Too Many Long Boxes!
   
   

End of Summer
 

Nightwing & Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The Night Stalker

Part 1

by Syl Francis

Warning: This work is rated [R] for mature language and situations! The subject matter may be offensive and/or disturbing to some and is definitely not recommended for younger readers! [Parental discretion is advised!]

Los Angeles: Angel Investigations [Saturday, 7:00 p.m. PST]

Cordelia shrieked and stumbled over the coffee table. The abrupt mental flashes, combined with searing white-hot pain, were her late-friend Doyle's legacy.

As she succumbed to the inevitable darkness that always overtook her, she lashed out at Doyle.

"~Why couldn't you leave me your old Frank Sinatra records, you second-rate demon loser?!~"


Blüdhaven: Mealtide Park, Mealtide Island [Saturday, 11:00 p.m. EST]

They'd driven around for hours trying to find a private spot to park. Finally, they crossed the Littleneck Narrows Bridge towards Mealtide Island. As they passed by the Municipal Railyards, the abandoned rail cars stood out like shadowy sentinels in the eerie moonlight.

"Greg, I don't like this area. It's scary." She glanced nervously around the vacant Mealtide Park Beach. The lights of the city on the far side of the Narrows River twinkled in the distance.

The lonely sounds of surf crashing on the rocky outcroppings known as Skirl Rocks could be heard beyond the silent line of manmade dunes. The noisy summer crowds were but a dim memory on this crisp, moonlit November evening.

"Hey, Cindy, don't worry," Greg said soothingly. "I'm here. I promise I'll protect you." Greg's patience was about to pay off. He wasn't going to let the gloomy ambience of the deserted beach ruin his plans. He opened the car door.

"Come on, Cin. I've got a blanket, hot soup, and sandwiches in the trunk. A real picnic." Greg smiled charmingly at his date.

Cindy smiled back. Greg was so sweet. He was the nicest guy with whom she'd ever gone out. Not like Tom or his horrid frat brothers…all they'd wanted was--

Cindy couldn't go on. It was almost a year now since that awful night. It had been a long road back for Cindy, suspicious of all men, looking for hidden agendas in every "Hello," in every smile, in every second look.

But now, Cindy felt happy for the first time in a long time. Greg was so different--older, more mature, charming, understanding. Like tonight. A picnic. Cindy watched Greg as he carefully spread the blanket in a protected spot along the dunes.

She suddenly recalled their accidental meeting and smiled at the memory. Who'd have thought it? Cindy asked herself facetiously. She'd been in the bookstore and was about to reach for the last copy of Herodotus, when another hand beat her to the punch…


The Royal Bookstore, Avalon Heights Section [Two nights ago: Thursday 7:00 p.m. EST]

"Excuse me!" Cindy said annoyed. "I was about to get that copy!"

"Sorry, I got it first," replied an obnoxious voice.

Cindy turned to argue further but stopped short. The object of her ire was staring openmouthed at her. The pleasant-looking older man blinked suddenly as if realizing that he'd been staring.

"I beg your pardon," he stammered. "I-I didn't mean that…uh, I mean, I'm sorry, I didn't realize that you were reaching for it." As he spoke, he sheepishly handed Cindy the book. He continued to stare at her as if he couldn't take his eyes off her.

Cindy began to feel a deep flush spread from her neck, up to her hairline.

"You're staring," she managed. He immediately dropped his eyes and quickly looked away.

"I-I'm sorry, uh, miss…?" the question held a hopeful note. He suddenly smiled shyly. "I, uh, I'm Greg…Greg Hopkins."

Cindy's instinct of self-preservation screamed at her to walk away. He's just like all the others, her voice of reason screeched. Walk away! About to obey her common sense, Cindy made the mistake of looking into his eyes.

"You have the most incredible hands," Greg was saying as if in awe. "So slender…so lovely."

Cindy flushed, not taking her eyes off his. He had the warmest, kindest brown eyes she'd ever seen. Even now they were smiling gently, pleadingly, asking to be forgiven. Cindy was completely won over…

****

Cindy smiled at the recollection. Greg invited her for a cup of coffee at a nearby coffee shop. This led to an hours long debate over their favorite authors…

"Are you kidding?" she'd asked laughing. "Mary Shelley?"

"I think Frankenstein is simply one of the most sensuous novels ever written," Greg insisted smiling. "Can you imagine? The power of life and death. The power of creation!"

Before they knew it, the coffee shop was closing. Greg and Cindy agreed to meet the next day for lunch. Lunch led to dinner.

Dinner led to tonight…

Greg looked up and caught Cindy staring at him. He flashed her one of his charming and warm smiles, the kind that made her feel as if she were the only person in the world who mattered to him.

Neither Tom nor any of his jock-strap frat buddies would have ever thought to romance a girl before trying to rip off her clothes, Cindy thought bitterly. No, their mindset was closer to drugging a girl's drink, then raping her while she lay unconscious and helpless.

Cindy hugged herself against the sudden chill from the shore. The memory indelibly seared itself into her psyche, a bitter reminder of her suffering at the hands of men. She swallowed, watching Greg. She felt a sudden warmth suffuse her. In another few minutes, she would be within the safe protection of Greg's arms. She smiled in anticipation…

Thirty minutes later Cindy was running for her life! She stumbled helplessly across the beach, sobbing in terror. Greg followed at a short distance in slow measured steps, apologizing guilelessly, his tone hurt.

"Cindy! Cindy! Please, don't be that way! Whatever I did, I apologize. Honest, I'm sorry!"

"Stay away from me," Cindy sobbed. "Please! Leave me alone!"

Cindy looked over her shoulder. Greg was gone! Where was he? She cried out in a panic and began running faster around the dunes. As she rounded an especially large one, Cindy stumbled straight into Greg's arms.

The knife flashed briefly in the silvery moonlight.


Los Angeles: Angel Investigations [Saturday 7:45 p.m. PST]

The cold, wet cloth on her forehead brought her instantly to consciousness. As her eyes snapped open, Cordelia yanked the wet towel off her forehead. She glared daggers at the dark, brooding young man who sat over her.

"Could you maybe use something colder or wetter!? Hello!? Unlike you, Angel, I don't happen to be dead! I can actually feel sub-zero temperatures!"

A slight look of amusement flitted across his eyes. Concern was replaced by relief.

