Through Faded Memory

I'd like to thank whoever named the floor captain of The Haven "Summer". I'd

also like to thank Kelly Schweighauser and Amy Denton, who were my Beta

readers for the story.

Disclaimer: The following story is based on the world of "Kindred: The

Embraced" created and owned by Spelling Entertainment and White Wolf and

their

corporate parts. The story is mine, but I'm borrowing their characters for

our own private amusement.

 

"Through Faded Memory

A "Kindred: The Embraced" story by Julie Beamer

Part 1

Bernard Gressham glanced through the crowd at the airport in San Francisco

and happily lighted on a fellow Kindred and Toreador.

"Mr. Gressham?" A tall, lithe Black woman held out her hand. "I'm Summer.

Lillie sent me."

He shook it gratefully. "Thank you for meeting me," he replied. "I haven't

been to California in years." He looked around. "Things have changed."

Summer smiled. "Well, we'll have to make sure you get some time to see the

city. There's a lot to do here, a lot to see."

Gressham followed Summer into the parking lot. The car was a sleek black

Jaguar that quickly purred its way out of the airport and on to the highway.

"Where would I find the Prince?" Gressham asked. "I should present myself

before I see Lillie."

"Don't worry, our Prince isn't all that stuffy. Anyway, you can do both at

the same time, he's probably at The Haven with Lillie. If not, I'll take you

to him."

Gressham nodded. He had heard there was a close relationship between the

Prince and the Toreador Primogen that went way beyond mere business and

politics.

Summer pulled into a space in front of the club and tossed the keys at the

attendant. She led the way inside.

The club was crowded. Summer smiled to herself when she saw Julian Luna,

Prince of the City, in his usual booth with Lillie Langtry. In spite of his

current

obsession with the human woman, Caitlin Byrne, he had not completely broken

ties with Lillie.

Summer led the way confidently.

"Julian, Lillie, I'd like to present..."

The shock of recognition was immediate and simultaneous. And violent.

Within seconds, Julian was out of the booth and had Bernard pinned to the

wall by the throat, oblivious of the startled humans and Kindred.

"I told you to NEVER come back here," he snarled.

Lillie grabbed Julian's upraised arm. "No, please, not here," she begged.

Julian dropped Bernard and turned to her. The murderous expression in his

eyes terrified her. But he had recollected himself enough to know they were

in a

far too public place. He nodded to the stairs.

"Keep him here," he ordered Cash and then headed up the stairs. Wordlessly,

Lillie followed him.

Cash dragged the unfortunate Toreador to his feet. The man was trembling.

A buzz broke out around the club, especially from the Kindred patrons.

"What the hell was that all about?"

Sasha Luna jumped when she heard Cameron's voice in her ear. "I haven't a

clue," she answered honestly and then impudently added, "He's scary when

he's

mad, isn't he?"

"I've seen him scarier," Cameron reminded her. Cameron was a survivor of

Julian's last act as an Enforcer for the former Prince.

Sasha's eyes dropped. But when Cameron left they raised up again. With

hatred.

* * *

Upstairs, Lillie scarcely waited for the door to close behind them.

"What was all that about?" she demanded. "Are you crazy? The club was

full..."

"I want him out of here, now." Julian interrupted. "This minute."

"Not without an explanation," Lillie stood firm. "I'm the Toreador Primogen,

I'm entitled to that much."

Julian opened his mouth for a retort and then closed it. He sat down and put

a hand to his head. Some of the violent anger seemed to leave him.

"That man downstairs," Julian told her. "Almost destroyed my granddaughter's

life."

Lillie sighed. Julian's human descendants had been kept secret from most of

the Kindred of the city, including her. It still hurt that he hadn't trusted

her enough

to tell her about his human family who meant so much to him.

She knelt by his chair and took his hand. "Tell me what happened," she

asked.

"It was after World War I," Julian replied. "And Beatrice married -- *him*.

What she didn't know was, he had syphilis. He infected her with it."

Lillie closed her eyes. "What happened?"

"What do you think happened? When Beatrice found out, she was completely

distraught. My son was furious and wanted to break every bone in his body

and

I would have been happy to help. But Beatrice needed our attention first.

So, I arranged for Bea to be sent to a private clinic for treatment and got

the marriage

annulled. I told *him* if he ever came back to San Francisco or even to

California again, I'd kill him." He looked down at the face of his former

lover. "I meant

it, Lillie."

