Lines of Communication
Disclaimer: The following story is based on the world of "Kindred: The
Embraced" created and owned by Spelling Entertainment and White Wolf and
their corporate parts. The story is mine, but I'm borrowing their
characters for our own private amusement.
Jeffrey appears courtesy of Kelly Schweighauser. I'd also like to thank
Kelly and Amy, who were my Beta readers for the story.
"Lines of Communication"
a "Kindred: The Embraced" story by Julie Beamer
The party at the Luna compound was in full swing. While parties
weren't a rare occasion at the mansion, this kind was. This
evening Julian had organized a social get-together for the top
people in his companies and for the human political elite. It was
the kind of event his security guards especially hated. The guest
list was predominately human, so on top of regular security
concerns, there was the ever present risk to the Masquerade. Added
to this was the memory of the recent assassination of Archon, the
former Prince and Sire of Julian. There were many dangers, and
they were aware of them all.
The guards may have loathed these kinds of affairs, but the
beautiful Toreador Primogen, Lillie Langtry, was in her element.
She was enjoying it all the more since, on top of having arranged
it and being the hostess, Caitlin Byrne, Julian's latest love, had
not attended. Caitlin had been loathed to make her relationship
with Julian so public. As merely the City Editor of his newspaper,
she would not have received an invitation. Therefore, she would
have only been present as his date and she declined the invitation.
Thus Lillie was enjoying the night immensely.
And, she admitted to herself, she enjoyed being seen as Julian's
hostess. The human world he moved through still had no idea that
she had been supplanted. And while the Kindred world was aware of
it, that she continued to live in the house meant that Julian still
trusted her and so there was no loss of status for her within the
Clan. The Toreador Clan tended to sniff at the Prince's human
lover as a passing fancy and their Primogen did not disabuse them
of that notion.
Lillie watched Julian circulate among his guests. He never held a
purely social function -- there was *always* a reason. Among the
guests were those he needed to do business with. Either put them
back on track with a little Domination or to cover some sensitive
issues with the facade of a party. She would never find out who or
why, but it was fun to speculate.
She continued sipping the champagne, moving through the crowd while
at the same time watching all. Off in a corner was Alec Tremaine,
CEO of Ventrue owned bank and also the new Ventrue Primogen. He
was accompanied this evening by his lovely wife, Marta. She looked
stunning in the blue and white beaded evening dress. Lillie
recognized it from one of their shopping trips. Marta also
appeared to Lillie to be much more at ease. Probably because so
few Kindred were present -- the Kindred looked down on the pretty
Garou Kinfolk and shook their heads that Julian had allowed and
supported the marriage. And Marta knew their feelings well.
Unlike most Kindred, Lillie had taken the trouble to get to know
Marta Tremaine and liked her. It hadn't been out of the goodness
of her heart -- she had points to score off a hated rival. And she
had. The Ventrue women of Julian's household had turned up their
noses at Marta and Julian had been grateful that Lillie had taken
the shy young woman under her wing and gently eased her into the
Kindred social world.
It hadn't been easy. Marta had been completely overwhelmed by
Alec's money and position in the human world, let alone the
Kindred. And her family hadn't helped matters. There had been an
unpleasant scene at Marta's first Kindred party at the mansion with
Marta's Garou brother, Ricardo Alvarez.
But Marta was a quick study and picked up that if the Kindred could
find fault with her, it would reflect badly on her husband. She
had gratefully accepted Lillie's advice and now, while not exactly
welcome, Marta was at least tolerated by most of the Kindred.
Lillie continued to circulate on the patio, keeping an eye on the
caterers and making sure the guards were unobtrusive.
* * *
Julian stood holding court with a small group, calmly discussing
the state of world shipping. The evening, so far as he was
concerned, was a complete success. Mergers, takeovers, and
acquisitions had all been started, stopped, or put back on track,
depending on his wishes. He would be exhausted tomorrow, but it
was worth it to achieve the stability the Ventrue financial world
so desperately needed. He nodded his head in agreement with his
guests, all the while planning to go hunting in the hour before
dawn. Perhaps he would see Caitlin afterward.
