Through Faded Memory I'd like to thank whoever named the floor captain of The Haven "Summer". I'd also like to thank Kelly Schweighauser and Amy Denton, who were my Beta readers for the story. 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. "Through Faded Memory A "Kindred: The Embraced" story by Julie Beamer Part 1 Bernard Gressham glanced through the crowd at the airport in San Francisco and happily lighted on a fellow Kindred and Toreador. "Mr. Gressham?" A tall, lithe Black woman held out her hand. "I'm Summer. Lillie sent me." He shook it gratefully. "Thank you for meeting me," he replied. "I haven't been to California in years." He looked around. "Things have changed." Summer smiled. "Well, we'll have to make sure you get some time to see the city. There's a lot to do here, a lot to see." Gressham followed Summer into the parking lot. The car was a sleek black Jaguar that quickly purred its way out of the airport and on to the highway. "Where would I find the Prince?" Gressham asked. "I should present myself before I see Lillie." "Don't worry, our Prince isn't all that stuffy. Anyway, you can do both at the same time, he's probably at The Haven with Lillie. If not, I'll take you to him." Gressham nodded. He had heard there was a close relationship between the Prince and the Toreador Primogen that went way beyond mere business and politics. Summer pulled into a space in front of the club and tossed the keys at the attendant. She led the way inside. The club was crowded. Summer smiled to herself when she saw Julian Luna, Prince of the City, in his usual booth with Lillie Langtry. In spite of his current obsession with the human woman, Caitlin Byrne, he had not completely broken ties with Lillie. Summer led the way confidently. "Julian, Lillie, I'd like to present..." The shock of recognition was immediate and simultaneous. And violent. Within seconds, Julian was out of the booth and had Bernard pinned to the wall by the throat, oblivious of the startled humans and Kindred. "I told you to NEVER come back here," he snarled. Lillie grabbed Julian's upraised arm. "No, please, not here," she begged. Julian dropped Bernard and turned to her. The murderous expression in his eyes terrified her. But he had recollected himself enough to know they were in a far too public place. He nodded to the stairs. "Keep him here," he ordered Cash and then headed up the stairs. Wordlessly, Lillie followed him. Cash dragged the unfortunate Toreador to his feet. The man was trembling. A buzz broke out around the club, especially from the Kindred patrons. "What the hell was that all about?" Sasha Luna jumped when she heard Cameron's voice in her ear. "I haven't a clue," she answered honestly and then impudently added, "He's scary when he's mad, isn't he?" "I've seen him scarier," Cameron reminded her. Cameron was a survivor of Julian's last act as an Enforcer for the former Prince. Sasha's eyes dropped. But when Cameron left they raised up again. With hatred. * * * Upstairs, Lillie scarcely waited for the door to close behind them. "What was all that about?" she demanded. "Are you crazy? The club was full..." "I want him out of here, now." Julian interrupted. "This minute." "Not without an explanation," Lillie stood firm. "I'm the Toreador Primogen, I'm entitled to that much." Julian opened his mouth for a retort and then closed it. He sat down and put a hand to his head. Some of the violent anger seemed to leave him. "That man downstairs," Julian told her. "Almost destroyed my granddaughter's life." Lillie sighed. Julian's human descendants had been kept secret from most of the Kindred of the city, including her. It still hurt that he hadn't trusted her enough to tell her about his human family who meant so much to him. She knelt by his chair and took his hand. "Tell me what happened," she asked. "It was after World War I," Julian replied. "And Beatrice married -- *him*. What she didn't know was, he had syphilis. He infected her with it." Lillie closed her eyes. "What happened?" "What do you think happened? When Beatrice found out, she was completely distraught. My son was furious and wanted to break every bone in his body and I would have been happy to help. But Beatrice needed our attention first. So, I arranged for Bea to be sent to a private clinic for treatment and got the marriage annulled. I told *him* if he ever came back to San Francisco or even to California again, I'd kill him." He looked down at the face of his former lover. "I meant it, Lillie." "What happened to your granddaughter?" "Fortunately, the infection was so recent, they were able to stop the spread of the disease. She even married again. But she was left unable to have children. She and her second husband adopted a little girl." Lillie swallowed. This was going to be tough. It might have been over seventy five years ago, but to Julian, it was yesterday. She rose. "I'm going downstairs to talk to him." Julian looked up at her. "You doubt my word?" "He is a