"What did you see?" he asked simply.

Cordelia's annoyance was quickly supplanted by fear, mingled with sadness. She swallowed.

"The Night Stalker…" she said in a soft voice. "He's back."


Blüdhaven: Warehouse District along "The Spine" [Sunday 12:05 a.m. EST]

Materializing out of the deep shadows, the dark figure made his way silently across the myriad rooftops that made up Blüdhaven's seedy warehouse district. Stopping at one in particular, he crossed quickly to the camouflaged entrance.

Uncovering a hidden panel, he punched in his passcode. In seconds, an electronic voice in his ear receiver asked for a retinal scan. Temporarily disabling the opaque setting of his mask, Nightwing allowed the building's security to scan his eyes.

After all, he'd set up the security measures himself. The 'voice' in his ear receiver said, "Cleared for entry," and the secret door slid open. Entering the elevator that led to his warehouse lair, the young vigilante spoke briefly, "Down."

Immediately, the outer door slid shut, and Nightwing was sent plummeting to the warehouse sub-basement. The door opened automatically when it reached the sub-level. Nightwing smirked.

Batman hadn't been entirely pleased with the setup. He worried that by being headquartered in the middle of the warehouse district, his former ward was leaving himself unnecessarily open to possible attack. But Nightwing had persisted. This was his town. And he did things his way.

As these thoughts flashed unbidden through his mind, Nightwing felt a momentary stab of guilt. To Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson would always be the little boy he took in all those years ago. Nightwing's features softened briefly.

"When I'm fifty, he'll still be looking over my shoulder," he mused. Shaking the feeling, he got back to business. The open bay held a single metal chassis on jack stands. Overhead a ceiling-mounted crane held several different body styles for his special car. The skeletal vehicle bodies were hanging from heavy grapplers, ready to be dropped onto the waiting chassis.

Nightwing was very proud of his car. He'd engineered it himself. But tonight, he wasn't going to use it. He pressed a button on a wall-mounted control box.

Instantly, the overhead crane began moving. Soon, the single red-filtered bulb that provided the only lighting to the cavernous room caught a momentary glint off the handlebars of a sleek, black motorcycle.

Nightwing stood back and took a moment to admire it. He smiled to himself. This had been his old Robin cycle, which he'd recently converted for use as Nightwing. Besides upgrading its horsepower and electronics, Nightwing gave it a new paint job, jet-black with midnight blue trim.

He pressed the 'down' button on the crane's wall-mounted controls. The 'Wing cycle was slowly lowered. When it reached the floor, Nightwing disconnected the grapplers and walked the bike towards a line of shelves along the wall.

There was a lot to be said about externals. How did that guy on Saturday Night Live put it? "It's not who you are, it's how you look!"

Nightwing hopped onboard, donned his helmet, and gunned his motorcycle to life.

"That's right, baby! So, let's go look for some bad guys!" Nightwing punned.

Pressing a hidden control on his gauntlet, the shelves slowly slid over on smooth tracks, revealing a hidden tunnel. As he rode through the abandoned sewer line, Nightwing soon saw the dim light up ahead warning that he was about to reach the tunnel's end.

Nearing the concrete wall that was apparently blocking his exit, instead of slowing down, the young daredevil revved the motorcycle to even higher rpms. He drove straight for the wall, seemingly on a suicidal run.

At the last moment, the hologram dissolved and Nightwing flew into an abandoned culvert. Not looking back, he knew that the hologram was back in place.

Aiming towards a slight incline in the culvert, he sent his bike flying over the side. Landing on the back wheel, Nightwing easily maneuvered the bike until he was able to bring the front end down safely. Grinning fiercely, he roared off into the moonlit night.


Municipal Railyards, Mealtide Island [Sunday 12:35 a.m. EST]

"What do we have?" The detective on duty sounded tired.

"Dead girl," came the equally exhausted response. "Carved up pretty bad. Just like the others, Steve."

"Kee-rist!" Detective Steve Fontana was not happy. "What number is this, Rudy?"

"Number three," his partner, Detective Joseph "Rudy" Reuters, replied. "According to his calling card anyway." The two veteran officers gave each other knowing looks.

"Kee-rist!" repeated Fontana. "The captain's gonna hit the fan. There goes my vacation."

"Why's that?" asked Reuters.

"You know how Addad gets when we have crazy, wacko killers on the loose. Nobody but nobody gets released from duty."

"Yeah," replied Reuters, unhappily. "The boss himself usually goes crazy and ends up taking it out on the Violent Crimes task force."

"Blüdhaven's beginning to look more like Gotham City," Fontana growled.

"Yeah, I even heard we have our very own vigilante superhero now. Supposedly he's here to 'clean up' the town of graft and corruption," Reuters said derisively.

"Well, if this vigilante does exist," Fontana shrugged, "Maybe he has a point. Hell, half of city hall is on the take, and the other half's--" Fontana stopped. "Never mind."

"Hey, partner, not so loud," warned Reuters. "I mean, half the force--"

"--You mean more than half--" interrupted Fontana bitterly.

"Yeah, well. Loose lips sink ships and all that jazz," Reuters reminded him.

"Yeah, I know, Rudy, but it sure makes our job that much harder, don't it?"

Reuters nodded. Fontana grimaced, shrugging at the impossibility of their task. At least their boss was an honest cop. And Rudy…Fontana trusted him with his life.

"Okay, partner. Finish up here. I'll get on the horn and call the CO." Fontana shook his head. "My wife's gonna kill me." She'd been planning their vacation for weeks now.


Fireflaught Mount, Mealtide Island, elevation 873 ft. [Same Date/Time]

Nightwing watched from Fireflaught Mount at a relatively safe distance. His telescopic Starlite scope gave him a perfect view of the crime scene.

"Another one," he muttered.

The Night Stalker had been terrorizing Blüdhaven for several weeks now. And before that, according to Oracle, he or someone very much like him, left a bloody trail that crossed the country all the way from the West Coast. As near as Nightwing could figure, Blüdhaven was the first city in which the Night Stalker decided to take up permanent residence.

"Lucky us." Nightwing adjusted his scope's audio pick-up to tap in on Fontana's radio communication. The lead detective's voice came over Nightwing's earphones clearly.

