Monkey in the Middle (ADULT)
by Susan B.
Based on characters from Forever Knight, etc.
** WARNING ** This N&N story is intended for adults only. While there is no “explicit” sex, it does involve a psychopathic necrophiliac whose sexual preference is the motivating factor. As a result, there are passages containing material regarding this type of sexual activity that may be disturbing to some people. There is also non-graphic violence and some offensive language.
Peering out from the storage room at the end of the hall, Linda watched Natalie and the darkly clad man she was with strolling down the narrow corridor towards Nat’s office. He was certainly handsome, she thought, and his skin tone was certainly right; but she couldn’t fathom the odd attraction. She wondered for a moment if her natural born leanings were changing, but quickly dismissed the idea as absurd. The thought had also crossed her mind that he might be dying. Having been an intimate partner of death for so long, Linda didn’t believe that particular precognitive ability to be outside the realm of possibility. She waited patiently for a few minutes before following silently in the couple’s footsteps. When she arrived at Nat’s office, she found the pale man and the Coroner standing in front of the desk, engrossed in a private conversation punctuated by moments of airy laughter.
The petite, dark haired woman finally stepped inside the room. “Excuse me, Dr. Lambert,” she chirped. “Dr. Williams asked me to deliver these to you.” She held out two small vials containing a grey liquid, almost identical in colour to the simple dress she wore.
Nat graciously accepted the samples and laid them on her desk. “Thank you,” she said before glancing quickly at Nick. “Nick, you haven’t met Linda, Linda Mitchell. She’s taking over for Charlie for a couple of weeks as a morgue assistant.”
Linda summoned up her most inviting smile for the intriguing man. “Fancy title for a mail girl,” she explained sweetly. “Mostly I just run files and samples from one department to another.”
Natalie chuckled and introduced Nick. “This is Detective Knight,” she announced. “He’s with the 96th precinct.”
“Hello,” Nick said, offering his hand to the young woman.
Linda eagerly accepted Nick’s friendly gesture, but was totally unprepared for the thrill of discovering that his fingers were as frigid as his flesh was pale. She pondered the temperature of the rest of his body and started to tremble, overwhelmed by the yearning that normally overtook her only in the presence of a desirable male corpse. Her heart started to beat madly in her chest, in perfect rhythm with a much gentler throbbing between her legs. Linda’s cheeks flushed crimson. As she stared into the detective’s icy blue eyes, death itself seemed to ooze out from them, beckoning her, thickening the air around her and making it difficult for her to breathe. Linda’s palms started to sweat and she involuntarily licked her lips.
Nick recoiled at the sudden unwelcome pressure and dampness on his hand. He pried it away from Linda’s and placed it firmly around Nat’s waist, covertly using her pristine lab coat to wipe off the offensive moisture.
“Well... uh...” Linda finally sputtered, “I... uh... think I’d better head back.” She pivoted around and almost staggered for the doorway.
As the sound of Linda’s black stilettos faded down the corridor, Natalie turned to Nick in disbelief. “Did you see that?” she asked. “I think she was actually panting!”
“She wasn’t very subtle, was she,” Nick replied with a silly grin. He leaned forward and kissed Nat’s cheek. “I guess I had better wait a few minutes before I head back over to the precinct, eh?”
Nat chuckled. “I think you better wait as long as possible. I have a feeling this one doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘unavailable’.”
Nick laughed. “I like the sound of that,” he said, charmed by Nat’s unabashed claimstaking. He was about to add something when his attention was diverted by a slight clatter that Nat couldn’t hear. “She’s coming back,” he whispered urgently. “I suppose we should make the clearest of impressions.” He gently caressed Nat’s cheek as he often did, and then melded his body to hers and surprised her with a tender and lingering kiss.
Linda arrived at the doorway to find the couple embraced in a passionate liplock. She glared violently at Natalie and then stormed back up the hallway. “Bitch,” she muttered furiously under her breath.
Although Natalie couldn’t hear the verbal assault, it tugged savagely at Nick’s heart. The mortal woman he held in his arms, who loved him selflessly and faithfully, even knowing what he was and the horrible things he had done, was the furthest thing from a bitch he could possibly imagine. Nick delicately broke the kiss.
“Did she get the message?” Nat mumbled, dazed from Nick’s unusual flood of affection.
“Loud and clear I hope,” he replied.
Nat glanced towards the corridor. “Is she gone?”
“Yes,” Nick assured her, glancing at the wall clock. “And I better get going too. I’ve been spending so much time here lately the Captain’s been threatening to put me under your payroll.”
“Well then, it’s a good thing you’re a man of independent means,” Nat quipped.
Nick leaned forward and nuzzled her ear. “I love you,” he whispered in a quick burst. He immediately spun around and disappeared from the room before Nat had a chance to respond.
* * * * *
Linda was furious. She wasn’t accustomed to anyone coming between her and her desire, and it flustered her. It enraged her. “That dumb bitch probably doesn’t even know why she’s attracted to him,” she spat as she climbed the flight of stairs to the first floor. She yanked the door open and started down the vacant corridor towards her own office. Halfway there, Linda suddenly stopped and leaned back hard against the wall. She shut her eyes and with great effort, pushed Natalie from her mind and focused her thoughts on the mysterious detective. Yes, he stood on his feet. Yes, he walked and he talked. But the power that radiated from him was the most seductive power of all. Death. Her thoughts consequently drifted to an erotic fantasy. An erotic fantasy of laying him out on a cold hard slab with his hands folded over his chest and his eyes and mouth taped shut. Overcome by the weighty atmosphere of the morgue, and unable to dispel the sense of his deathly cold touch on her hand, Linda began a desperate search for a secluded space where she could pleasure herself.
* * * * *
It was almost three hours later, nearly eleven, when Natalie arrived at the noisy 24-hour greasy spoon down the street from her office. She removed her suede jacket and tossed it over a wooden coat hook on the wall. Nat loosened her hair and then smoothed out her most recent clothing purchase, a deep burgundy skirt with a matching jacket. She glanced around the small restaurant, a little anxious that she wouldn’t recognize her old acquaintance after so many years; but she immediately spotted him at a small table near the bar. He looked very much like he did back in Med school, she thought, apart from his hair which was now cut short and sporting a tinge of grey. Nat smiled brightly as she approached the man. “Hi Craig!” she greeted him, “it’s been a long time.”
Craig literally sprang to his feet and briskly offered his hand. “It’s great to see you again, Nat,” he gushed. His rich hazel eyes sparkled as he gazed upon her. “You’re looking fabulous.”
“You’re not looking so bad yourself,” Nat said, “although I notice that you’re no longer into the perpetual five o’clock shadow thing you had going way back when.” She scanned his clothing as she sat down. “You didn’t wear that flannel shirt and those jeans to your interview, I hope,” she teased. “I know things are a lot more casual out west, but....”
Craig cut her off with a compelling laugh, “I do have one suit,” he said, “worn only once, fifteen years ago when I got married.”
“And how is...?”
“Darlene,” Craig said. “Haven’t seen her for over a year. We’re divorced.”
Natalie frowned and offered a sympathetic, “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” Craig insisted. “It was actually a relief when she fessed up and split. Wondering where your wife is two nights out of every five for over a year doesn’t do a hell of a lot for a guy’s ego.” He smiled coyly at Nat. “I bet you’re married and have a couple of kids.”
Natalie grinned and shook her head ‘no’.
