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In which Needle acquires a cat, Lucky gets a kiss, and success continues to elude the team.



January 28, 1987

And again with the damns. How many times is this bitch going to make us look stupid?
    The day started quietly enough. We'd gone to the hospital to check up on the "Daemon Whore," as Talon insists on calling her. Something weird is going on there; Chandler says that what Yasmina did means that the girl is linked to Phoenix in some occult fashion. She seems to be metamorphosing; the doctors say that according to her hormone levels, she's regressing to a fetal condition internally. In addition, her temperature is high enough that any being in a normal state should be dead. She reacts to Phoenix's touch, but nothing else. I think he's really bothered by all of this, but like the rest of us has no idea what to think, although the phoenix symbology is obvious even to me.
    Baffled, we headed back to base. Who should be waiting there on the dock but our light-footed friend from the last encounter with Gretchen—Silas Vandemar. He's the real serial killer, according to Lucky, who roared and sprang to the attack, her stick already up and swinging. Silas spun around at the sound of her approach and put up his hands, backed away, realized that he was about to back off the dock, and then she was on top of him.
    I put a shield over Silas at about the same time Phoenix tackled Lucky.
    "No, wait, I want to surrender!" Silas yelped, trying to get out of the way. Lucky was the closest I've ever seen anyone come to being literally spitting mad, and it took a while for Phoenix and I to get her calmed down and let Silas tell his story.
    Yes, he admitted, he had killed the women. But he was being used by Gretchen, and he had come to the conclusion that she wasn't going to succeed in her schemes. He would talk to us or the police, and didn't really seem to care what happened to him. Most importantly, he was willing to tell us where Gretchen planned to move next. Apparently only certain spots in the city are useful for magics such as hers. We collected some maps from headquarters and called the police to fetch our volunteer.
     They weren't too impressed with him. Much to our collective disgust, the serial killer case has been pronounced closed with the capture of the still-comatose flower-thrower, and everyone seems to think that Vandemar is a nut case—which he probably is, but a dangerous nut case. At the station he willingly pointed out several likely spots for us to find a lurking daemonmage—and also informed us, almost as an afterthought, that she would be hunting for anyone she could find with strong psychic powers, for use as a sacrifice. I think Lucky and I both reached for the phone at the same time. No answer at Chandler's place. Once there, our mutual foreboding was unpleasantly confirmed. There was no sign of forced entry and no footsteps in the snow, but upstairs we found a pool of blood. Lucky had the presence of mind to look for his collection of occult phone numbers and called Yasmina. I didn't and don't think that was necessarily a good idea, but we certainly needed help from somewhere. It wasn't long before the spectral vampire had shown herself. (I think Lucky's in love, or lust.)
    Yasmina confirmed our suspicions and agreed to give us a hand. I gather she owed him a favor she wanted to pay off; there was a sort of cruel pleasure in her smile at the taste of his blood that went beyond the fact that she is, after all, a vampire. Furthermore, it appears that she herself is servant to another god of Xyrgoth's ilk—Sutha, lord of corruption—who isn't too pleased by Gretchen's plan to revive a rival power.
    Has the world always been like this and I just never noticed?
    Her notion of helping was to take us with her through the Twilight, which is not a place I care to visit again. She did this by drawing a bit of blood from each of us. Lucky's donation came from her lip, while Phoenix and I tactfully tried to pretend we weren't there.
    The journey through the Twilight was... well, trying to describe it would be a waste of time. We got there, leave it at that. And, as I already mentioned, the bitch got away again, by turning the stone ceiling to flame so that it collapsed on us.
    We did get Chandler out, though. St. John turned Lucky to stone, but Yasmina got her fixed.
    We destroyed her last daemon. According to Chandler, she's running out of time; the planets have to be correctly aligned or something in order for her to contact Xyrgoth. She's only got two possible places she can use now, we've pretty much trashed the rest of them. So we've returned to base to gather our resources for what—I sincerely hope—will be our last attack on this woman.
    And I've acquired a cat. Lucky sniffed it out as soon as we got back, a scraggly little black creature hiding under a barren bush, pathetically cold and wet. It's still snowing out.
    "Probably an agent of evil," Phoenix pronounced, and attempted to engage it in chi combat. I gave him a look.
    "It's a cat."
    "How do you know? It could be anything."
    "It's cold." I picked it up, much to my comrades' evident alarm.
    "I don't want that thing around here," Phoenix declared.
    "Fine, I'll take it to my apartment. Jeez." He's a friendly little thing, already at home in the apartment and curled up purring on my lap as I write. I'm going to call him Newton—he just dropped into my life, and has a certain grave way of assessing events around him, as if pondering their causes.

    Hell. We just got a call, someone kidnapped the ex-daemon-whore from the hospital. Looks as if Gretchen found herself a sacrifice after all.

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© 1999 Rebecca J. Stevenson