"Yes, sir. Another one. Number three. Yeah, carved up just like the others. Gutted…again, like the others." He paused. "And boss, he took a couple of extra souvenirs."

"What now?" Nightwing mused. "If he follows his usual pattern, then he's taken one of the victim's organs. Possibly the liver. More likely the heart, this time."

Nightwing listened in on the detective's conversation. He felt something cold grip him. This was bad. This was worse than bad. This was becoming a living nightmare.

This time the Night Stalker cut off and took the victim's hands.


Somewhere over the Rocky Mountains [Saturday 11:30 p.m. MST]

Cordelia slept fitfully. She'd never been comfortable on planes. Too many of them seemed to fall out of the sky. And their destination wasn't exactly on her 'A-list' of places to visit.

Blüdhaven? Come on! She might as well be going to Newark. Nobody went to Blüdhaven. They probably didn't even have a decent mall, either. And Angel told her that Buffy had chased a couple of vampires there a few months ago. That definitely made it a place to avoid.

If vampires were moving in, then the seedy Blüdhaven neighborhoods were really starting to go down!

Giving up on any chance of sleep, Cordelia straightened her seat and grabbed an in-flight magazine. She glanced over at Angel, who was sitting by the window, his finely chiseled good looks outlined against the sprawling lights of the city below. As usual, he was being Mister Gloom.

Rolling her eyes, Cordelia let out a long sigh and settled down for a long, silent cross-country flight.


Blüdhaven: Avalon Heights Apartments, Avalon Heights Section [Sunday 3:25 a.m. EST]

The last of Blüdhaven's Finest finally left. Nightwing hung back while Fontana and Reuters questioned the grief-stricken young woman. She'd been completely torn by the news of the murder of her friend. Nightwing listened while the hapless homicide detectives spoke with her. Their clumsy efforts to offer sympathy had been lost on the brokenhearted girl.

Now it was his turn.

"Care to talk to me about Cindy?"

The quiet voice startled Jenny. She gave a short scream and dropped her teacup in fright. It shattered into a thousand pieces.

"Who's there?" she gasped. She reached for a butter knife. "I'm armed! I'm warning you! Stay away!"

"Relax, Jenny. I won't hurt you." With that Nightwing stepped into the small circle of light afforded by the single nightlight in the tiny kitchen. "I'm sorry I frightened you."

Jenny cowered at the far corner of the kitchen, against the counter. She still held her dull table knife in a defensive position.

"Please…who are you? What do you want?" Jenny whispered in a terrified voice. "I'm warning you…I-I know tae kwon do!"

Nightwing gallantly didn't smirk at her threat. Instead, he maintained a respectful distance and attempted to seem as non-threatening as possible.

"Please, Jenny. I'm a friend. I'm called Nightwing, and I'm one of the good guys."

"Are-are you one of those costumed vigilantes?" she asked doubtfully. "Like a superhero, or something?"

"Or something," Nightwing smiled. "I'm trying to catch Cindy's killer, Jenny. And I need your help."

Jenny's eyes suddenly widened in terror.

"What-what can I do? How can I help? I don't know anything!"

Nightwing made calming gestures with his hands. Finally, Jenny quieted down sufficiently to listen. "Please, why don't you sit down, Jenny?" he asked soothingly. "You look exhausted. Here, I'll make you a cup of tea."

Jenny looked at him in surprise. Finally, she nodded and took him up on his offer.

A few minutes later, the two were sitting at the tiny kitchen table sipping hot tea and nibbling on pecan shortbread. If the scene hadn't been infused with a surrealistic air, it would have seemed ludicrous.

"So you're 'Nightwing,' you said?" Jenny asked tentatively by way of small talk. Nightwing nodded.

"I'm sorry about Cindy," he offered gently. At the mention of her childhood friend, Jenny felt the tears start. Nightwing handed her a napkin. His kind gesture only made her cry even more. Finally, the storm passed.

"I'm sorry, about this," Jenny apologized. "I hate weepy women." Nightwing didn't reply to that. Rather, he allowed her enough time to collect herself. "Okay, what can I do for you, Nightwing?" she asked, sniffling and dabbing at her eyes. "How can I help?"

"Just tell me about her," Nightwing said. "Tell me about Cindy Matthews…"

For the next two hours, Jenny did just that. She talked about the kind of girl Cindy had been. About her friends. Her interests. What she did for fun and relaxation. Jenny told him about the bookstore where Cindy worked. How much her coworkers loved her. How much she'd be missed.

Finally, Jenny told him about the previous year, and the frat party that had gone bad. How beautiful, vivacious Cindy had almost disappeared within herself. How she'd fought to slowly emerge from her long, painful withdrawal.

After Jenny was finished, Nightwing felt he knew the dead girl a little better. She was no longer a nonentity. Cindy had become a person.

Nightwing stood.

"Jenny, I want to thank you. You've been a big help tonight." As he turned to go, Nightwing paused and looked as if he'd just thought of another question. "Did Cindy have a boyfriend or anyone special in her life?"

Jenny shook her head, while shrugging her shoulders. She held her arms out, hands spread. She dropped them slowly to her side.

"I wish I knew, Nightwing," Jenny said helplessly. "But these past few days Cindy suddenly became very close-mouthed. I suspected that she'd met someone, but she wouldn't talk about it."

"What made you think that she'd met someone?" Nightwing asked.

Jenny smiled teasingly. "Really, Nightwing. Some things a girl just knows. Cindy was absolutely glowing. Oh, she'd met someone, all right. And she wasn't about to share him just yet." Jenny's smile fell. "You don't think--? You don't suppose that--?" She couldn't go on.

"--That this special someone could be the Night Stalker?" finished Nightwing. At Jenny's look of fright, Nightwing knew that he didn't have to answer his own question.


Place/Date/Time: Unknown

Cordelia found herself at a lone corner table in a cheesy diner. She was a bit confused, since she thought that she'd gone to bed in her room at the Blüdhaven Ritz. She'd been exhausted when they'd finally landed. It was close to sunrise, so Angel had to leave as soon as they arrived.

She'd been forced to collect their luggage by herself. Typical, she'd groused. Even dead, men were useless. It had been almost two hours before she'd finally unlocked the door to her hotel room, kicked off her shoes, and collapsed on the double bed.

