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The Evil That Lurks... A SOF FanFic by Dragonwind

Silver Star
0030 hours

It was a slow night at the bar, Margo and Cindy had sent Amber, the bartender home since there was only one or two people still there. Benny Ray and Matt had gone fishing for the weekend, Nick was out on a date and Deke was off who knew where.

Cindy was bussing the last few tables as Margo poured a couple more drinks for the hangers on. Her hands full with the heavy dishpan, Cindy headed into the kitchen to load the dishwasher as Margo let the two men out and flipped the closed sign around. After throwing the lock, Margo sank on a bar stool and let her shoes fall to the floor. Cindy came back out and joined her.

"Tell me again why we let Amber go home early?" Margo asked exhaustedly.

"Because it was slow," Cindy said, leaning her head back to alleviate the kink in her neck. "Who knew those two bozos were gonna hang around for another hour?"

Both women jumped when they heard scratching at the door. They moved to either side of the door, bottles in hand to knock out whoever dared to intrude.

The door swung open and just as Margo almost made contact with the man's head, they realized it was Nick. "God, Nick. You scared us half to death," Margo accused. Then she noted the New Yorker's pallor. "What's the matter with you?"

"Dead woman, out back." Nick gasped out.

"What?" Cindy shouted.

"I parked out back. There's a dead woman out by the dumpster," Nick repeated.

"Wait here," Margo said as she ran downstairs to get them some guns. She returned quickly and handed one each to Nick and Cindy. "Okay, Nick. Show us."

Nick led the way through the kitchen and out the door. He stopped dead at the dumpster causing Margo to slam into him.
"Damn it, Delvecchio, I wish you wouldn't do that," Margo growled at him.

"She's gone," he whispered with disbelief.

Back Alley
0045

The man carried the woman's limp body in his arms, seeking somewhere to lay her out. He had come perilously close to being seen at the last location. He looked down at her long straight auburn hair and what had been full ruby red lips.

Finding a solitary location behind an old warehouse, he laid her out, the gentle breeze ruffling her long, virginal white nightgown.

He stood and smiled, the streetlight revealing the blood on his teeth.

Alley behind the Silver Star
0100

Margo, Cindy and Nick stood in the dark alley with the police officers who answered the call.

"And neither one of you saw this body?" the first officer asked the women. Both women shook their heads negatively.

The second officer stared hard at Nick. "Can you describe the body?"

"Yeah. Dead," Nick answered sarcastically.

The officer shifted his weight to the other foot, his hand on the handle of his baton.

"Oh, okay. Long auburn hair, like theirs," he described, pointing at Margo and Cindy. "She was in a long, white filmy nightgown, her skin was very pale. Really pale, come to think of it."

"Interesting," the first officer commented. He paused in the middle of writing down the description and stared at Nick. "How'd you get that blood on your hand, son?"

"Blood?" Nick asked. "What blood?" He looked down at his hand to find several splotched dried on the skin. "Oh. Er, I got my hand caught in the door at my date's place."

Cindy and Margo glanced at each other, unsure of what to make of this development.

Nick glanced at them nervously as the officers told him not to leave town before they left.

Margo turned on Nick. "So, how did you get that blood on your hand?"

"I told the cops the truth, Margo. My hand got caught in her door. When she slammed it on me."

Cindy clapped her hand over her mouth and walked away as Margo watched him. "What did you do, Nick?"

"Nothing. Really I didn't. She asked me up to her place, and when I went to follow her in, she slammed the door on me."

"Okay, Nick. If you say so," Margo noted. "Why don't you stay here tonight with Cindy and me?"

"Ooh, a girl's night? Sounds fun," Nick said with excitement as he followed the women inside.

Silver Star
0900

Nick was down in the kitchen behind the bar fixing himself breakfast when Margo and Cindy came downstairs.

"Hey, Nick, whatcha cookin'?" Cindy asked.

"Omelet. Want one?"

"Sure, why not," Cindy agreed, settling on a stool by the table.

"How about you, Margo?" Nick asked.

"No, just coffee in the morning for me, thank you."

As Nick served up the omelets, Margo turned on the TV news while Cindy went to the refrigerator for the orange juice. They were talking about a woman's body who had been found late last night.

When they heard the location, all three stopped what they were doing.

"See, I told you," Nick pointed at the women.

"It wasn't where you said, Nick," Margo reasoned.

"I can't explain that, unless the killer moved her after I came in," Nick argued.

"And why would they have done that?" Cindy asked, settling on the chair across from him.

"I don't know," Nick admitted.

The knocking on the front door startled them all. "I'll get it," Margo volunteered, taking her coffee cup with her.

"Nick, what aren't you telling us?" Cindy questioned him point blank.

"The body? It was my date from last night."

Cindy choked on the omelet and dropped her fork. "Your date? I'm confused."

With a sigh, Nick explained, "After we got to her place, she turned odd on me. A faraway look in her eyes, like she wasn't even listening to me. When I tried to go in, she slammed the door on me. I drove around for like an hour before coming here. I was so freaked out."

"Uhm, Nick?" Margo said as she entered the kitchen.

"What?" he inquired, annoyed with being interrupted from his conversation with Cindy.

"The cops are here. They want to see you a minute. They're waiting at the bar," Margo told him.

