Nightwing & Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The Night Stalker
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!]
Room 714, Blüdhaven-Ritz Hotel [Tuesday 4:05 a.m. EST]
"No!" Cordelia woke with a scream. She squeezed her temples. The excruciating pain was almost blinding. Carefully sitting up, she saw that she was lying on the living room couch. Holding her head, she stumbled towards bedroom.
Collapsing on the bed, she leaned over towards the nightstand. Squinting at the bedside alarm clock, she had to blink several times before her vision cleared sufficiently to read the time. 4:05 a.m.
How long had she been asleep? She couldn't remember.
The nightmare came back instantly. Gasping, Cordelia covered her mouth with her hand. He'd seen her! But that was, like impossible! Wasn't it? It was only a dream, wasn't it?
She lay still, going over the events in her mind. Had it been a dream? Or a vision? It had all seemed so real. She didn't know and didn't care. Terrified over the possible consequences of what she'd seen, Cordelia reached for the phone, and called Angel.
"Pick up pick up !" she pleaded.
"Angel?" she asked. The voice at the other end sounded different.
"No, this is a friend. Angel's a bit under the weather at the moment."
"Oh my God " Cordelia whispered. "Did he fall over like he'd had some kind of heart attack or something?"
"Yes. Who's this? His girlfriend?"
"I'm not his girlfriend!" Cordelia denied automatically.
Ignoring her outburst, the voice at the other end continued, "Does he have heart problems? He said he was all right, but passed out again. I was about to call an ambulance."
"No! Don't call an ambulance. Angel does not have heart trouble! Believe me at least not in the usual sense. Oh, never mind! The cloakroom! Hurry! The Stalker! He was with her helping her with her coat! You've got to stop him!"
The line went dead. She stared mutely at the silent instrument for a moment longer.
"Oh, great. Where're these visions when I want to see what's going on?"
Feeling lightheaded from the splitting headache that was finally receding, Cordelia decided that she could really use a hot bath. Turning on the water, she let the shower run until it reached the right temperature.
Stepping in, she luxuriated in the hot, tingly sensation. After a decadently long time, she shut the water and stepped out into the steamy bathroom.
Opening the bathroom door slightly to let out the steam, Cordelia toweled herself dry. Wrapping the towel around her, she proceeded to vigorously towel-dry her long, dark hair. After a few minutes, the bathroom was finally clear of all steam.
Taking out her hairdryer, she turned to the large bathroom mirror. As she began drying her hair, a strange feeling began to overtake her. She began to feel like two people: Cordelia drying her hair, and someone watching her as she dried her hair.
Momentarily confused, Cordelia turned off the hairdryer and just stood and stared at her reflection. The sound of the shower dripping became magnified. Plip plop plip plop Time again seemed to slow down.
Abruptly, the flashes began the feelings of lustful hunger of watching, waiting, wanting
She was the one. Cordelia felt him. He was looking at her! Just as she had seen through his eyes, he was now looking through hers!
As her world around her went black, Cordelia screamed!
Blüdhaven: Place/Date/Time Unknown
Consciousness returned slowly and painfully. She became aware that she was lying on a soft surface. Her sense of hearing returned first. In the distance, a dim metallic sound followed by a strange hissing noise vied for her confused attention.
She couldn't figure out what it was. Realizing that her eyes were closed, she opened them carefully. She tried to bring her hand up to shield her eyes but couldn't.
Still woozy, she concentrated and blinked her eyes open. Complete darkness greeted her. The initial feeling of fear soon passed. She assessed her situation. She wasn't sure but felt as she was in small, enclosed room.
A slight breeze alerted her. She wasn't alone. She could feel it. Knew it.
"Who's there?" she whispered, her voice quavering. "Please help me "
"Soon, Sally," a voice in the dark responded. "Soon "
Room 714 Blüdhaven-Ritz Hotel [Tuesday 6:30 a.m. EST]
The cold, wet cloth woke her up. Not bothering to open her eyes, she yanked it off her forehead.
"Angel, how often do I have to tell you? Unlike you, I don't happen to be one of the undead! I can feel cold!"
Cordelia looked up at the quiet, masked figure. She felt a cold child shoot up her spine. His eyes! The mask somehow hid his eyes. And yet, although frightening at first glance, he seemed kind.
He nodded. Noting the sunlight streaming in from the living room windows, she felt a momentary panic.
"Where's Angel?" she asked, pushing past him.
"In the bedroom."
Cordelia rushed to the bedroom. Nightwing followed, explaining as he did.
"I lost the Stalker's trail about an hour ago. When I returned to the Bambi Club, I found your friend outside. He was having trouble walking and fell a couple of times. I was going to call an ambulance, but he insisted I help bring him here."
Cordelia noted thankfully that the heavy drapes were drawn against the morning sun. The room was in total darkness. She closed the door quietly.
Nightwing paused, uncertain about his next question. "He seemed real insistent about getting here before sunrise." Cordelia turned and faced him. Nightwing held her pinned with his glare.
"He's a vampire isn't he? All of these comments about his being dead and not having a heart you mean he's not human anymore."
Cordelia nodded slowly. Then in a sudden shift that seemed typical of her, but still managed to throw Nightwing off balance, she smiled brightly.
"But I try not to hold it against him. He's really a good guy! Well, now anyway since he got his soul back. But, boy, for a while there talk about terrorizing the community! Biting, killing real Bela Lugosi stuff!"
"Thanks for the PR, Cordelia."