“Seriously?” Craig asked. “How do you fend them off?”
His question made Natalie blush. “There is someone very special,” she explained, “but it’s a little complicated.”
“Oh please, don’t tell me you’re involved with a married man!” Craig pleaded.
“Of course not,” Nat told him, her mind scrambling for an explanation that didn’t involve vampires. “It’s that big C-word, as in commitment.”
Craig grinned sheepishly. “I’m definitely into commitment,” he said hopefully. “Any chance?”
Nat stared directly at him. “Not a one,” she vowed, “I’m into commitment too.” She detoured the conversation by picking up her menu. “I’m famished,” she said. “Let’s order and then we’ll talk about the old days. I also want to hear about your interview at Glenwood.”
Craig followed her lead and while they were both quietly pondering the selections, a high pitched voice shattered the silence.
“How’s the food here?” Linda inquired, her eyes darting furiously between Nat and Craig.
“Oh. Hello, Linda,” Nat said coldly. ‘No luck with Nick, so now she’s after this one,’ she thought. Suddenly realizing that was probably a good thing, Nat asked in a more pleasant tone, “Won’t you join us?”
“Thanks anyway, but I’m with them, ” Linda replied, gesturing towards a group of three particularly loud women seated on the opposite side of the diner. She immediately headed off in their direction.
Nat stared after Linda as she paraded across the room and spoke with her friends. They only talked for a moment before Linda suddenly left their table, and left the restaurant.
“Very pretty,” Craig remarked, “though a little heavy on the make-up thing. Who is she?”
“Someone from work,” Nat told him. “I’m sorry I never thought to introduce you.” What she was really sorry about, was that Linda had shown up here and ruined her appetite.
* * * * *
Barely twenty minutes later, Linda, armed with a coffee stained manilla file folder, marched into the 96th precinct and began searching in earnest for Nick. After stopping several times for directions, she eventually found her way to his desk and stood directly in front of him. “Grace told me that Nat usually likes to make her own deliveries here, Nick,” she said, gently waving the folder at him.
“Detective Knight,” Nick corrected her.
Linda ignored his correction and surveyed the room. “It must be exciting here in homicide.”
“That’s not exactly how I’d describe it,” Nick said icily, inwardly seething. He shuffled a few loose papers around his desk. “I am rather busy. If you could just leave the file?”
Linda smiled. “Certainly,” she said, dropping the folder onto his desk. “I’m sure if Natalie wasn’t busy lunching with that man over at George’s, she would have brought it to you herself.”
“His name is Dr. Hurley,” Nick remarked. He then waved Linda off with his hand, “Now, if you don’t mind?”
“Of course, you’re busy.” Linda spun around, slightly embarrassed by the brush-off and greatly miffed that her little scheme had backfired, amateurish or not. She walked away in a huff, growing more agitated with each step that another woman was standing between her and paradise. Her mind swam with ideas on how to eliminate that problem as she drove her blue sedan the short distance back to the Coroner’s office. Linda parked the car and was about to get out when she noticed Dr. Hurley and Natalie saying their farewells on the sidewalk in front of the building. At that moment, she wanted to kill Nat; but reason dictated that such a move would necessitate waiting through a possibly long grieving process on Nick’s part. Linda restarted her car and drove a little ways up the street where she parked again. She grabbed something out of the glove box and stuffed it inside her purse. Then she watched through the rear view mirror until Natalie disappeared into the building. Linda finally emerged from the car and backtracked on foot, conveniently bumping into Dr. Hurley along the way.
She greeted the handsome doctor with feigned enthusiasm. “You’re Dr. Lambert’s friend from the restaurant!” she exclaimed.
“Craig Hurley,” the man replied, openly admiring the woman’s shapely legs and torso along with her captivating smile. “I’m sorry we weren’t introduced earlier.” His hopes promptly rose that she might prove a last minute substitute for what he really wanted, Natalie. Ever since he had seen Natalie again, all he could think about was fucking her. That same unfulfilled urge that he had carried all through Med School came back to him hard and hot the moment he laid eyes on her in the restaurant. He had spent the entire time since then trying to garner her sympathy, but even his bullshit story about his divorce didn’t help. One consolatory embrace was all he needed from her. One embrace that would show her just how badly he wanted her. Craig grew hard again thinking about her. But the cold and committed Dr. Lambert wouldn’t even let him get close enough for a friendly peck on the cheek. Yes, he thought, maybe he could fuck this one instead.
“I’m sorry too,” Linda remarked, distracting Craig from his visibly arousing reverie. “I’m Linda. Linda Mitchell.” She pointed up the street towards the Coroner’s Office. “So how close are you and Dr. Lambert anyway?”
Craig shrugged. “Not close at all,” he admitted dismally.
“That’s too bad,” Linda said soothingly, honing in on his disappointment. She reached up and touched his shoulder. “You look like you could use a friend.”
“I could,” Craig admitted. “Are you on your way back to work?”
“Actually, I’m only part-time and I’m finished for the night,” Linda told him. “I was going to get my timecard signed, but that can wait until tomorrow.” She moved closer to the doctor and smiled seductively. “Maybe we can have a drink or something?”
Dr. Hurley grinned. “There’s an interesting little club a few blocks from my hotel,” he suggested.
Linda slipped her arm into his. “Lead the way!” she chortled.
* * * * *
After bidding farewell to Craig, Nat arrived back in her office and spent the next hour and a half catching up on tedious paperwork. It was shortly before 2:00 when the phone rang, calling her out to the Peaks Hotel, an old but elegantly refurbished three storey building on Dundas Street. Nat quickly headed out, and when she drew near the hotel, she was surprised to discover four fire trucks on the street along with a T.F.D. rescue vehicle and two ambulances. There were several more firemen than cops, but most of them were heading back to their rigs. “Hmm, false alarm,” Nat muttered. She spotted Nick’s car at the curb and pulled in behind it.
The small hotel lobby was bustling with activity when Nat arrived. A few employees were busy talking with police officers while several hotel guests were still mulling around, some in their nightclothes. A fireman was busy reassuring them that it was a false alarm and trying to convince them to go back to their rooms.
Natalie approached one of the cops and held up her black bag. “Where do I go?” she asked.
“Second floor,” he replied, “214".
Nat took the marble staircase up one level and headed down the mahogany paneled corridor to the crime scene. She entered the room and went directly to the unkempt bed where the victim lay. He was face down and stark naked. A moment later, Nick was standing beside her.
“Single shot to the back of the head at least,” Nat told him as she bent over the victim, “just above the nape, small caliber. Probably no exit wound, but we’ll know for sure when I turn him over.” She stood up and continued her initial analysis. “Could have happened while he was sleeping,” she suggested. “No sign so far that he put up a fight.” She crouched down again to get a better look at the side of the victim’s face and then suddenly screamed out, “Oh my God! It’s Craig!” Nat sprang to her feet and was caught by Nick.
“That’s your friend?” he asked, surprised.
“Yes it is,” she gasped.
“The one you were with earlier?”
Natalie stared back at him. “I didn’t kill him, Nick,” she said.
“Should we get someone else to do this?” he asked.
Natalie shook her head. “It’s just a shock,” she said. “I had dinner with him a few hours ago. One minute he’s alive and eating a hamburger and the next he’s lying here dead. I have to let that sink in. I’ll be fine.” She glanced at Nick for a few seconds. “We were never close or anything like that. A friend of a friend really. He was actually pretty much a jerk in Med School, but he seemed to have settled down. It’s just the shock of it.”