Toreador," Lillie reminded him. "He has a right to speak to the Primogen in the city." Before Julian could answer she swept back downstairs. At a small corner table guarded by Cash sat Gressham. His hands still trembled as he poured himself another drink. He started when Lillie joined him at the table. Cash backed away enough to give them privacy, but close enough to keep Gressham under guard. Lillie signalled for a glass of wine. It was brought instantly. "Julian told me the story," Lillie began. "Honestly," Gressham started. "I never would have come back if I had realized -- but who could have known? I thought Beatrice's damned uncle was dead and gone years ago." "He's not her uncle," Lillie informed him. "He's her grandfather." Gressham closed his eyes. "I'm dead." "Not if I can help it. So tell me your side of the story." "There's not much to tell," Gressham said. "I was infected with syphilis during the War. But I had been free of symptoms for over a year when I married Bea. I was told I didn't have to worry. But they were wrong." He looked at Lillie. "I never meant to hurt her. I didn't know." "And Julian got the marriage annulled and you left town," Lillie finished the story. "That's a polite way of putting it," Gressham stated wryly. "He told me then if I didn't leave town he'd kill me. I believed him and left. I went to New York and a few years later was Embraced. If I had known he was one of us, I never would have come back." Lillie sighed and stood up. "Well, I still need you. So let's see what we can do about keeping you alive." * * * Lillie headed back upstairs. Sometimes Julian could be unmovable; she only hoped she could make him see reason. Julian was still sitting the armchair, looking every bit as imperious as Archon had. This would be tough. "Julian...," she began. "I am the Prince of this City and my word is law. I want him taken back to the airport and out of this city. Now." "Julian, please listen to me," Lillie begged. "He never meant to hurt your granddaughter and didn't realize he was still a carrier until it was too late. It was an honest mistake." "It was a mistake that harmed someone I loved." Lillie decided to try another tack. "Julian, you said Beatrice remarried and adopted a child. Did she have any lasting medical problems?" "No," Julian admitted grudgingly. "And her second marriage was happy?" "Yes." "Did she die young?" "Not really. She was over seventy." "So you're saying," she stated carefully. "That Beatrice went on to have a long and happy life?" Julian regarded Lillie silently. "I need him, Julian," Lillie confessed. "Eddie made a mess of the record companies and the contracts. I need help sorting it all out now I've got them back. Gressham came highly recommended. I only want time, Julian. Just long enough to help me, and he'll leave your city and he'll never come back, I promise." "How long?" Julian demanded. "Three weeks?" she offered. "Two," he replied. "And then he leaves. Forever. Understood?" Lillie nodded. "You won't even know he's in the city, I promise you." He fixed a cold stare on Lillie. "I'll know." * * * Two days later, Gressham stood in the alley behind the Haven and took a deep breath from habit. He was feeling suffocated, closed in. Julian's feelings were well known to the community and Gressham had been given the cold shoulder by most. Even the Toreador of the city were careful with him. Eyes were constantly on him. It was getting on his nerves, to say the least. They were all watching him. Julian's bodyguard, the Gangrel leader never let him out of his sight. Another one was the Brujah girl who was usually with the Grangrel. There was something odd about her. Something familiar, something that stirred his memory, like looking at an old photograph. And there was the Brujah Primogen, Cameron. He watched too. Actually he watched more when Julian was around. The handsome, slim Brujah appeared sardonically amused by the tension. And then there was Julian Luna. Gressham could still feel Julian's eyes on him. He was there tonight. He had been there each night since Gressham's arrival, holding court at his table with the Kindred of the city. This was apparently his custom and the Ventrue Prince must have felt it was beneath him to break his habits for a mere Toreador. Well, that would all change soon enough. He pulled out a cell phone and dialed a number he knew by heart. "It's me. I'm here and everything is going according to plan. No, Lillie doesn't suspect a thing. Luna? He's as hard nosed as his bitch granddaughter, but he won't be a problem once your crew gets here." Gressham kept talking, unaware that he was digging his grave with every word. * * * Summer went into the alley just after dawn. She couldn't find Gressham and was worried. She didn't think he would be stupid enough to wander around on his own and expected to find him in the alley. She did. Burnt by the rising sun with a old TV antenna through his chest. * * * Julian was finishing up the last of his business