He noticed his brood brother Jeffrey, who served as major-domo for
the household, bearing down on him purposely.
"Excuse me, gentlemen," Jeffrey said when he reached the group.
"Mr. Luna, could I please have a word?"
Julian stepped away with an apology to his guests, somewhat
puzzled. Jeffrey never bothered him with the mundane details of
the household. It had to be more than broken china.
"Whatever it is, it can be replaced, Jeffrey," Julian began.
"No, it can't," Jeffrey interrupted. "It's one of the guests..."
* * *
Jeffrey led the way to a small terrace near the house. On one of
the wrought iron patio chairs, sat a middle-aged man leaning
against a stone pillar. Julian recognized him as James MacMahon,
CEO of one of his real estate holding companies.
"Anthony discovered him," he told Julian.
Julian sighed and went to check the body. He really didn't need to
feel the pulse. He already knew.
James MacMahon was dead.
* * *
The call came in to the precinct, eventually making its way to Lt.
Kwan office. He surveyed the squad room intently, but he really
didn't have any choice.
"Sonny, Frank," he motioned with his head for them to come to his
office. The two partners looked at each other, but obeyed.
Once inside his office, Kwan outlined the situation. "There's been
a death at a private residence. Here's the address." He handed
Frank Kohanek the piece of paper.
Frank looked at it and did a double take. "You're kidding," was
all he could say.
"No, I'm not." Lt. Kwan regarded Frank firmly. "You and Sonny are
the best homicide detectives I've got. There's been a death and
the cause needs to be investigated. But I'm warning you, Frank" he
added in his soft voice. "I get one complaint from Luna about your
behavior and I will personally see you busted back to patrolman and
put on crossing guard duty. Is that clear?"
Frank was hard put not to smile. There had been a time when his
chief aim in life had been to see Julian Luna sent to prison and he
had made no secret of it. Believing him to be the leader of the
city's underworld, he had discovered, through the death of his
lover, Alexandra Serris, that Julian Luna was the leader of a
powerful group called Kindred, which most humans referred to as
vampires. Even after discovering this, he still wanted to bring
Luna down, to punish him for the death of Alexandra that he had
ordered. But recently, Frank's opinion was beginning to change.
Events had shown Frank that Julian Luna could be a powerful ally in
his fight against criminals, especially when Kindred were involved.
However, "Yes, sir," was all he said.
* * *
Outside the station, the two detectives got into their car and
headed for the big mansion on the hill. Now they could really
"I'm surprised Luna called us. I thought your kind handled this
type of thing yourselves." For now Frank knew the truth -- his
partner was not only Kindred, but a Childe of Julian Luna himself.
Sonny shrugged. "The victim must be human. Julian has to be sure
no Kindred is involved or he wouldn't have called."
Frank sighed. He could feel the stiffness emanating from his
partner. The easy camaraderie they had once shared was gone. Oh,
they had talked about Sonny being Kindred and his reasons for
hiding it from Frank, but there was still a hesitation with each
other. Frank didn't like it, but he had no idea how to turn back
The gates of the mansion loomed before them.
"One more thing, Frank," Sonny said suddenly.
"I, um, never told Julian. About seeing you in Manzanita. As far
as he knows, you still don't know I'm Kindred." Sonny seemed
Frank was confused. "Why didn't you?"
"I don't know," Sonny snapped. "I just -- I don't know, Julian was
so hard to reach... You have no idea how bad things were after
Archon died. I just didn't know how to tell him."
Frank nodded. "Okay," he said. "As far as Luna's concerned, I
Frank flashed his badge to the guards at the gate. They barely
looked at it. They knew who he was, and besides, this time he was
One of the silent dark-suited men who guarded the house met them in the drive and led the way to the terraces at the rear of the house.