"What happened to your granddaughter?"

"Fortunately, the infection was so recent, they were able to stop the spread

of the disease. She even married again. But she was left unable to have

children. She

and her second husband adopted a little girl."

Lillie swallowed. This was going to be tough. It might have been over

seventy five years ago, but to Julian, it was yesterday.

She rose. "I'm going downstairs to talk to him."

Julian looked up at her. "You doubt my word?"

"He is a Toreador," Lillie reminded him. "He has a right to speak to the

Primogen in the city."

Before Julian could answer she swept back downstairs.

At a small corner table guarded by Cash sat Gressham. His hands still

trembled as he poured himself another drink. He started when Lillie joined

him at the

table. Cash backed away enough to give them privacy, but close enough to

keep Gressham under guard.

Lillie signalled for a glass of wine. It was brought instantly.

"Julian told me the story," Lillie began.

"Honestly," Gressham started. "I never would have come back if I had

realized -- but who could have known? I thought Beatrice's damned uncle was

dead and

gone years ago."

"He's not her uncle," Lillie informed him. "He's her grandfather."

Gressham closed his eyes. "I'm dead."

"Not if I can help it. So tell me your side of the story."

"There's not much to tell," Gressham said. "I was infected with syphilis

during the War. But I had been free of symptoms for over a year when I

married Bea. I

was told I didn't have to worry. But they were wrong." He looked at Lillie.

"I never meant to hurt her. I didn't know."

"And Julian got the marriage annulled and you left town," Lillie finished

the story.

"That's a polite way of putting it," Gressham stated wryly. "He told me then

if I didn't leave town he'd kill me. I believed him and left. I went to New

York and a

few years later was Embraced. If I had known he was one of us, I never would

have come back."

Lillie sighed and stood up. "Well, I still need you. So let's see what we

can do about keeping you alive."

* * *

Lillie headed back upstairs. Sometimes Julian could be unmovable; she only

hoped she could make him see reason.

Julian was still sitting the armchair, looking every bit as imperious as

Archon had. This would be tough.

"Julian...," she began.

"I am the Prince of this City and my word is law. I want him taken back to

the airport and out of this city. Now."

"Julian, please listen to me," Lillie begged. "He never meant to hurt your

granddaughter and didn't realize he was still a carrier until it was too

late. It was an

honest mistake."

"It was a mistake that harmed someone I loved."

Lillie decided to try another tack. "Julian, you said Beatrice remarried and

adopted a child. Did she have any lasting medical problems?"

"No," Julian admitted grudgingly.

"And her second marriage was happy?"

"Yes."

"Did she die young?"

"Not really. She was over seventy."

"So you're saying," she stated carefully. "That Beatrice went on to have a

long and happy life?"

Julian regarded Lillie silently.

"I need him, Julian," Lillie confessed. "Eddie made a mess of the record

companies and the contracts. I need help sorting it all out now I've got

them back.

Gressham came highly recommended. I only want time, Julian. Just long enough

to help me, and he'll leave your city and he'll never come back, I promise."

"How long?" Julian demanded.

"Three weeks?" she offered.

"Two," he replied. "And then he leaves. Forever. Understood?"

Lillie nodded. "You won't even know he's in the city, I promise you."

He fixed a cold stare on Lillie. "I'll know."

* * *

Two days later, Gressham stood in the alley behind the Haven and took a deep

breath from habit. He was feeling suffocated, closed in. Julian's feelings

were

well known to the community and Gressham had been given the cold shoulder by

most. Even the Toreador of the city were careful with him. Eyes were

constantly on him.

It was getting on his nerves, to say the least. They were all watching him.

Julian's bodyguard, the Gangrel leader never let him out of his sight.

Another one was

the Brujah girl who was usually with the Grangrel. There was something odd

about her. Something familiar, something that stirred his memory, like

looking at

an old photograph. And there was the Brujah Primogen, Cameron. He watched

too. Actually he watched more when Julian was around. The handsome, slim

Brujah appeared sardonically amused by the tension.

And then there was Julian Luna. Gressham could still feel Julian's eyes on

him. He was there tonight. He had been there each night since Gressham's

arrival,

holding court at his table with the Kindred of the city. This was apparently

his custom and the Ventrue Prince must have felt it was beneath him to break

his

habits for a mere Toreador. Well, that would all change soon enough.

He pulled out a cell phone and dialed a number he knew by heart.