Startled, Cordelia looked over her shoulder. Angel, looking worse for wear, was leaning against the bedroom door.
"Oh, uh, hi, Angel uh, um, I was just, um, telling Nightwing here that you're, um, one of the good guys."
"Yeah, I heard," Angel said sardonically. He looked at Nightwing. "So--? What now?"
"We keep looking for the Stalker. I've got a friend running a check on some leads for me. I've also contacted Sally's family. Full name, Sally Deevers. Didn't come home at her usual time this morning. Her sister, Sarah's pretty worried. Says it's not like Sally not to call if she's going to be late."
"So, she's been taken," Angel concluded.
"Angel," Cordelia interrupted. Something in her voice alerted the two men. "Angel, he knows who I am." They looked at her, patiently waiting for her to explain. "Tonight I had one of those vision thingies. I saw him--and the two of you--at the Bambi Club."
Cordelia continued, explaining about discovering that she could elicit a reaction from people while in her dream state.
"Astral projection," Nightwing said. At their reactions, he shrugged and explained. "I know someone. A friend who does that sort of thing."
"Oh," Cordelia said. "Well, Angel's 'heart attack' was caused by--" She looked askance at Angel. "--me." She cringed.
"But I didn't know that would happen!" she said speaking rapidly. "I just wanted to get you to turn around!" She took a deep breath. "That's how I stopped him. At least, temporarily. I ran through him." She turned frightened eyes on both men.
"I felt like I'd stepped through a deep, dark black hole. One so vile, so evil that I thought my heart was going squeeze shut in my chest!" Two tears began trailing down her cheeks.
"Angel, he saw me! I don't know how, but he saw me. And later, while I was drying my hair, I suddenly knew that he was watching me." She looked so helpless and forlorn that Angel immediately held her closely. "I'm so scared !"
Cordelia clung to her friend for a few moments, but soon drew on reservations of strength that surprised even her. She stood back and with a steady voice continued.
"I don't understand why I can suddenly do this, but I can't get people to hear me!" She paused, and looked curiously at Nightwing. "Except you you heard me. Or it seemed like you did How?"
"He's Romany," Angel said.
"What?" both Cordelia and Nightwing spoke at the same time.
"What you makes say so?" Nightwing asked.
"You know what I am," Angel said. "I've had run-ins with the Romany in the past. We're not exactly on friendly terms. They tend to dislike those like me. Let's just say that I've learned how to spot one. You're one. I can tell." He looked away momentarily. "I can smell your blood."
"Oh, yuck! Could you be even a little more gross?" Cordelia asked disgustedly, and then curiously added, "What's 'Romany'?"
"The Romany are better known as gypsies," Angel explained. Cordelia's eyes widened.
"You mean, like Jenny Calendar--?" she asked. Angel's dark brooding eyes became haunted.
"Yes, like Jenny Calendar."
"I don't understand," Nightwing said. Cordelia looked up at him.
"It's a long story," she said. "One we don't exactly like to talk about."
Nightwing looked first at one and then the other. He waited. At last, Angel spoke.
"Jenny Calendar. A Romany agent sent to watch me. Her family had a special grudge against me." Angel looked up and held Nightwing's eyes. "See I ravaged her family about a hundred years ago, so they placed a curse on me. Made me relive the horror that I'd inflicted on others after I'd 'turned.'"
"Angel was one of the really bad ones," Cordelia piped in helpfully.
"Thanks, Cordelia," he said. "To make a long story short, because of the curse, because of my dark past, because of Jenny's family's quest for vengeance, I reverted to being Angelus, the worst of the worst. And as Cordelia implied earlier, I began a campaign of terror to destroy the Slayer and everyone around her." He paused. "I started with Miss Jenny Calendar."
"But he couldn't help himself," Cordelia jumped in. "See, his soul reverted to the Darkside. As Angelus, he only has one function--to kill and feed off his kills." She shuddered. "But as Angel, like now, he's good--really, really good! He's been entrusted by whomever entrusts these things to, um, save people who're in trouble. Really."
"And what if he reverts back to the 'Darkside' as you say?" Nightwing growled.
"Oh, I'd stake him in an instant and cut off his head," Cordelia replied without blinking.
Nightwing and Angel stared at her. She shrugged. "What're friends for?" She walked over to the nightstand and picked up the phone. "Anyone for room service?" she asked brightly, looking expectant.
Both Angel and Nightwing politely shook their heads. Nightwing moved in a little closer to Angel.
"Just what exactly is your relationship with her, anyway?" he asked. Angel turned a bemused look to Nightwing.
"She's my assistant."
"How do you put up with her?"
"She's also my friend."
Nightwing nodded. "Okay. Well, look You're not the only one who doesn't work in daylight. I'll stay in contact if anything comes up." Walking towards the drapes, he looked at Angel. "Take cover." With that he stepped through the glass doors leading out to the balcony, and to the room occupants' surprise, leaped over the railing.
1013 Parkthorne Avenue, 3rd floor apartment [Tuesday 8:45 a.m. EST]
"You sure, Babs?" Dick was checking out the contents of his refrigerator as he spoke. His muffled voice was automatically boosted by the room's audio pick-up and transmitted to Oracle's Clock Tower apartment/headquarters complex in Gotham City.
"Of course, I'm sure, ex-Boy Wonder. I've already triple checked the information, but I'll run it through once again if you wish."
"No, that's all right. I trust you." He walked over to his terminal and turned on the video transceiver. He smiled directly into the camera. "Hi, gorgeous. You look lovely this time of the morning."