Julian was deep in conversation with another of the guards when Frank and Sonny appeared.
"Hello, Frank," Julian said cordially. "I gather you're as surprised as I am."
"Stunned," Frank admitted. "Where's the body?"
"Over here." Julian led the way to the lower terrace. True to form, Julian no more than acknowledged Sonny's presence as Frank's partner.
They passed by the section where the other guests were grouped. They had to be the most composed and unruffled group of witnesses to a murder that Frank had ever scene.
"I felt it was better to keep everyone here," Julian replied to Frank's unasked question.
"Good idea," he said, and then added, "How'd you manage it?"
"I asked them," Julian responded smoothly.
"Oh," Frank replied.
* * *
Julian nodded his dismissal at the guard standing at the entrance of the terrace.
"Nothing's been touched since we found him," Julian stated.
James MacMahon was still sitting in the patio chair. Frank could see the trickle of blood down the man's formal shirt.
"Seems to have been a single wound; probably a stiletto or an ice pick. Very clean, very professional," Julian informed him.
"I won't even ask how you knew that," Frank responded dryly.
He quickly checked the body. "We'll have to call for forensics," Frank said. "And the whole area will have to be searched for a weapon. Guests too," he added glumly, not enjoying the thought of being the one to order strip searches of several hundred politicos and business leaders. But it couldn't be helped.
"No need for that," Sonny said. He had been scanning the immediate area with his flashlight and aimed a beam into the bushes behind the wall. "Here's the weapon."
Lying in the shrubbery just below the terrace lay a bloody ice pick.
* * *
The forensics staff arrived promptly. Since there was no need to
search the guests and they had all their names, Frank and Sonny
sent everyone home.
Frank sat at one of the small tables as the forensics experts
worked. At least this was something normal, Frank thought. Simple
police procedure. There's been a murder, human, and it was up to
him to find the killer, also human, or Julian Luna would never have
called the police in the first place. Frank was still surprised he
One thing he had to say for the Luna household. It was organized.
Jeffrey quickly presented him with a guest list, with neat check-
marks signifying those who had arrived and those who had left prior
to the discovery of the body.
That was the list Frank was scanning now. All the movers and
shakers in the city were invited and most had come.
Frank looked up to see Jeffrey standing close by, watching the
other police officers at work. "So this is the guest list. What
about the staff and people living in the house. Living being a
relative term, of course." Frank added.
Jeffrey refused to rise to the bait. "I can provide you with a
duty roster," he replied calmly. "We used "Bay Caterers" for the
party; they do most of Mr. Luna's events. Their staff were all
known to us, except for one or two and we kept an eye on them. As
for the house residents, there is Mr. Luna, Mrs. Langtry, Miss
Sasha, and myself. None of the other staff live-in permanently,
although occasionally it has been necessary on a temporary basis."
Frank wrote the names in his notebook. "What about Cash?"
"He doesn't reside in the house. The guest house over there," he
nodded to just beyond the patio, "that's where Cash stays."
Jeffrey felt no need to mention that Cash spent as many mornings in
Sasha's room as he did in the guest house.
Frank nodded. Just then Sonny came up. Jeffrey nodded to him
politely, giving no indication that he actually knew him quite
well. They were good, Frank had to give them that.
A couple joined them on the terrace. The man Frank had seen before
that evening. Tall and blond haired he exuded confidence and
power. Frank had no doubt he was Kindred. The petit brunette
beside him -- she was a puzzle. She didn't appear to be under the
same spell the rest of the guests were to keep her calm and
controlled. And she hadn't been much of either. She had seemed
badly shaken by the events.
The coroner's staff were finally wheeling the body off the
premises. Frank regarded the scene with a twinge of pity. A life
snuffed out before his time. The dark haired woman quickly turned
They weren't the only ones watching. Julian stood on one of the
small balconies at the rear of the house, overlooking the whole
scene. Frank wasn't surprised to see him there. He had the eery
feeling that *he* was being watched all night.