"It's me. I'm here and everything is going according to plan. No, Lillie

doesn't suspect a thing. Luna? He's as hard nosed as his bitch

granddaughter, but he

won't be a problem once your crew gets here."

Gressham kept talking, unaware that he was digging his grave with every

word.

* * *

Summer went into the alley just after dawn. She couldn't find Gressham and

was worried. She didn't think he would be stupid enough to wander around on

his

own and expected to find him in the alley.

She did. Burnt by the rising sun with a old TV antenna through his chest.

* * *

Julian was finishing up the last of his business notes before retiring for

the morning when Lillie burst into his office.

"You did this!" she exclaimed in a voice shaking with anger.

"Did what?"

"You know what! But did you have to leave him outside the Haven, Julian? Why

did you lie to me -- you promised me you wouldn't kill him."

"Gressham is dead?"

"Don't act innocent. You ordered it and had his body left where *I'd* find

him."

"I didn't, actually," Julian replied. "But I'm not going to pretend I'm

sorry." Julian was silent for a moment. Lillie was in control of herself,

but she wasn't

interested in talking. Or listening. "I presume you would like a meeting of

the Primogen this evening?"

Lillie nodded tightly. "We'll meet at the Haven. I won't spend another

minute under this roof." Then her voice broke. "Why did you lie to me,

Julian? I trusted

you." And she fled the room.

* * *

The Primogen's meeting was somber. By then, the whole Kindred community knew

of the murder and Lillie's charge. Lillie kept wringing a linen handkerchief

through her hands, trying to remain in control. Cash seemed faintly worried

and Cameron seemed merely -- interested.

Only Julian and Daedalus appeared unaffected by the atmosphere.

"I'm sure you all know why we're meeting, but as a formality, this morning,

Bernard Gressham, a Toreador, was found murdered outside the Haven. An

antenna was driven through his chest and he was left in the sun to burn. The

Toreador Primogen has charged me with the murder. I deny the charge and the

responsibility. I did not act in the murder or authorize it."

"Then who did? Only you wanted him dead. No one else here knew him,"

Lillie's voice still choked on her anger.

"As far as we know," Cameron stated drily.

All eyes turned to the Brujah Primogen.

"Just making a point," he added.

"It is, actually, a very good one," Daedalus concurred. "None of us knew

Gressham in his Kindred life. Where did he come from, who were his enemies?

The

Prince may have had reason, but who else?"

"So, we have the murder investigated?" Lillie spat. "With only Ventrue

cops?"

"There is someone else," said Cash.

* * *

Detective Frank Kohanek returned to his desk with a cup of coffee to find a

small post-it note.

"Call Lillie", was all it said.

Puzzled, Frank picked up the phone and dialed a number he knew by heart.

* * *

Frank didn't talk to Lillie long. She needed to see him when he went off

duty at dawn. She would wait for him at the Haven.

As soon as he went off duty, Frank hurried to the club. He hadn't liked the

sound of Lillie's voice. But she refused to say anything over the phone.

The grim-faced floor captain met him at the door and conducted him to

Lillie's upstairs apartment. She was alone.

"What's happened? What's wrong?" Something told Frank to be wary.

"There's been a murder. One of my clan." Lillie's voice betrayed the anger

that threatened to explode at any moment.

Frank was confused. "Why am I here?"

"It's what you do, isn't it?" she snapped back at him.

Frank blinked. He never expected this. "And, you want me to find out who

killed him?"

"Yes."

Frank was now very confused. True, he had recently investigated a murder at

Julian Luna's own house, but that had been because the victim was assumed to

be

human. Only later had they discovered the victim was Garou Kinfolk and that

the murder was part of an attempted coup among of the Garou of the city. "I

thought you guys took care of that kind of thing yourselves."

"Not this time."

"Why?"

"Because I'm the prime suspect," Julian entered the room. "You have to give

him all the information, Lillie. Otherwise, he can't do the job properly."

*Jeez*, Frank thought to himself. *I'm going to be investigating Luna.*

He sat down and looked at Lillie, Julian, Cash and Cameron, who had gathered

in the room. He pulled out his notebook.

"I need the whole story, from the top."