"Flatterer," she snorted, rolling her eyes. "I look awful. Since your call earlier, I haven't had a chance to do my hair." She reached behind her head and wiggled her ponytail for added emphasis.
"Looks pretty cute to me," he said. His eyes were smiling and gently teasing.
She blushed instantly. They were each still a little shy about openly expressing their feelings for one another. A kiss they'd shared during a particularly horrendous adventure together had been the first real step they'd taken. Getting herself under control, she spoke in a businesslike tone.
"Back to the topic at hand," she began, keeping her eyes carefully lowered to the document before her. "'Angelus' was supposedly one of the most evil vampires to have ever walked the earth. Then inexplicably, he disappeared. According to records kept by some obscure group that calls itself the 'Watchers Council,' Angelus was believed killed well over a century ago. Until, about four years ago. He reportedly showed up in Sunnydale, California, your typical, small West Coast community. Except for one major fact." She looked up.
"If you believe the statistics, which seem to have been seriously covered up through layer upon layer of government agencies, this bright, little Southern California town is actually the murder capital of the world." Barbara paused, her demeanor suddenly serious. "Dick, Sunnydale makes Gotham City look like Disneyland."
Barbara's beautiful green eyes held Dick's dark blue ones. "And, while accounts are pretty vague, there is evidence that a Jenny Calendar, school teacher, was found murdered in the home of her then boyfriend, Rupert Giles."
"Giles?" Dick asked. He'd heard the name before.
Barbara nodded. "I'm sorry. It isn't much to go on, I know, but it's all I have."
"Is there any chance that the Night Stalker could be this 'Angelus'?" Dick asked.
"I don't see how. Angelus is supposed to be a vampire. Logic supposes that he'd drink his victims' blood. None of the victims so far have been deliberately drained of their blood. They've had some very gruesome things done to them, but not that." She again looked straight into the camera, giving the illusion that she was holding Dick's eyes.
"Dick, we have one depraved, cold-blooded killer on our hands, but all indications show that he's human. A human monster, perhaps, but human nonetheless."
"Okay, then, here's the hard part. Babs, I need you to run a trace on all suspects that the police have interviewed so far. Not just here in Blüdhaven, but back on the West Coast. No matter how farfetched. I need them collated and a profile drawn up on each." He paused, taking a bite from a piece of toast.
"I want to know if any of them ever had a history of lighting fires when they were children. If they'd ever been reported for animal vivisection. Cruelty to other children when they were growing up. Obsession with torture, especially against women." He looked intensely across the miles that separated them.
"Do you see where I'm going with this?" he asked.
Barbara nodded. "The classic serial killer profile. Okay, short pants, I'm on it. I'll call you when I have something. Oh, and while I'm slaving away at my hot computer terminal, what will you be doing?"
"I'll be paying Sally Deever's brother-in-law a visit."
Blüdhaven Motors, US 61, off Exit 80 [Tuesday 11:05 a.m. EST]
A dark-haired young man wearing a black leather Gotham Knights jacket and black helmet pulled in. He was riding a gleaming, Vincent Black Knight motorcycle that was in mint condition. As he removed his helmet, he revealed dark aviator glasses underneath.
The mechanics on duty immediately surrounded him, admiring the beautiful work on the rare piece of machinery.
"Wow! Kid, this is a dream come true! How much do want for it?" one asked.
"It's a dream all right, Carlo," another taunted. "And that's where it'll probably stay! Man, I heard one of these babies sold at auction for something close to two hundred grand!"
"You need some work done on it, kid?" Carlo asked eagerly. "Man, I'd love to get my hands on this engine!"
"Well, she could use an oil change. I'm on my way to New York and was just passing through the 'Haven. I haven't had a chance to work on her."
At his words, Carlo and another mechanic vied to pull the motorcycle into the bay. While they argued between themselves, another customer came running out, waving his arms angrily.
"Hey! I've been here almost forty-five minutes already! When's my car gonna be ready?"
"Keep yer shirt on!" Carlo replied. "Kenny, finish this guy's car, willya?"
Kenny glared at Carlo. He'd been looking forward to working on the Black Knight, but nodded. Carlo immediately turned to the gleaming machine in front of him. His whole demeanor turned to one of worship. He immediately began setting up the motorcycle for an oil change.
The young man walked up to Carlo and crouched next to him. "Like I said earlier I'm just passing through town. But I heard that a buddy of mine was working here, Jason Connors any chance of his being around?"
"Who, Jason? Naw. He didn't come in today. Called in sick."
"Oh, jeez, that's too bad. I'm pulling out tonight. I'll be sorry to miss him." He smiled suddenly. "Last word I got from him, he and his wife Sarah, I think, had become parents. Twins, I believe!"
"Yeah, that would be Jeremy and Jason, Junior," Carlo said. "Great kids, the two of them."
"Isn't his sister-in-law, Sally, still living with them?" The young man grinned in recollection. "Last picture I saw of her, she'd grown, man. Like, wow! She was wearing this skimpy number with antlers, man! Boy, what I'd give to have a sister-in-law that looked like that living under my roof!"
Carlo became very still. He turned slowly and looked directly at his young customer.
"Look, kid I wouldn't know about that. Sally's a nice girl, see? She takes care of the twins and she takes college courses. That outfit you're talking about is just a uniform she wears at her place of employment." He enunciated these last words carefully.