As he left, Margo looked at Cindy's stunned look. "What's up?"

"How close to the door are they?"

Margo peeked around the door frame. "They're out near the entrance. Why?"

"He just told me the dead girl was his date last night."

"What?" Margo sputtered, her eyes round.

"He said she asked him to her place. When they got there, she turned weird and slammed the door shut on him. Nick drove around for an hour. When he got here, he found her body in the alley."

"That's too weird," Margo noted. A knock on the door interrupted the two women.

Cindy looked up to find one of the officers in the doorway.

"Just wanted to let you ladies know my partner and I are taking Mr. Delvechio downtown for questioning. If he has one, I advise you to contact his lawyer," the officer instructed as he turned to leave.

When they were gone, Margo stood. "I'm going in Matt's office to call Trout."

Cindy nodded in agreement as she debated what to do. Climbing the stairs to the apartment she and Matt shared, she went in the door and settled on the sofa with the telephone to call Tava Smythe, an FBI profiler she'd briefly worked with. Cindy reclined on the sofa as she waited for Tava to access the police files.

"Okay," Tava said, coming back on the line. "Here's what I've got. It's the latest in a string of murders. All victims were women in their late twenties, early thirties. All had long auburn hair, all were found wearing virginal white nightgowns, laying in alleys. Now for the weird stuff."

Cindy paused writing the notes she was taking, gripping the phone. "What kind of weird stuff?"

"Not a drop of blood left in the bodies and the only marks are two puncture wounds in their necks."

"Oh my God," Cindy uttered, her hand flying up to her own neck, exposed by the tank top she was wearing.

"And each one of them reportedly had a date earlier that night, according to their friends."

Thanking her friend, Cindy picked up the notebook and headed back down to Matt's office, where Margo was still on the phone with Trout.

Cindy sat down on the chair across from Margo. She slid her notes across the desk top to Margo.

As Margo read the notes to Trout, her face paled. After gaining his promise to send a lawyer for Nick, Margo looked at Cindy as she hung up.

"How'd you get this?"

"From an FBI profiler friend."

Police Station
0945

The two officers handcuffed Nick to the table then sat across from him. Nick glanced at them nervously. "I don't understand what's going on," he tried to say.

"We found your dead body last night. A neighbor gave us a description of someone she saw leaving the victim's apartment, angry. The description fit you. We also looked over some related files. All of the descriptions of the victims' date fit you. So how about you tell us where you were at eleven thirty p.m. last night, Mr. Delvechio?"

"I want a lawyer," Nick replied, looking down at his shackled hands. "Until then, I have nothing to say."

"Fine. We told the two ladies you were with this morning to call one for you. Until he or she shows up, let's book you and put you in a holding cell."

"But I didn't do anything," Nick denied.

"We've got enough evidence to charge you. Come on," Officer Starrett said as he unlocked the cuffs attached to the table and re-cuffed Nick.

Washington, D.C.
1200 hours

Xavier Trout leaned back in his chair, reading the file he requested from the FBI. It was exactly as Cindy had found and an FBI task force was en route. Knowing Benny Ray and Matt had gone fishing, he had a bad feeling about Cindy and Margo being at the Silver Star alone. Both women on the team fit the victim profile. He grabbed his attache and punched the button to buzz his secretary. "Helen. Cancel all of my appointments and have the airstrip fuel up my private jet."

"Right away, sir."

As he crossed to the airfield from his office, he decided to wait until he was en route to make up his mind about calling Matt and Benny Ray back from their trip.

Silver Star
1200 hours

Cindy strolled through the thin lunch time crowd, worried about Nick. An uneasy feeling skittered up and down her neck, like someone was watching her. Casually, Cindy shot her eyes around the bar, trying to locate the source of her unease. Unable to pinpoint anything, she disappeared into the kitchen.

Watching her walk through the door, the man in the corner narrowed his eyes, attracted by the auburn haired woman. Swiftly he crossed the room and entered the kitchen.

Hearing an intrusion, Cindy jumped, holding the knife in her hand. She stared at the man who was still approaching her, regardless of the knife. "I'm sorry sir. This is a private area."

"I'm Roderick. I just wanted to know your name," he requested with a soft velvety voice, standing directly in front of her, staring into her eyes.

The knife dropped uselessly to the floor, the unease back. "Busy. Excuse me," Cindy grunted as she pushed the man away from her and passed him on her way out the door.

Roderick reached out to grasp her wrist, pulling Cindy against him. "You have the most beautiful eyes," he murmured softly.

"And these eyes and the rest of me belong to someone else. Please leave," she ordered him, breaking his grip.

With a sigh, he watched as she left the kitchen. She would be his. Very soon. When he left the kitchen, he caught sight of the other auburn haired woman, who was leaving. After slipping on his sunglasses, Roderick silently followed Margo to her car and to her apartment. Roderick's photographic memory noted her address.

Margo's car
1230 hours

Margo picked up what she needed and was en route to the police station to check on Nick when her cell phone rang. "Yeah?"

"You okay?" Cindy asked.

"Fine. Why?"

"Before you left, I had this creepy experience with some guy, and he disappeared right after you left."

"I didn't see anyone follow me. What happened?"

"I'll tell you when you get back, but watch your back."

"Always." Margo was silent for a moment, then said, "Do you think we should call Matt and Benny Ray?"