~So, how'd I get here?~ Cordelia looked around the place. ~What a dump~ she thought disgustedly. ~Hey! What's going on? Why am I here? Oh, I get it. This is one of those vision-thingies, isn't it? Or…?~ She paused, uncertain. ~Am I having a dream?~

She looked across the room. And that's when she saw him. She'd never seen him face to face before, but she recognized him nevertheless.

~Maybe it's the icky stamp of 'Hey! I'm a killer!' that's written all over him. Jeez…can't any of these redneck trucker types see that? Hey! He's the one! He's the Night Stalker! Somebody call the cops!~ She smiled to herself. ~There that was easy! Good…I have an interview tomorrow. If I get on a plane now, I should just make it.~

Cordelia looked around. No one was paying attention to her. Her eyes were drawn to back to him.

He stood at the entranceway calmly surveying the main dining area of the truck stop he'd spotted off the last exit on US 61. He grinned to himself. The kid at the last rest stop had felt good. As the knife went in and out, he'd known that his choice had been the right one.

In and out.

Fast and clean.

Cordelia thought she was going to be sick. Come to think of it, the smell of greasy cooking coming from the truck stop kitchen had already made her feel that way.

~Why can't mean and horrible killers ever operate out of Paris or Monte Carlo?~ she sighed wistfully. ~Come to think of it, why can't I wake up from this stupid vision?~

She suddenly felt his need…

His need for collecting keepsakes in order to revisit the 'kill' again and again.

At the moment, his need was temporarily satiated by having taken the dead kid's motorcycle. But he knew that soon, he'd have to go out on the hunt again.

~Okay, already!~ Cordelia cried out. ~I get it! He's the Night Stalker! Time to wake up!~

He sat next to her. Or was he sitting on top of her? Or was she on top of him?

~Oh, ewwww…!~ She cringed, feeling little creepy, tingly things crawling throughout her body! ~This is the part I really hate! Doyle, if you weren't dead already, I'd kill you for doing this to me!~

She felt him inside her head, inside her body. She fought to keep herself separate, to maintain her own identity. However, try as she might, she found herself suddenly seeing through his eyes…touching with his hands…hearing with his ears. She felt herself yearning with his black soul…

He had a clear view of the dining room. He took in the rough-looking, trucker customers. Mostly males in their mid to late thirties and forties. None of them looked like candidates. He couldn't risk his target putting up a struggle and possibly escaping. As his eyes scanned the room, he suddenly saw her.

She looked mousy, he noted dismissively at first. Then he saw her smile. The change was as dramatic as it was instantaneous. Her entire being seemed to be bubbling over with effervescence. Unable to contain her merriment, her smile broadened until she let out a soft laugh.

He turned towards the almost musical tone. It was a pleasant and sweet sound, drawing him towards her.

"Come on Christin," one of the truckers teased. "When are you going to say 'yes' and marry me?"

"Why tonight, of course, Marty!" Christin said laughing. "But what will your wife say?"

The others at the table burst into good-natured laughter. Marty smiled sheepishly. Christin leaned down and gave him a lighthearted peck on the cheek. With a friendly wave, she headed back behind the counter and her next customer.

"Bonny!" she called. A tightly-netted dark head popped out of the short order window, a young, African-American woman wearing too much make-up.

"Yeah?"

"D'you have my next order?" Christin asked. "Table four-three."

"Coming right up!" Bonny replied, abruptly.

The hunter waited patiently. His new prize would come over in a second. And when she asked him for his order, he'd turn on the charm. He studied her carefully, noting the reddish highlights of her hair, clear skin, and slightly upturned nose.

She'd make a perfect specimen, he thought. Yes, he knew exactly where he'd keep her…

Cordelia woke with a scream!


Blüdhaven: Unknown location [Friday 11:45 p.m. EST]

He looked down at her lifeless body. It had been so beautiful. Christin remained aware almost until the end. Her eyes, her attractive blue eyes looked up him, the shock and terror indelibly imprinted on her face. He'd loved her eyes; they were like a window into her soul.

As he'd sliced her open, her muffled screams died slowly. However, her eyes kept looking at him, accusing him, clearly not understanding why. She had been so kind and loving. She'd told him that she liked to feed the stray cats in her apartment complex. Who would feed them now?

A golden glint caught his attention. He bent down and picked out a small gold crucifix from the bloody gore around what had been her lovely neck. He knew right away what he'd keep--the crucifix…and her beautiful eyes.

Afterwards, he beheld his gruesome twin trophies floating in their new formaldehyde-home. He turned the glass jar this way and that, enjoying how Christin's eyes seemed to follow him. He smiled. This one had been the best so far. He knew that he'd be visiting Christin for several weeks to come.

Placing the jar lovingly on its special place on the shelf, he stepped back to admire his souvenirs. Glancing down, he caught the crucifix that was now dangling from his own neck. He felt suddenly aroused at the thought that the crucifix had recently hung around her neck and now hung around his. He giggled suddenly.

About to leave, he remembered the stray cats. Christin would be very unhappy if they went hungry. Smiling to himself, he looked down upon her, and taking his special scalpel, he lowered himself to where she lay.

Giggling suddenly, he decided that Christin would feed the cats one final time…


Caernaervon Apartments, Caernaervon Heights Section [Saturday 2:35 a.m. EST]

The fourth murder had been particularly gruesome. Her eyes…! Nightwing swallowed. He thought he'd seen it all, but privately admitted that perhaps he needed to shelve his pride and ask Batman for help. As he swung across the stormy Blüdhaven skyline, he went over his interview with Christin's best friend, Bonny…

He'd interviewed Christin's coworkers and family extensively, but came up with a blank. One girlfriend, Bonny Engler, said that she believed Christin had recently met someone.

"All the usual signs were there that she had a new man in her life, but Christin wasn't talking."

"What kind of 'signs'?" Nightwing asked.

"She began wearing expensive perfumes, and became a bit more self-conscious about her personal appearance. You've gotta understand…a girl doesn't make a lot of money waiting tables. So, Christin rarely splurged on herself…"

****

"The beauty parlor again?" Bonny asked incredulously. "Girl, you just went two days ago!" Bonny studied her friend from under her false eyelashes. "Christin, honey, he must be someone special," she said sardonically.