* * *

Frank got to bed about the same time most people were in their offices. His

mind was in a whirl! A Kindred was murdered, Julian Luna was the chief

suspect

and the Primogen conclave wanted *him* to investigate. Frank's views on law

and justice were well known; if Julian had committed the crime, Frank

wouldn't

shield him, in spite of the fact Julian protected Frank's life. The converse

was also true; if Julian were in fact innocent, Frank wasn't likely to frame

him. He

would report his findings to the Conclave and speak of his off duty

investigation to no-one.

He decided his first interview of the evening (he was determined to get at

least *some* sleep) would be Julian Luna himself.

* * *

Well, perhaps Julian wouldn't be his first interview. The first thing he did

was call his friend and partner, Sonny Toussaint. For apart from those two

qualifications, Sonny was Kindred and a Childe of Julian Luna himself.

Sonny sighed when he realized who was on the phone. "I wish you hadn't

called me," he grumbled. "I'm not supposed to try to influence you in any

way."

"Who's influencing?" Frank responded between mouthfuls of cornflakes. "I

just need some background information. I've seen Luna whack people -- but

would he do it over something that happened a hundred years ago?"

"Yes," Sonny admitted reluctantly. "He could. If he felt strong enough about

it. And his family -- he feels strongest about them. But -- "

"Yes?" Frank prompted.

"He promised Lillie that Gressham would be safe in the city while he was

working for her. I've never known Julian to lie about something like that

before. Not

to her."

"There's always a first time," Frank noted dryly. "Is that why she's so mad?

After all, she hardly knew the guy."

"He was Toreador and Lillie is the Primogen," Sonny explained. "But, yeah, I

think Lillie feels more betrayed by Julian than upset that Gressham is dead.

And

you know what they say about a woman scorned."

"And Lillie scorned is something worse," Frank remarked. But he was

thoughtful as he hung up the phone. Julian Luna and Lillie had very strong

ties that had

apparently survived decades. Would he do this to her? Kill a member of her

own Clan, outside her club, after promising he wouldn't? *Why not*, the

cynic in

his mind asked? *He killed Alexandra easily enough*. But it hadn't been

easy, Frank admitted to himself. Their encounter in the rose garden had told

him that

much.

He finished his evening breakfast and left for the mansion on the hill.

* * *

Julian was unperturbed by the interruption. Frank remembered him again in

Alexandra's rose garden. Then the calm had been shaken out of him. It was an

unnerving memory.

Frank flipped open his notebook and started with the routine.

"Where were you the morning of the murder?" he asked.

"I conducted business at the Haven from about 11:00pm to a little after

three in the morning. Then I came home and worked here until about 6:30 when

Lillie

arrived with the news."

"Any witnesses?"

"Many at the Haven," Julian replied calmly. "Cash and my driver were with me

on the drive back. I worked alone in my study, but I made a few phone calls

and

stepped out on the balcony from time to time. The guards may have seen me."

Frank nodded and closed his notebook. "Did you do it?" he asked bluntly.

"No," Julian said with equal bluntness. "But I'm not sorry he's gone. He

almost destroyed the life of someone I loved very much. That I cannot

forgive."

Frank blinked. He still had a hard time imagining Julian really loving

*anyone* -- harder still imagining him as a concerned grandfather.

Julian seemed to guess what Frank was thinking. "I love my family very much,

Frank," he told him. "I've tried to protect them." He winced at the sound of

a

door slam above them. "Not always successfully," he added drily.

* * *

Frank's next move was to talk to the security guards around the house. Those

at the gatehouse had noted Julian's return at 3:22 a.m. on the morning of

the

murder. While they didn't write it down, it was apparently common practice

to note the time mentally. Some of the guards had noticed him on the balcony

periodically over the next few hours. One guard stated the last time he saw

him was just before dawn.

Frank sighed and sat down at one of the small tables on the terrace near the

house and began going over his notes. He made a mental note to himself to

get the

phone records for the house. He might be able to pinpoint Julian's window of

opportunity (or lack thereof) from those.

"He didn't do it."

Frank turned to see Sasha standing behind him. She didn't look well. Her

eyes were puffy from crying and she was paler than normal.

"He hated him enough to," Frank reminded her.

"Sasha!"

It was Julian, speaking from the balcony above them.

"Come into the house, please."

Sasha bit her lip and left the terrace. Frank continued working on his

notes.

* * *

When Frank mentioned to Julian that he needed access to the phone records

for the house, Julian had simply nodded his head. The next day, Frank found

a

folder on his desk. In it were the phone records. He shook his head and

remembered all the times he had begged for a warrant to see phone records.