"Why?" Cindy asked, wondering if Margo's thoughts were mirroring her own.

"Because I have to admit, whatever is going on is downright weird. And quite frankly, I'm rather frightened. I've never dealt with anything like it."

"I'll try their cell phones, but I don't know if they're close enough," Cindy responded.

Trout's Jet
1230 hours

Xavier Trout was on the cell phone talking to Matt. "Matt, I can't get into it on the phone. Just meet me at the airstrip. I'll debrief you and Benny Ray then."

"Trout, look, Benny Ray and I . . . "

"Matt, this isn't a mission. This is about Cindy and Margo."

"What about them?"

"I'll be at the airstrip in fifteen minutes."

"We'll be there."

Matt's SUV
1235 hours

Benny Ray held on as Matt drove like a bat out of hell. "Major, would you like to slow down?"

"Can't. We have to be at the airstrip at twelve forty-five to meet Trout," Matt explained.

"This best not be a mission, sir. You and I needed this vacation."

"He said it's not. It's about Cindy and Margo."

The sniper sat straight up. "What about them?"

"I don't know. He wouldn't tell me, just to meet him at the airstrip."

"Well, step on it, Matt," Benny Ray snapped.

Matt smiled at his friend as he headed for the airstrip. The cell phone laying on the seat rang. "Can you get that Benny Ray?"

"No prob, compadre." Benny Ray picked up the phone and pressed send. "Hello?"

"Benny Ray?" Cindy asked.

"Hey, what's up?"

"Is Matt around?"

"He's driving. Something wrong?" he asked with concern.

"Uhm, no. Not really. I just wanted to see how your vacation was going."

Matt glanced over at Benny Ray. "Is something wrong?" he asked the sniper.

"Hold on," Benny Ray said before pressing the mute button. "I don't know. It's Cindy, she sounds kind of odd, but she won't tell me anything."

Matt slowed his speed and took the phone. "Darlin'? Is something wrong?"

"I told Benny Ray there wasn't. I just wanted to see how your trip was going."

"It's going fine. Are you sure everything's all right?"

"I had a weird experience this afternoon, but it's okay now."

"Do you want me to come home?" Matt asked, his concern growing.

"I--no. We'll be fine."

"I will if you want me to." After what Cindy had gone through previously at the hands of a maniac, Matt tended to be protective of her.

"I'm sorry I bothered you," Cindy whispered as she hung up.

Matt stared at the phone and then Benny Ray. "What the hell was that?"

"What happened?"

"She told me she was sorry she bothered me. Did I say anything to give her that impression?"

"No sir," Benny Ray assured him.

"We're going home after we talk to Trout."

"Fine by me," Benny Ray yelled as Matt increased his speed again.

Airstrip
1250 hours

Matt stopped the SUV beside Trout's plane. "Sorry we're late, I had a phone call," Matt explained.

"That's all right, Matt. Take a look at this file," Trout stated, handing Matt and Benny Ray identical folders. As they read, he added, "Nick has been arrested in connection with the murders."

"Well, this is just weird stuff. What are we dealing with here?" Matt asked. "And why Nick?

"I don't know Matt. The reason I'm concerned is that Margo and Cindy fit the victim profiles. I was coming out here to just deal with it myself, since you guys were on your much needed trip. But then I realized you'd be really mad if I didn't let you know they were in danger."

"Got that right," Benny Ray confirmed. "Okay, Major. We're headed home."

"I'll meet you there," Trout agreed.

Silver Star
1300 hours

Margo returned to the bar but couldn't find Cindy. She went upstairs to the apartment and knocked. The door swung open to the inside but Cindy didn't answer. Margo pulled out her Glock and eased inside, finding her friend sitting at the dining room table, her face in her hands.
Pocketing her gun, Margo crossed the room to her. "Hey, what's the matter?"

"I called Matt, like we discussed."

"And?"

"I think I lost it. All I could say was I had a weird experience. He was concerned and offered to come home. I don't remember anything after that. Next thing I knew, I was sitting here crying."

"Did Matt say or do anything to upset you?"

"I don't remember. I spoke to Benny Ray first, and I know he asked me if anything was wrong. I couldn't even string two words together to talk to him."

"Let me try," Margo offered as she picked up the phone. She quickly dialed Matt's cell phone number and waited.

Again Benny Ray picked up. "Yeah?"

"Hey Benny Ray."

"Hey sweet pea. What's up?"

"Not much. Just wanted to see how you guys were doing," Margo told him.

"Just fine. Anything wrong?"

"Uh, no. Actually, we're not sure. There's been some weird things going on," Margo explained, watching Cindy, who looked sort of dazed.

Benny Ray clutched the cell phone. "Like what?"

"It's hard to explain. And they just keep getting weirder."

"We'll be home in a little bit, sweet pea."

"Really?" Margo asked.

"We were already on our way. Just try to stay safe until we get there."

"Okay. Bye."

Cindy snapped out of her daze and looked at Margo. "What? What's going on?"

"Matt and Benny Ray are on their way home."

"Because of me calling them?" Cindy shouted, standing straight up, looking frantically around.

"Benny Ray said they were already on their way. Calm down, Cindy. I'm going to the basement and get a couple of guns. You stay right here, don't move a muscle."