"I don't know what you mean," Christin said, shrugging into her coat. She turned and gave her friend a bright, vivacious smile. Bonny noted the carefully applied make-up and soft, swept up hair. The small, gold crucifix that Bonny had never seen Christin without caught the light. Christin moved quickly to the employees' exit. At the door, she turned and gave Bonny a last wave…

****

"Christin only did that when she was serious about someone," Bonny continued. "There were other signs. I don't know…she just seemed so happy. Don't get me wrong…Christin wasn't the kind of person who was normally down or gloomy, but these past few days, she's been absolutely glowing!"

"You say she'd been wearing jewelry?" Nightwing asked. Bonny nodded. "Can you describe it? Was there anything special?"

"Well, she didn't have a lot of stuff, of course. But, there was one thing that she never took off…a small, gold crucifix…a gift from her mother. It was the only thing she had of her Mom's. I think that Christin even showered with it on." Bonny's had taken a faraway look. Blinking, she looked at Nightwing. "Why do you ask?"

"Because the police reports don't list any type of jewelry in Christin's private effects." Nightwing thanked her. "If you think of anything else," he said, handing her a card, "Call this number. Day or night. And leave a message."

Bonny nodded, glancing down at the card. When she looked up, he was already gone.


1013 Parkthorne Avenue, 3rd floor apartment [Saturday 5:30 a.m. EST]

"Gone where?" Dick asked. He was sitting in his darkened Blüdhaven apartment, mask and Nightwing uniform shirt off. It was 5:30 a.m. He'd been at it all night and felt beat. All of his leads had fizzled. He was at a dead end at the moment.

"I'm afraid that Master Bruce was called away on an emergency with the JLA, sir. Something quite Earth-shaking, I understand. I'm very sorry, sir…Perhaps, Master Timothy could be of help?"

"No! Under no circumstances is Tim to become involved. It's bad, Alfred. I-I know that Tim's come a long way as Robin, but…well, there are just some things a kid shouldn't--" he stopped.

"I quite understand, young sir."

"This is why Bruce used to leave me behind so often, isn't it?" Dick asked.

Alfred's expression softened slightly. "I believe that you know the answer to that yourself."

Dick nodded. "Alfred…let him know I called." Alfred nodded. "And Alfred?" The loyal friend and confidant of many years waited expectantly. "Let him know that I asked for his help."

"I shall do that, sir."

Dick watched with wistful longing as, with a kind smile, Alfred cut off the transmission from his end.


57 Woolrich Avenue, Avalon Heights Section [Monday 5:30 p.m.]

"Auntie Sally!" Jason, Jr. and Jeremy shrieked delightedly when they saw her coming up the walk. "Auntie Sally! Auntie Sally!"

The boys shot out of the front door like twin freight trains and threw themselves at her. They instantly bowled their aunt over on the front lawn. Soon all three were giggling and rolling on the newly mown grass.

"No fair!" cried Sally, in mock consternation. "Two against one!" Still laughing, the boys stood and helped their aunt to her feet.

"Will you read us a story, Auntie Sally?" "Please?" Two pairs of identical brown eyes looked up her pleadingly.

Sally put her hands on her hips and gave her twin nephews a sideways look. "You two," she tsked, starting up the porch steps. "Guys, you know that I have to go work in a few minutes."

Sally's announcement was met by disappointed groans. She stopped and looked down at two pinched, upturned faces. Finally, she relented and crouched down to eye level with them.

"I tell you what," she began. "You boys promise me that you'll eat your veggies and say your prayers tonight, and tomorrow, when I get home from school, I'll read you two chapters from 'Harry Potter'. How's that?"

Her promise was met with resounding cheers from both of them. "Mommy! Daddy! Auntie Sally's promised to read to us tomorrow if we're good!" Jeremy and Jason, Jr. ran inside calling out excitedly. "Mommy! Daddy!"

Sally smiled as the sounds of their eager voices filtered back from the kitchen…


Room 714, Blüdhaven-Ritz Hotel [Monday 9:00 p.m. EST]

"Angel, he's going to hunt again tonight," Cordelia said suddenly. "I can feel his need growing." She pressed a cold compress against her temples. Her eyes were squeezed shut. "I don't know how much longer I can take this…with each kill, I can feel more and more of his sick-o, psycho lusts!"

She opened her eyes and looked pleadingly at the tortured soul whom she considered amongst her best friends. "Angel, I can feel a piece of my soul break off with each of his kills. I-I don't know if I can go through it again!"

Angel took her comfortingly into his arms.

"I'll catch him. I promise. You're doing a great job, Cordelia. You just have to hang in a little longer." He sat back and studied her with deep compassion.

"I've made contact with some of the local 'underground.' Word on the street is that Blüdhaven has a vigilante who patrols the nights. He could be the same one Buffy mentioned…Nightwing, I think. Since he first started operating here, a lot of the subterraneans who'd moved over from Gotham City began quietly leaving town. They say this guy is as good as Batman."

"Batman?" Cordelia asked. "I thought he was like some kind of an urban legend or something. You don't mean that some guy really goes around dressed like a bat?" At Angel's serious nod, she rolled her eyes. "Great! As if the real monsters weren't bad enough, now we have non-dead guys dressing up like them."

She sighed. "Where are all the straight, normal men?"


57 Woolrich Avenue, Avalon Heights Section [Monday 9:00 p.m. EST]

"You look really good, Sal."

Sally jumped at the voice behind her. Jason. Her brother-in-law. Sally immediately stiffened and moved towards the stairs without a word.

"Come on, Sally. We're family. When are you going to stop being this way?" Jason asked insistently in a low voice. "I mean we're practically brother and sister."

"Oh, yeah?" Sally replied, her voice dripping ice. "I don't have any brothers, Jason. And I wasn't aware that trying to sneak into my bedroom at night was something a brother would do."

"Hey, Sal," Jason said nervously. "Not so loud. Look, I wanted to apologize. I'm really sorry, Sal, honest," Jason pleaded, walking up behind her and placing his hand on her arm. "I swear that will never happen again. I was drunk, Sal. It was the alcohol…it wasn't me."

As he spoke, Jason began to run his hands up her arms, until he was standing close behind her. Sally could feel his hot breath on her neck. Angry, she spun around and pushed him away from her.

"You, snake!" she hissed. "You stay away from me! Do you hear? You stay away, or I'll tell Sarah the kind of scum she married!"

