TIME HEALS ALL WOUNDS
by Bonnie Pardoe
Tracy swirled the last dregs of creamy coffee around the inside her cup. She was glad when Natalie had asked her to breakfast. She didn't know why they'd never done it before. After all, they not only worked together on occasion, but Nat was Nick's friend--maybe even his girlfriend. "Complicated" Natalie had once said about their relationship. Funny, but Nick didn't seen the 'complicated' type. She could easily picture him sitting in a comfy chair by the fire, with his feet up, reading a book to his children. But then again, there were things that he didn't talk to her about and weird occurances that he just glossed over whenever whe pointed them out. Perhaps she didn't know Nick as well as she thought she did. Thank goodness Brian was all that he seemed.
"Say, Nat? What's the weirdest thing a guy has ever said to you?"
"The weirdest?" Nat raise an eyebrow and was at a loss as to how to answer. She was certain that this question had nothing to do with Nick's condition, but what else could have prompted it? "Ah, well. Hum. I'd... I'd have to think about that a bit."
"Know what Brian said to me the first time we met?"
Natalie shook her head, relieved to be let off the hook so easily for a question Tracy couldn't possibly fathom the difficulty of.
"He asked me where I was when Kennedy was shot. I said, 'I didn't know Ted Kennedy had been shot.' Then he said, 'Not Ted. John Kennedy.' So I asked him why anyone would want to shoot him--all he does is run that glossy political magazine in the States."
"Tracy! You were just pulling his leg, weren't you?"
"Of course! But is it my fault that I wasn't born before 1963? I can't believe he actually uses that as a criteria by which to date or not date a woman."
"Men," Natalie said, only half jokingly. She couldn't help wondering if Nick had ever used such criteria: 'So, where were you when Joan of Arc was killed?' She could almost imagine him saying it. "So, Tracy, are you going to see him again?"
"Yeah," and she couldn't help smiling. Natalie perhaps would have called it gushing. "It's my night off, so he's taking me to dinner and a movie. He's so great Natalie. I can't believe how nice and normal he is after...," she almost said 'Vachon,' "...after all the losers I've been out with lately."
"I'm really happy for you, Trace. You deserve a terrific guy like Brian."
"Thanks, Nat, and thanks for listening to me drone on about him. You know, with working nights, I don't get to spend much time with my girl friends. Most of them don't even know I'm seeing Brian."
"Well, I've really enjoyed chatting over breakfast."
"Me too. I don't suppose you'd want to do it again tomorrow?"
"And miss hearing all about your date?" Nat missed this sort of conversation. Most of her friends worked days and spent their free time with their families. And when was the last, or even the first, time Nick ever took her out for a meal? "I'll be waiting. 5:30 again?"
"Yeah," Tracy smiled with pure happiness. "See you in the morning."
"Detective Vetter?" The doctor looked exhausted and he walked slowly across the waiting room. Tracy noticed faint blood stains on his white lab coat which hadn't been there the last time he'd come out to speak to her. Her mind shivered as she wondered if the blood had soaked his through the surgical togs. He ran his fingers through his sweaty, disheveled hair, and Tracy noticed flecks of crusted blood near his right temple.
Tracy was afraid to ask the outcome of the surgery. She was a cop, she knew the slim odds of surviving such a brutal hit and run. But knowing this only made her raw nerves quiver. She forced herself to stand and face the doctor square on.
"Detective. I'm sorry." The doctor continued on about the extensive internal hemorrhaging, how they couldn't stop the bleeding, how the body had just finally shut down. Perhaps he wouldn't have been so clinically detailed if he had know this wasn't police business to Detective Vetter; this was personal to Tracy. But she didn't hear any of it. Her mind was reliving the accident.
They had had a lovely dinner and a movie--one of those bloody action flicks with just enough romance to satisfy the adults without totally grossing out the kids. Brian had been so sweet the entire evening. He had even brought her flowers when he'd picked her up--white irises, though how he knew those were her favorite he never told her.
She had allowed herself to think that she had finally found a nice, intelligent guy who really seemed to care about her, and she was starting to allow herself to believe that he might be The One. Of course, they had only been dating for a little over two months, but things just kept getting better and better between them. Brain was a writer so he kept odd hours like she did; he even thought her job was fascinating and, not only understood, but respected her more for being so committed to the Force. You just didn't meet guys like that every day.
And then, in a heart beat, it was all gone. They left the movie theater and were crossing the street to the parking garage when this idiot ran the red light. Tracy didn't even see the car; Brian shoved her out of the way and took the full brunt of the hit. He was knocked up and over the car and landed, back in the street, with a sickening thud. Tracy's mind hiccupped and she found herself remembering that Christmas long ago when she dropped her grandmother's favorite china platter while carrying the strawberry gelatin mold to the dinner table. Even her ridged police training and experience couldn't help her overcome the desperate need to vomit.