Frank saw Julian turn and leave the balcony. He closed his
notebook and with a murmured excuse, made his way to the front of
the house. In the hall was a surprise. Caitlin Byrne, former top
investigative reporter and now City Editor of the San Francisco
Times (owned by Julian), stood there arguing with Julian.
"Julian, when someone like James MacMahon is killed, it's news,"
she was saying. "When he's killed in the house of the wealthiest
man in the city, it's even bigger news. You can't squash this."
Julian was grateful for Frank's entrance. Sometimes Caitlin forgot
she was no longer a reporter. "Are you finished?" he asked the
"Preliminary work, yes. The next step is to go on and check out
the deceased, the guests, try to find out who wanted him dead and
why and see where the physical evidence leads." He grinned.
"Hopefully, it will be the same person and we have a case."
"It sounds very..." Julian searched for the right word. "Tedious."
"Most of it is," Frank acknowledged. "I'll have to come back
tomorrow to talk to your staff some more."
Julian nodded. "I'll make sure they're co-operative."
With a nod to Caitlin, Frank left.
Julian smiled at his love. "Since you're here, do you want to
Caitlin smiled. "You can't sidetrack me that easily. We have to
say something, Julian. The Times can't ignore this just because
the murder happened in your house.
"But," she added as she stepped into his arms. "I can downplay it.
Straight facts. Boring as hell, but hey. Will that satisfy you?"
Caitlin grinned. "The biggest crime story of the year and I miss
it. And I was even invited. There's a lesson there, somewhere."
"There certainly is," Julian smiled. "Don't turn down my
* * *
Caitlin had just disappeared to the second floor when Alec and
Marta entered the hall to leave. Julian frowned. He had seen
Marta's reaction from the balcony. It bothered him.
Julian pulled Alec aside as one of the guards helped Marta one with
her coat. "I think she knows something," he stated firmly. "I
need to know what."
Alec looked quickly back to his wife and nodded. Garou Kinfolk
were impervious to most Kindred mind control. But there were other
* * *
The Tremaines returned to their large penthouse apartment downtown.
It was the kind of urban setting the Garou (and their families)
generally hated. But this apartment had an attraction that made it
more than tolerable to Marta. The huge balcony overlooked the bay
and almost seemed a part of it and the sky. It gave her the sense
of freedom and nature she needed.
She had been silent on the way home. Once inside the apartment,
she had headed straight for the large walk-in shower. The bang of
the door made it clear there was no invitation to join her.
Alec slowly undressed, pondering how best to approach Marta on the
subject. They had agreed that their two worlds would only meet for
communication only; he would not be a source to the Garou about
Kindred affairs and neither would Marta be one for her people. Up
to now, that agreement had held. But murder had altered that
He wrapped himself in a warm robe and waited on the balcony.
Before long, Marta joined him there.
He held out his hand and she took it.
"It will be dawn in a few hours."
"Hmm," Alec replied. "I like this time of night. Calm. Although
I can't say this evening was particularly calm."
Her back was to him as she dragged a chair near him. "No, it
Alec took her hand again. He decided the best way to get the
information he needed was to be direct.
"You seemed very upset. Almost like you knew him."
Marta sighed. She had never liked lying and certainly not to Alec.
There would be repercussions, but the Kindred were likely to find
out the truth soon enough.
"I recognized him," she admitted. "I've seen him at my brother's
"Ricky's?" Alec was puzzled. "Why would the V.P. of a land
holding company go to the office of a landscaper? Someone else
would be in charge of that."
Marta looked her husband straight in the eye.
"He's one of us."
* * *
Once armed with the knowledge that the Garou had infiltrated one of
his companies, Julian lost no time in paying a visit to Marta's
brother, Ricardo Alvarez.
He had to go to the site of a new building being constructed.