Cindy cast an anxious glance at Margo. "Be careful."

"I will, don't worry."

Margo made her way down the stairs to the bar and was heading to the back when she was stopped by a man wearing sunglasses.

"Excuse me. Has anyone ever told you how stunning your eyes are?" Roderick asked as he removed his sunglasses to stare at her.

"No, and I'm not interested," Margo stated emphatically, trying to twist free of his grip. He stared into her eyes for another moment, then released her.

Silver Star
1400 hours

Nick walked through the door of the Silver Star, shaken from his experience down at police headquarters. The lawyer who had appeared, Kristina Myles, was very good and had gotten the charges dropped. He couldn't believe all of those victims had been recent dates of his. No wonder none of them had returned his calls.

He headed toward the back, bumping into a tall man with sunglasses who had been watching Margo suspiciously. Squaring his shoulders, Nick approached the man and tapped him on the shoulder. "Excuse me, bud. Can I help you with something?"

"You? Why would you think you could help me with anything?" the man asked with disbelief.

"Unless you know the names of those two beautiful women who seem to work here. The ones with the dark hair."

"Ah, sorry. Can't divulge that information. It's on a need to know basis."

Slipping the sunglasses down his nose, Roderick lifted Nick from the floor, staring at him with blazing eyes. "But you see, Delvecchio. I need to know."

"Do I know you?" Nick asked.

"No. But I know you. And thank you for telling me Cindy and Margo's names. You're so helpful," Roderick explained as he dumped Nick on the barstool, wiping his mind of the incident.

Nick sat on the barstool, rolling his neck while trying to figure out why it hurt. He saw Amber, the barmaid, approach. "Hey, Amber. How ya doin'?"

"Fine, Nick. What can I get for you?"

"How about an aspirin and a neck brace?"

"That guy did a number on your neck, didn't he?"

"What guy?" Nick asked.

"The guy that picked you up off of the floor. Don't you remember, Nick?"

"Nope, not a thing," Nick replied as he headed for the basement. Margo passed him, a blank look in her eyes. "Hey, Margo. Hey. Margo!" he shouted

Snapping out of her daze, Margo responded, "Nick! You're out of jail."

"Yeah, the lawyer was really good, thanks. You were a million miles away. What's up?"

"Uhm, I don't know. I came down here for some reason, but I can't remember."

"Where's Cindy?" Nick inquired.

"Uh-"

"Margo, Nick," Trout's voice called out to them from across the bar. "Glad to see Ms. Myles was successful."

"Thank you sir."

"What are you doing here sir?" Margo asked apprehensively.

"I pulled the FBI file on our previous conversation and became concerned. Thought I could be of help here."

"Er, what conversation, sir?"

Xavier Trout eyed Margo. "Are you all right, Ms. Vincent?"

"I'm really not sure, sir."

He shot a glance over to Nick. "How are you holding up?"

Nick shrugged, then informed the man about his own blackout.

Trout looked at the two and said, "We need a meeting as soon as Matt and Benny Ray get here."

"Are they coming home early, sir?" Margo asked.

Cindy appeared behind Trout, having come downstairs when Margo hadn't returned. "Margo? You told me they were on their way home. You just talked to Benny Ray."

"I-I did?" Margo stuttered, looking from Nick to Cindy to Trout.

Trout cleared his throat. "How about we take this downstairs?"

The three team members agreed and descended the stairs ahead of Trout and gathered around the table. Setting his attache on the table, Xavier looked at the threesome. "Does someone want to tell me what's been going on here?"

The team looked at each other, unsure of where to start. Finally, Nick shrugged. "I came here from a date last night and parked around back. When I approached the dumpster, I saw a woman's body laying out there. I came in and told Cindy and Margo, and when I went to show them the body, it was gone."

Trout's gaze swept the women, who both confirmed Nick's story. "Okay. So, now why don't any of you know what's going on today?"

"I remember bits and pieces," Cindy admitted obtusely. "But there are a lot of blank places."

Margo agreed. "I don't remember anything beyond coming down the stairs."

"As long as we're admitting to black outs," Nick commented, "Amber said some guy had me by the throat a few minutes ago. I have no recollection of it."

"Nick?" Amber's voice floated down the steps.

"Yeah?"

"There's a call for you. Tamara something. I told her you were in a meeting, but it sounds important."

Rising from his chair, an odd look flashed through Nick's eyes. Grabbing the phone, he said,

"Yeah?"

A sultry voice came over the phone to him. "Nick? I've been thinking about you. Can you come over for a few minutes?"

"Uh-I'm a little confused, Tamara. I was told . . . "

"Please Nick? I'm awfully lonely here. I'm sorry about the way I acted the other night. Please Nicky?"

Nick glanced around him at the three people watching him. "I can't right now, Tamara. I'm sorry."

On the outskirts of Hermosa Beach, Matt and Benny Ray were discussing possibilities.

"Well, I don't know Benny Ray. If I didn't know better, I'd say we were dealing with a vampire."

Benny Ray raised an eyebrow at Matt. "We've been involved with weirder stuff. But more like it's someone using equipment to get black market blood."

"But even so, why all female with auburn hair?"

"I don't know, Major. Psycho with a purpose?"

Matt shrugged. "All I know is Cindy didn't sound right on the phone."