Nick stood with her and gently rubbed her arm as she regained her composure. Moments later, the morgue attendants arrived with a stretcher. Nick stepped back out of the way and Natalie turned to the new arrivals. “Turn him over first and let me get a look,” she directed. “You can take him out when the photographer’s finished.”
* * * * *
Natalie was standing by Nick’s car finishing up her notes when Nick approached her. “I’m sorry, Nat. Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yes,” she replied. She set her clipboard down on the hood of the Caddy and then casually leaned back against the fender. “What went on here anyway? I thought there was a fire or something when I arrived.”
“False alarm called in at 1:30,” Nick explained. “An old man in the next room heard the gunshot. He figured reporting a fire would get a speedier response than reporting shots fired.”
“Must be from out of town,” Nat quipped. She lightly patted Nick’s shoulder. “He obviously doesn’t know how fast and reliable our police force is.”
Nick chuckled. “Could be good for us. A better chance that someone saw the killer.” He briefly glanced back towards the hotel. “It looks like I’ll be spending the rest of the night here questioning the guests.”
“Looks like,” Nat echoed, glancing at her watch. “It’s nearly 3:00 now. I’ll do the prelim when I get back.”
“Will I still see you after work?” Nick asked.
“Hmm,” she teased, “what shall I do? Go to the loft and have more beautiful things whispered into my ear, or spend a couple of extra hours at work performing an autopsy?”
Nick kept a straight face, “Well? Which one is it going to be?”
Natalie tugged at his arm. “Come here,” she whispered.
Nick obliged. He broke into a gentle smile and then met her lips in a fleeting tender kiss. “I guess that means I’ll see you around six.”
“I guess it does,” Nat replied. She deftly snapped off her white latex gloves and snatched up her clipboard. “See you later!” she exclaimed as she headed for her car.
* * * * *
Natalie arrived back at her office before her current case did. “You boys better not stop for java on the way down here,” she warned the empty room. She was more anxious than ever to get her work finished and get over to Nick’s. Anxious to get to the privacy of the loft and elaborate on his unexpected declaration of love. She spent the next ten minutes mulling over the romantic interlude that might ensue when they were finally alone together. Her contemplation was rudely interrupted when the attendants finally arrived with Craig’s body. They passed a chart to her and wheeled him into the autopsy room. Nat followed directly and began collecting the necessary samples and performing the external examination. When there was nothing left to do but open him up, she tucked him away into cold storage to await her next shift; and then headed over to Nick’s loft.
* * * * *
“Hah, you’re ten minutes late,” Nat teased as Nick stepped out of the elevator and into his apartment.
“I stopped off for your breakfast,” Nick announced, casually holding up a small brown paper bag. He dropped it on the kitchen table and then headed for the fridge. “Muffin, eggs, bacon and cheese all in one tidy little package. Juice too.”
“Thanks,” Nat said. She went to sit down at the table.
After retrieving a glassful of cow blood, Nick joined her there. “Did you find anything I should know about?” he asked.
“That he was with a woman immediately prior to his demise,” Nat divulged. “There’s a lot of evidence of recent sexual activity with a female, and I lifted several samples of lipstick and mascara from his body.” She paused for a sip of orange juice before continuing, “No evidence of any bruising though, which doesn’t really fit the profile of a sex killer... but sexual predators aren’t typically female either.” She glanced at Nick. “How about you? Any clues?”
“The night clerk noticed a man and woman arrive sometime between midnight and one,” he replied, “but he couldn’t positively identify the man as being Dr. Hurley, and he never saw the woman’s face. He couldn’t even tell me her hair colour because it was covered by a scarf.” Nick tapped his fingers on the table edge. “Two hours of questioning and that’s all we have.”
“Long haired brunette,” Nat told him. “I recovered several strands.”
“How much do you know about his private life?” Nick asked.
Nat shrugged. “Not much. He’s divorced. No kids. Has worked at the same hospital out west since graduation.”
“Did he seem evasive to you at all? Afraid? Do you think the only reason he was in Toronto was for the job interview?”
“He seemed perfectly normal, Nick, but he didn’t really seem the type to invite a stranger into his bed either.”
“Maybe she wasn’t a stranger,” Nick mumbled. “At any rate, Reese has sent a request out to the RCMP to gather up some background on him. Maybe something will turn up on their end.”
Natalie finished her breakfast and rose from the table. “That’s enough shop talk,” she said, “let’s go watch a movie.”
Nick grinned and followed her to the sofa. Standing directly behind her, he said teasingly, “By the way, Nat, I forgot to mention earlier that your new assistant visited me at the precinct.”
Natalie felt a cold shiver traverse her spine. She swung around to face Nick. “She didn’t!”
“Yes, she did,” Nick insisted. He quickly reined Natalie in with his arms and planted a firm, quick kiss on her lips.
Nat slid her finger delicately down the side of his face. “And what did she want besides the obvious?” she inquired with a soft voice.
“The obvious being you, Detective Knight. What did she say?”
“If I tell you, can we stop talking about her?”
“Happily,” Nat agreed.
Nick leaned forward and lightly kissed her again. “She told me that you like to make your own deliveries to me,” he whispered seductively.
“I do,” Nat whispered back, “and I have one for you right now.” Nick chuckled as she tugged him down to the sofa. She returned a warm kiss of her own to his lips, and then nuzzled his ear. “I love you too,” she murmured.
A persistent voice in the back of Nick’s mind was warning him to retreat, but at this moment he felt too human to listen. “I’ve waited so long to hear you say that,” he whispered, following up his words with a deep and passionate kiss. Natalie returned his passion with equal fervor, and their kisses grew more intense as Nick continued to ignore the incessant danger signal plummeting his brain. In an urgent need to touch more of her, he suddenly found his hands seeking out the buttons of her blouse. Overcome by similar need, Nat deftly undid the buttons of Nick’s silky black shirt.
Nick broke their kiss and smiled at her as she began caressing the cool chalky expanse of his chest. He, in turn, parted her blouse, exposing the harsh white of her bra against the soft flesh tones of her skin. Nick stopped to gaze at Nat’s face, and she looked directly into his eyes. They revealed the faintest hint of gold, but she felt no fear. Nat leaned forward and planted feather kisses across his chest, sending him into another frenzy of mortal passion. In an unusual and desperate need to touch and taste her as a man would, Nick reached behind her back and clumsily unlatched her bra. “I won’t hurt you,” he murmured in a soft throaty voice,” I’ll stop when I must stop.” He gently tugged her bra loose and pulled it away from her, then stared longingly at her for a moment before reaching out to touch her. He delicately traced a finger across her breasts and over her taut pink nipples. “You’re more beautiful that I could have imagined,” he whispered. The vampire’s longing for her blood grew stronger, but the trembling of her skin beneath his fingers held him entranced. He moved to nuzzle her breasts with his lips and tongue, and was intoxicated by her taste. He suckled momentarily on one of her nipples, but his will was now battling heavily against that of the vampire, and he was preparing himself to pull away.
Natalie groped for one of Nick’s hands and placed it firmly on her upper thigh. “Touch me, Nick,” she pleaded breathlessly.