"Yeah? And who do you think she's going to believe?" he sneered. "Me? The man she loves? The father of her twin sons? Or you? The little tramp sister who parades herself in bars in front of men, wearing that sleazy 'Bambi' number you call a uniform. You know how she feels about your line of work."

Jason grabbed her roughly by the wrist and pulled her up close. "You listen to me and you listen good, you little slut. You either start paying 'rent' for your room and board, or your tail is out on the streets. Do I make myself clear?"

Sally stared at him, near tears. Hating herself, she nodded that she understood…


The Bambi Nightclub, the Waterfront District [Monday 11:30 p.m. EST]

He felt confident. Christin had been so easy. A few shy comments about her smile, and she'd willingly met him later that first night. After that, it was relatively simple to have her drop her guard.

He smirked. Funny how far a single rose can take you, he thought. Now, she was his forever. He could look at her any time he wanted. He smiled again. He'd visited her almost every day for the past week, reliving the moment over and over again.

But now, it was time for a new one. The instant rush he experienced soon after the kill was beginning to wear off. He could no longer prolong the moment when he held Christin in his hands. It was becoming harder and harder to feel the thrill of the kill.

He walked around the 'Bambi Club' and smiled, the cold predatory smile of an animal on the prowl who's just spotted a likely prey.

The cocktail waitresses were all dressed in skimpy outfits replete with antlers and a dainty, bushy tail. He grinned to himself.

"Looks like deer season has just opened," he muttered…


Rooftop: the Blüdhaven World Trade Center, Caernaervon Business District [Tuesday 2:35 a.m. EST]

"The Night Stalker's on the prowl again, you know."

Nightwing sprang instantly into action. Without bothering to take note of the speaker, he spun, somersaulted in mid-air, and launched himself at the unknown threat.

He landed on…no one. Whoever had spoken was gone!

"What the--?" First someone sneaks up on him (a near impossibility!), and now pulls a disappearing act? Nightwing remained crouched in a defensive position, his escrima sticks at ready.

"Do you always attack first and ask questions later?"

The same voice! Ready, Nightwing spun, throwing his defensive weapons with a single smooth movement. He was about to follow through by launching himself once again at his unknown enemy, when he stopped short.

The dark form who stood before him calmly reached out and caught both of the young vigilante's escrima sticks. Nightwing's instantly assumed a new defensive stance. He decided to let the stranger make his move.

The mysterious figure stepped from the deep gloom afforded by the adjoining building's shadows. He was a tall young man, wearing an open black overcoat. Nightwing's observant eyes took in the dark clothes underneath. Whoever this guy was, he was dressed to blend into the night.

Nightwing's internal alarm system went off. This was a very dangerous man.

The stranger held out the escrima sticks to Nightwing. Nightwing did not reach for them; instead, he remained on his guard, watching the dark stranger suspiciously.

The new arrival shrugged and casually dropped the sticks on either side of him. Holding Nightwing's eyes, he held his hands out to show that he was unarmed.

"We have a mutual friend," he said.

"I'm listening."

"Buffy Summers…You met her a few months ago." At Nightwing's narrowed eyes, he continued, "Blonde. About this high. Has a mean right hook and carries a pointed stick--?"

He smiled slightly at Nightwing's sudden look of recognition and nodded. "Buffy and I are good friends. She spoke highly of you. Said you were doing a good job protecting the town from our mutual, uh, 'associates.'"

"You mean 'vampires,'" Nightwing said bluntly.

Angel nodded.

"Who are you? And what do you want?" Nightwing asked.

"The Night Stalker--I've been hunting him for a few months. A friend and I have tracked him to Blüdhaven."

His cell phone ring interrupted him. He flipped it open.

"Yes?"

From where he stood, even Nightwing could hear the woman's agonized scream.

The dark stranger immediately shoved the phone back into his pocket and turned to go.

"The Blüdhaven-Ritz!" he called. "Room 7-1-4!" Before Nightwing could reply, he was gone. Nightwing stood still a moment. The guy in the overcoat had just pulled a disappearing act worthy of Batman.

"Now I know how Commissioner Gordon feels," he muttered. "Who is this guy?" He shrugged. "Only one way to find out." Firing out a jump line, Nightwing swung into the night…


Room 714, Blüdhaven-Ritz Hotel [Tuesday 2:55 a.m. EST]

He slipped into the room, a mere whisper in the wind. The sounds of quiet sobbing came from the next room. Crossing the dark bedroom, Nightwing opened the door into the outer sitting area. His mysterious acquaintance was on the sofa, holding a young, crying woman.

The dark young man looked up briefly and acknowledged Nightwing's presence.

"H-He's g-going to slice her open…li-like my D-Dad used to do a-a fish. I-If he's human, Angel, h-he's p-possessed…Water…H-He's s-somewhere near the water."

"Shhhh…Try and get some sleep, Cordelia," Angel told her. He gently pushed her down into a reclining position. Her face contorted and she looked away.

"I can't…He's in my mind all the time now. I can't keep him out! Angel--!" She desperately grabbed her friend's hand. "I can't sleep…I won't be able t-to control him! He'll own me! I can't let him! I can't!"

Angel brushed her hair back gently. "You won't, Cordelia. You're strong…as strong as Buffy. If anyone can keep this guy at bay, it's you…I know you can."

Cordelia smiled through her tears. "You really think so?" she asked. Angel nodded. Her whole demeanor seemed to relax momentarily.

Nightwing didn't know what was going on, but the girl was obviously in pain. And his mysterious friend had just managed to soothe her agony.

Without warning, she stiffened and shot up. "Hey! Just one minute here, mister!" Both Nightwing and Angel blinked at the sudden mood change. "What do you mean I'm 'as strong as Buffy'? Couldn't you have come up with another comparison? How about 'Wonder Woman' or 'Power Girl'? No! You compare me to Buffy! It always comes back to Buffy, doesn't it? Buffy, Buffy, Buffy!"

She looked at him accusingly, and then slapped her head as if trying to knock sense into it.

"Hel-lo! I still have 'Buffy-issues,' remember? You'd think that for a guy who's been dead for more than two hundred years you'd've learned a little bit about sensitivity?"

Angel none-too-gently placed his hand on her forehead, and although she was still babbling, pushed her back down on the couch. Bringing his hand down to her mouth, he placed his forefinger on her lips.