notes before retiring for the morning when Lillie burst into his office. "You did this!" she exclaimed in a voice shaking with anger. "Did what?" "You know what! But did you have to leave him outside the Haven, Julian? Why did you lie to me -- you promised me you wouldn't kill him." "Gressham is dead?" "Don't act innocent. You ordered it and had his body left where *I'd* find him." "I didn't, actually," Julian replied. "But I'm not going to pretend I'm sorry." Julian was silent for a moment. Lillie was in control of herself, but she wasn't interested in talking. Or listening. "I presume you would like a meeting of the Primogen this evening?" Lillie nodded tightly. "We'll meet at the Haven. I won't spend another minute under this roof." Then her voice broke. "Why did you lie to me, Julian? I trusted you." And she fled the room. * * * The Primogen's meeting was somber. By then, the whole Kindred community knew of the murder and Lillie's charge. Lillie kept wringing a linen handkerchief through her hands, trying to remain in control. Cash seemed faintly worried and Cameron seemed merely -- interested. Only Julian and Daedalus appeared unaffected by the atmosphere. "I'm sure you all know why we're meeting, but as a formality, this morning, Bernard Gressham, a Toreador, was found murdered outside the Haven. An antenna was driven through his chest and he was left in the sun to burn. The Toreador Primogen has charged me with the murder. I deny the charge and the responsibility. I did not act in the murder or authorize it." "Then who did? Only you wanted him dead. No one else here knew him," Lillie's voice still choked on her anger. "As far as we know," Cameron stated drily. All eyes turned to the Brujah Primogen. "Just making a point," he added. "It is, actually, a very good one," Daedalus concurred. "None of us knew Gressham in his Kindred life. Where did he come from, who were his enemies? The Prince may have had reason, but who else?" "So, we have the murder investigated?" Lillie spat. "With only Ventrue cops?" "There is someone else," said Cash. * * * Detective Frank Kohanek returned to his desk with a cup of coffee to find a small post-it note. "Call Lillie", was all it said. Puzzled, Frank picked up the phone and dialed a number he knew by heart. * * * Frank didn't talk to Lillie long. She needed to see him when he went off duty at dawn. She would wait for him at the Haven. As soon as he went off duty, Frank hurried to the club. He hadn't liked the sound of Lillie's voice. But she refused to say anything over the phone. The grim-faced floor captain met him at the door and conducted him to Lillie's upstairs apartment. She was alone. "What's happened? What's wrong?" Something told Frank to be wary. "There's been a murder. One of my clan." Lillie's voice betrayed the anger that threatened to explode at any moment. Frank was confused. "Why am I here?" "It's what you do, isn't it?" she snapped back at him. Frank blinked. He never expected this. "And, you want me to find out who killed him?" "Yes." Frank was now very confused. True, he had recently investigated a murder at Julian Luna's own house, but that had been because the victim was assumed to be human. Only later had they discovered the victim was Garou Kinfolk and that the murder was part of an attempted coup among of the Garou of the city. "I thought you guys took care of that kind of thing yourselves." "Not this time." "Why?" "Because I'm the prime suspect," Julian entered the room. "You have to give him all the information, Lillie. Otherwise, he can't do the job properly." *Jeez*, Frank thought to himself. *I'm going to be investigating Luna.* He sat down and looked at Lillie, Julian, Cash and Cameron, who had gathered in the room. He pulled out his notebook. "I need the whole story, from the top." * * * Frank got to bed about the same time most people were in their offices. His mind was in a whirl! A Kindred was murdered, Julian Luna was the chief suspect and the Primogen conclave wanted *him* to investigate. Frank's views on law and justice were well known; if Julian had committed the crime, Frank wouldn't shield him, in spite of the fact Julian protected Frank's life. The converse was also true; if Julian were in fact innocent, Frank wasn't likely to frame him. He would report his findings to the Conclave and speak of his off duty investigation to no-one. He decided his first interview of the evening (he was determined to get at least *some* sleep) would be Julian Luna himself. * * * Well, perhaps Julian wouldn't be his first interview. The first thing he did was call his friend and partner, Sonny Toussaint. For apart from those two qualifications, Sonny was Kindred and a Childe of Julian Luna himself. Sonny sighed when he realized who was on the phone. "I wish you hadn't called me," he grumbled. "I'm not supposed to try to influence you in any way." "Who's influencing?" Frank responded between mouthfuls of cornflakes. "I just need some background information. I've