All Julian

Luna had to do was snap his fingers. Was there a Kindred at the top, Frank

wondered? Or did Julian have a human stooge there? Were Kindred tricks used?

Or was it simply that Julian Luna, legitimate businessman, owned a good

chunk of company stock? Just thinking of all the possibilities made Frank's

head

ache.

During his dinner break, Frank looked over the files. Julian had had a busy

morning. His first phone call was at 3:30 and they continued regularly

throughout

the morning. Some of the calls were local and some were international calls.

Frank wondered how much was normal business and how much had to do with

Kindred affairs, carefully coded to seem like "business" discussions.

He paid attention to the times between 4:30 am and 6:00 am. The last workers

had left the Haven by 4:30 and they used the rear door. Frank suspected the

murder had occurred around 5:00. The body had been discovered after dawn at

6:20.

Finally he saw a gap. Julian had hung up one call at 4:33 am and didn't make

another until 4:50. Seventeen minutes. Was that enough time to commit the

murder? There was only one way to find out.

* * *

Lillie surveyed the scene in the club from her upstairs window. Julian would

be coming tonight. He had shown enough sense *not* to come after Gressham

was found. Those wanting to do business with Julian had to go to the

mansion. But Frank had called Julian and requested a meeting of the Conclave

so he

could make a report. As Lillie refused to set foot in Julian's house, the

meeting would be at the Haven. Only Daedalus would not appear to question

the

detective. He would listen from another room and discuss the situation only

after Frank had left.

Lillie sighed. It had been a quiet night last night. Many Kindred, not

wanting to be seen to be aligning themselves against the Prince, had stayed

away. The fact

was, Julian was the Prince and Lillie was just a Primogen. The Toreador had

rallied, but the Ventrue stayed away. The Gangrel, allied now to the Ventrue

through Cash's position as Julian's personal bodyguard, also stayed away.

The Brujah had come, but merely to watch the fun.

She missed him. Lillie finally admitted the truth to herself. She missed

Julian being there. Once upon a time, she thought she could forgive him

anything. But

could she forgive him *this*? The murder, yes, she could forgive that.

Gressham meant nothing to her. But lying to her about Gressham being safe --

that's

what she couldn't forgive.

But was Julian guilty? She remembered Julian's denial. He was more than

capable of killing Gressham. But he had never lied to her before. Never.

So who else? The Brujah would love to see Julian in trouble, but this didn't

fit. Cameron was surprisingly calm about the whole thing, and even supported

Frank conducting the investigation. No one else had a motive that Lillie

knew of, unless it was done purely to please Julian. His hatred for Gressham

was well

known to the Kindred community. But that didn't fit either.

Lillie started when she saw Julian enter the club. Cash and Sasha were also

in tow. She couldn't be weak now. She was the Toreador Primogen and her Clan

demanded justice.

* * *

Sasha detached herself from Julian as soon as she could and made her way up

the staircase. She had hesitated coming to The Haven, but she wanted to talk

to

Lillie. Whatever Uncle Julian said, she couldn't stand to see Lillie

suspecting him.

She found the Toreador alone, staring out the window.

"I'm sorry about what happened....," Sasha began slowly.

But Lillie was still watching the club from the window. She saw Frank enter.

It was obvious he knew something.

Lillie turned to leave. "You're not to blame, Sasha," she said to quickly

reassure the younger woman. "It wasn't your fault. You're not Eddie Fiori --

and you're

not Julian Luna," she added grimly as she gently escorted Sasha out of the

room.

* * *

Frank spread the records out in front of the Conclave, pointing out the gap

in phone calls.

"So the question is," he ended succinctly. "Can a Kindred get from Julian's

compound to the Haven and back again in seventeen minutes?"

Even Lillie looked doubtful. "It's a bit of a stretch," she admitted.

Cameron was obviously enjoying the idea of Julian Luna being blamed for a

cold blooded murder. "There's only one way to find out," he stated.

* * *

Frank couldn't say he was comfortable standing in the alley with Cameron.

But as the Brujah had pointed out, this *was* the only way to find out. The

Ventrue Primogen, Alec Tremaine, and a tall dark haired Brujah were making

the test together. They had already come to the Haven and committed the

"murder". They were now on their way back to the mansion.

Frank concentrated on the stopwatch. Timing was everything. If they got back

to the Luna Mansion within the time-frame, Julian was still a suspect. If

not, he

was cleared.