After a few more seconds of sounding off, Cordelia finally noticed his finger and stopped talking. Her eyes widening, she muttered, "I was doing it again, wasn't I? 'Buffy-bashing'?" Angel nodded. She sighed, and making a cute face, she shrugged a single shoulder. "Sorry?"

His eyes smiled in answer. "Try and rest." Taking his hand in hers, Cordelia nodded.

As he stood to go, she called quietly. "Angel?" He turned. "H-Her name's Sally…I-I think she works at a-a nightclub. That's how he found her…I mean, how he finds her. She lived…no, she lives with her sister's family. Sh-She's having a hard time with…J-Jason, her brother-in-law. The police w-will think he did it, but he didn't…I mean, he won't…" She closed her eyes and murmured. "He did it…will do it…it's too confusing…so confused…"

Watching her for a long moment, Angel nodded and left.


Miscellaneous rooftops, the Waterfront District [Tuesday 3:20 a.m. EST]

They kept to the shadows, drawing comfort and protection from the night. A mist had rolled in from the Narrows River, further chilling the early November morning.

"Who are you?" Nightwing asked. "What did your girlfriend mean about you being dead for two hundred years?"

"She's not my girlfriend," Angel replied automatically. "Who I am isn't important. What is important is that I want to help you catch this killer."

"You say you know Buffy Summers. Is this guy some kind of supernatural killer or something?"

Angel shook his head, 'no.' "I almost wish he were," he said quietly. "I can deal with the supernatural. Good against evil…black and white. This is different. The Night Stalker is definitely human. Cordelia thinks he's possessed, but I don't think so. Demons don't like to possess things that have souls darker than they are…Makes them too hard to control. Besides, it's not as fun as turning someone who's pure to the forces of darkness. And in extreme cases, inhabiting a dark soul could be worse than being banished to the nether regions from whence they came."

"'From whence they came'?" Nightwing repeated. "That's a bit of an unusual turn of phrase, don't you think?"

"Sorry, guess I hung out with Giles too much."

"Giles?"

"Never mind…it's not important."

Nightwing began to feel a bit exasperated. "Okay, Mister Mystery Dead Guy. Tell me--What is important?"

Surprisingly, Angel broke out into a genuine smile. At Nightwing's astonished look, Angel returned to his usual taciturn self. "Sorry, you just reminded me of someone I know…Xander.


The Bambi Nightclub, the Waterfront District [Tuesday 3:30 a.m. EST]

They entered through the rooftop maintenance access, avoiding the front door bouncer.

Nightwing and Angel stood on the second story balcony overlooking the gyrating crowds below. Despite the wee hours, the place was packed, and although it was long past the time most places stopped serving drinks, the alcohol flowed unabated. Private clubs were not covered under the local two a.m. 'Last Call' city ordinance.

Blüdhaven had an unusual number of 'Private Clubs.'

Although neither Nightwing nor Angel was dressed for the club scene, they went unnoticed. In addition to the strange shadows being thrown up by the strobe lights on the dance floor, which hid more than they revealed, the patrons were too absorbed in their private affairs to pay much attention to the oddly dressed duo.

"Seems kind of crowded for a week night, doesn't it?" Angel asked.

"The Bambi Club's usual clientele don't go for the nine-to-five scene. Most of them work at your more illicit entrepreneurial endeavors. Down there at this moment, there are probably more high-roller deals being cut than on all of Wall Street today. It's also a favorite 'bank' where young, upwardly mobile loan sharks can have their recently acquired dirty money laundered."

Nightwing grimaced, his voice dropping to a deep growl.

"And, of course, the management offers their 'gentlemen' customers certain services 'happily' served up by the Bambi cocktail waitresses and exotic dancers…in exchange for a couple of 'C-Notes.' Yeah, the Bambi owner is a real local business leader…a pillar of the community."

"Why don't the cops bust the place?" Angel asked.

"Because, down there, over on the right hand corner, behind that partition," Nightwing said pointing with his chin, "our esteemed Chief of Police, Redhorn, is undoubtedly currently enjoying--gratis--the Bambi Club's special gentlemen's services." Nightwing looked askance at Angel. "And I wouldn't be surprised if Hizzoner, the Mayor, visited earlier this evening."

"So, what's to keep you from busting it?"

"Because it's useful. I get a lot of my best--or worst, depending on your point of view--information here." He scowled darkly behind his mask. "When it stops being useful…"

He didn't need to finish the sentence…


Room 714, The Blüdhaven-Ritz Hotel [Tuesday, 3:35 a.m. EST]

Cordelia tossed restlessly in her sleep. Occasionally, soft moans would escape from her lips. The disturbed flashes, which seemed to bring a bright, white-hot explosive pain behind her eyes, settled momentarily, fragmented, and then finally coalesced into a dark, troubling dream…


The Bambi Nightclub, the Waterfront District [Date/Time: Unknown]

…Cordelia awoke in the crowded, smoke-filled, ill-lit room. She sighed, inhaling too much smoke and instantly setting off a coughing fit. Squinting through the haze to keep her eyes from watering, she groused at the Powers That Be.

"~Okay, someone please explain why killers have to hang out in filthy, cancer-causing places that can ruin your eyes?~" Feeling extremely put upon, Cordelia looked around the place. Noting the 'Bambi' cocktail waitresses with their antlers and bright bushy tails, she groaned.

"~Oh, please! Somebody shoot me if I ever wear anything like that!~"

She froze in place. She could sense him. He was here…somewhere…

He felt his hunger growing. Soon…He knew she was here. The next one. He could feel her.

A half-naked dancer gyrated obscenely on the bar above him. Disgusted at such blatantly sexual overtures, he grabbed his drink and turned away.

No! That one wasn't for him. He liked them pure, innocent. It was his job to bring them over to the Darkside. The Master had willed it so. He'd been given a great gift: the power of life over death. The power of creation! It was a formidable gift. He had to use it with great care.

Should he pick one who was unworthy?

He shuddered at the possible consequences.

Feeling herself drawn towards one end of the room, Cordelia began walking in slow, deliberate steps.

"~This must the part where the crowds just sort of open up like the Red Sea and I walk through them, right?~" Immediately, the crowds seemed to part to let her through. Cordelia smirked.

