried to decide when, or even if, he would extricate the observer from the willing, wanton women. Heaven knew he hadn't had a decent date since Sky's death.

Deciding Blair had his group under control, even if only barely, Jim turned his hearing carefully to listen to others.

The first group he concentrated on turned out to be even steamier than Blair with his bevy. Suppressing the blush that was trying to rise on his face, Jim quickly turned his attention to three males who looked like they were having an intense discussion. A few seconds of listening proved they were indeed having an intense discussion, about their tryst later that evening.

Sighing softly Jim continued to sample conversations, leaving when he was sure the topic wasn't the Goth Slayer.


"Okay, ladies," Blair tried to get comfortable under the perfumed females, "now, I've been hearing about this Goth killer in the news lately and ..."

"That's only because Twist here has been kicking the cops in the balls till they finally squealed uncle and admitted there was a real threat to our community," Vicious Tongue stated. "Up till then they acted like the murders were stupid hit and run accidents."

"Well, what do you know about the killer?"

"That's the trouble, my Beauty." Liquid Dreams maneuvered her body so that she was curled around him. "We know so little, even less than the cops, and they know nothing."

"So how do you protect yourselves?" Blair let his arm encircle her shoulders comfortingly.

"We stick together," Disturbed Angel told him. "As much as we can, at any rate."

"And we try and keep an eye out for strangers," Twist added.

"Yeah, like that biker," Vicious Tongue pointed out. "But Scooter doesn't seemed concerned about him."

"Scooter has a sixth sense," Disturbed Angel noted. "He can tell if someone is trouble or not."

Vicious Tongue licked her upper lip suggestively. "I think he'd be delicious, trouble or not."

Liquid Dreams playfully pushed at her. "You think that about all men."

"But of course," she pushed back. "The more trouble they are, the more delicious they seem to be."

"What the hell is going on here?" The roar startled everyone at the table.

"Prince Panic, dear." Twisted Illusions looked up, seeming a little put out. "You said you couldn't make it tonight."

"So that gives you the right to run around like a slut?"

Twisted Illusions flew out of the booth, and her hand connected solidly with his face. "You dare call me a slut?" She swung her other hand and marked the other side of his face. "You're the one who tomcats around with anything in a skirt, and a few who aren't! You're the one slutting around!"

"Whoa, now." Blair untangled himself from the ladies and stumbled over to where the two were starting to look like combatants. "Come on, both of you. This can be easily explained."

"Sure it can," Prince Panic snorted, letting his gaze travel up and down Blair's body derisively. "And I suppose you're going to explain it to me, right?"

"There's nothing to explain," Twist stated coldly.

"The hell there isn't."

"Look, just let me a few words in here –"

"You stay out of this, you little perv you!"

"Don't you dare call my friend a perv, you sorry excuse for a man!"

"Now, S- I mean, Twist." Blair put a placating hand on the tall woman's arm, only to have it forcefully removed. "Twist, you only brought me because I asked you to introduce me. See," he turned toward the glowering man, "Twisted Illusions and I work in the same building – different departments – and I was hearing through the grapevine how interesting this lifestyle was and, well, I needed a change from my lifestyle so I asked her to introduce me to some friends to see if I would really enjoy it and –"

"Would you just shut the hell up already?" Prince Panic yelled at him. "This is between Twisted Illusions and me."

"But you and she wouldn't be having this fight if I hadn't tagged along with her," Blair said firmly. "And if you were observing, you'd see that it was her friends more than she who were – ah – who were behaving friendly toward me."

"Don't bother explaining anything to this cretin," Twist said coldly. "I have a right to my friends, the same as he does. Right, my Prince? Isn't that what we agreed on, darling?"

"There a problem here?" The bar bouncer walked up behind the man labeled Prince.

"No, Corpsie." Twisted Illusions smiled cruelly at the Goth she'd been verbally sparring with. "Princey and I were just doing our usual mating ritual. And as usual, he's losing, which means he'll be bottoming again, and that has him in a rather snitty mood. Right, Prince, darling?"

Prince glared at Twisted Illusions, then at Blair; if looks could kill, Blair knew, he'd be charred to a cinder. Then he turned on his heel and stomped away, muttering under his breath.

The bouncer turned to Twisted Illusions. "You know, Twist, you gotta quit yanking his chain so much."

"I yank his, he yanks mine," she shrugged as she moved back to the booth. "It's just a phase we're going through." Twist looked at Blair. "Prince is sort of my steady. Well, as steady as one is around here."

"I didn't mean to cause trouble," Blair apologized.

"You didn't," Twist smiled at him, running her finger along his jaw suggestively. "We fight at the drop of a hat anymore. Don't worry, dear. Some good hot make-up sex will have him in a better mood in no time."