"Tracy? Are you okay?" She hadn't even heard Nick approach. "Hum? Oh, it's you, Nick. Yeah, I'll be aw'right." Tracy stood up and unconsciously made the decision to leave.
Nick put his arm around Tracy's shoulders in a paternal embrace. "Come on. I'll drive you home."
"No thanks, Nick. I'd just like to be alone for a little while."
"Well, you call me if you need anything." Nick wanted to be of assistance but didn't quite know what to do. She was so independent and she hated it when people interfered. He was sure Tracy would speak up if there was something he could do to help.
"Promise." She managed a weak smile, the best attempt she could muster to reassure her partner. "I'll talk to you later."
Tracy wandered about the city for hours before she ended up in that musty old building--the church where Vachon took refuge.
Vachon found her sitting on a crate. He stood and watched her for a minute. It had been so long since she had come by to see him--months. He had gone to see her that once; he had been waiting in the shadows, trying to decide if he should go inside, when he saw her leave the building on the arm of another man. She had the biggest smile on her face that he had ever seen, and she was laughing. Had it been daylight instead of night, he would have stepped from the shadows into the full sun without a second thought. How could he have ever hoped to be more than a morbid curiosity to the straight-laced Detective Tracy Vetter, Police Commissioner's daugher; a woman who alphabetized the contents of her refrigerator, who sorted the cloths in her closet by the colors of the rainbow, and who had named her goldfish after characters from some television program called "Friends."
Vachon finally noticed that Tracy hadn't stirred. His sudden appearances usually startled her, but tonight... nothing. Perhaps she really hadn't noticed him yet. "Tracy?"
"What? Oh. Hi, Vachon." The tone in her voice spoke volumes. He'd never seen Tracy down--angry, frustrated, happy, determined, yes, but never depressed. How could he have missed the physical signs? The elevated blood pressure despite the slow heart rate, the lower body temperature....
He instinctively walked over to her. "Trace?"
The warmth and concern in his voice pushed her beyond her control. Tears flooded down her face and she threw herself into Vachon's arms. She hugged him with all of the strength she had left.
"Aw, Tracy." Vachon held her close. Stroked her silky blonde hair and rubbed her back. She buried her face in his shoulder, which placed her bare neck just inches from Vachon's face. The sound of the blood pulsing through the vains in her neck and the heady smell of her faded perfume mingled with tinge of sweat assalted his senses. He gently pressed his lips onto the nape of her neck. It was the only liberty hewould allow himself. This was the most trust that he had ever seen Tracy place in anyone before; she was completely helpless in his arms at that very moment. She needed comfort and security, and she had allowed him the opportunity to give both to her. He would not betray her trust.
It was almost dawn and Tracy had finally fallen asleep. Vachon lifted her in his arms and carried her downstairs. Though just shy of his own height, she felt no heavier than an eiderdown pillow.
The church basement had no windows, so an old mattress and a coouple of worn blankets tucked in the corner behind a make-shift curtain had always proven more than adequate. But tonight he wished he had a feather bed with satin sheets for Tracy to rest upon. Thank goodness she was too exhausted to notice. He sat down on the mattress, with Tracy still in his arms, and leaned up against the wall for support. Tracy shivered slightly before snuggling closely to him. He hadn't thought that the basement might be a little too cold for her. He tucked the blankets closely about her and then hugged her closer.
Tracy was so different from all of the women he had ever known. She was so smart and determined, yet so unconcerned about whom she impressed. She was mature and yet she still held these endearing child-like qualities. He supposed it was the "modern woman" forced to prove herself just as good as a man, but there was something more. He doubted Tracy would have been much different had she been born a few centuries earlier. In many ways, she was older than he would ever be, yet, at the same time, she was younger than he had ever been. Her name escaped his lips in the form of a sigh, "Tracy."
"Nick? It's me, Natalie. Are you awake?"
Nick came slowly down the stairs dressed only in a pair of burgundy pajama bottoms. Natalie allowed herself the secret pleasure of a long look. There wasn't much that could improve his well proportioned frame. Except, maybe, a bit of a tan. 'Why do I torture myself like this!' she could hardly help thinking to herself.
"What's up, Nat?" Nick took a slow sip from the half empty wine glass he was carrying.
"Have you seen Tracy? We had a date for breakfast but she didn't show. She never even called, and, frankly, I'm a bit worried about her."
"Last night a friend of hers died; Brian, I think his name was. Hit and run, with no leads. He was in surgery for hours but he didn't make it."
"Aw, no." Natalie dealt with death every day, but she was never able to forget the pain death always brought to the loved ones; God knows she'd been there often enough herself. Natalie unconsciously reached for the glass that Nick held.