seen Luna whack people -- but would he do it over something that happened a hundred years ago?" "Yes," Sonny admitted reluctantly. "He could. If he felt strong enough about it. And his family -- he feels strongest about them. But -- " "Yes?" Frank prompted. "He promised Lillie that Gressham would be safe in the city while he was working for her. I've never known Julian to lie about something like that before. Not to her." "There's always a first time," Frank noted dryly. "Is that why she's so mad? After all, she hardly knew the guy." "He was Toreador and Lillie is the Primogen," Sonny explained. "But, yeah, I think Lillie feels more betrayed by Julian than upset that Gressham is dead. And you know what they say about a woman scorned." "And Lillie scorned is something worse," Frank remarked. But he was thoughtful as he hung up the phone. Julian Luna and Lillie had very strong ties that had apparently survived decades. Would he do this to her? Kill a member of her own Clan, outside her club, after promising he wouldn't? *Why not*, the cynic in his mind asked? *He killed Alexandra easily enough*. But it hadn't been easy, Frank admitted to himself. Their encounter in the rose garden had told him that much. He finished his evening breakfast and left for the mansion on the hill. * * * Julian was unperturbed by the interruption. Frank remembered him again in Alexandra's rose garden. Then the calm had been shaken out of him. It was an unnerving memory. Frank flipped open his notebook and started with the routine. "Where were you the morning of the murder?" he asked. "I conducted business at the Haven from about 11:00pm to a little after three in the morning. Then I came home and worked here until about 6:30 when Lillie arrived with the news." "Any witnesses?" "Many at the Haven," Julian replied calmly. "Cash and my driver were with me on the drive back. I worked alone in my study, but I made a few phone calls and stepped out on the balcony from time to time. The guards may have seen me." Frank nodded and closed his notebook. "Did you do it?" he asked bluntly. "No," Julian said with equal bluntness. "But I'm not sorry he's gone. He almost destroyed the life of someone I loved very much. That I cannot forgive." Frank blinked. He still had a hard time imagining Julian really loving *anyone* -- harder still imagining him as a concerned grandfather. Julian seemed to guess what Frank was thinking. "I love my family very much, Frank," he told him. "I've tried to protect them." He winced at the sound of a door slam above them. "Not always successfully," he added drily. * * * Frank's next move was to talk to the security guards around the house. Those at the gatehouse had noted Julian's return at 3:22 a.m. on the morning of the murder. While they didn't write it down, it was apparently common practice to note the time mentally. Some of the guards had noticed him on the balcony periodically over the next few hours. One guard stated the last time he saw him was just before dawn. Frank sighed and sat down at one of the small tables on the terrace near the house and began going over his notes. He made a mental note to himself to get the phone records for the house. He might be able to pinpoint Julian's window of opportunity (or lack thereof) from those. "He didn't do it." Frank turned to see Sasha standing behind him. She didn't look well. Her eyes were puffy from crying and she was paler than normal. "He hated him enough to," Frank reminded her. "Sasha!" It was Julian, speaking from the balcony above them. "Come into the house, please." Sasha bit her lip and left the terrace. Frank continued working on his notes. * * * When Frank mentioned to Julian that he needed access to the phone records for the house, Julian had simply nodded his head. The next day, Frank found a folder on his desk. In it were the phone records. He shook his head and remembered all the times he had begged for a warrant to see phone records. All Julian Luna had to do was snap his fingers. Was there a Kindred at the top, Frank wondered? Or did Julian have a human stooge there? Were Kindred tricks used? Or was it simply that Julian Luna, legitimate businessman, owned a good chunk of company stock? Just thinking of all the possibilities made Frank's head ache. During his dinner break, Frank looked over the files. Julian had had a busy morning. His first phone call was at 3:30 and they continued regularly throughout the morning. Some of the calls were local and some were international calls. Frank wondered how much was normal business and how much had to do with Kindred affairs, carefully coded to seem like "business" discussions. He paid attention to the times between 4:30 am and 6:00 am. The last workers had left the Haven by 4:30 and they used the rear door. Frank suspected the murder had occurred around 5:00. The body had been discovered after dawn at 6:20. Finally he saw a gap. Julian had hung up one call at 4:33 am and didn't make another until 4:50. Seventeen