"~Hey! I'm getting pretty good at these dream-vision thingies.~"

That's when she sighted him. He stood along the wall in the shadows, drink in hand. His eyes were darting around the crowd, looking, searching, spotting, discarding. At last Cordelia felt his eyes settle on one particular girl.

Cordelia knew her instantly. The girl from her earlier visions, Sally!

Not moving from his place along the wall, he waved slightly, catching Sally's eye. Smiling, the young cocktail waitress moved quickly towards him.

"How may I help you?" she asked. Cordelia walked up to them and stood next to the killer. While he and Sally spoke, oblivious to her presence, Cordelia made faces at him and muttered childish taunts.

"~I bet you were an abused child!~" Cordelia sneered.

"Another one of these," he said. Sally waited patiently. As if reading her mind, he added sheepishly, "Ummm, sorry, miss. I forgot that you didn't serve me previously. Scotch and water, please."

"~I bet the bigger kids in school teased you, right?~" Cordelia added. "~Hurt your itty bitty feelings!~"

Sally smiled. "I'll back in a jiffy!"

"~No way! Are you crazy?~" Cordelia cried, running after her. "~Don't be back 'in a Jiffy' or a 'Skippy'!~" She called out, waving her arms in frustration. "~And just why are we talking about peanut butter? Hello-o! Don't you see he wants to make venison steaks out of you?~"

Walking down the line of customers standing along the wall, Sally continued taking orders.

"~Listen to me, Sally!~" Cordelia pleaded, placing her hand on Sally's arm. Unsurprisingly, it passed right through. However, to Cordelia's astonishment, Sally almost dropped her tray. The young waitress paused momentarily confused.

"~Hey! You felt that! Didn't you?" Excited, Cordelia spoke rapidly. "~Sally, this guy is bad news…Don't leave with him tonight! Start walking away now!~"

As if in answer to Cordelia's plea, Sally began to walk away. Momentarily gratified, Cordelia was disappointed to see that Sally was only heading towards the bar to deliver the drink orders for her customers.

Smiling at the bartender, Sally continued on to another set of customers while her drinks were being mixed.

Cordelia was exasperated. What could she do? Movement up above caught her eye. Angel and another guy…probably the one Angel called 'Nightwing'! A shiver of relief shot through her being.

She quickly ran up the stairs. "~Okay…so, why can't I just 'fly' during these stupid visions?~"

****

"It's getting late," Angel said. "Think he might've left with her already?"

"~No!~" Cordelia shouted. "~He's still down there. He's standing by the wall, and he's already picked her out! Come on, guys! Do your super-hero thing. Go down there and take him out!~"

"It's possible," Nightwing replied.

"Cordy said that the girl's name was Sally…Let me go down and ask around. See if she's still here."

Cordelia sighed in relief. "~Good idea~" she said.

"Good idea," Nightwing said. Taking a good look at Nightwing for the first time, Cordelia paused, mouth gaping.

"~Whoa! Does your mother let you out looking like that~?" Not expecting a response, she was surprised to see Nightwing stiffen, as if listening. When nothing else seemed to be forthcoming, he returned to scanning the room below.

Feeling creeped-out by the experience, Cordelia followed Angel as he moved away. Shaking her feelings aside, she quickly started on Angel who was looking in the wrong direction.

"Not there, Angel…over there!" she shouted, pointing. "Turn around! Earth to Angel--! Look the other way! Do a one-eighty!"

He remained completely oblivious to her pleas. Growing desperate, she remembered Sally's reaction to her touch. Making up her mind, Cordelia closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and walked through Angel.

Angel's reaction was completely unexpected. He stumbled backwards, falling over a couple of chairs, and finally overturning a table, spilling drinks and empty glasses on the table's occupants.

Angel looked like he was having a heart attack. But, since Cordelia knew that he didn't have a heart anymore, his reaction was doubly unforeseen.

"~Oops!~" she muttered, slightly abashed.

The women who'd been sitting at the table with their 'dates' shrieked as the drinks spilled on their expensive dresses. The men jumped to their feet and reached inside their jackets!

At that point, things began to move in slow motion.

Something big and black whirled seemingly out of nowhere, knocking the guns that had materialized in the angry patrons' hands. They shouted in surprise, painfully holding their wrists.

Three huge bruisers, obviously bouncers who looked like refugees from the World Wrestling Federation, lumbered towards Angel. Not quite recovered, he began slowly regaining his feet.

To Cordelia it looked like the entire crowd on the bottom floor was reaching into their jackets.

"~Get up! Get up!~" she screamed. "~Oh, wait…bullets can't hurt you. Never mind~" Looking around the room for Sally and the Stalker, she asked almost absentmindedly, "~Where'd they go?~"

Without warning, a series of incandescent explosions went of all around the dance floor. In an instant, the place was in chaos! Customers ran for the nearest exits, falling over themselves in their mad scramble to get away.

Into the fray, a graceful figure in black seemed to fall from the ceiling. To Cordelia's shock, Nightwing took out the three bouncers in less than three seconds. And before either she or Angel could react, he also disarmed and immobilized most of the patrons who'd foolishly decided to remain behind.

As the smoke settled, Nightwing turned to Angel. "It just stopped being useful."

****

Drawn to the exit, Cordelia began walking, slowly at first, and then with increasing haste. He was still here…waiting! She could feel him! Making her way towards the cloakroom, she saw him helping Sally with her coat.

"~No~!" Cordelia shouted. Not stopping to think about the consequences, she hurried towards them, and taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and ran through them.

A white-hot nuclear chain reaction surged through her soul! A black hand gripped her chest and squeezed. As the Bambi Club dissolved around her, the last thing she saw was the Night Stalker looking directly into her eyes, reaching his hand out to her…

CONTINUED IN PART TWO

 
Return to the Top of the Page

Now that you've read this piece,
discuss it in the Fanzing Forum!

     
 
Angel and Cordelia are Joss Whedon and 20th Century Fox
Nightwing and all other characters are DC Comics
This story is 2000 by Syl Francis
Fanzing is not associated with DC Comics.
All DC Comics characters, trademarks and images (where used) are ™ DC Comics, Inc.
DC characters are used here in fan art and fiction in accordance with their generous "fair use" policies.

LinkExchange
 
Fanzing site version 7.4
Updated 7/27/2010