Alvarez's firm was in charge of the landscaping. Julian had always
thought it was odd that a Garou would be involved in any way with
city construction, but if he had ever bothered to ask Alvarez, the
answer would have been logical. Alvarez had gone into landscaping
to help repair the damage cities caused and to provide some link
for the community back to Gaia, Mother Earth. Many Garou would
have agreed with Julian's assessment, but to the Garou and Kinfolk
who worked for Alvarez, it made perfect sense.
* * *
Ricardo Alvarez stood on a small constructed hilltop checking the
placement of trees when Julian arrived. He stared down at the
Mercedes and his lips twitched when he saw Julian being guided by
one of his men through the mud and vegetation. Julian's fine shoes
would be ruined. That pleased Alvarez immensely.
"I'm surprised to see you here, Luna," he drawled. Alvarez looked
up at the sun. "A bit early for you, isn't it?"
Julian refused the gambit and got straight to the point. "I
suppose Marta's told you about MacMahon?"
A shadow passed over Alvarez's face. "Yes, she did," he admitted.
"I won't even get into what a Garou Kinfolk was doing as a CEO of
one of *my* companies," Julian stated firmly. "That can wait.
What I want to know is why he died."
"Garou business," Alvarez stated flatly. "And not at my order.
The situation will be seen to. It's not your concern, Kindred."
"To the contrary," Julian replied. "He was killed in my house.
That makes it my concern. Take care, Alvarez. Human law
enforcement is involved as well."
"But you can take care of that," he responded smoothly.
"I *can*," said Julian knowingly. "But I have to have a reason to.
Good day, Alvarez."
* * *
Pensive, Julian returned to his car. Anthony opened the door and
waited for his Sire's instructions. But Julian sat in the rear of
the car, silent.
"Shall we return home, Sire?" Anthony asked tentatively.
"No," Julian replied suddenly. "Take me to Mrs. Tremaine's shop
downtown. I'd need to talk to her."
* * *
The trip into the city didn't take long. Marta Tremaine's flower
shop was located only a few blocks from the apartment building
where she and Alec lived.
Marta looked up with an automatic smile at the tinkling of the bell
on the door. It became more real when she saw it was Julian.
"Julian! What a wonderful surprise. What brings you here?"
"Answers," Julian replied gently. "Is there somewhere we can
Marta's smile slipped a bit, but she escorted Julian to the rear of
her shop after sending her assistant to the front.
"What do you need to know?" Marta asked. She worked on a flower
arrangement as she talked. It helped hide her shaking hands.
"Who's idea was it to put one of your people in my company?"
Marta turned with an appreciative grin on her face. Julian could
tell by her relieved expression that what he asked wasn't the
question she was expecting.
"One of your head-hunters hired him. It was ages before he
realized he was really working for you."
Julian looked dubious.
"It's perfectly true," Marta insisted. "Let me put it this way --
do you know the names of all your companies and their subsidiaries
off the top of your head?"
Julian found himself grinning at that. It had taken months to sort
out all of Archon's holdings when he had stepped down and made
Julian Prince. And while Julian had a surprisingly good grasp of
all his business ventures without resorting to paper records, it
was quite true that the Ventrue Clan's web of businesses and
partnerships was tangled indeed.
"All right," he acknowledged gracefully. "I'll give you that. But
why was he killed?"
Marta turned back to her flowers with hands that shook again.
Julian gently covered them with one of his own.
"Marta, please," he insisted. "You must know why. The human
police are already involved. If this blows up and spills over into
their world, your people aren't set up to cover it. We could all
wind up in danger. I must know what is going on."
"There's another Tribe in the city," she admitted. "They don't
like how Ricky operates here." A stricken face turned to Julian.
"There may be war."
* * *
While Julian was busy sorting out the events of the city, Frank was
continuing the investigation and had returned to the house to talk
to the staff.
True to his word, Jeffrey had made everyone available and everyone
had answered Frank's questions with at least a show of polite
cooperation. In the end, Frank returned to Jeffrey's small office
on the ground floor of the house.
Jeffrey looked up at Frank's approach. "Everyone was cooperative,
I hope?" he asked.