"I've known Sally since she was a kid. Dated her sister, Sarah, in high school a few times. Their parents died when Sally was twelve or so. Sarah took care of her. She was little more than kid, herself, only eighteen. Then, about a year or so later, Sarah met Jason. They were married soon after."
He turned back to the motorcycle and while working continued to talk.
"They moved away for a while. The West Coast, I think. They must've had money problems, 'cause they came back a few months ago. Sarah bumped into me one day at the grocery store, and told me that Jason was unemployed. I had an opening, so I took him on. He didn't know anything about engines, but Sarah was a friend. I taught him what he needed to know, and he's worked here ever since."
Carlo continued to work in silence. The young man soon stood up and wandered away. Within a few minutes, Carlo walked up to him, wiping his hands on an oily rag.
"She's all done, Mister--?"
"Richardson. Al Richardson," the kid replied. "How much do I owe you?"
Carlo led him into the repair shop's office. He quickly looked up the appropriate figures and sales tax. "That'll be thirty-five even, Mister Richardson."
The young man nodded as he pulled out his wallet. He counted out thirty-five dollars, and added a twenty-dollar tip.
"For treating her like a real lady," he said. With a friendly smile, he walked out into the brisk, November midday. Hopping onto his motorcycle, he put on his helmet and roared off.
Blüdhaven: On northbound US 61 [Tuesday 12:35 p.m. EST]
" like a real lady?" the teasing voice came over his ear receiver.
"Well, she is!" Dick replied, grinning. He spoke into a hidden mike in his helmet. "Only four Vincent Black Knights were ever made, and you-know-who gave me one when I turned fifteen and was finally old enough to get a motorcycle license."
"And you claim that you've never been spoiled in your life!" Babs said.
"Who me?" Dick asked innocently. They shared a quiet laugh. After a moment, he brought it back to business. "So what do you have for me?"
"Like you suspected, the brother-in-law, Jason Connors was in and out of juvie as a kid. The charges against him are a veritable proving ground for a serial killer in the making: small animal torture, nuisance arson--open fields, garbage cans, that sort of thing--school bully. I have a report here that at age ten he beat up a smaller kid so badly that the other kid had to be pulled out of school for several months."
She paused. "Think this guy's your man?"
"Not sure, Babs. The girl, Cordelia, the one with the psychic flashes? She was adamant that the police are going to tag Connors as the killer, but that they'll have the wrong guy. So far, he sounds like my primary suspect that is, if I discount the vampire."
Barbara laughed humorlessly. "You've sure gotten yourself in with some very strange bedfellows, Dick. I mean, I know we both hang around a guy who dresses up like a bat, but that doesn't mean that we should suddenly ally ourselves with someone who can actually turn into a bat!"
"I know that, Babs. And believe me, I'm trying to be as cautious as possible." He shuddered. "When he told me that he could smell my blood I haven't felt that chilled since Two-Face almost well, you know."
"Yeah, I know, Dick," Barbara replied quietly. She recalled how Two-Face almost killed Robin in a double-gallows trap. This incident, more than any other, turned Batman's natural worry over his ward taking chances as a young crimefighter into an outright obsession for the boy's safety. And it eventually led to the break up of the famed Dynamic Duo.
To this day, there remained undercurrents of misunderstandings and resentment between foster father and son.
"Got anything for me on the Romany tie-in with Angel?" he asked.
"Apparently there's no love lost between your people and vampires, Dick. Did you know that?"
"Well, I don't much about my Romany heritage, but I remember that Dad used to making warding signs at times of great stress," Dick mused. "Like a time that he found one of our lines frayed. If we'd gone on, we probably all would've been killed." He paused, trying to recall childhood memories of his father.
"He once mentioned that Grandpa Ricardo told him a story about the 'before time.' That is, the time before our family crossed over to England from Eastern Europe. It was around the Renaissance, during the reign of Queen Mary. Dad said that Bloody Mary had little love of gypsies and most who wandered into Britain during this time met with a grisly ending." He stopped talking momentarily as he concentrated on a lane change.
"Apparently, the Graichones placed some kind of a curse on the queen, and soon she took to her sickbed. Ostensibly it was because of a bad pregnancy, but she had really developed a stomach tumor. She died after several months of painful suffering, and her sister, Elizabeth, came to the throne. Queen Elizabeth was a bit more tolerant of the Rom, and under her reign, my family, a wandering troupe of circus performers, thrived."
Dick saw his exit up ahead, and maneuvered through traffic to get on the appropriate lane. Approaching the light at the end of the exit ramp, he spoke again.
"That's all I know about family skeletons. Dad never mentioned vampires in any of his bedtime stories. But then, he could've considered them too frightening for a little kid."
"Well, I'll keep searching for any more information," Barbara offered, "but I think I've reached a dead end at this point."
"Thanks, Babs," Dick said gratefully. "After I have a talk with Connors, I'll get back to you."
"Gotcha. Oracle out."
57 Woolrich Avenue, Avalon Heights Section [Tuesday, 1:07 p.m. EST]
As he drove up Woolrich Avenue, a quiet, tree-lined street, Dick noticed several BPD squad cars in front of Number 57. A police blockade had been set up about five houses away. Three armed and ready police officers stood stern guard, keeping out the curious onlookers.
"What's going on?" Dick asked casually.
"They think they got him!" a spectator said excitedly. "The Night Stalker!"
"Oh? What makes you think that?" he asked.
"The guy's sister-in-law is missing no trace so far. Some people she works with, said that she'd been complaining how her brother-in-law had been giving her a real hard time these past few weeks, if you know what I mean?" He added the last with a leer.