"I offered to drive her home, but she said she'd be fine." Natalie brought the wine glass to within an inch of her mouth before the sickly-sweet smell of blood got her attention. She quickly thrust the glass back at Nick, annoyed at the half smile playing on his lips.
"I can't believe that you let her leave the hospital, alone, in the middle of the night, after something as traumatic as that!"
Nick shrugged, almost apologetically. "She said she was okay." "And you believed her? She's your partner, Nick. Don't you know her any better than that?" How could he be so insensitive? "Where's your phone, I want to try her apartment again."
Nick retrieved the cordless, dialed the number, then handed her the phone.
"Answering machine," Nat whispered to Nick. Beep, "Tracy, it's Natalie again. Please pick up if you're there." Nat shook her head at Nick. "Nick told me what happened last night. I'm REALLY sorry, Tracy. Call me at Nick's when you get this message. Bye."
Nat hung up the phone no more satisfied than when she'd entered Nick's place. "Where could she be, Nick?"
"I'm sure she's fine, Natalie. She's probably just out buying chocolate."
"Nick! Not every woman drowns her sorrows in a box of chocolate or a carton of ice cream. I'm really worried about her, and you should be too. She talked to me a bit about Brian; she'd really fallen for him, more than she was willing to admit.
"Don't you have any idea where she might be, Nick?"
He shrugged. "She said she wanted to be alone."
"Well, that rules out her being at her parents' Don't you know any of her friends?"
Nick shook his head. "Just Vachon."
"Vachon? That vampire she met a while back? You don't suppose she would have gone to him, do you?" Oh, Tracy, you have no idea what you might be getting into!
"It does make sense. She's alluded to him several times before. She may have been subconsciously hoping a normal guy like Brian would cure her infatuation."
"So, who better to help her through this?"
"Or to help her across!" There was real dread in Nat's voice and Nick heard it clearly.
"No. Vachon wouldn't do that. He knows what I would do to him if he did."
"She's in a real vulnerable state right now, Nick, and he may not realize it. There is no telling what may happen. I better go over there. Where can I find this Vachon?"
"No, Nat, I can't let you go. It could be dangerous." Finally some concern in his voice.
"Look, if he hasn't hurt Tracy by this time, he won't hurt me. Besides, it's well past dawn and you certainly can't go looking for her."
Nick had finally relented and Natalie found herself entering Vachon's church. She found it odd that a vampire would take up residence in a holy place, even an abandoned one.
Inside she found wooden crates scattered here and there, stubby candles in pools of solidified wax, and dusty tarps covering the pews. Quite a change from Nick's spartan, immaculate loft.
There was too much sunlight streaming in through the stained glass window above the now barren alter for Vachon to be lurking nearby. And if Tracy were here, she'd certainly be whereever he was. So, where would a vampire seek refuge in an old building like this?
Natalie looked about, openned a few doors, and finally found a promising one containing a very dark set of descending stairs. She searched around a bit more and found a decent sized candle, a holder, and some matches. She lit the candle and, with a deep breath to steady her nerves, she headed for the stairs.
She felt more than a bit nervous entering a sleeping vampire's lair. She'd been in Nick's bedroom before, but she knew that wasn't the same thing. She stepped carefully down the old creaky staircase. When the candle flame began to illuminate the basement floor, she announced herself.
"Tracy? Tracy are you down here? It's me, Natalie. Tra.... aahgh." Suddenly she was thrown against the nearest wall, a strong hand at her throat, pinning her there. She had dropped the candle, but, even in the darkness, she could see those eerie yellow-green eyes, inches from her face, staring almost through her. How she hated those eyes!
"What do you want here?" The voice was deep and measured, but with a rough edge. She recognized it as the compelling voice of a vampire. The hand on her throat eased up just enough to allow her to speak easily.
"I'm looking for Tracy Vetter. I'm a friend of hers." She hoped her voice didn't betray the fear she was having trouble fighting.
"Why do you think she's here?"
"I'm a friend of Nick Knight's."
"You know about him?" The voice had lost its baritone quality.
"Ah huh." She tried to nod, but his hand was still too restraining.
"And he told you about me, did he?"
"I'm surprised he let you come here."
"I was really worried about Tracy, and, considering the hour, his coming wasn't an option. Is she here?"
"Yeah, she's here." His voice had completely lost the command it had had just moments before.
"Are you going to let me go so I can see her?"
"Oh. Sorry." He removed his hand from around her throat. "But she's sleeping. She's pretty exhausted. I think she'll be out for quite a while."
"Did she tell you what was wrong?"
"No." Natalie thought she heard both sadness and concern in his quiet reply.
"A friend of hers was hit and killed by a car last night. She was there when it happened."
"That explains things. I've nver seen her so upset before."
"But she's okay? I am a doctor...."
"She's fine. She'll be safe here," and then he felt the need, for Natalie's benefit, to add, "and with me. I'll make sure she gets home safely."