Matt pulled in behind the bar, and he and Benny Ray jumped out, leaving their stuff in the SUV and entered the bar through the back door.

Downstairs, they found Margo, Cindy, Nick and Trout.

Nick was staring at them dumbfounded. "I don't know what that phone call was. I don't even remember a phone call."

Matt walked behind Cindy, putting his hands on her shoulders. "Hey darlin'. You okay?"

"I'm fine," she replied curtly, shaking his hands off.

Puzzled, he reached out to grab her wrist, pulling her from the chair and into a corner with him.

"What's the matter?"

"What?" Cindy asked, puzzled.

"You acted funny on the phone, and you shook me off just now. Have I done something wrong?"

"No," she shook her head. "I don't know what's wrong with me."

Matt pulled her against him and kissed her neck. "Are you upset because Benny Ray and I went off for the weekend ?"

"No." Cindy turned in the circle of his arms and wrapped her arms around his waist. "I don't know what's wrong. I'm just scared."

"I know you are. That's why I came back," Matt assured her, stroking her hair.

Margo looked up as Benny Ray sat next to her. "You okay, sweet pea?"

"Except for these stupid little memory losses, yeah. But I'm not the only one with them."

"Weird," Benny Ray commented, wrapping his large hand around her smaller one. He sighed when Margo laid her head on his shoulder. He watched Matt lead Cindy back over to the table and sit down.

"So, where are we at?" Matt asked.

"We were asking Nick about the phone call he just got that he doesn't remember," Trout informed Matt and Benny Ray. "Amber said it was someone named Tamara."

Nick shook his head. "I'm telling you, it couldn't be Tamara. She was," Nick choked, "One of the victims. Tamara's dead, according to the police."

Benny Ray shared a glance with Matt and Trout. "She can't be dead if she called you, Delvecchio," Benny Ray stated.

"Aw, shuddup," Nick growled, irritated.

"Keep a rein on the tempers," Matt counseled his team. "Now, one at a time, tell me what happened around here while Benny Ray and I were gone."

Nick began with the night before, Cindy and Margo corroborated it, along with inviting Nick to spend the night.

Cindy remembered everything until entering the kitchen after Nick went to the station.

"What happened in the kitchen, darlin'?"

"I- I don't remember. Why can't I remember?" Cindy covered her eyes with her hands in frustration, feeling Matt's hand rubbing over her back.

"It's all right. It'll come to you."

Margo informed the men about Cindy's reaction from calling Matt, watching the concern deepen in Matt's brown eyes, as well as Benny Ray's blue ones.

"Maybe we should just go away some where," Matt muttered. "Until this mess is straightened out."

"I don't think it will make a difference, Matt," Trout commented.

"Could be. So, any one have any ideas what we're dealing with here?"

No one had any, other than the vampire thought. And no one cared to give voice to that.

Trout looked at Benny Ray and Matt. "I'll take the ladies upstairs and keep my eye on them." Nick got up from his chair and followed Trout, confused.

"So, Matt. How do we fight a vampire?"

"That's a good question. If that's what we're fighting."

"It's looking more and more like it. Guess we'll do a search on the internet."

"Guess we'll have to," Matt agreed.

Cindy went into the kitchen for a snack, and she was looking in the refrigerator when she heard the kitchen door close.

Thinking it was Matt, she stood up, only to find the stranger from earlier. "Look, as I explained to you earlier..."

Roderick crossed the room in long easy strides, stopping next to her. His right hand closed the refrigerator door as he brought his face down next to her neck. "There's just something about you that I can't resist."

Cindy closed her eyes, leaning her head to the right. His breath was warm on her neck, and it almost felt like he was smelling her, sending tingling sensations going up and down her spine. "Who are you?"

"Your dream come true," he whispered against her neck. "I can give you everything you've always wanted." Softly he placed a kiss at the base of her neck. "Until later."

When she opened her eyes again, he was gone and she was all alone. Or had he even been there? Cindy shook her head. She was still standing there in a daze when Trout entered the kitchen. "Are you all right?"

"What? Oh. Uhm. I think so," Cindy sputtered at him before she left the kitchen.
Trout picked up the abandoned snack from the table and stared at it, then headed back to the basement.

Matt and Benny Ray were looking at websites, none offering anything useful when Trout returned.

"Hungry, Trout?" Matt asked, staring at the celery stick.

"What? No. I would just like to know what's going on around here," Trout explained, absently tapping the celery stick against his palm. "Because there's definitely something wrong."

"What are you getting at?" Matt narrowed his gaze.

"Memory lapses, bodies with no blood in them, people being in dazes."

"Who's in a daze?" Benny Ray stormed.

"That time it was Cindy."

"And you came down here?" Matt shouted, heading for the stairs.

"She went upstairs, Matt."

Benny Ray looked at the older man. "Speaking of something being wrong, sir. You seem a little out of it."

"I've, well, haven't dealt with anything like this in a long time, and never expected to again. And you all aren't going to like my suggestion on what's going on."

"I'm getting a good idea, sir," Benny Ray replied ambiguously.

Matt entered the apartment, calling out Cindy's name. He found her sitting by their bedroom window, staring out at the view. Matt sat down next to her, stroking her hair. "You okay?"

"I just.... feel weird. I can't explain it," Cindy whispered softly.

"You can tell me anything, you know."