"No, I don't know what you mean," Dick said coolly. "Can you explain it to me?"
The informer looked around furtively, then stepped closer to Dick. In low murmurs he 'explained' what he meant. Dick actually blushed at the man's gleefully graphic explanation and suppositions about what the 'Stalker' might have done to the missing girl. Holding onto his temper with an iron will, Dick nodded his thanks and moved away.
Blüdhaven: Place/Date/Time: Unknown
Sally's tears had finally stopped. She was terrified. She hadn't been this scared since that night so long ago when the police came and told them that Mom and Dad had been killed in a car accident.
The cold voice who'd spoken to her when she'd first woke up hadn't said anything further.
What was going to happen to her? She hadn't had a chance to say good-bye to Sarah and the twins. Hadn't told them how much she loved them.
The tears began again.
She was going to die. She knew it.
When the voice spoke earlier, it had been like the sound the Death.
She closed her eyes. Pulling the words from long ago, she began first as a whisper, then with growing strength:
"Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee. Blessed art Thou amongst women, and Blessed is the Fruit of Thy Womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen."
At the word 'Amen,' an aura of peace seemed to envelop her.
In the distance, the strange 'hiss-clang' continued unabated, beating a regular tattoo into her subconscious.
Sally succumbed to the exhaustion brought on by her utter terror
The Pavilion, Haven Mall: Caernaervon Business District [Tuesday 3:45 p.m. EST]
Cordelia walked slowly through the racks of expensive clothes. She'd been pleasantly surprised that a dump like Blüdhaven actually had a decent shopping district. The Pavilion was one of the frou-frou upscale department stores on the East Coast.
She'd been getting cabin fever in the hotel room. Angel wasn't any help. He was locked up in the bedroom, waiting for sunset, or whatever vampires did during the day. Finally, unable to stand it any longer, she'd called the concierge and asked whether there were any stores within walking distance of the hotel.
She wrote Angel a brief note and left. That had been over two hours ago. Now, Cordelia had visited every single store in the mall, to include two perfumeries, three bath and lotion shops, four shoe stores, two stores that specialized in accessories, and even a bookstore where she'd picked up a self-help book.
Most of the mall's clothing stores held stuff she wouldn't be caught dead in, but Pavilion was proving to be the exception. She gave a small squeal of delight when she spotted the perfect dress!
"Oh, and it's my size!" she added. Grabbing the dress from the rack, she looked around for a dressing room. Spotting it, she hurried to it. The girl in charge looked up and smiled.
"How many do you want to try on today?" she asked.
"Just this one," Cordelia said, her exuberance bubbling over. The clerk handed her a tag with the number 'one' on it and led her to an empty changing booth.
Cordelia immediately locked the door behind her, hung the dress up on a hook on the door and undressed. Hanging her own skirt and blouse on another hook, she happily slipped on the new dress.
Smoothing it around her flawless figure, Cordelia looked at herself in the mirror, expertly studying how the dress fell, looking for any signs of imperfections.
She smirked. "As if!" Elated with the results, she stepped outside of the booth to the small sitting area in the dressing room. The room had a larger three-way mirror here. Tingling with anticipation, Cordelia walked up to the three-way and assumed several poses.
Clapping her hands in a show of girlish thrill, she cried with satisfaction, "Perfect!"
About to turn to back to her dressing booth, Cordelia began to feel peculiar. A sudden sense of dread seemed to enshroud her. An impression of being watched began to creep up on her. The back of her neck tingled with an eerie sensation, as if a hundred needles were prickling her.
A wave of blackness began to wash over her. The dressing room began dissolving in a wild kaleidoscope of black and white. As she lost consciousness, she thought she saw a pair of evil eyes looking back at her from her own reflection
Blüdhaven: Place/Date/Time Unknown
Cordelia woke up in a darkened room. She was lying on something soft. She tried to move her hands but couldn't. Looking around she had the oddest feeling that she was being watched.
She closed her eyes in exasperation. Of course, she was being watched!
In the distance she heard a strange 'hiss-clang, hiss-clang' rhythmic sound.
"~I guess this is part where I'm supposed to note any and all unusual sights and sounds ~" She sniffed and gagged immediately. "~Oh, gross ! And dead smells!~" She rolled her eyes.
"~Why does it always have to be so nasty? Why can't death, murder, and mayhem ever be neat? Or smell a little nicer? No! It always smells like something just died!~" She paused, mulling over what she'd just said.
"~Oh, okay, you know what I mean. Like, just once I'd like to wake up on a Hawaiian beach or something. You know, somewhere nice.~" She looked around. "~And bright! Is it just possible that just once I could maybe get a little light?" Looking around the place in annoyance, she called out.
"~Hey! Stalker! I know you're in here, so stop this silly 'dark room terror trap' crap! Turn on a light, or are you afraid of being seen?~"
There was no answer, but Cordelia could actually feel the surprised response from an unseen presence in the room. She felt a sudden shiver of fear wash over her, but tamped it down firmly. Now wasn't the time to back down. Building up her formidable temper, she lashed out at the tormentor of her dreams.
"~Look, buster! This has gone on long enough! Now, I know what you look like, so stop hiding in the dark!~" Again, there was no response. Cordelia began making clucking noises.
"~Bawk-bawk-bawk ~" she clucked. "Chicken yellow I'm gonna tell all the girls in town that the so-called Night Stalker is nothing but lily-livered coward! I bet you used to wet the bed--!~"
"Shut up! Shutupshutupshutup!" The voice roared out of the dark. Suddenly, the lights came on!