Natalie nodded her head, sure that Vachon could see her in the darkness. She couldn't quite explain it, but she believed Vachon, and trusted him. She turned and started back up the stairs. When she was nearly to the top, she turned, "Vachon? Thank you for looking after her." She didn't know if he was still at the botton of the stairs, but she hoped he'd heard her and knew how deeply she meant it.
Vachon had heard and knew. He had returned to his slumbering charge and just stood there, watching her sleep. She seemed so peaceful, so simple and accessible. He wished she was this way when she was awake. She was quite transparent when awake, though she obviously thought she wasn't; and she did put up walls, glass walls, that he just couldn't get past. Though, perhaps some of the fault lay on his side. There was so much about him that she couldn't even guess at. Being a vampire was more complicated than even Tracy could immagine. And, he was sure, there were some things which she wouldn't believe and others which she just plain wouldn't like knowing about.
He settled himself down next to Tracy again, cradling her back into his arms. She was still sound asleep. A brief thought about bringing her across flickered through his mind. But he had promised himself that he would not; not after what had happened with Urs. He thought he'd done the right thing by her, but, even today, there was still that shadow of unhappiness in her eyes. He couldn't even begin to guess what Tracy might want, let alone how she might react if he did the deed to her. He didn't understand women, but, inspite of that, or maybe because of it, he loved them and he hoped at least that would last until the end of forever.
He repositioned Tracy until her cool form seemed to meld with his own. She unconsciously nestled her head against his shoulder and brought her hand up to rest upon his chest, but then let it slip, forgotten, into his lap. He inhaled deeply, the sweet heady scent of her and tried to sleep. But sleep did not come easily to Vachon, it never had, unlike Urs who could sleep any time or any where given the least bit of opportunity. He absently caressed the palm of her hand which still rested in his lap and began to ponder more about her.
The mind is a funny thing, even after all these hundreds of years, it still did whatever it pleased. He tried to think of Tracy, but his mind kept wandering and after a few minutes he found himself thinking about the warmth and star-filled skies of the Caribbean. It must have been almost 200 years since he'd been there. He had gone there to be self-indulgent. After who knows how many years of fighting other people's losing battles, he felt that he owed himself that much.
Never had he been to a place where the nights were so alive; alive with sounds and smells and emotions. Being there was like being brought across all over again, like waking up and only half remembering the dream that had kept you away from reality. How he loved to walk under that miry of stars, down that long stretch of white sand beach, with Gwendolen so comfortably on his arm. How he would have loved to spend the rest of forever exactly like that.
But rarely are we granted the wishes we so heartfeltly make. He had only been away for a few days; it really had not been that important, yet he had gone anyway. And, now, he would have eternity to regret his thoughtless act.
"May I see Miss Hawthorne, please." He tried to conceal both his grin of anticipation and the bouquet of irises from the maid who opened the door to him.
"Awh, Sir," she immediately began to wail. "She's gone. No'un can see 'er now."
In a heartbeat he was upon her, confused by her words but fearing the worst. He shook her by the shoulders and forced his voice into her mind, "What has happened to your mistress?"
"The fever took her. There weren't nothing could be done." He tossed the girl carelessly aside, as he had the bouquet of white flowers, and literally flew up the stairs.
He found her, lying cold upon the bed without so much as a sheet to warm her still body. He smelled the sour blood which lay congealed in a bowl on the night stand; several open cuts marred the once silky, alabaster skin on the inside of both her arms, where the surgeon had administered blood letting in a vain attempt to draw the fever out.
These stupid mortals! Allowing his precious Gwendolen's life to ebb away into a shallow pan. If only he'd been there! He could have done some blood letting the proper way, as only a vampire could. She could have been his forever, but now all that remained was this cold, empty husk. There was nothing left of the sweet, intelligent girl he only now realized he loved.
Tracy suddenly sat up and screamed, bringing Vachon sharply back to the present.
"Tracy? It's okay. It's okay, Trace," he tried to soothe her. He used his voice to calm her mind and she was tired enough that it succeeded. "You're safe here with me. It'll be all right. Everything'll be fine. Just fine, Tracy. Shh."
He held her in his arms and gently rocked her, like a child, back to sleep. He could only think that she had been dreaming about the car accident. He held her closer and rocked her until he too fell asleep.
The winter night came early. Hunger began to awaken Vachon from his sleep. There was that smooth, invitingly bare neck again. He closed his eyes and slowly brought his mouth down upon her neck. He paused with his lips full upon the soft flesh; feeling the warm blood, leisurely pulsing against his wanton lips, contained by only those few layers of thin skin. He gently drew his teeth across the nape of her neck, barely catching, but not breaking, the skin. He closed his lips to a kiss and then drew away.
It was time to take Tracy home.
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