"Oh, well, uh," Blair stammered. He cleared his throat. "Now, ladies, about this Goth Killer –"

"Oh bother with the Slayer." Liquid Dreams moved her mouth over his and started to kiss him passionately.

"There's more interesting things to discuss than that party pooper," added Vicious Tongue, making use of hers on his neck, nipping it occasionally.

"And more interesting things to do than talk," concluded Disturbed Angel working on the other side of his neck.

"But – mnph!"

For the second time that night, Blair found that trying to speak with a tongue making its way down his throat not the wisest thing to do, and settled for trying to breathe with tongues licking the back of his tonsils and the rest of his throat.


Jim finished the last of his now-warm beer and looked around the club. So far he'd heard about six dozen trysts and other sexual liaisons occurring, and probably about half a dozen drug deals, mostly small and personal in nature.

He heard the bartender and the bouncer discussing business. Though he couldn't tell it from the crowd here tonight, apparently the count was down, and had been steadily dropping since the winter before. The bartender was wondering if the Goth phase was waning; the bouncer blamed the Slayer. Both were discussing ideas to see if there was a way to get the house count back up.

That was the only thing that he really heard about the Slayer. It was as the cadre of women had told Blair before they'd managed to shut him up with their kisses: there were more interesting things to talk about than the Slayer, and more interesting things to do than talk about the Slayer.

"Hey Jim," he heard his partner get out as he was passed to another woman for more kissing, and if he was any judge of what he was hearing, fondling. The poor guy sounded almost desperate. "You might as well go home. This is a bust. Oof! – No, Dreamy, I sometimes talk to myself – I'll be leaving as soon as I can. Which might not be as easy as it sounds."

Jim grinned. He was still debating whether to help remove his partner from the ménage a quatre or not. A younger Blair would probably have enjoyed the situation, but the more mature Blair seemed to be uncomfortable with it. Or maybe just not able to keep up with it.

Slowly he stood up and walked toward the door. He'd take the equally long way home before he strapped the motorcycle to the bed of his truck and returned it to the sales lot.


Blair had managed to keep the three tongues out of his mouth for the past few minutes. He wasn't sure how much longer he could keep them out. The more carnal portion of his brain was wondering why he'd want to keep them out. The higher portion of his brain just wanted to call it a night and crawl into his bed.

Blair had finally gotten a reprieve from the three vampish women. They were now talking with the observer instead of tonguing him. Blair was sure they were just getting their second wind, then would start in again. He wasn't sure he could survive a second assault.

There was a noise at the bar; the group turned and saw a new group that was buying a round for someone and, miraculously, the three friends melted away leaving Blair alone with Twisted Illusions.

Blair took a swig of his drink. "Talk about in the nick of time."

"You sound relieved," Twist chuckled.

"Yeah, well, they were a little overwhelming," he noted. "You could have warned me."

She smiled wickedly at the observer. "Now why would I do that?"

"Professional courtesy, maybe," Blair suggested.

Twist laughed, then leaned against him. "Sorry, Beautiful," she managed to get out. "But once I put on these clothes, I'm not Sam Lenz; I thought I told you that. She'd have told you about them; not Twisted Illusions."

"I'll remember that for future reference," Blair snorted.

"Now that we're alone…" She started to nuzzle his neck. "It's my turn. And then we can continue this at my apartment."

"Well, uh, what about your sort of steady? Prince Panic?"

"What about him?" Twisted Illusions asked, a dangerous glint in her eye.

"Well, um – I mean – well, you and he –"

Twist continued to nuzzle his neck. "It's not all that serious, Beautiful. And I'll see him sooner or later. We'll get together, have mad, passionate sex, be happy, and then go on with our lives. It's our way."

"Well, why not make it sooner, instead of later," he suggested.

"And what's that supposed to mean?" Twist pulled back and blinked at him.

Blair pointed toward a booth across the room. "Well, he's over there, and he seems to be alone."

"But –"

"Sam – Twisted Illusions," Blair stood up and held out his hand to help her up. "Take my advice. Make up. Even if it's just a fling for the two of you, you don't want to have a bad experience as the last thing you remember about him."

"Oh please." Twisted Illusions rolled her eyes dramatically.

"Please." Blair grabbed her shoulders. "Please. For me."

"And I suppose you'll make your escape while we're making up," she smiled.

"You know what they say – three's a crowd," Blair shrugged with a grin.

Twisted Illusions smiled coquettishly "Not for us; three is a perfectly good number, much better than two."

"I'm not Goth," Blair pointed out.

"Not yet."

She gave him a deep kiss that left him gasping for breath then, laughing, walked away into the crowd.