Frank was tempted to ask what would have happened had someone been
*un* cooperative, but he decided against it. He had once remarked
to Lillie that the Kindred seemed ready to kill each other over the
equivalent of a parking ticket. He didn't want to put that comment
to the test.
"Fine," Frank replied. "No real leads, but that can't be helped."
Jeffrey nodded with comprehension.
Frank pulled out his notebook again. "I'd like to go over a few
more things with you, though."
Jeffrey nodded. "Certainly."
"If Julian had wanted this guy killed, he certainly wouldn't have
done it publicly, or at his house and *then* called the police, so
this wasn't at his orders. Would anyone on staff have done it one
*someone else's* order?"
Jeffrey stiffened slightly at the suggestion. "No," he responded
firmly. "None of the guards. All the guards on duty that night
were Ventrue, and either Julian's Childer or his siblings. No. It
wasn't one of the guards."
Frank nodded, making a mental note to check out the terminology
that Jeffrey had unconsciously used, although he had a fair idea of
"None of the guests are checking out, either," Frank admitted.
"There's no motive that I can see. Tell me about the caterers.
Does Julian own the company?"
Jeffrey grinned slightly. "Surprisingly enough, there are some
businesses in the city Mr. Luna does *not* own," he responded
drily. "We've been using "Bay Caterers" for years. They're a
human owned concern, but Mr. Luna likes them and they're very
organized and discrete. They check out all their staff before
sending them here."
Frank flipped another page in his notes. "But you said there were
a few people who hadn't been here before."
Jeffrey nodded. "Yes, but we kept an eye on them. They never
entered the house."
"Yes," Frank said as he rose to leave. "But MacMahon wasn't killed
in the house, was he."
* * *
Frank's next stop was the offices of "Bay Caterers". Judging by
the bustle he witnessed as he was lead past the kitchen to the
business offices, it was a thriving concern.
Once Frank stated why he was there, he got a lot of cooperation
from the staff. They were obviously concerned about losing Julian
Luna as a client.
"There where only two new staff members on duty that night," the
manager told him after looking over her files. "Both came with
references that checked out. We don't hire just anyone. We
wouldn't have sent anyone that new to Mr. Luna's normally, but
several of our people came down with a stomach virus. We had no
"Some of your people had left before the body was found. Is it
normal to leave an event early?"
"At lengthy events like the one Mr. Luna held, we generally send
out two shifts. One for set up and to get everything running
smoothly, another to help once the guests begin to arrive and
waiters are needed to serve. That crew will stay and clean up."
"Luna's security says one of your people left a little after the
first group. A Walter Morgan," Frank added after consulting his
"Yes, he's been with us for a while. Although I'm surprised he
left *after* the first group. He should have left with them."
A gut feeling Frank had learned not to ignore made him open his
notebook. "Do you have an address? I'd like to talk to him."
* * *
Julian left Marta's flower shop disturbed. The Garou weren't
normally city dwellers. A new Tribe moving in could spell disaster
for all the inhabitants of San Francisco. MacMahon's death had
been a message -- to him. Julian knew he had no choice. Like it
or not, he was allied to Alvarez. But he had to be careful. If
Alvarez lost control of his own group because of a perceived
closeness to the Kindred, it would be just as bad as the new Garou
Tribe taking over.
He had himself driven over to the newspaper. Caitlin had promised
to be discrete, but she hadn't promised not to investigate. She
would have solid information by now.
Caitlin looked up with a smile when Julian entered her office.
Their relationship had deepened after she had discovered Julian's
true identity and position in the city. It was a dangerous
relationship for them both, especially since her knowledge was
hidden from the Kindred world.
"Thank you for keeping your promise about being discrete," Julian
Caitlin gave a wry grin. ""Just the facts, ma'am"," she quoted.
"But still, you investigated."
"But still, I investigated," Caitlin repeated as she handed him a
file. "He seemed like a perfectly normal CEO of a big
conglomerate. Until last year."