Nick warmed his fingers on her thigh and then moved his hand under her skirt, drifting his way up, struggling to fend off the vampire’s hunger for just a few more minutes. Battling for enough time to pleasure the woman he loved, the woman who loved him, in the only way that he could. His hand finally found her panties and was immediately enveloped in a blazing, living heat. As he slipped his hand inside, the sweet heady scent of her desire encapsulated him in a beckoning fog. But he was out of time.
“Please, Nick,” Nat whimpered again.
But her urgent plea was lost in the irresistible and now blaring sound of her heartbeat. In an instant, Nick was away from her, kneeling alone on the floor by the chair, his head buried in his hands.
Natalie quickly fought her way back from the stupor of desire. She dressed hastily and went directly to Nick. She knelt on the floor beside him and wrapped her arms lovingly around him. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.
An eerie chuckle rose from Nick. “You’re sorry? You’re not the one to be sorry here, Nat.” He finally looked at her, and she knew by the red smears on his cheeks that he had cried. “All I want to do is make some kind of love to you, Nat,” he moaned, “and all I’m capable of doing, is killing you.”
Natalie eased herself in front of him and embraced him snugly. Fighting back her own tears and frustration, she consoled him with a soft voice and firm words. “You love me every time you smile at me,” she said. “Every time you hold my hand, or offer me your arm in escort.” She gently toyed with his hair and continued talking in a soothing tone, “One day,” she promised, “this will all be behind us. One day we’ll make love together in the sunlight.”
They comforted each other. In silence. And for a very long time.
* * * * *
Natalie arrived at work at 8:00 that evening. She could hear muffled voices in the adjacent autopsy room and entered to find both her elderly superior, Dr. Kyle, and one of the young day shift pathologists standing over the autopsy table. They were quietly discussing Hurley’s undraped corpse.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Nat asked, dumbfounded. She glanced over at the cadaver and noted that while he hadn’t yet been cut into, a wide trickle of crusted blood coated his mouth. Smears of blood were evident on his chest and abdomen as well.
Dr. Kyle quickly advanced on Nat. “Dr. Wilkes is going to do the autopsy, Dr. Lambert,” he informed her. He gestured for Nat to withdraw and then added firmly, “Let’s talk in there.”
Natalie folded her arms in front of her chest and grudgingly retreated to her office. Dr. Kyle followed and shut the door behind them.
Nat pivoted around to face him. “You can’t do this!” she complained. “You can’t just walk in here and take over my case.” She pointed towards the autopsy room. “And what happened to him anyway?”
The doctor gestured towards Nat’s chair. “Perhaps you better sit down,” he suggested.
“I don’t need to sit down,” Natalie snapped defiantly. “Just tell me what the hell is going on here.”
Dr. Kyle took a deep breath. “There’s been an accusation made against you,” he told her.
The man shrugged and took on a more sombre tone. “You were acquainted with the deceased. You know the regs about working on anyone you know personally. Do you want to explain why you broke those rules?”
“Everyone has broken them,” Natalie insisted, “and he certainly wasn’t close. I don’t believe I knew him well enough to even fall within the regs.” She leaned back onto the edge of her desk. “Regs, regs. This whole thing is ridiculous. He was an old acquaintance from Med School in town for an interview. I had dinner with him, I didn’t kill him.”
“This isn’t about his murder,” Dr. Kyle explained.
“Well, what is it about then?” Nat demanded.
“Someone was tampering with the body,” her boss replied. He paused for another deep breath and then frowned. “If it was just between us, Natalie, you know I’d be locking down and investigating a security breech. But it’s not just between us. There is a witness, someone who says they saw you and who is demanding a full investigation.”
Natalie shook her head in confusion. “Wait a minute, wait a minute,” she said. “What do you mean by ‘tampering with the body’?”
“Intimate tampering,” he replied. “Of the sort that stays hidden, especially when it’s police evidence.” The doctor raised his eyebrows and stared at Nat. “Of the sort that has so far managed to elude this prestigious establishment.”
Nat’s stomach was turned by a wave of nausea and her knees suddenly became liquid. She had to grab the edge of the desk with her palms to maintain her balance.
“Where were you at 4:30 this morning?” Dr. Kyle asked.
“I was here working,” Nat mumbled, still stunned.
“And what time did you leave?”
“At five, like I usually try to.”
“Did you go anywhere afterwards?”
“I visited Nick. Detective Knight. I went to his place.”
“What time did you get there?”
“Around....” Natalie abruptly cut herself off. “Why am I even answering these questions!” she exclaimed. “This whole thing is ludicrous. Beyond ludicrous.” She stared towards the autopsy room. “There is no way in hell I would ever...” Finally finding strength in her legs again, Nat raced from her office.
“We’ll need a voluntary DNA sample to clear you!” Dr. Kyle shouted out after her.
* * * * *
There was an awkward silence in the bullpen when Nick arrived for his shift. Two rookies that he had never seen before were standing just inside the doorway with silly grins on their faces. Curious, Nick stopped beside them. “What’s going on here?” he asked.
“Waiting for a shit-storm,” the taller rookie replied. “Waiting for a Detective Knight.” He pointed in the general direction of Nick’s desk. “His desk’s over there.”
“Why are you waiting for him?” Nick asked, a smug grin plastered on his own face.
The officer laughed and poked his companion’s elbow. “Tell him, Jake,” he urged.
Jake chuckled. “He’s supposedly involved with an M.E. and we’re all waiting to see what he does when he finds out.” He glanced at Nick. “Terrible waste if you ask me. I’ve seen the doctor and she’s a real knockout.”
Nick’s amusement quickly turned to agitation. “You still haven’t told me anything,” he barked.
Jake laughed again. “Let’s just say she takes the term ‘embrace death’ a bit too literally.”
Nick cast a feral stare at the man. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?” he growled.
“She gets her jollies out of stiffs with soft willies. Hops up there and rides like...”
Enraged, Nick instantly clenched his hand into a fist that met Jake’s chin with a jaw shattering crunch. Jake fell backwards onto the hard tile floor, unconscious and bleeding from the mouth. Nick was about to slug the other one when Reese’s voice bellowed out to him from across the room.
“Knight!” the captain shouted from his office doorway. “Get the hell in here!”
Ignoring the gasps and quiet chattering of his colleagues, Nick stormed towards Reese’s office. “What the hell is going on around here!” he fumed. He immediately noticed a thin, middle aged Chinese man in a brown suit standing in front of Reese’s desk. “And who the hell are you?”
“Settle down, Knight!” Reese ordered. “This is Dr. Liu with the Coroner’s office. He’s investigating an incident over there and wants to speak with you, ask a few questions.”
Dr. Liu stepped forward and offered his hand to Nick. Nick ignored it.
“Well, whatever it is, it has nothing to do with Natalie,” Nick spat.
“Nonetheless, Detective,” Dr. Liu interjected, “we’re not taking this accusation lightly. This type of thing undermines the integrity of the entire office, the entire legal system when you get right down to it.” He extracted a small black notebook and a silver ballpoint pen from his shirt pocket. “If you really want to help Dr. Lambert, just relax and answer a few questions. For instance, she says she was at your place this morning. Is that correct?”
“Yes, she was with me,” Nick replied angrily.
“And can you tell me exactly when she arrived? When she left?”
“She was already there when I got home at six. We watched a movie and she left. She called me from her apartment when she arrived there like she always does.”
Dr. Liu scribbled something in his notebook and then stared inquisitively at Nick. “You two are very close?”