"I would if I knew what it was. There's just a blank space in my mind where a memory is supposed to be. What's wrong with me?" she turned tear filled eyes to him.

"Someone's doing this to you," Matt reassured her. "I don't know who, or how. But I will find out, and I will stop them. I promise you."

"What if you're wrong?" Cindy cried as she turned her face into his chest.

"Oh, darlin'." Matt wrapped his arms around her and held her.

In his mind's eye, Roderick could see Cindy in the other man's arms. His eyes blazed as his anger sparked. The man would have to be dealt with and quickly. Mentally, he sent a call to Blaize his sister, to come to him. As he waited, he picked up a rock from the alley and crushed it into dust. A growl emanated from deep in his throat as he headed to his place to meet Blaize.

Silver Star
2000 hours

The bar was super busy, and Matt was down with Deke, the barmaids and Nick trying to handle the crowd. Benny Ray assured Matt he was going to keep an eye on Cindy and Margo and went upstairs.

The doors blew open, followed by a strong gust of wind. Matt looked up to see a woman enter, her red blazing hair blowing wildly. She was dressed in a tight laced up leather dress covered with a tight button up jacket. Matt swallowed and headed to the back of the bar. Buzzing Benny Ray, he told the sniper what had happened. Benny Ray moved to the top of the stairs so he could keep his eye in both places.

The woman walked over to the bar, her dark red lips shining under the lights. "I'm looking for the owner," she told Amber.

A bad feeling in his stomach, Matt picked up the piece of wood behind him and headed back to the bar. "I'm the owner. Can I help you with something?"

"I'm from the licensing board. I'd like to have a tour of your establishment," the woman told him, tapping a pen against her clipboard.

"Tonight?"

"Sorry. It's been really busy today," Blaize apologized. "Blair Jordan," she lied, extending her hand to Matt.

"Matthew Shepherd. Well, follow me."

"Damn," Benny Ray muttered when he saw Matt leading the woman to the back. Glancing over his shoulder, Benny Ray headed downstairs.

The apartment window slid open and Roderick climbed in. He found Cindy on the sofa, her eyes closed. He crossed the room to her, and leaned down in front of her.

Cindy's eyes snapped open and she screamed, realizing she wasn't alone.

"Don't be frightened, my love. It's just me," he whispered, sitting down next to her.

"Who are you?" Cindy asked.

"I told you. Your dream come true. I am Roderick, at your service, my lady," he uttered, kissing the back of her hand.

"I don't think..."

"Then don't think," he moaned, running his lips over her neck.

"No. I don't want this."

"Yes you do. I can give you everything," he promised, moving his face up and down the length of her neck, just letting his breath brush her skin.

"I have..."

"You just think you do," Roderick assured her as he laid her back on the couch.

"What's back in that corner, there?" Blaize asked Matt. She backed Matt into the corner and held him there, opening the top button of her jacket.

"Excuse me? What are you..." Matt stopped speaking when the woman suddenly sprouted fangs.

"What do you want?" he finally asked.

"I'm going to give you your heart's desire," she promised him, running her hand along his throat.

"I have my heart's desire," he ground out, shoving against her.

Her hand wrapped around Matt's throat, lifting him from the ground. "No, you don't," Blaize insisted, pitching Matt across the storeroom.

He landed on top of some crates, dazed.

Blaize turned to go after him and jumped when she found Benny Ray standing behind her. Before she could move, he took a shot at her, stepping back when the bullet fell uselessly to the ground in front of her.

"Silly man. Bullets won't hurt me," the woman stipulated, heading for Benny Ray.

Grabbing a spare stool Matt wanted to fix, Benny Ray slammed it against the wall, then plunged a piece of the broken wood into Blaize's heart. She screamed, falling to the ground. The last thing she spoke was, "You're too late to save her."

Roderick leaned over Cindy, running his hand down her cheek. "What do you want the most?"

"Forever. With Matt," she uttered.

"Matt doesn't figure into this," Roderick shouted, throwing a figurine against the wall where it fell to the floor, smashed.

Cindy struggled against him. "Let me up."

"I'm going to give you forever," Roderick promised. "I'm going to give you the world."

"No," Cindy ground out, watching him wave his hand toward the other wall.

"Cindy? Baby?" a woman's voice called out to her.

Feeling Roderick remove his weight, Cindy sat up. "Momma?"

"Yes baby," the woman answered.

"This can't be happening," Cindy whispered, denying what she was seeing.

"Come to me, baby."

Cindy started across the room, but when the image flickered and altered it's appearance, she changed direction, running for the door.

Roderick reached for her wrist and pulled her back to him. "You weren't this difficult earlier. You are my destiny."

"How did you get her here?"

"I have many ways to do many things," Roderick whispered into her ear. "And you can too."

Matt started upstairs, yelling for Benny Ray to get him a crossbow from the basement. He opened the door to enter when an unseen force slammed it shut in his face. Growling in frustration, Matt kicked at the door.

"Give yourself to me, my love," Roderick moaned as he got her back on the sofa, his lips grazing her neck.

"No," she denied, thrashing against him. Cindy filled her mind with thoughts of Matt. She could feel the edges of Roderick's teeth graze her throat.

The door slammed open and Matt stalked in, his piece of wood in his hand. "Get away from her. Now."