When she saw the contents of the jars on the shelf, Cordelia shrieked !
The Pavilion, Haven Mall: Caernaervon Business District [Tuesday 5:30 p.m. EST]
She woke with a screech.
The cold, wet cloth fell on her lap. Scrambling to her feet, she knocked it off in a panic. She looked around at the shocked looks of the store clerks. She kept screaming in horror.
The store personnel tried vainly to calm her down.
"Miss! Miss! It's all right! You're all right! Miss! Please!"
"Dominique! Did you call 9-1-1?"
"Yes! They're on their way!"
Cordelia kept on screaming. The images wouldn't go away. The jars kept flashing in her mind: Christin's eyes, Cindy's hands, and other horrors too terrible to give name to. Her senses began shutting down one by one.
As the store personnel reached for her, the only sound she could hear was the odd 'hiss-clang, hiss-clang' in the distance
Room 714, Blüdhaven-Ritz Hotel [Tuesday 6:45 p.m. EST]
Angel awakened, feeling refreshed. He'd slept all day. A dreamless, untroubled sleep for once. He felt the hunger that was never quite abated grow within him.
He rose and made his way to the small courtesy refrigerator in the living area. He looked through it, moving the small bottles of liquor and soft drinks out of the way.
At last, he found what he was looking for. A small zip-lock baggie filled with red liquid. Not bothering to pour it into a glass, he sucked it right out of the bag.
"If I hadn't seen it, I might still not believe it."
Startled, Angel turned his demon face towards the intruder. A small gasp of surprise greeted him.
Nightwing stepped carefully, fully on the defensive, into the soft light streaming in from the bathroom. He was holding a wooden stake in each hand. Suddenly twirling them faster than the eye could follow, Nightwing assumed a fully offensive/defensive stance.
"Now, tell me why I shouldn't just stake you?" he asked. "I had you checked out Jenny Calendar? Just your bad luck that she was a distant cousin of mine, Angelus. I've lost a lot of family members in my life. Now I find out that you murdered what just might have been my last living relative "
As Dick had been returning to the hotel from the Connors' home, he'd received this latest bit of information from Barbara. She'd urged him to use his head, but he'd gone ballistic.
"Dick! If as you say, he's turned from 'Angelus' to 'Angel' then he's not responsible! Dick! Please, answer me!"
"Sorry, Babs, but this is something I have to do. That monster killed my family before I was even born. He should've died centuries ago. I'm just gonna set nature back on its course."
He'd shut off his ear receiver and placed his system into blackout mode so that Oracle wouldn't be able to track his movements and report him to Batman
That was an hour ago.
As he spoke, Nightwing slowly, stealthily circled his deadly opponent. He had no illusions that this would be easy. His last battle against two vampires had almost ended in his being turned into a tasty snack.
And those two had been vampires for only four weeks. Angelus had been around for several centuries.
"You apparently were solely responsible for the murder of the greater part of the Graichones, my family, while they were still in Eastern Europe. After what remained crossed over to England during the Renaissance, they managed a resurgence for awhile. Even invoked that curse on you, the one about having to suffer for 'a single night of happiness.'"
He glared pure hatred at the being who'd caused his family so much hurt and devastation.
"But it wasn't enough for you to practically wipe out my immediate line, you also had to start on the distant cousins. So, one more time, Angelus--tell me why I shouldn't kill you right now?"
Poised for a fight, Angel was about to answer, when the phone rang. He looked at the young vigilante, his eyes questioning. Nightwing swallowed, a muscle worked along his jaw line. Finally, he relented and nodded, 'yes.'
Angel picked up the phone. His concern was immediate. "Where? Rabe Memorial?" He covered the receiver. "Do you know where Rabe Memorial Hospital is located?" At Nightwing's nod, he spoke into the phone.
"I'll be right there. Thank you for letting me know." He hung up and turned towards the angry young man whose intense glare was almost as chilling as his own.
"I'm sorry, Nightwing, but you'll have to kill me later. That was the emergency room at Rabe Memorial. Cordelia's just been admitted."
Without blinking, Nightwing turned and ran towards the balcony. Pausing slightly, he looked at Angel who'd followed right behind. "After you."
Room 234, Rabe Memorial Hospital [Tuesday 7:45 p.m. EST]
She lay in the quiet, muted lighting of the hospital room. She was afforded some semblance of privacy by the room dividers. The sounds of medical monitors beeped in low tones, while life-giving liquids dripped steadily into her system.
The two men approached her cautiously. Finally, Angel placed his hand gently on her forehead.
Cordelia opened her eyes and looked up him. Before he could say anything, she broke down and began sobbing openly. She held her arms out for comfort, and without hesitation, Angel took her into his arms.
After a long moment of brokenhearted crying, Cordelia finally quieted down. In a voice broken by occasional sobs, she told them what she'd seen.
"He has them all in glass jars on a sh-shelf. All the p-parts he's taken. S-Sally he has her. She was still a-alive, but I don't know how much longer. Angel, his need is growing. I-I know you don't think he's possessed by a demon, but Angel he's evil. I know he is pure evil!"
She shuddered in Angel's arms and began to cry softly again.
Nightwing moved in.
"Cordelia," he addressed her quietly. She wiped her eyes and looked quickly up at him. "You've got to help us. Is there anything you can remember that could prove useful? Sounds? Smells? Anything?"
