Erik looked out at the lights of the city. The Colosseum wasn’t the highest point in the city, but it was high enough for him to feel the cold wind whipping off of the river. In so many ways, they had succeeded. The vampire clan was destroyed. The Americans had used what happened to warn off the other clans. They’d found a mole in the city’s police force. Anne was safe, and there were some tantalizing clues as to what the Dark Towers wanted with her. Kurt and Anne had finally gotten together. Erik was surprised at how pleased he was about that, especially considering how hard he was going to have to work to hide that from the Saint. He was pretty sure that Lady Maritza knew, even if she hadn’t told her official self. On top of it all, Mia Gold was safe and out of the vampires’ clutches. All in all, he should have been celebrating with the others. Instead, he was up here brooding. All because the one vampire he wanted dead had managed to slip out.

The access door opened and Erik felt the familiar psi-scent walk up behind him. He’d wondered if this was going to happen, or if Lady Maritza would interfere. To be fair, he would have understood if his nominal superior warned the woman off. Of course, she may have, but Erik doubted even Lady Maritza could have dissuaded this one if she wanted to speak with Erik.

“Samantha knew you’d be up here,” Mia Gold said. She walked up to the railing that Erik perched upon. He looked down on her and gave her an indulgent smile. “When I invited your little team to one of my rehearsals, it was because I wanted you to see. It’s not often I get to show off for my big brother.”

“Sorry Mirya,” Erik said, “I didn’t think about that. I should have. It just seemed like a good time to get away from everyone’s emotions and just think.”

“It’s nice to hear you say my name,” Mirya said. Then her face became serious, and Erik could tell his sister was wary about treading into dangerous ground.

“Go ahead and ask,” Erik said.

“Would you quit doing that?” Mirya said, exasperated. “You and Sam both!” She took a deep breath and collected herself. “Sam told me about what happened. Much to the dismay of Lady Maritza. Why are you doing this to yourself?”

“Could you be a little more specific?” Erik asked in reply.

“Why are you doing this work? It’s not like you needed the money. Is it because of Sam?”

“I’ll admit that was one consideration,” Erik said, “More because I needed to get out of Avalon. I was hurting the family and the firm. Then, I was offered this mission.”

“Are you sure you didn’t leave because of that bitch?” Mirya asked. Erik gave her a cold look. “Erik, any woman who destroys you like Anya did will be a bitch in my book. She was lucky that I was stuck over on this side of the gate. There might have been bloodshed.” Erik couldn’t help but smile. He leapt down off the perch and swept up his sister in a hug.

“Here,” Mirya said, pushing a cell phone into Erik’s hands. “I know we aren’t supposed to be contacting each other, but I can’t know my big brother is on this side of the gate and not talk to him. This is the most secure phone I could buy. I’ve got one and so does Sam.” Mirya lifted herself up and kissed Erik on the cheek. “I know there are somethings you can’t even talk about with Sam. You can send me a text on this thing and we can talk.”

“Love you too,” Erik said, kissing the top of his sister’s head. “I can’t tell you how thankful I was that you were on this side of the gate when all of that hell went down.”

“Are you at least coming to the concert tomorrow?” Mirya asked.

“Yeah, but only because one of my team needs to be on guard while the rest of them watch you do that thing you call music,” Erik answered, with a light tone. He grunted as Mirya punched him in the gut. “I am proud of everything you’ve done over here, Mirya. You’ve done good, little sis.” They hugged again and Mirya walked back to the door.

“Well, I guess I’ll see you later then,” Mirya said. She waved and then descended back into the Colosseum. Erik hopped back up onto the railing.

“That was so touching to watch,” a familiar soprano voice said. Erik whirled and drew his pistol. Nao was standing on one of the antennae some thirty feet above Erik. Then she blurred as she moved faster than Erik could track. He didn’t even have time to throw up a shield before Nao plucked the pistol out of his hand and threw him to the concrete of the roof. Stars exploded in front of his eyes. As they cleared, he felt Nao sit down on his chest. She peered deeply into him, but there was none of the psychic pushes that she’d used earlier. Instead, she just lowered her head and kissed him. Erik knew he was supposed to fight, supposed to do something, but it was all hazy the moment her lips touched his.

“I know why you want to kill me,” Nao said, “I honestly didn’t realize what that woman had done to you when I plucked her from your memory. You’re not ready to forgive me yet. I can see that in your eyes. I hope you’ll be able to do so soon.”

“Why?” Erik managed. Nao smiled.

“Because, I can help you heal from what that woman did to you,” she whispered in his ear. Then she was gone.

Lady Maritza

Maritza Holland closed her laptop as her next appointment walked into her office. Overall, she was pleased with the outcome of the recent days’ events. Anne was safe and learning even more magic. How that young woman reminded Maritza of her younger sister. Yanna would have loved Anne Hearst. She looked up as the man in front of her desk cleared his throat. She fixed him with a cold gaze.

“You wanted to see me, Mrs. Holland?” Detective Harvey Welks asked, unfazed by the woman’s glare.

“Yes, Detective,” Lady Maritza said after a moment. No, this one couldn’t be intimidated. “I’ve come to understand that you’ve been acting as a fixer for the non-human elements, shall we say?”

“I’m not sure what you mean, Mrs. Holland,” Welks said, with a neutral face.

“Let’s not play these foolish games,” Lady Maritza said, letting her annoyance show, “If I wanted you dead, I would have let Detective Hearst have her way with you and then helped hide your body. Believe me, I can bury the disappearance of a police detective. So, have you been acting as a fixer?” Welks considered Lady Maritza for a long moment.

“I have been known to help factions from outside the city with their unique needs,” Welks admitted. Maritza tossed an envelope at Welks. The burly detective snatched it out of the air with an almost practiced ease. He opened the envelope and stared at the contents before giving Lady Maritza a quizzical look.

“What is this?” Welks asked.

“The paper identifies you as the legal owner of a safety deposit box at the bank listed in Chicago. The key will allow you to access it. You’ve annoyed me a great deal with your actions Detective, but you could also be useful.”

“How?” he asked suspiciously.

“You become my agent,” Lady Maritza said, “Every month, I will put $10,000 worth of bearer bonds from various companies into that safety deposit box. You will keep me informed of any ‘outside factions’ coming into the city, and if they have an interest in Detective Hearst. If you do that, then the money will be yours when you decide to collect.”

“What’s the catch?” Welks asked.

“You do not lie to me. You do not take any action against Detective Hearst. You do not continue to work for ‘outside factions’ after you collect the money,” Lady Maritza said. They traded a long look. There was no need for threats of retribution. Welks put the envelope into the inside pocket of his jacket.

“Thank you very much, Mrs. Holland,” Detective Welks said, and then walked out of the office.