Roderick looked up, his eyes blazing with anger. He applied a small pressure to Cindy's neck, saying "I'll be right back." He approached Matt, who stepped back. "She's mine now."

"No. Never. Cindy?"

"She can't hear you right now," Roderick smirked. With a slight movement of his head, Roderick slammed Matt against the wall.

When he hit, the air left his lungs, and he muttered, "Damn."

"What happened to Blaize?" Roderick demanded with concern.

"Dead," Matt announced.

"You killed my sister?" Roderick screamed, grabbing Matt by the throat again.

Matt lifted his arm and drove the broken wood he had into Roderick's chest, driving it into the man.
Benny Ray ran into the room. "Sorry, couldn't find the crossbow."

"It's okay. I handled it."

"You okay boss?"

"Stiff neck, but other than that, fine," Matt assured the sniper as he walked over to the sofa. He knelt down beside it. "Cindy? Darlin'?" Matt gently brushed the hair from her face.

"Is she okay?"

"I don't know. Cindy?" he called out, cupping her cheek. "Darlin'?"

"I'm gonna call an ambulance, Major."

Matt felt for her pulse, found it to be strong. There wasn't a mark on her, so he couldn't figure out what was wrong.

Benny Ray was on the phone and Matt felt movement behind him. "You missed," Roderick hissed at him, knocking him away from Cindy. "She's mine now, under my control."

"Somehow, I doubt it," Matt growled, getting to his feet.

"I can't kill you, not with my love in the room. But I sure can disable you," Roderick threatened.
Nick came running into the room and stopped short when he saw Roderick. "You."

"Yeah. Me, Delvecchio. Thanks for all the great feeds," Roderick taunted, referring to the dead women.

"Nick, who the hell is this guy?" Benny Ray asked.

"He used to be FBI, working the weird stuff. Until he disappeared one day. We looked for two months for you, Sanders."

"Not hard enough, apparently. It's a great life. Want to join me?" Roderick asked, closing the distance between Nick and himself.

"No thanks. Let Cindy go."

"Can't do that, Delvecchio. I'm in love with her."

Matt started to move toward Roderick, but Nick waved him off. "What kind of spell do you put on these women anyway? I mean, my dates lately have been horrid."

"You should have picked a blonde to date. It's nothing more than hypnosis. Same as I used on you and that other looker downstairs. By the way, is she still here? She'll make a great feed."

With a howl of rage, Benny Ray hurled himself at Roderick, driving the stake in again.

Nick looked confused. "What is going on here anyway?"

Matt moved his neck from side to side. "Vampire apparently. So you knew him, huh?"

"Yeah. Always was a weird guy, very jealous. She okay?" Nick asked with a movement of his head.

"I don't know. I can't get her to wake up."

The ambulance arrived and took Cindy to the hospital and Trout had FBI headquarters come and collect Roderick and Blaize's bodies to be examined. "Need a ride to the hospital Matt?" Trout offered.

"If it's not too much trouble," Matt replied.

"No trouble. I want to make sure she's okay."

Matt glanced at Trout. He had never seen him so concerned as he was right now.

"They're taking her to the infirmary at FBI headquarters. I wasn't sure the local hospital could handle this."

"Good," Matt agreed.

The two men drove in silence, followed by Benny Ray driving Nick and Margo. It was decided they should be checked over also, since they had the blackouts also.

Matt glanced out the back window at his teammates and sighed. Lately it seemed if it wasn't one thing it was another. Just one peaceful month, was that too much to ask for?

FBI Headquarters
2200 hours

Trout led Matt and the others to the waiting room, handing Margo and Nick off to two doctors to be checked over. Flanked by Trout and Benny Ray, Matt leaned forward, clenching his fists. The whole incident was unbelievable. He knew he couldn't believe it and he'd been there. Matt rolled his neck again and Benny Ray looked at him with concern.

"Major, maybe you should get that checked out while we're here."

"Nah. It's okay. Just stiff."

Margo and Nick came out and joined them.

Benny Ray glanced at Margo. "Everything okay sweet pea?"

"Yeah, the doctor said it's fine. Some sort of minor hypnosis, just to make you forget a particular incident."

Nick was looking out the window, ignoring everyone.

"What's up Delvecchio?" Benny Ray asked.

"Nothin'," he sighed before walking down the hall to a soda machine.

"I know that look," Margo commented. "He's blaming himself again."

Benny Ray nodded in agreement.

Two hours passed and Matt was getting anxious. "What could be taking so long?"

"I'm sure they've never dealt with anything like this, Matt," Margo informed him.

"Thanks. That makes me feel a whole lot better," he mumbled sarcastically.

"Sorry, Matt. I was just trying to say they were going to have to take their time."

"I know. I'm sorry I snapped at you."

Margo reached out to take his hand. "I know you're worried."

"I'm more than worried. I'm scared."

Her other hand reached up to rub his shoulder. "She'll be okay. Cindy's a fighter."

"I shouldn't have left her alone up there. If anything, she was only borderline when I left her there."

"How could you have known?"

"Mr. Shepherd?" a new voice joined the conversation.

"Yes, doctor?" Matt acknowledged, jumping to his feet.

"We can't find any physical cause for your friend's condition. I'm calling in a psychologist friend, but he's in New York so it will be a while until he gets here."