She nodded. "The place smelled like Death, but I don't think that'll be of much help." Nightwing nodded disappointed. "But there was this one thing that might be a strange sound, somewhere in the distance. A 'hiss-clang, hiss-clang'." She looked up at him expectantly. "I kept hearing it. Even after I came to in The Pavilion. I could still hear it in my head 'hiss-clang, hiss-clang'."
"You say you still heard it when you came-to in the mall?" Nightwing pressed. Cordelia nodded. "Cordelia, listen carefully this is extremely important. Was it in your head, or could you actually hear it when you woke up?"
"I'm not sure," she said, shaking her head helplessly. "Why?"
"I need to see if you heard it while you were unconscious and only thought it was part of your dream, or if you heard in your dream and only thought that--"
"--Only thought I heard it when I woke up," she finished.
"Exactly," Nightwing said with quiet admiration. Cordelia smiled up him. She concentrated, trying to remember.
Finally opening her eyes, she looked at him uncertainly. "I think that I only heard it in my head," she offered. "Because I was in the mall for the better part of two hours and never heard it until after I heard in my dream vision and came to."
"Good girl," Nightwing said, satisfied. "You've been a big help."
Feeling a surge of pride at the praise, Cordelia reached her hand up and lightly touched his face.
It was if an electric current passed between them. Both cried out at the unexpected shock. Nightwing at first fought against the dark and disturbing images that suddenly invaded his subconscious. Realizing what he was witnessing, he grabbed Cordelia's hand, and held it even tighter to his cheek.
As suddenly as they'd started, the images stopped.
But it was enough.
"I know where he has her," Nightwing said, standing up. Looking down at the beautiful and brave girl who'd been living with these mental impressions that came straight from Hell, he leaned down impulsively and kissed her on the cheek.
"Get some rest," he whispered. "It'll be over soon."
#67 Thrawn Trailer Park: Adjacent to Thrawn Park [Tuesday 8:25 p.m. EST]
In the distance, the 'hiss-clang' of the Thrawn Terminal-Red Line Elevated could be heard as the railcars coupled and uncoupled. Nightwing maneuvered his 'Wing cycle through a series of narrow twists and turns in Blüdhaven's sole trailer park.
The place did indeed reek of Death. And a few other unpleasant odors, Nightwing thought. Thrawn Trailer Park was rock bottom even in Blüdhaven. The residents were those who'd reached the end of their rope and had no hope left, nothing to look forward to except Potter's Field, Blüdhaven's pauper's cemetery.
Nightwing parked his 'Wing cycle off to the side, and both he and Angel dismounted. He removed his protective helmet and placed it on the seat. Taking out an electronic key device, he clicked the 'lock' button and his bike immediately became enclosed in a non-reflective, black, metallic shield.
If necessary, the shield could withstand a small nuclear explosion.
The two night visitors separated and approached #67 with caution. Touching the electronics on his mask's night vision lenses, Nightwing scanned the area immediately around him. The NVL's picked up the body heat given off by others. Movement to his right caught his attention.
He froze in place. A frightened cat yowled and took off, knocking over a garbage can. Smiling slightly in relief, Nightwing continued on his stealth approach.
"Got anything," Angel's quiet voice said from next to him.
Nightwing almost jumped out of ten years' growth. He whirled around, assuming an immediate defensive stance. Where was he? He couldn't see him.
"What? What do you see?" Angel's excited voice said from next to him. Nightwing rolled away and again came up on a defensive stance.
"What is the matter with you?" Angel hissed from in front of him. Nightwing looked around. He couldn't see him! Before panic set in, common sense won out. Of course, he thought sheepishly. His NVL's picked up body heat. Angel didn't give off any body heat.
Reaching up, Nightwing readjusted his lenses. Angel immediately came into view, his face puzzled.
Nightwing made a mental note of the lenses' obvious weakness. They couldn't track the 'undead.' Hopefully, that would not be a major issue. Letting out a breath he hadn't known he'd been holding, Nightwing shook his head.
"Never mind," he said. "Let's go in."
#67 Thrawn Trailer Park: Adjacent to Thrawn Park [Tuesday 9:05 p.m. EST]
Afterwards, it was almost a denouement. The hero and demon broke into the trailer, and found Sally Deevers still alive, but shaken by the ordeal. Nightwing called in the BPD emergency dispatcher, and before long Thrawn Trailer Park was knee-deep in cops.
Watching safely from a distance, Nightwing observed as Detectives Fontana and Reuters placed a blanket around Sally's shoulders and offered comfort. Nightwing felt like cheering for the two honest cops who'd been working almost around the clock since the first body was discovered all those weeks ago.
A live one! They'd found a live one. Better they'd found the Night Stalker's lair. There was enough evidence here to put him away for the rest of his life and a few lifetimes over.
Unfortunately, the only thing that they didn't have was the Night Stalker, himself
Room 234, Rabe Memorial Hospital [Tuesday 11:30 p.m. EST]
It was long past visiting hours. The hospital was set to 'night' with the corridors and rooms in soft, subdued lighting to encourage healing sleep.
The door to room 234 opened without a whisper. He could hear the beeps and whirs of the monitoring equipment. Over that quiet background, he could hear her soft breathing.
He smiled. He could feel the anticipation rising. Soon, Cordelia, he breathed in silent prayer soon.
Taking out a hypodermic, he carefully measured it to the necessary dosage. He didn't want her to die from this. Oh, no. What he planned for her required that she be there, fully aware of everything that was going to happen.
