The Cycle of Axer Carrick
Part II -- The Duplicity
The Revised Version
by Henry Wyckoff
Nick sat in the Raven, still feeling the loss of Janette. She had left -- perhaps because he had become too human and she had given up bringing him back to her side of the Line of Death. That was a word that neither of them used -- it came from a book that Nick had read... written by Axer Carrick of all people. He'd known nothing about vampires at the time, but he did have enough experience in the world to know about the Realms of Death.
When Janette was here, he only showed up at the Raven when he needed information or to arrange a meeting with LaCroix. Now, he came almost every evening, hoping to grab something from the past.
Absently, he played with the Square-1 that Axer had given him just after he vanished off the face of the earth. Several international agencies had tried in vain to find him, Nick remembered almost fondly, and they had nearly harassed Schanke and himself in the process.
Several years, and he still hadn't solved this thing. "Remember nonlinearity," or something like it was what the note said. Nick thought it was a special hint, but whether it had to do with the cube or not was beyond him.
In his spare time, he had tried to unravel the mystery, but without Axer Carrick or Alan Powys, he couldn't progress any further -- there were too many knots to untie...
"Hey, why the long face?" asked Axer, sitting down. He had what looked like a lady friend with him... and a *young* one at that.
"I haven't had any luck..." Nick started to complain, then he did a double-take. "Axer?! Axer Carrick?" His mouth must have been hanging open, because Axer stuck a slab of carrot in it. His friend laughed out loud while Nick spat out the carrot in disgust.
Axer was laughing himself. "Didn't your mother ever tell you not to let your mouth hang open?"
Nick's spirits couldn't help but rise. It must have been getting a lady friend that had raised Axer's. "I think I liked you better when you were depressed."
Axer's friend laughed even louder.
Nick's eyes almost became predatory as he said, "You haven't introduced me to your friend."
"No. I didn't. Nick, meet Coleen -- my student. Coleen, meet Nick -- he's a vampire."
Coleen's eyebrows raised, "You mean he's a lawyer?"
"'Fraid not. He's the real McCoy." Nick figured she must have trusted him a great deal, because she suddenly got a little nervous.
"And she's like you?" asked Nick.
"Yep." He became serious. "Look, we have to talk. Will Coleen be OK. out here?"
Nick seemed to think that was quite a good joke. "Yes, but I have to attend to a matter first." He got up and walked over to the bartender -- John, a vampire like himself, but a young one of only thirty years.
"What's up?" asked John.
"See those two over there who were talking with me?"
"Yeah?" His expression was one of irritation.
"Pass the word around: off limits. I mean it. Those two are blood poisoners." That was a code meaning: you suck -- you die.
John nodded soberly.
The next stop Nick made was the place where LaCroix was sitting by himself, observing the dance between mortal and vampire. Ever since he'd bought the Raven from Janette for "a song", he seemed to take more of an active role in the world, but never changed inside.
"Ah... Nicholas. You appear disturbed." As always, the tone was mocking. "Perhaps I can help you in one of your police investigations?"
This was getting pretty annoying, but what could you say to the one who made you, and seemed to be immune to stakes to the heart? "No," said Nick with an almost heroic calmness. "I thought I would let you know that some interesting people have come by. Let me introduce you to them." His tone became mocking as well.
"And, pray tell, who are your guests?"
"Axer Carrick. I don't believe you met him."
LaCroix hid his shock so well that Nick didn't detect it. "Then by all means, introduce me to this 'Axer Carrick.'"
Nick and LaCroix came back to the table. Axer was in the process of telling Coleen about the physical significance of the divergence of two vectors. Coleen's expression said that she wasn't getting the point, but Axer kept going on and on about incompressible fluids and Gauss' Divergence Theorem.
LaCroix cleared his throat meaningfully just as Coleen was about to beg God to strike Axer down. Axer turned around, and smiled. "You're looking as young as ever, Lucius."
"'Lucius?'" asked Nick in puzzlement, looking at LaCroix.
"My mortal name. Axer and I go back a ways -- he single-handedly killed every member of my invasion force when I was still a Roman general." He didn't seem to mind too much about it, though.
"Y- y- you knew him?" stuttered Nick, looking at Axer now.
"Didn't you hear Janette when you caught up with me in that alley? Even Janette knew me."
LaCroix looked at Nick meaningfully, as if he was proving a point.
Coleen was looking at the two vampires in shock. "The way Axer's talking, you two are immortal, but why can't I sense you?"
Axer smiled at the question. Long since, he had encouraged her to ask any question without fear of being stupid. Sometimes, he regretted that. "Because vampires aren't like us. They sense their own kind, we sense our own, but none can sense the other."
"That sounds like a good dissertation project. I'm taking proposals."
That shut her up really fast. Whenever she asked him too many questions, he had often turned it into a research project. Coleen had long since regretted dropping out of high school -- that was nothing compared to what Axer had been putting her through for the last few years.
LaCroix changed the subject. "You needed to talk to me?"
"Actually to both of you -- I didn't count on Lucius being here, but he needs to know as well. Now, behave yourself, Coleen."
She shook her head in irritation, but said nothing as the three walked off to talk about affairs.
* * *
Duncan, Richie, and Sharpe sat at the office table, sharing some coffee. Sharpe seemed very disturbed as he explained that ever since the Big War, he'd been working in intelligence, and had been progressively finding out that there were a great many of secrets that were being kept from not only the people, but from the governments themselves.
"I've failed to get the information that I've been searching for, but by accident, I got this. It's what told me you were still alive." He handed Duncan a thick folder full of photos, memos, and reports belonging to the CIA, FBI, and Interpol.
Duncan scanned through the pile and found that they were cases of beheadings. Most of them were people he knew, and some of them he was responsible for.
"The point is, Duncan, that somebody nasty enough to ensure total secrecy wants you and everyone else on the list."
"This one." It had a lot of people, but half were scratched off -- probably because they were already dead. The only ones left were Duncan, Connor, Sharpe, and a few ones he didn't recognize -- Axer Carrick, Patrick Morgan, and Alan Powys.
"The last one I scratched off, Paulo de la Cruz, died last week." He shook his head, "I tell you, the Hunters are nothing compared to this crowd. Wondering about what will happen to your Quickening if no immortal is around to receive it will be the least of your worries."
Duncan was deep in thought. He'd had a few dealings with secret societies: the Templars, the Hunters, and the Watchers. The Watchers had turned out to be a good group, all in all, but the Hunters and Templars were a pretty nasty bunch. If it was one of them... "Richie, pack your bags. We have a crisis on our hands."
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