minutes. Was that enough time to commit the murder? There was only one way to find out. * * * Lillie surveyed the scene in the club from her upstairs window. Julian would be coming tonight. He had shown enough sense *not* to come after Gressham was found. Those wanting to do business with Julian had to go to the mansion. But Frank had called Julian and requested a meeting of the Conclave so he could make a report. As Lillie refused to set foot in Julian's house, the meeting would be at the Haven. Only Daedalus would not appear to question the detective. He would listen from another room and discuss the situation only after Frank had left. Lillie sighed. It had been a quiet night last night. Many Kindred, not wanting to be seen to be aligning themselves against the Prince, had stayed away. The fact was, Julian was the Prince and Lillie was just a Primogen. The Toreador had rallied, but the Ventrue stayed away. The Gangrel, allied now to the Ventrue through Cash's position as Julian's personal bodyguard, also stayed away. The Brujah had come, but merely to watch the fun. She missed him. Lillie finally admitted the truth to herself. She missed Julian being there. Once upon a time, she thought she could forgive him anything. But could she forgive him *this*? The murder, yes, she could forgive that. Gressham meant nothing to her. But lying to her about Gressham being safe -- that's what she couldn't forgive. But was Julian guilty? She remembered Julian's denial. He was more than capable of killing Gressham. But he had never lied to her before. Never. So who else? The Brujah would love to see Julian in trouble, but this didn't fit. Cameron was surprisingly calm about the whole thing, and even supported Frank conducting the investigation. No one else had a motive that Lillie knew of, unless it was done purely to please Julian. His hatred for Gressham was well known to the Kindred community. But that didn't fit either. Lillie started when she saw Julian enter the club. Cash and Sasha were also in tow. She couldn't be weak now. She was the Toreador Primogen and her Clan demanded justice. * * * Sasha detached herself from Julian as soon as she could and made her way up the staircase. She had hesitated coming to The Haven, but she wanted to talk to Lillie. Whatever Uncle Julian said, she couldn't stand to see Lillie suspecting him. She found the Toreador alone, staring out the window. "I'm sorry about what happened....," Sasha began slowly. But Lillie was still watching the club from the window. She saw Frank enter. It was obvious he knew something. Lillie turned to leave. "You're not to blame, Sasha," she said to quickly reassure the younger woman. "It wasn't your fault. You're not Eddie Fiori -- and you're not Julian Luna," she added grimly as she gently escorted Sasha out of the room. * * * Frank spread the records out in front of the Conclave, pointing out the gap in phone calls. "So the question is," he ended succinctly. "Can a Kindred get from Julian's compound to the Haven and back again in seventeen minutes?" Even Lillie looked doubtful. "It's a bit of a stretch," she admitted. Cameron was obviously enjoying the idea of Julian Luna being blamed for a cold blooded murder. "There's only one way to find out," he stated. * * * Frank couldn't say he was comfortable standing in the alley with Cameron. But as the Brujah had pointed out, this *was* the only way to find out. The Ventrue Primogen, Alec Tremaine, and a tall dark haired Brujah were making the test together. They had already come to the Haven and committed the "murder". They were now on their way back to the mansion. Frank concentrated on the stopwatch. Timing was everything. If they got back to the Luna Mansion within the time-frame, Julian was still a suspect. If not, he was cleared. The seconds ticked by. Seventeen minutes passed. Frank was aware of a feeling of relief. No call yet -- there wasn't time for Julian to commit the murder. Cameron's cell phone rang. Frank checked the watch. Nineteen minutes, forty three seconds. Cameron answered it. "Are you *sure*," he demanded from his confederate. "All right." He turned to Frank and looked at the watch to confirm what he already knew. "Luna's off the hook, damn it." * * * Frank met with the Conclave again when Alec returned to take his place at the table. Once again, Daedalus remained out of sight, but within hearing. "So, it looks like Julian's got an alibi that holds up. So the next question is, who else wanted Gressham dead?" Julian nodded, taking control once again. "Thank you, Frank," he said. "You've done well." The dismissive note in his voice was obvious. Frank couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Excuse me," he said tartly. "But I'm not finished yet." Julian regarded him calmly. Frank fought down a desire to deck him. "While I appreciate what you've done..." "Yeah, yeah, yeah," Frank interrupted. "I'm being patted on the head and told to run off and play, but there's still some unfinished