“Very close,” Nick stated, “and she would never do anything like this. It’s absurd that anyone could even think she would do something like this.”
Dr. Liu snapped the notebook shut and set it down on the table. He nodded towards Captain Reese who promptly left the room. “I have a few personal questions,” Dr. Liu continued, “and I promise you that nothing said between us will ever leave this office.” He paused for a moment and then bluntly asked, “Has Dr. Lambert ever made any unusual sexual demands of you?”
Nick clenched his fist, desperately fighting back the urge to go two for two. “Just what the hell are you getting at?”
Dr. Liu smiled and moved closer to Nick. He put his hand on Nick’s shoulder. “Come on, detective,” he said, “you’re a bright man. You know what I mean. Has she ever asked you to do anything... bizarre.”
Nick swatted the offending arm away. “This investigation is over!” he shouted.
“We want to keep a lid on this,” the doctor advised him. “And the only way we can do that is if her friends co-operate in the investigation.”
“Fat chance of keeping a lid on it,” Nick snapped. “Cops I don’t even know already know about it. You don’t want to find out the truth. You just want to crucify your scapegoat and shove her out the door before the morning papers hit the street.” He headed for the door and then instantly swung around. “And when I find out who’s behind this,” Nick swore, “he is the one who is going to be crucified.”
“Just stick to the homicide investigation, Detective!” Dr. Liu warned him.
Nick stormed out of the office and immediately spotted Natalie standing inside the doorway where he had punched Jake a few minutes earlier. He cast a look of contempt at his now silent co-workers, but no longer saw any hint of amusement among them. As he neared Natalie, he realized that she was crying. When he was finally standing in front of her, she collapsed in his arms.
“Oh, Nick!” Natalie sobbed. “Who would do something like this? Why?”
Nick held her even more tightly. “I don’t know, Nat,” he conceded, “but I promise you that I’ll find out and they’ll pay for it.” He tilted up her chin and kissed her lips, and then carefully wiped away the fresh tears from her eyes. Nick turned her around and escorted her down the vacant hallway, keeping his arm protectively around her shoulders.
When they arrived in the parking lot, Nat turned in the direction of her car and Nick promptly stopped her. “I’m not letting you go home alone,” he said, “not like this.”
“You want to drive me home?”
“I want you to come to my place, Nat. You need someone to be with you right now.” Nick positioned his hands on her cheeks and smiled warmly at her. “You need *me* to be with you right now,” he said.
“Yes I do need you,” she confessed.
When they arrived at the Caddy, Nick suddenly stopped in front of it. “Hurley is the common denominator here,” he remarked, “and whoever set you up could have been the same person that killed him.”
“But I hardly knew him.”
“I know, but I think you should stay at my place for a few days. At least until we nail down a suspect.” He escorted Nat around to the passenger side and opened the door for her. “We’ll stop by your place first so you can pick up a few things.”
* * * * *
While Nat was gathering up what she needed to take to the loft and making arrangements for Sydney’s care, Nick was using her phone to talk with Captain Reese. It was 10:30 when they finally left her apartment. When they pulled into the parking lot at the loft, Nat immediately noticed a police cruiser. “What are they doing here?” she asked nervously.
“Captain Reese insisted,” Nick replied. “I’m not the only one who believes that what’s happened is a little too coincidental. They’ll only be here when I’m not around. Two in the car and one upstairs.”
“You’re going back out to work tonight?”
“I’ll be with you for a while, Nat, and then I’ll have to go,” Nick said bleakly. “My heart wants to stay here and protect you, but my head’s telling me the only way I can honestly protect you is to find out what the hell is going on. I can’t do that over the phone.”
Nat nodded grudgingly. “You’re right,” she finally agreed.
“Reese told me that the victim had been drinking heavily,” Nick explained, “but there was no alcohol in the room when we searched it. I’m going to hit the local bars and see what I can come up with.”
Nick and Nat finally emerged from the Caddy and as they approached the cruiser, a tall, muscular cop with light brown hair climbed out from the back seat. “Hey, Nick!” he bellowed, “long time no see!”
“How are you, Ross?” Nick asked, firmly clasping the giant man’s hand.
“Couldn’t be better,” Ross replied. He glanced at Natalie. “So this is your Natalie is it?” He briskly slapped Nick’s shoulder. “Don’t that beat all!” he exclaimed. “I’m getting paid to spend the night with another cop’s woman.” He winked in jest at Nat. “And a beauty to beat.”
“I suppose we should be introduced,” Natalie announced, the barest hint of a blush colouring her cheeks.
“Of course,” Nick agreed. “Ross, meet Natalie Lambert. Nat, meet Ross Dalovitch.” The two nodded at each other. Nick suddenly grasped Nat’s hand and squeezed it. “Ross will come upstairs to stay with you after I’ve left,” he said. He glanced gratefully at his friend and added, “I trust him implicitly.”
* * * * *
Nick’s exploration of bars and nightclubs, and investigation of their employees and customers, proved fruitless until near the end of his shift. One of the servers at ‘The Silver Spike’, an after hours club three blocks from the Peaks, recognized the police photo that Nick showed her. She only remembered Hurley’s face because he had left her an extremely generous tip. She couldn’t remember much about the woman with him, only that her hair was long and dark. She had no clue about the woman’s height because she had only seen her sitting down. Even when Nick used his hypnotic abilities to press the waitress, she was unable to come up with a description other than, “Average... not stunning or anything... I see so many... the faces blend together...” He did manage to get a list of names of club regulars from her though, and passed it along to the day shift back at the precinct before heading home.
Natalie was napping on the couch when he arrived at the loft. He quietly thanked Ross, told him the others were waiting for him outside, and that they should all return at sunset that evening. The sound of Nick’s voice as he spoke with his friend roused Nat from her light sleep. She sat up and turned her head around just as the elevator door closed.
Nick glanced over at her. “You’re awake.”
“I only dozed off for a minute,” she said, eyeing a letter size envelope that he held in his hand. “What’s that?”
“Something from the morgue we’re not supposed to have,” Nick explained as he approached her. He noticed the sudden crushing pain in her eyes. “No one at work believes you did it, Nat,” he reassured her.
“What is it?”
“Something that proves to you that Grace isn’t your only friend there.” Nick pulled a sheet of white paper from the envelope. “It’s the witness report,” he explained.”I’m afraid the name’s been deleted. There are only two people with access to that information and I can’t find out who they are.” Nick shook his head morosely. “It’s like the bloody resistance over there, Nat, where one cell knows a few things, another cell knows a few things, and no one knows the whole story or who knows what.”
Natalie summoned up a weak grin. “That’s called government,” she stated flatly, holding her hand out for the paper.
Nick cautiously held on to the report. “Nat, I’ve already read this and it’s really ugly. There’s nothing here that will help us. You don’t have to read it.”
“Yes I do,” she insisted.
Nick tossed the envelope onto the coffee table and sat down on the sofa beside Natalie. He slipped his arm around her before passing her the paper.
Natalie started reading aloud, “I went to Dr. Lambert’s office to drop off some supplies she had asked for and she wasn’t at her desk. I walked over to the autopsy room and looked through the window. I saw someone doing things to the body, and I’m 99% certain that it was Dr. Lambert. She was fondling it and kissing it. I think she was talking to it. Then she took off her lab coat and she started taking off her clothes. I turned around. I was scared. I didn’t know what to do. Then I looked through the window again and she was naked, and pushing her breasts into his arm. She was stroking his chest, and then she started licking it. She climbed up on the table and straddled him. That’s when I got really scared and I ran. I ran all the way back upstairs to my own desk, but I couldn’t concentrate on my work. I just couldn’t believe what she was doing down there. I felt sick and I went home. I tried to sleep, but I couldn’t. All I could think about was that poor man’s body in there being used like that. I couldn’t stand it anymore. I felt guilty. That’s when I came back here to tell you.”