Julian continued to scan the folder. "What happened last year?"
"He seems to have gotten involved with an ecologically militant
group. They went past sit-ins and demonstrations a long time ago.
Now it's acts of sabotage and even kidnapping."
Julian came to the relevant pages in the folder. "And he supported
this group secretly and was even seen with the leader," Caitlin
He stared at the photograph. It was no Garou that he recognized.
Perhaps this was the leader Alvarez was fighting.
"But if he were supporting them, why would they kill him?" Julian
"I don't know," Caitlin admitted. "Maybe he was going to withdraw
"Or double-cross them," Julian stated decisively.
Caitlin looked troubled. "Julian, what's going on? Who are these
people? Are you in any danger?"
Julian had learned long ago that keeping this woman completely in
the dark only made her dig harder. And digging would endanger them
"It's a group that has traditionally been opposed to my kind,"
Julian replied. *That's an understatement*, he thought to himself.
"But I've found myself with, not an alliance, but a line of
communication with the leader of one local faction. It seems as
though MacMahon either honestly supported the other faction and
then changed his loyalties or was a double agent. Either way, they
killed him for it. And by killing him at my house, they sent a
"Keep out, or you'll get the same?" Caitlin guessed.
"They're not strong enough in the city for open warfare with my
kind," said Julian. "No, they wanted to let me know that got into
my house undetected."
He rose to leave. "And they can do it again."
* * *
Just as Julian was putting together the reasons for the murder,
Frank was heading towards the home of his best suspect, Walter
Morgan. He didn't have a motive right now, but Frank could feel he
was on the right track.
He drove to a small apartment complex in a run-down section of town
and knocked on the door of the apartment noted on the address. He
waited for a moment, listening. Then he heard it. The squeak of
a window opening.
Frank raced around to the fire escape and confronted a young man
who had just dropped to the ground.
"Freeze! This is the police. Don't make any sudden moves."
The young man slowly straightened up. Then he started to smile.
Frank couldn't understand why.
Then everything went black.
* * *
Frank came to in what looked like a warehouse. The lights were
low, but he could make out the figures of about half a dozen
"Think you're strong enough for us, cop," one sneered and aimed a
skillful kick at Frank's ribs.
Frank doubled up in pain and groaned as he was kicked again. He
didn't know who he was dealing with, but judging by their comments
while they were roughing him up, they weren't fans of Julian Luna,
Kindred in general, or anyone that associated with them.
Through the haze of pain and fear Frank heard a new voice.
"Let him go!"
Frank didn't know who this new voice was (his eyes were swollen
shut), but he was grateful for the break.
"We don't answer to you, Alvarez."
"This is *my* territory. I decide what goes on here." There was
a jangle of hardware and guns being drawn. "Don't even think it,"
the voice continued.
Frank heard a shuffle of feet as his attackers moved off.
"Was that wise?" another voice asked. "After all, why should we
"I don't want war with Luna over some human he protects."
"He's not our ally."
"*I* decide who our allies are. And our enemies. Understood?"
There was a moment of silence.
"Somebody pick him up and get him to Luna's. He's his
* * *
Being "picked up" and taken to Luna's did not involve gentleness,
as Frank discovered. It involved more being hauled to his feet,
dragged into a car and dumped outside of Julian Luna's front gate.
By comparison, Luna's guards were like Florence Nightingale.
Frank was taken inside and a Kindred doctor called. Frank
remembered vaguely having been treated by him before.
Julian Luna arrived just as Dr. Farrell (Frank finally remembered
his name) was strapping up his ribs. Frank winced as the tape was
pulled around him and related the last few hours to a grim-faced
"... and then this other guy came in saying this was *his*
territory. I got the impression the others didn't want to take him
on, because they left."
Julian allowed himself a slight smile. "I'm not surprised." But
then he became serious again. "I'm sorry you got pulled in this
"I wouldn't mind getting worked over so much if I had a clue about
what was going on. Who *are* these people? They aren't Kindred,
but they're not normal, everyday hoods, because they know all about
you. And don't like you, by the way."