"Why from New York? Isn't there anyone around here?"

"His daughter encountered a vampire in New York. He's also worked in brainwashing and mind programming. Dr. Collins is the most qualified."

"Fine," Matt responded numbly.

"Would you like to sit with her until he gets here?"

"Can I?"

"That's fine. Follow me."

Matt entered the room and pulled the chair over next to her bed. He noticed that although they could find nothing physical, they had her on an IV and oxygen. Picking up her hand, Matt held it gently, speaking softly to her. "Come back to me, darlin'. Please," Matt whispered, choking on his emotions. "What is it? Are you afraid to come back? He's gone, darlin'." Matt stood and leaned over to kiss her forehead, then sat back down with a sigh. He pressed her hand against his chest, hoping the feel of his heartbeat would send her strength.

He sat like that until the door swung open. Matt glanced up to find a doctor entering the room. "Dr. Collins I presume?"

"Yes. Mr. Shepherd?

Matt nodded. "Can you help her?"

"I can certainly try. What can you tell me about what happened?"

Dr. Collins listened, nodding at certain points. Looking at her file, he nodded again.

"So?" Matt asked, agitated.

"My guess would be she's in a catatonic state. The only thing I can figure is she fought against the hypnosis and forced her mind into her own safe place. Only Cindy can bring herself back out of it."

"Anything to do to help?"

"No. Just keep her comfortable, make her feel safe. Talk to her. That's about it."

"That's not much, if you don't mind me saying so."

"The mind's a tricky thing, Mr. Shepherd. It's got complete control of itself. Now, when she's awake, I can help," Dr. Collins promised before leaving the room.

Margo entered the room and looked at Matt. "You need to take a break. You look like hell."

"I have to be here..."

"If she wakes you up and sees you looking like that, you'll scare her unconscious again."

"I'll be ten minutes. A cup of coffee would be good."

Margo watched Matt leave the room before sitting next to the bed. "Hey girlfriend. You've got to wake up. We've got that big shopping expedition Saturday." She heard a small moan and saw Cindy lick at her lips. "Are you thirsty? Got that covered," Margo stated, pouring a cup of water and trying to get the straw to Cindy's lips. Cindy was jerking her head away when Benny Ray entered.

"How's she doing?"

"I thought she was thirsty, but I guess not," Margo sighed, setting the cup down.

"Keep trying it," Benny Ray urged, standing at the other side of the bed.

Margo was still trying with the straw when Matt returned.

"Are you two in here intimidating her?" he said slowly.

"She responded to my voice and I thought she was thirsty," Margo explained as Matt pushed her aside.

"Hey darlin'," he drawled, leaning over her. Suddenly he saw her staring at him with her big eyes.

"Hey, darlin'."

"Is he gone?" she asked nervously, her throat dry.

"Yeah, he is."

"Can I go home now?"

"There's a doctor you need to see first, Dr. Collins. Let him help you before we take you home."

"He's a psychiatrist, isn't he. You all think I'm nuts, don't you?"

"No, darlin'. I know what happened. You just need some help dealing with it, and this doctor can help.

Dr. Collins entered the room and smiled at Cindy, shooing Margo and Benny Ray out. "Excuse us, Mr. Shepherd."

"Can't he stay?" Cindy requested, tightening her hold on Matt's hand.

"Sure he can," the doctor assured her with a smile. The doctor talked to her while Matt sat quietly holding her hand, wondering if he could gain insight on why she had reacted on the phone the way she had.

Matt chewed on his lip, listening to Cindy trying to remember. The doctor looked at them both.

"The memories are buried rather deeply. I can try hypnosis to bring them out or leave them buried, but you won't know when they will come out. It could be at an inopportune time."
Matt shot a look at Cindy. He didn't think she could take more hypnosis, even if it wasn't done for an evil purpose. "What do you think?"

"I have to know, Matt. I don't like all of these blank holes in my memory."

"All right." Matt gave a concerned glance toward the doctor.

"If it starts hurting her in any way, I'll bring her out of it, I promise."

Matt nodded then moved over next to the doctor and asked him to find out about the phone call.

"No problem, Mr. Shepherd. Now, if you'll just sit in the corner over there, we can get started."

Sitting down, Matt clenched his fists and settled down to wait.

Forcing himself to remain calm, he listened to Cindy tell how the man stalked her, seducing her. Part of his hypnosis was making her doubt Matt's love for her, and it was a struggle for him to remain seated. When the doctor reached the point about the attack, she realized Matt was there for her and her struggle against the more powerful Roderick's mind control caused her mind to shut down. Dr. Collins brought her out slowly, telling her the memories were now there, but they couldn't hurt her.

The doctor glanced at Matt before getting up to leave the room.

Matt went over to Cindy, who was curled on her side, crying. "Come here, darlin'."

"I never would doubt you, Matt."

"I know, come here," Matt assured her, gathering her into his arms. "It was his way of trying to get what he wanted. You know what? I think you and I should go away together for a couple of days.

Where would you like to go?"

"Anywhere you are," she replied.

Matt climbed into the small bed next to her and wrapped his arm around her.

"That's how I feel too. How about we drive down to the amusement park and spend a couple of days acting like kids?"

"No roller coasters."

"Whatever you want darlin'," Matt murmured, pulling her close to him.

The End

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