“This is unbelievable,” Natalie swore. “What supplies? I never asked for any supplies. I’ve been set up, and someone obviously saw something; but it damn well wasn’t me.” She moved quickly to stuff the report away and noticed another piece of paper inside the envelope. “What’s that?”
Nick glared at the envelope. “It’s nothing,” he said, wishing he had had the sense to destroy it before he arrived.
“It is something,” Nat maintained, “I can tell by that look on your face.”
“It’s even less important than the other thing, Nat. It will only upset you.” Nick suddenly lunged for it, but Nat beat him to it.
“These are the results of Dr. Wilkes’ examination,” she said. She started reading aloud again, her face growing paler with each word, “...blood... result of pressure on the chest... saliva... abdomen... vaginal fluid on the lips and chin...” Natalie felt her last cup of coffee rising up bitter in her throat. She covered her face with her hands and retched. Nick ran to the bathroom and returned with a wet towel. “I shouldn’t have brought that in,” he whispered as he wiped the foul smelling mess from her face and hands. “You never should have seen it. I’m sorry.”
Natalie struggled fiercely to hold back her tears. “It’s not your fault, Nick,” she said. She crushed the paper into a tight wad and tossed it towards the fireplace. “DNA tests will eventually clear me, but just being suspected is going to be a cloud hanging over me for the rest of my life, no matter what. People snickering and whispering. People pointing and staring.”
Nick smiled warmly at her. “Yes,” he said, “they’ll be pointing and whispering, ‘look at that beautiful woman’. Why just yesterday, someone I had never seen before called you a knock-out.”
Natalie summoned up a weak grin. “Oh? And what did you say?”
Nick chuckled. “I broke his jaw, actually. I suppose I’ll have to answer for that one when this case is cleared up.” He firmly grasped Nat’s hands in his own. “And I promise you, Natalie, the first person that snickers at you is going to get the same treatment.”
“How chivalrous of you, thank you, ” Natalie said gratefully.
Nick planted a gentle kiss on her lips. “You’re very welcome.”
Natalie smiled warmly at him. “You look tired,” she said, “you should rest.”
“I am tired.”
“Go on upstairs then,” she insisted. “I’m going to read for awhile. I’ll wake you later.”
* * * * *
A couple of hours later, Linda pulled her car into the parking lot of the loft, still on a high over being asked to make this delivery to begin with. She wanted to move in on Nick fast, before Dr. Lambert was cleared, when he was at his most vulnerable. Even afterwards, the damage to their relationship would have already been done, the chasm between them insurmountable; but ‘no time like the present’ had always been her motto. Right now, Detective Knight would be alone in his loft despairing over that bitch who disgraced him; feeling humiliated, feeling emasculated. Vulnerable. Linda quickly rummaged through the pile of folders and envelopes that were strewn across the passenger seat. She pulled out the one addressed to the object of her obsession and hastily emerged from the car. She strode confidently towards Nick’s door, and buzzed the intercom.
* * * * *
Natalie had fallen asleep on Nick’s leather couch, and was deeply immersed in a strange dream.
She was standing in the morgue and had just watched the creature in the form of a man drink a pint of a dead human’s blood. Curiousity overcoming fear, she stepped over to the creature and moved to touch his face. He suddenly grabbed her arm and floated her hand gently across his cheek.
"I'm dead," the man-thing said.
"No, you're not,” she assured him. “You're not dead."
But he was dead. And as she pulled her hand back from his icy cheek, a swath of bloodied ashen skin came with it. She stared at the sticky mess in her hand for a moment and then made a half-hearted attempt to shake it off. It stuck fast to her fingers. "What is this?" she calmly asked.
"I'm dead," the corpse repeated.
She stepped back from the talking corpse and knew then that it was Nick. More of his skin sloughed off in gummy wide ribbons. She started to gather it in her hands in an effort to stop it from tumbling to the floor, but it was unraveling faster than she could collect it. Puzzled, she just stood there and stared at him. The pasty flesh continued to pile up in her arms, almost to her chin, and still he simply stood there repeating the phrase, “I’m dead.”
"I love you,” she explained quietly. “You're not dead. LaCroix has wrapped you up in all this stuff." But when the small mountain of skin neared her nostrils, she was assailed by the putrid smell of rotting flesh. 'This isn't Nick,' she thought, 'he always smells wonderful.' She suddenly dropped the pungent mess to the floor and screamed.
Natalie’s eyes instantly shot open. She rose slowly from the couch and stumbled over to the intercom, the buzzer now blaring incessantly. “Hello? Who is it?” she asked groggily.
Linda was stunned for a moment at the irritating sound of her rival’s voice.
“Hello?” Nat repeated, shaking the last remnants of her nightmare from her mind.
“Dr. Lambert?” a meek voice inquired.
“Yes. And you are?”
“It’s Linda from the office. I have a package for Detective Knight from Captain Reese. May I come up?”
Nat resisted the temptation to tell Linda to go screw herself, and grudgingly pressed the button. She folded her arms defiantly and stood waiting in front of the elevator. A few moments later the charred wooden door slid open and Linda stood before her.
“You have something for Nick?”
Linda stepped gingerly into the apartment. “I’m sorry, Dr. Lambert,” she said, “but I was given specific instructions to deliver this into the hands of Detective Knight.” She casually surveyed the loft. “Is he around?”
“He’s sleeping,” Nat informed her. “You can give it to me.”
Linda shrugged helplessly. “I understand,” she said, “but I’m just a temp and if I ever want to get called back, I have to follow procedure.”
“Alright, fine,” Nat conceded with some irritation. “Wait here.” She immediately went upstairs to wake Nick.
Linda took the opportunity to peruse Nick’s place. The aura was intoxicating. Dark, spacious. Cold. She glanced over at the couch and was surprised to see bedding on it. “Man, he really is wasted on her,” she muttered.
Upstairs, Nat stopped just inside Nick’s bedroom door. She shuddered at the sight of him laying on his back with his arms folded across his chest. It was his normal fashion of sleeping and had never disturbed her before, but now.... “Stop that, Nat!” she finally ordered herself. She marched over to the bed and gazed down on him, and then knelt on the floor close to him. She laid her hands over his and kissed his cool cheek. “You are most definitely not dead,” she uttered quietly. She moved her lips to his ear and whispered softly, “Nick? Nick?” but he wouldn’t wake. As her voice gradually increased in volume, she started to shake his shoulder.
Nick finally started to stir. “What is it?” he asked, a bit lethargically.
“Delivery from Reese,” she replied, “for you and you alone to accept.”
Nick lazily rolled over to face her, and then reached his arm out to touch her hair. An inviting smile formed on his lips. “You are taking your chances coming to my bed,” he whispered.
“I think it’s safe to take my chances when there’s someone waiting downstairs.” Nat then grinned mischievously. “Though I am tempted to jump up and down on your bed for the next two hours just to drive the message into your messenger’s head.”