Twisted Illusions slithered through the crowd, her heart beating faster. In spite of what she had told Beautifully Chaotic, she truly loved this man, more than she had ever loved any of her former lovers, even Chaotic. She felt giddy. She knew she shouldn't; it wasn't the Goth way. Still –

She stopped and stared at the scene in front of her. Felt the sting of tears in her eyes. The man, Prince Panic was settled in the booth, four women draped over him, fondling and kissing him, playing with his hair, and he was responding very enthusiastically.

Anger made her straighten and brush the few tears from her eyes. Anger gave her the ability to march toward the table like an avenging demon, pick up the bottle of liquor that was on the table and pour it over the five human figures, then throw the bottle at the man.

Twisted Illusions turned, found other bottles on other tables, and proceeded to throw them at the group of Goths in the booth.

The women squealed in outrage and surprise. Prince Panic looked up, saw Twisted Illusion's irate visage, grabbed the bottle that she had thrown at him and threw it back at her before trying to crawl under the table, under cover.

The crowd around the two quickly moved out of the immediate area, trying to keep from getting caught up in the melee.

"You dare call me a slut when you have your four whores here, waiting to take care of your wounded pride?" Twisted Illusions pulled him from the booth by his lacy shirtfront.

"Bitch!"

"Bitch I may be, but I'm not yours," she sneered. "I'll never be your bitch! You pathetic excuse for a man! I don't know what they see in you; I don't know what I saw it you."

"You sang a different tune last night when I –"

Twisted Illusions grabbed another bottle and slammed it into the side of his head, then let go of his shirt, watching him drop like a stone into the booth.

"Shut up, bastard," she hissed as she was pulled away from the man by Chaotic. "You think you really had me senseless with your so-called masculine sexual skills? I was faking it, Prince darling." Her voice was dripping with sarcasm. "You are a poor excuse for a lover. What ever made me think I even wanted to be in your bed?" She pulled away from Blair then looked at the four women who'd been draped all over the man. "You all think he's so irresistible? Well, you can have him. I never want to see him again."

Twisted Illusions twirled on her heel and stalked back to the booth, throwing herself into it and calling for a bottle of liquor. She heard the sound of footsteps behind her, of a voice trying to calm her anger.

She wasn't sure if she wanted to hear that voice or not.

"Damn it, Twist!" Blair shook his head. "That was not what I had in mind."

"Well it wasn't on my agenda either," she snorted. "Damned bastard. Makes me feel like a stupid normal woman – I should have known better."

A bottle appeared on the table. Twisted Illusions picked it up and drained nearly half without a blink. Blair sighed sadly.

"He claimed he loved me, the son of a bitch." Her tone was bitter as well as angry. "Said this place was a shrine to our physical and spiritual love." More liquor made its way down her throat before Blair could stop her. "He swore he'd never tomcat around in here; the other clubs were open hunting ground for the both of us, to calm the physical itch, but this place was special, just for us."

A commotion at the entrance drew their attention to the doorway. The four women surrounding Prince Panic had increased to eight; Blair thought he recognized three who'd tried to ravage his body all evening in the group. From the guttural noises leaving Sam's lips, it was pretty obvious she recognized them as well.

"Sluts, the lot of them," she grumbled. "So much for sticking together. Those bitches! First, they compete with me to get into his bed, then they stand by me when he dumps them for another lover, and now they're back to competing with me for his sexual favors. Well they can have him. He's not that hot of a lover. Hell," she looked at Blair before she downed another portion of liquor, "you're a better lover than he could ever think of being. You have more…"

"I'll take your word for it," Blair interrupted her. In a different setting he would have gladly let her list his attributes, her opinion of them, including how womanly, how cherished, how loved he made her feel.

"They said they'd stick by me, Beauty." Sam turned sorrowful eyes toward him, seemingly unaware that he'd interrupted her. "But look at them. Chasing after him as if he were the only man who could find a woman's G spot."

"Well…"

"Bitches!" Sam spat out. "Rotten ugly whores! I ought to give them a piece of my mind…"

With surprising speed, she rose to her full height, barely weaving in spite of the liquor that she'd just consumed. She strode purposefully toward the door, her face glowering, looking darker with each passing moment.

"Sam - Twist! Wait!" Blair shot after her, catching her at the door.

"Why?" She turned a challenging face toward him.

"Well," Blair licked his lips, "you're my ride, remember?"

"Can it, Blair." Her tone was ice cold. And, he noted, she hadn't called him by his Goth name. "Those bitches turned on me. So did Prince. I don't intend to roll over and take it like some old hag."

"You won't be." Blair tried to reason with her. "Right now he's drunk, they're drunk, you're…"

"I'm what?" Sam's expression matched her icy tones. "Drunk? Not hardly; not yet."

She started out the door; he placed a hand on her arm. She turned a vicious glare on him.