business here. This Conclave didn't ask me to find out if *you* killed Gressham; I was asked to find out *who* killed him. And we still don't know." "He's right. Let him continue." It was Daedalus from behind the door. The Nosferatu's opinion always carried weight in the Conclave. It was a big concession for him to agree with the human detective. "Very well," Julian acknowledged. "You're still on the case." "So," Frank sat down among them. "Who else in the city didn't like him?" "I doubt you'll find the murderer in San Francisco, Frank," said Julian. "No one here knew him. You should check into his background." "Which was?" Julian shrugged and turned to Lillie. "He was recommended by my Clan in L.A.," Lillie explained. "I needed help sorting out some businesses that I've recently -- re- acquired. Gressham had helped them out before. I believe he lived in New York. Beyond that I didn't inquire." Frank shook his head. It was remarkable to him that Lillie would agree to take this man on knowing next to nothing about him. But Kindred had a greater sense of personal privacy. Because their own world was so secretive, much still worked on a nod and a handshake. Gressham was Toreador and came with recommendations. That was enough for Lillie. Frank let out a long breath. "Okay," he said. "Let's see what I can find out." * * * The Conclave slowly dispersed after Frank agreed to meet with them again the next evening with an update on his investigation. Now that Julian was no longer a suspect, Frank could ask for Sonny's help, although not overtly. The rest of the Kindred world still had no idea that Frank was aware of his partner's dual life. Finally, the room was empty save Lillie and Julian. Lillie looked at him with uncertain eyes. "I wouldn't blame you if you were angry," she began slowly. Julian smiled slightly and patted her hand reassuringly. "The misunderstanding was natural. I hated Gressham and I'm not sorry he's dead. It was to be expected that I would be the prime suspect. But still, I wonder why he came." "I did hire him to do a job," Lillie reminded him. "But was that the only reason? Just sorting out contracts and accounts for you? Was he really so blind to come to a city he hadn't been to in decades *without* verifying who the Prince was? Or did he have to come? Was he on the run?" He smiled at his former lover. "Maybe because I hated him I think everyone else did." He held out his hand to Lillie. Smiling back now, she took it. Together, they descended the staircase. * * * While Lillie made up with Julian, Frank had caught up to Cameron's long stride. He sat at the small table, uninvited. "So," Frank asked without preamble. "Why didn't you take advantage of Julian being a suspect. I know you hate him," he added, remembering Cameron's veiled threats at the police station when Cameron mistakenly believed Julian dead. Cameron smiled slightly at the questions. He had just gotten through answering the same questions from his own henchmen. "Because I didn't think he did it, and I knew there wouldn't be enough time for me to take advantage of it," Cameron replied honestly. Frank was startled by the calm disclosure. "Why?" "Julian's a trained killer -- if he had done the job, he wouldn't have been that sloppy," Cameron drawled. "Also, he's not stupid. *This* was a stupid crime. I knew Julian would find an alibi and fairly quickly. He's Prince, so he's rarely alone, and when he's not working he's with one of his women. Currently, that would be the little blond editor from the newspaper." Cameron noted Frank's reaction. He obviously knew the girl. However, Cameron made no comment and continued. "But if I had thought I could have used it in my favor, I would have." "Did you do it?" Cameron grinned. "Why would I?" Frank shrugged. "You hate Julian. Maybe you or one of your people wanted to frame him." "It wasn't a particularly good one," Cameron commented drily. "True, Frank agreed. "Or maybe you thought you'd get some points with Julian? Make up for killing his Sire?" Cameron snorted at the mere thought of that. "But like you said," Frank continued. "This was a sloppy murder. Julian's not sloppy and he's not stupid. Neither are you. So who is?" Cameron pondered the question. "Someone who's not a trained killer, detective." Frank raised one eyebrow. "I would have thought that described all of you." Cameron made no reply to the pointed comment. Frank sighed and opened his notebook, oblivious to the stares he and Cameron were getting. He reviewed his notes. "The floor captain found Gressham in the alley ... half charred by the sun ... his cell phone had melted a little ..." He looked up at Cameron in shock. "His cell phone?!" Frank got up, delighted to have a lead. "Where there's a cell phone, there are phone records. Great talking with you, Cameron." Cameron watched Frank Kohanek leave the club and shook his head at the mood swings of the human detective. His eyes glinted with humor as his saw Lillie descend the staircase on Julian Luna's arm. *Oh, well,* he thought. *Some other time.