Nick chuckled. “I’d spend the next two hours jumping with you,” he said as he stood up, “but I don’t want her in my home a moment longer than necessary. There’s something about that woman that I detest.”
“Oh? You mean something besides the fact that she wants to replace me?” Nat teased.
“I don’t know what it is,” Nick confided, “but it’s unsettling.”
“Unsettling to a vampire?”
Nick shrugged helplessly. “Baffles me as well.”
Moments later, they arrived at the foot of the staircase. Natalie followed a few steps behind Nick as they walked over to the lift.
“I’m really sorry you were disturbed,” Linda apologized as she offered the envelope to Nick, “but I have my instructions.”
Nick cast her an irritated glance and Linda withdrew into the dark confines of the elevator. “Sorry, again,” she mumbled as Nick slid the door shut behind her. Linda was breathless at having seen her living corpse again. The experience had made her want him all the more, but that bitch was still standing in the way. It took her all of thirty seconds to decide her next course of action. It would take time for him to come around, she realized, but he was definitely worth waiting for.
“I don’t know that I want to look in any more envelopes,” Nat muttered dismally once the elevator was safely away. She and Nick went over to the kitchen table and sat down.
Nick tore open the envelope and pulled out a thin stack of yellow papers that had been stapled together. “It’s the RCMP report,” he said. “Interviews with the late Dr. Hurley’s associates.” He started flipping through the pages. “And with his wife, Darlene Louise.” Nick briefly glanced at Nat. “Apparently he wasn’t exactly being honest with you when you talked to him.”
“He’s not divorced and childless for one thing. He left his wife and four children about a year ago for a young nurse. He and his wife were informally separated, but not divorced.” Nick turned to the next sheet. “It says here that he had recently tried to reconcile with his wife, but she had started seeing someone else and was about to begin legal divorce proceedings.”
“I guess he wasn’t quite the man I thought him to be,” Nat commented.
Nick finished rifling through the report and then tossed it onto the table. “Nothing here of any use,” he said. “Maybe the day shift will have some leads for me to follow up on tonight.” He reached across the table and barely touched Nat’s cheek. “I’m going back to bed,” he said, “but we’ll spend some time together before I leave for work.”
Natalie yawned. “I think I’ll get back to dreamland myself,” she said, secretly hoping for a more pleasant dream. She returned to the couch, and Nick headed back upstairs.
* * * * *
Natalie woke shortly before sunset and had just gone into the kitchen to make coffee when the telephone rang. She quickly ran to the desk and picked up the receiver. “Hello?”
“Dr. Lambert? Sorry to bother you. It’s Linda.”
‘This woman is really getting annoying,’ Nat thought. “Detective Knight will be up within the hour,” she said. “Can’t this wait?”
“Sorry,” Linda apologized again, “but it’s you that I’m looking for. Grace left about ten minutes ago to collect some kind of samples from you, and I just realized that she headed to your apartment. She doesn’t have a cell phone or I’d call her and let her know where you are. I thought you might like to know, so maybe you could meet her there.”
“I don’t have any samples of anything,” Nat replied before realizing that Grace was probably on a crusade to get samples for the DNA comparison. “I’ll take care of it,” Nat said into the phone. She placed the receiver back on its cradle. That would be like Grace, she thought, immediately envisioning Grace staring her down, lecturing her, demanding the precious samples that would clear her of any wrongdoing. Nat scribbled a hasty note for Nick, snatched his car keys off the desk, and then traveled downstairs to the garage to borrow the Caddy.
* * * * *
Half an hour later, Nat was standing in the hallway outside the door to her own apartment. She could hear the phone ringing inside, but it stopped just as she entered her living room. She closed the door behind her and turned on the light, only to be confronted by woman ten feet away from her. A woman holding a gun.
Nat gasped. “Linda?”
“The late Dr. Lambert I presume,” Linda said, an evil smirk on her face. “Sorry Grace couldn’t make it, but she doesn’t know anything about this little rendevous.”
Too shocked to panic just yet, Nat focused all of her efforts on staying calm and curious long enough to buy time. She hoped that it had been Nick trying to call her. If he was worried enough, she stood a chance of getting out of this, but she had to keep Linda talking. “It was you? You killed Craig? Why?”
“I was compelled to,” Linda explained, using the gun to motion Nat over to the couch. She followed Nat closely, keeping her weapon carefully aimed. When Nat was settled on the sofa, Linda slowly backed up and slid into a chair across from her.
Nat stared at the woman. “Why do you want to kill me?”
“Nothing personal,” Linda replied coldly. “You’re just standing in the way of something I want. Something I want very badly.”
“You want Nick,” Natalie muttered, finally realizing just how desperate this woman was.
”What does Nick have to do with Craig?”
“I like my corpses fresh,” she replied, “and I wanted you disgraced. It seemed a reasonable plan at the time. Unfortunately Detective Knight was not as eager to be rid of you as I had expected, so now we’re into Phase Two.”
Natalie stared at her quizzically. “Phase Two?”
Linda chuckled. “Blasting your brain stem to smithereens.”
“Killing me won’t get you any closer to Nick,” Nat proclaimed.
“Don’t worry about him, doctor, I’ll be here to comfort him every step of the way. It will take some time this way of course, but I have time.”
“Nick will never stop looking for my killer,” Nat said, her voice now beginning to falter. “He’ll hunt you down. You don’t know him. You don’t know anything about him.”
“I know what I’m attracted to,” Linda confided. “The same thing you are. Craig filled me in on the good old days in Med School. He told me that you were always more interested in the dead than in the living.”
“I was more interested in the dead than in him,” Nat retorted.
Linda leaned forward and stared directly into Nat’s eyes. “You’ll never admit it, will you?” she asked rhetorically. “It took me a long time to admit it. That’s why you became a pathologist, isn’t it? You love the dead. It’s why you surround yourself with them, isn’t it? They excite you. You want to make love to them.”
Natalie groaned. “I became a pathologist because I value life,” she declared. “Because I care. Because I want to find ways to help people live longer. Because I want to put sick people who snuff out life behind bars. People like you.” Nat involuntarily bit her bottom lip, fearing that she had just pushed Linda too far. She felt a wash of relative relief when Linda continued the conversation.
“Noble words cannot extinguish the truth,” Linda intoned. “You became a pathologist because you’re attracted to the most powerful force in the universe. That which can subdue life. Death. The scent of it. The finality of it. The purity of its ghostly white skin.”
“You’re insane,” Nat muttered, her words drowned out by the renewed ringing of her telephone.
“Don’t touch that,” Linda commanded. She leaned back in the chair and grinned that evil grin again.
“It’s Nick,” Nat said. “If I don’t answer, he’ll come looking for me.” That’s what she hoped and prayed for anyway.
Linda paused until the phone stopped ringing. “Yes,” she spat sarcastically. “You found the perfect compromise in the detective, didn’t you? Not only a handsome face, but skin so deliciously pale and cold.”
“He’s not cold,” Nat said, “he’s the warmest man I’ve ever known. And that’s precisely why you’ll never have him.”
Linda suddenly stood up. “I’ll see to it that your friends at the Coroner’s office take proper care of you,” she said, “and I’ll take proper care of Nick.”
Natalie’s heart had started racing wildly at Linda’s movement. Her body starting shaking involuntarily as the primal instinct for survival gained ground over her ability to reason. Her time was running out.