"Take your hand off my arm before I take it off at your shoulder!" Sam bit out viciously. "That sorry excuse for a man dissed me; he's not getting away with it. And those so-called friends of mine crossed the line. No one treats me that way. No one!"

Jerking her arm out of his grasp, she stormed out of the bar, barreling toward one of the other bars.

"Twist!" Blair shouted. "Damn it! Sam!"

"Go back, Beauty!" She didn't even bother to look over her shoulder. "You don't want to be a party to this. Call Nightmare, or call a cab. Just go home, Beauty!"

"Sam! Twist! Would you just listen to me for a minute?" Blair blasted. "He's not worth it!"

Sam stopped as she stepped into the street next to a sports car. Her head dropped and shook side to side slowly. She turned and leaned her hips on the car's fender and looked at him.

"He didn't diss you," Blair went on, hoping he finally was finally getting through to his former lover. "He only showed the entire Goth community what an absolute ass and utter fool he is to even try to replace you."

"That's over the top, even for you," she said with a harsh laugh.

"No, it's not." Blair shook his head as he joined her by the car. "Even if I never convinced you I mixed up the dates that day, I never stepped out on you. I could never do that to you!"

Sam bowed her head, then lifted it and looked at Blair. Her eyes were suspiciously bright.

"You and I probably aren't soulmates, and probably never will be," Blair continued, "and I'll always be sorry about that, but we'll always be friends. Friends who stand by each other."

Sam let him place his hand on her neck, a silly grin on her face. "You pick the damnedest times to get all mushy, you know it?"

Blair felt himself relaxing. He was finally getting through to her.

Sam smiled at him, and this time it was the relaxed, friendly smile he remembered from when he first met her. "How about we continue this conversation at my place, hmm?"

"Okay," Blair nodded. "As long as that's all we do."

"You are such a party-pooper," Sam laughed.

"What can I say?" Blair shrugged.

"That you'll change your mind?" Sam's smile curved impishly.

"Maybe next time," Blair said. "I wouldn't want darling Prince to come to your apartment and find you in flagrante delicto."

Sam dismissed the man airily. "He's either at his place with his wenches having the orgy of a lifetime, or passed out from all the booze he's had. I just don't want to be alone tonight."

"I can't promise anything," Blair said soberly.

"You can promise me I won't be alone," Sam replied. "I'm not asking for anything more."

"Okay. I'll get our wraps while you get the car, okay?"

"Okay." Sam planted a kiss on his forehead.

"And be careful," Blair added.

"I'm the epitome of caution," she stated as she started down the street, her gait sexy and carefree.

Blair shook his head as he walked back toward the bar. Jim had never this side of the hot-blooded vixen, only the vengeful woman. Perhaps if he'd seen this side of her, he'd know why Blair had been attracted to her.

The squeal of tires shattered his reverie and the lurching lights drew his attention to the street where Sam was continuing toward her car, seemingly oblivious to the metallic menace.

"Sam!" Blair's panicked voice stopped the woman in the center of the street. His eyes widened in terror. "Run, Sam! Get the hell out of the street!"

Sam frowned for a brief instant, then the terror that Blair had felt was mirrored on her streaked face. She started to race for the bar where Blair was standing. She tripped, stumbled and got up, trying to increase her pace to get to Blair.

Blair felt an icy cold lump in his chest as he watched the scene in front of him. His legs felt leaden, unwilling to follow his commands.

The mechanical monster connected with the black-clad figure. He could hear the crunch of bones as they shattered from the impact against metal. The sickening squishing sound of flesh and organs dulled the crunching noise as the body was lifted from the pavement.

"SAM!"

The limp figure arced into the air and sailed gracelessly across the street, dropping down, down, down until it landed on the asphalt below with an appalling thud, her arms and legs askew like a discarded rag doll.

Once her body touched the earth, the spell that had held him in place was lifted and Blair raced to the broken body.

"Sam?"

Blair dropped beside her, his breath rapid and ragged. His fingers reached for her neck, barely noting the unnatural angle that the head was at.

"Oh god, no pulse, no pulse," he rasped. "Somebody! Call 911!" he shouted.

His body ran on automatic, positioning the head to open the airway while still remembering not to move the spine too much. Lips touched lips, forcing air through them to the lungs, then hands found their way to her chest, pressing down, demanding the organ beneath it to react.

"C'mon, Sam," he commanded through clenched teeth, "respond, damn it. C'mon!"

Time lost all meaning as he continued the rhythmic action on her chest, then moved to her lips, attempting to get her to return the action.

Hands pulled him from the still form. He tried to fight them, but found himself too weak to do much of anything.

"I'm sorry, Blair," one of the bodies attached to the hands whispered. "She's gone."

"No." Blair shook his head. "No, she can't…"

"I'm sorry," the voice repeated.

"SAAAAAM!"


Continue on to Act 3

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