He had to suppress a sudden giggle that welled up in his throat.
And he knew exactly where he was going to keep her. He walked around the partition. She was lying on her side, facing away from him, awash in the shadows thrown up by the room dividers.
A look of avarice flitted across his eyes. He wanted her so badly, he was ready to take her right there and then. But no! He had to practice self-restraint. The Master had to be fed first. The Master's hunger was growing, escalating. He had to feed him more and more often. What if he picked wrong? What if--?
He gave himself a mental headshake. No! He'd been given the power, hadn't he? He was the chosen, wasn't he? With the power of life and death? No, he knew that he'd pleased his Master so far and would continue to do so for years to come.
Approaching with measured steps, he carefully reached for the sheets to expose her arm.
He gasped. What was going on?
"Not tonight, honey. I've got a headache!" With the speed of an attacking cobra, the masked figure that had been lying seemingly asleep suddenly turned around and grabbed him by the wrist with a heavy gauntleted hand. Before he could react from the unexpected attack, the Night Stalker was grabbed from behind.
About to fight back, he turned in time to see the nightmarish vision from his childhood. The Master! He'd come! But--?
But he didn't look at all pleased
Room 714, Blüdhaven-Ritz Hotel [Wednesday 12:57 a.m. EST]
"Are you sure you won't stay another day?" Nightwing teased.
"No offense, Nightwing," Cordelia huffed, "but the only thing I want too see right now is Blüdhaven in my rearview mirror." She turned and flashed him a smile. "Or from the air. Thanks, but no thanks!"
Nightwing smiled back. "Just thought I'd ask. This town has that effect on people."
Angel got off the phone and looked up. Nightwing tensed immediately. Both men studied each other through narrowed eyes. Cordelia gave a long-suffering sigh and stepped in between them.
"Hey! It's over! We're supposed to be on the same side!" Exasperated, she looked up at Angel and poked him in the chest. "You! Remember the rules! No biting!"
She turned to Nightwing and gave him a slight shove. "And you! Angel and I just helped you put a killer away. So what are you going to do now? Drive a stake through his heart? For what? For something that happened over two centuries ago?"
Nightwing didn't take his eyes off Angel. Cordelia shoved him again, a little harder this time. "Hey! I'm talking to you!"
Startled by her tone, both men looked down at her. "Don't you think he hasn't suffered? Can't you see he suffers even now? Every hour he's awake and asleep he's haunted by the cries of the dead of those he made suffer."
As she held Nightwing's gaze, her own eyes were pain-filled. "But he's paid! Again and again, he's paid! And he's still paying!"
Nightwing grabbed her by the upper arms and shook her. "How can you defend him?" he cried. "He murdered Jenny Calendar, and tried to kill you and each of your friends!"
"Okay! That's a major friendship issue," Cordelia admitted. Angel stared at her. His expression was hurt, but not surprised. She gave him a slight shrug, but then turned back to Nightwing. "But I know that the evil monster who tried to kill me isn't standing here now." At Nightwing's look of contemptuous disbelief, Cordelia exploded.
"All right, already! I suppose that you're Mister Perfect that you've never made a mistake in your life! But, if you did, at least you were responsible for your own actions! No one forced you to do something against your will!"
Unnoticed by Cordelia, her words cut through Nightwing like a surgeon's scalpel. Thoughts of Brother Blood and his unspeakable mind tortures flashed through his mind at light speed. Cordelia continued her harangue.
"Well, Angel wasn't responsible! Jenny's dead because the curse that her people your people placed on him backfired!" She added the last part accusingly. "I know that it's hard to forgive and I know that we can't afford to forget. But Angel has tried to make restitution. He helps those in need for no payment! I should know I'm supposed to get a share of Angel Investigations and so far I've managed to fall behind on my rent three months in a row!"
Cordelia placed a hand on Nightwing's forearm. "Please let it go. We'll be on the redeye to LAX in another thirty minutes. Me, Angel, the Night Stalker we'll all be just another bad memory."
Nightwing returned her gaze soberly. At last, he nodded. Turning towards Angel, he asked, "What've you got?"
Angel studied the young vigilante for a moment longer before finally answering him. "Giles finally got the info I requested. The Night Stalker is one Greg Hopkins, AKA Gregory Hodges, AKA Geoffrey Hopkins. Apparently in an out of private and state mental institutions since the age of five when he witnessed his sister's brutal murder." He glanced down, momentarily ashamed.
"Vampire," he whispered. He looked up with the same deeply haunted look that Nightwing had seen earlier. Shaking himself, Angel continued the report.
"Greg or Geoffrey seemed to have developed multiple personalities from an early age. The reports available are pretty sketchy. At one point, his parents actually believed that he was possessed, and they had at least one exorcism performed on him."
He shrugged, shaking his head. "What he never got was what he really needed, solid psychiatric help. The boy became lost in the system. When his parents passed away, there was no left who cared about him one way or another. He was released on a clerical mistake. A few months later, the Night Stalker was born."
Cordelia looked up. "Will Arkham Asylum be able to hold him?"
Nightwing scowled. "We can only hope, can't we?"
Gotham City: Cell Number 35, Arkham Asylum [Wednesday 9:35 p.m. EST]
He sat quietly staring into space, immobilized in the straight jacket they'd transported him in.
As he looked, he watched. She was taking a shower. He could feel the hot water as it tingled against her exposed skin.
"Soon, Cordelia Very soon !"
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
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