“I’d also like to thank you for not cutting into Craig before I had a go,” Linda continued with amusement. “There’s mess... and then there’s mess.” She paused for a minute, and then started inching her way towards Nat. “Stand up,” she ordered.
Nat slowly rose to her feet, “Oh, God, Nick, where are you?” she pleaded.
“I’ve never done a woman before,” Linda taunted, “but I might make an exception in your case. You can consider it a reimbursement of pleasure for the aggravation you’ve caused me.”
“I won’t consider it at all,” Nat vowed in a last desperate measure of defiance. Inside though, she was terrified that this repulsive woman might actually do it. The mere thought of being touched by such a sadistic ghoul, even in death, nauseated her.
“You look a little pale at the prospect,” Linda mocked. She tauntingly ran her tongue around her lips and then stared silently at Nat for a long moment. Finally, she shouted, “Turn around!”
Natalie slowly turned about. She focused all of her thoughts on Nick, praying that her very last thought in life would be of him, and only of him. Time seemed to stop at that moment. She closed her eyes and soaked in every feature of his face, the sound of his voice, the scent of him. She relived all of his loving embraces and his tender kisses, and the recent intimacy that they had shared with each other. The gun’s hammer was cocked with an ominous clicking sound, but to Natalie’s ears it was simply Nick whispering, “I love you”.
It was like an explosion when the hall door came crashing down into the living room. Natalie instantly fell to the floor. The gun went off. A lamp exploded. There was a blur of motion and a high pitched scream. Linda was disarmed and handcuffed before she even knew what hit her.
Nick roughly shoved the vile woman into the armchair. “Stay there or I’ll kill you,” he snarled. He immediately went to Natalie and helped her up off the floor. “Nat? Nat? Are you hit?”
“No,” she mumbled in a daze.
Nick quickly pulled out his cell phone and called for back-up and a forensic unit. He sat down and held Natalie in a tight grip, struggling mightily with the urge to kill the monster who sat across from them. He buried his feral face in Nat’s hair, desperately trying to calm his anger with her warmth and scent, drawing on the love and compassion that he felt emanating from her whenever they were together.
Natalie could feel Nick’s body against hers, and it was shuddering with rage. She slowly moved her hand to caress his cheek, and then gently guided his head around until he faced her. His eyes were blazing gold and his lethal fangs extended. Still trembling, Nat found the strength to smile warmly at him. She delicately traced his lips with her finger. “I love you,” she said. “Don’t let her do this to you.”
Nick closed his eyes, and moved his forehead to touch Nat’s. Nat extended her arms around him and hugged him tightly. A barely audible rustling sound from Linda’s direction roused Nick’s attention and he opened his eyes, now blue. “I told you not to move,” he growled without looking at her. He had barely finished speaking when two uniformed officers arrived on the scene. Nick gestured for them to take Linda out of the apartment and they obliged.
“She killed Craig,” Nat said, “and that thing in the morgue was her too. She was going to kill me.”
“God, Nat, why?” Nick asked.
“Because she was a sick, sick woman,” Nat told him, deciding to wait until later to tell him everything.
* * * * *
Nick and Nat spent almost an hour at Nat’s apartment, reciting their statements and waiting for forensics to finish up before they could return to the loft. After her emotions had settled down and Nick had fed, they retired to the couch. Natalie decided it was time to tell Nick everything. “She wanted you, Nick,” Nat blurted out. “That’s why she did it. I was in her way.”
“And what she did to Craig, at the morgue, it wasn’t a one time only thing. That’s what she does. She claims that she loves the dead and that she makes love to the dead.” Nat’s hands started to fidget anxiously and she started to ramble. “She said I’m the same as she is. And I had this strange dream earlier where your skin was falling off. This is going to sound really stupid, Nick, but she thought she sensed death in you. I know it’s silly. You’re not dead. Of course you’re not dead. She maintained that I’m attracted to you because I’m attracted to death. That I sense it in you just as she did. It’s ludicrous.”
Nick stared awkwardly at Nat. “Who are you trying to convince, Nat?” he asked. “Me? Or yourself?”
Natalie stared back at him. “Oh, God, Nick,” she whimpered, “some of the things she said, they actually made sense. They made me question myself and it was frightening. I flashed right back to the first time we met. When I first saw you in the morgue, you were dead. The next moment, you were alive. I wasn’t in love when I entered the morgue that night, but I was in love when I left. And I’ve never stopped long enough to ask myself the big question. Did I fall in love with a dead man?”
They sat in tortured silence for a solid two minutes, until Nick finally spoke. “Dead was how I felt at that moment,” he admitted, “and how I’ve usually felt in the past. But something happened to me that night, Nat, when I met you.” He grasped her hand and held it to his chest. “Where I expected to find fear and loathing in your eyes, I found only warmth and compassion.” Reaching out with his free hand, Nick delicately caressed her cheek.”This body is cold and dead,” he continued, “but I’m not dead inside. Not anymore. You brought me back to life when you reached out to me that night. When I felt the warmth of your touch on my face. And I’ve felt alive ever since.”
Hot tears started gushing freely from Nat’s eyes and Nick pulled her towards him in a loving embrace.
“You and Linda do have something in common,” he continued, “but most definitely not in the way that you fear.” Holding Nat snugly, Nick rhythmically stroked her hair. “You are both highly attuned to the essence of life, and of death - - the two worlds that I am caught between. When that woman looked at me, she sensed only death. She saw only my pallor, and sensed only the aura of death that surrounds me. That’s what was bothering me about her, Nat. I’ve felt alive for so long now that I just didn’t make the connection.” He loosened his grip on Natalie and tenderly held her tear smitten face in his hands, bidding her to gaze only at him. “When you look at me,” he whispered reassuringly, “you see only my mind and my heart. My soul. You sense only my life. The rest doesn’t exist for you. It never has.”
“Oh, Nick,” Natalie sobbed, “I’m sorry. I’ve been such a fool for doubting myself.”
“I am a world class champion at doubting myself,” Nick reminded her, “but the one thing I can tell you with absolute certainty is that you felt *only* life that night in the morgue, and nothing more. You didn’t fall in love with a dead man any more than I fell in love with a dead woman.” He cast a glowing smile at her and she smiled back at him. Nick then kissed her cheek and moved his lips to hers. He kissed her deeply, and she kissed him fervently in return. Their passion intensified rapidly, and in moments he felt her trembling with want of more. His need to satisfy her pressed on him even more heavily than the last time he tried to express his love, but it was too soon to try again. Nick reluctantly pulled away.
“What’s wrong?” Nat whispered.
“We got into a wee bit of trouble doing this before,” Nick said. “That’s why we’re going to stop and watch a movie.” He got up and wandered over to the shelf, collected a video and popped it into the VCR on his way back to the sofa. Nick turned off the light and then sat down and put his arm around Nat.
Nat couldn’t tell as she was snuggling into Nick that he was desperately trying to stifle a bout of laughter. “Stop wriggling around,” she demanded as she raised her legs up onto the couch. When the movie title finally came up on the screen, Nick could no longer restrain himself and laughed outright. Nat jabbed her elbow into his stomach. “Oh, very funny,” she said. “Night of the Living Dead, Nick?”
“I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist,” Nick countered, still chuckling.
“Keep up that giggling and you will be dead.”
Nick turned his head and stared at her until she finally broke into a grin. “Give up?” he asked.
“I give,” Nat conceded. “Now move your face and let’s watch the movie.”
- - The End - -