* * * * Once Frank had somewhere to look, he moved fast. Once again Julian provided Frank with the phone records. Once again, Frank looked them over on his dinner break. During the three days he had been in San Francisco, Gressham had made a handful of local calls and one long distance call to New York on the day of the murder. Frank looked at the time. The call had begun at 4:53 am and lasted only 4 minutes. Was he murdered *during* the phone call? If so, the other party may have heard something. Happy that he was making progress, Frank called the number. He got a high-pitched squeal for his trouble. The number was out of service. * * * Frank went to see Julian in the morning at the end of his shift. The Prince was still awake, but obviously tired and ready for his rest. Frank outlined his latest discovery. "... but then when I called the number, the line had been disconnected." "Interesting," Julian remarked. "I wonder -- was it a Manhattan number?" "No," Frank replied. "Brooklyn." Julian closed his eyes. "Sabbat." "Who?" Julian opened his eyes and stared at the detective. "A group who deserve the epithet "vampire"," he informed Frank severely. "They delight in chaos and destruction. San Francisco has been very lucky and we've kept them out. Looks like Gressham was a Trojan horse to let them in the city." "Why would they kill him?" "They eat their own," Julian said contemptuously. "They've been known to kill for failure." "Or maybe one of you overheard it and decided to take matters into their own hands. If these "Sabbat" are as bad as you say." "They're significantly worse, Frank. In fact, now that we know why Gressham was here, I think you should stop your investigation." "I'm not finished." "You've uncovered the Sabbat. That's enough. I can lock down the city and clear out any trouble makers or possible associates. Whatever their plan was, their means is gone." He smiled. "You've done well, Frank. This could have been a serious plot against us." "You're not interested in finding out who killed him," Frank stated. Then he looked at the Kindred before him carefully. "You *know* who did it. You knew from the beginning." "No, not the beginning," he admitted. "I had my suspicions, but there was no motive. When I knew the motive, I was still left with questions as to what Gressham was doing here. Now I know. You've helped with the case enormously, Frank." "What about the murderer? You can't take the law into your own hands. The Conclave ... " "I told you once before, Frank," Julian reminded him. "I am the law among my kind." He rose. "Jeffrey will see you out." * * * There were only two people Frank could turn to in this situation -- Sonny and Lillie. He chose Lillie. Lillie sat in the upstairs office listening to Frank rant about being summarily dismissed from the case. Finally Frank sat down, talked out. "I don't suppose there's a Court of Appeals among the Kindred?" Lillie smiled and shook her head. "I'm sorry. Julian's right, his word is law in this city." She pondered what Frank had told her for a moment. "You said Julian *knew* who the murderer was?" Frank nodded. "But why hasn't he -- " She was interrupted by the telephone ringing. Her conversation was short. She came back more puzzled than ever. "It was Julian," she told Frank. "He wants to meet with me tonight at the mansion. He said he would let me judge Gressham's killer." * * * Lillie arrived at the appointed time and was stunned to see Cameron sitting at the Conclave table with Julian. The two men were alone. "What's all this about? You said you knew who killed Gressham?" She looked at Cameron. "Why isn't the rest of the Conclave here?" "I'm hoping we can settle this on our own, unofficially," Julian replied. "If, after hearing from the perpetrator, you are in agreement, the official version will be that Gressham got involved in the Sabbat and they killed him. It's nice and neat, and might have been the truth. I doubt Gressham would have survived long with them." Lillie was still confused. "But why? Who's really responsible?" Julian nodded to Jeffrey, who was standing by another door. He opened it and in walked -- Sasha! She joined the others at the table, opposite Julian. Cameron noted with approval that while her fear was obvious, she forced herself to meet Julian's gaze. Like a Brujah. "This isn't a full meeting of the Conclave, Sasha," Julian informed her gently. "If we're all satisfied and in agreement, the matter will end here. Just tell everyone what happened." "I was in the alley looking for rats," Sasha began. "I found one all right. Gressham was there. He was on the phone to someone; he was awful. About Uncle Julian, Aunt Bea, the whole family. I just got angrier and angrier listening to him. Then I realized he was plotting to overthrow Uncle Julian and kill him. I don't really remember what happened. I remember seeing an old TV poking out of the dumpster; I just grabbed the antenna and rammed