"Do you know what a Garou is, Frank?"
"It's part of the French for ...," Frank began literally and then
the truth dawned on him. "Oh, don't tell me, *werewolves*?!"
Julian nodded. "They prefer the term "Garou"."
"They would." Frank gratefully took the mug of coffee Jeffrey
handed him. "So what's this about?"
Julian decided to trust Frank with the whole story. There was no
reason not to. "James MacMahon belonged to a Garou family. But he
sided, either honestly or as a double-agent, with another group.
This group is far more militant than Alvarez. They're apparently
trying to establish themselves in the city."
"Why don't you stop them?"
"Not my fight. There aren't enough Garou to cause us harm in the
city, just marginal inconvenience. But MacMahon apparently double-
crossed them so they killed him."
"And you're expecting me to just sit here?"
"There's nothing else you can do, Frank. You've no evidence, other
than links to a terrorist group you'll never find. Besides, I
think Alvarez will take care of the situation."
"Meaning they'll fight each other for control," Frank continued
disgustedly. "You're all worse than the mob."
Just then, Cash arrived. He went straight to Julian.
"I found out where they're located."
"Good," Julian replied. "Tell Alec to tell Marta. When they make
their move, follow them. Don't interfere, but take care of the
stragglers -- or if you have to, take care of the situation."
Cash nodded grimly and left.
"What was that about?" Frank asked.
"I'm sending a message of my own," Julian replied cryptically.
* * *
Late that night, had anyone gone near a certain clearing in a park
area, they would have seen a nightmare unfold before them. Men and
women turning from human beings to wolves and back again by the
light of the moon.
And fighting to the death.
But there were no witnesses. Cash and his group made sure of that.
* * *
Towards dawn, Marta Tremaine's pacing had become more frenzied.
Finally, the phone rang.
With trembling hands, she answered it. Then her face shone with
joy and relief.
Alec smiled as he watched her.
* * *
Later in the afternoon, Julian looked over Caitlin's shoulder as
she edited her reporters' stories. One was a small piece
concerning a pack of wild dogs that had apparently fought in a city
park. While no one had actually seen the animals, many had heard
them and there was evidence of some carnage. The animal control
board was promising to look into the situation.
The other story was more dramatic. The police were looking into
promising leads concerning the murder of James MacMahon. An APB
was being issued for one Walter Morgan, who was wanted for
questioning, as well as his associates who also belonged to an eco-
terrorist group. The SFPD were asking for police assistance in
"They won't find them, of course," Julian stated as he read the
piece. "But, it is the truth, surprisingly."
"And I'm the only one who knows those two stories are connected,"
Caitlin said softly.
Julian reached out and stroked her cheek. Caitlin responded shyly
to the simple gesture.
"Not quite," he replied as he turned her face up for a kiss.
* * *
Frank was on the sofa, nursing his bruises and a beer. His head
lay in Lillie Langtry's lap. He was busy pouring out his
"... so I finally think, great, we've got 'em. Then I wind up
getting worked over and having Luna tell me it was some werewolf
war all the time. Sometimes I don't know why I bother."
Lillie found herself smiling. Frank was so delightfully simple and
transparent. He was so easy to handle.
"Well, at least this time you did get to publicly say who the
murderer was. You just can't say he's dead and you know it."
Frank found himself staring into her smiling ice-blue eyes.
"Better than nothing," he admitted as she bent down for a kiss.
* * *
Ricardo Alvarez sat on the patio of his home, enjoying the cool
evening. He stretched out his arm; it barely ached now and would
be healed by tomorrow.
He knew he should thank Luna for providing him with the information
needed to launch a sneak attack on his enemies. But -- it would
only formalize a relationship neither wanted to admit to. Besides,
it was so much more fun to keep each other off balance.
It was the way Gaia, Mother Earth, intended it.