it into him. I couldn't believe what I had just done; I got scared and ran -- and left him there. I forgot all about the sun coming up." She looked at Lillie. "When I found out he had died, I tried to tell you, but everything was happening too fast. I didn't know I had killed him; I didn't mean to do it. And I never would have let Uncle Julian be blamed. At the last Conclave, I was getting ready to come upstairs and confess when you all left again. When you came back, everyone said Uncle Julian was cleared and you were going to look at other suspects. I couldn't stand it if anyone else was under suspicion because of what I did. It *was* an accident; I never intended to kill him. But I'm ready to accept any punishment you demand." Julian looked at Cameron. It was his turn. "She's young," Cameron said to Lillie. "She was goaded beyond her control by loyalty and family ties. Also, Gressham *was* in league with the Sabbat. Sasha may have taken care of a worse problem for us. I respectfully ask the Toreador Primogen for understanding and clemency. Let the man's Sabbat ties be made public. We can blame his murder on them and keep the truth within these walls." Lillie swallowed. "I'm ashamed I didn't check closer into his background. I accepted what I was told. Had he actually been able to establish a Sabbat cell in the city, it would have been my fault for bringing him here. We've all made mistakes in our lives; allowed our passions to override our judgment. I will not ask for Sasha to be punished. As far as I'm concerned, Gressham was killed by his Sabbat associates." Julian nodded. "Very well. Sasha," he made eye contact with his descendant. "You acted in anger and that cannot be condoned. Nevertheless, your actions, however misguided, did result in derailing a very serious situation. You will not be punished for the death of Gressham. But think carefully, Sasha," he added. "Next time you lose control, it may be an innocent person." Sasha nodded and gratefully left the room. The door closed behind her. "Personally, I'm glad to see she's capable of taking care of herself," Cameron remarked. "Eddie neglected her after she was Embraced and now it's hard for her to learn what she has to to survive." "Poor thing," Lillie added. "She kept trying to tell us, but we wouldn't listen." * * * The next evening, Lillie walked down the staircase of the Luna Mansion alongside Julian. They were at perfect ease with each other again. "How did they take it?" Julian inquired of her formal annoucement to the Toreador Clan, which had taken place earlier in the evening at the Haven. "As you supposed, they accepted it," Lillie said. "I think once they knew he was in league with the Sabbat, they were a little embarrassed that he was in San Francisco working with us." Julian chuckled. Thanks to this, the Toreador Clan would be on their best behavior for at least a week. "How's Sasha?" Lillie asked. Julian's face darkened. "Not well," he admitted. "She hasn't be resting well or feeding properly since the murder. I won't be coming to the Haven tonight. I'll take her Hunting and stay here with her. She shouldn't be alone." Lillie kissed him goodbye. "Please tell her I forgive her. That I'm not angry." "She knows," Julian replied. "She just can't forgive herself. Yet." * * * Frank was back at his desk on his regular shift, shuffling through the police reports on his desk. "Yep," he said with satisfaction. "Murder and mayhem. *Normal*, *human* murder and mayhem. Regular, ordinary crime with no one at the top pulling everyone's strings." Sonny smiled wryly at his partner but said nothing. Frank was so engrossed in his work that he didn't notice the other officers Sonny talked to all night long. Frank and the human population of San Francisco would never know it, but the lock-down of the city had begun. Every Kindred who wasn't known to Julian Luna was run out of town. The Gangrel dealt with the stragglers. * * * Julian sat on the floor before the fireplace in his bedroom. Beside him was Sasha. She looked better after they had gone Hunting. More like her old self. Now they were rummaging through the old family photographs he kept carefully hidden away like precious jewels. He told her stories about the family, about her grandfather, the stories she loved. He was gratified to hear her laugh. *It would take time,* he said to himself. *But she'll forgive herself. Eventually. We all do.* * * * Towards midnight, in the airport, a figure sat waiting for the flight to New York to be called. Things didn't go as planned this time. The young Prince of the City had the devil's own luck. Gressham had turned out to be a bad pawn, but the Sabbat would have their chance again. He had heard there was bad blood between the Princes of San Francisco and L.A. Perhaps their next attempt to get a foothold in California should be in the other city. He smiled without mirth and boarded the plane with the other passengers. Los Angeles might work out better for everyone. The End.