The seconds ticked by. Seventeen minutes passed. Frank was aware of a

feeling of relief. No call yet -- there wasn't time for Julian to commit the

murder.

Cameron's cell phone rang. Frank checked the watch. Nineteen minutes, forty

three seconds.

Cameron answered it. "Are you *sure*," he demanded from his confederate.

"All right." He turned to Frank and looked at the watch to confirm what he

already knew.

"Luna's off the hook, damn it."

* * *

Frank met with the Conclave again when Alec returned to take his place at

the table. Once again, Daedalus remained out of sight, but within hearing.

"So, it looks like Julian's got an alibi that holds up. So the next question

is, who else wanted Gressham dead?"

Julian nodded, taking control once again. "Thank you, Frank," he said.

"You've done well."

The dismissive note in his voice was obvious. Frank couldn't believe what he

was hearing.

"Excuse me," he said tartly. "But I'm not finished yet."

Julian regarded him calmly. Frank fought down a desire to deck him.

"While I appreciate what you've done..."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Frank interrupted. "I'm being patted on the head and

told to run off and play, but there's still some unfinished business here.

This Conclave

didn't ask me to find out if *you* killed Gressham; I was asked to find out

*who* killed him. And we still don't know."

"He's right. Let him continue."

It was Daedalus from behind the door. The Nosferatu's opinion always carried

weight in the Conclave. It was a big concession for him to agree with the

human

detective.

"Very well," Julian acknowledged. "You're still on the case."

"So," Frank sat down among them. "Who else in the city didn't like him?"

"I doubt you'll find the murderer in San Francisco, Frank," said Julian. "No

one here knew him. You should check into his background."

"Which was?"

Julian shrugged and turned to Lillie.

"He was recommended by my Clan in L.A.," Lillie explained. "I needed help

sorting out some businesses that I've recently -- re- acquired. Gressham had

helped them out before. I believe he lived in New York. Beyond that I didn't

inquire."

Frank shook his head. It was remarkable to him that Lillie would agree to

take this man on knowing next to nothing about him. But Kindred had a

greater

sense of personal privacy. Because their own world was so secretive, much

still worked on a nod and a handshake.

Gressham was Toreador and came with recommendations. That was enough for

Lillie.

Frank let out a long breath. "Okay," he said. "Let's see what I can find

out."

* * *

The Conclave slowly dispersed after Frank agreed to meet with them again the

next evening with an update on his investigation. Now that Julian was no

longer

a suspect, Frank could ask for Sonny's help, although not overtly. The rest

of the Kindred world still had no idea that Frank was aware of his partner's

dual life.

 

Finally, the room was empty save Lillie and Julian. Lillie looked at him

with uncertain eyes.

"I wouldn't blame you if you were angry," she began slowly.

Julian smiled slightly and patted her hand reassuringly. "The

misunderstanding was natural. I hated Gressham and I'm not sorry he's dead.

It was to be

expected that I would be the prime suspect. But still, I wonder why he

came."

"I did hire him to do a job," Lillie reminded him.

"But was that the only reason? Just sorting out contracts and accounts for

you? Was he really so blind to come to a city he hadn't been to in decades

*without*

verifying who the Prince was? Or did he have to come? Was he on the run?" He

smiled at his former lover. "Maybe because I hated him I think everyone else

did."

He held out his hand to Lillie. Smiling back now, she took it.

Together, they descended the staircase.

* * *

While Lillie made up with Julian, Frank had caught up to Cameron's long

stride. He sat at the small table, uninvited.

"So," Frank asked without preamble. "Why didn't you take advantage of Julian

being a suspect. I know you hate him," he added, remembering Cameron's

veiled threats at the police station when Cameron mistakenly believed Julian

dead.

Cameron smiled slightly at the questions. He had just gotten through

answering the same questions from his own henchmen. "Because I didn't think

he did it,

and I knew there wouldn't be enough time for me to take advantage of it,"

Cameron replied honestly.

Frank was startled by the calm disclosure. "Why?"

"Julian's a trained killer -- if he had done the job, he wouldn't have been

that sloppy," Cameron drawled. "Also, he's not stupid. *This* was a stupid

crime. I

knew Julian would find an alibi and fairly quickly. He's Prince, so he's

rarely alone, and when he's not working he's with one of his women.

Currently, that

would be the little blond editor from the newspaper." Cameron noted Frank's

reaction. He obviously knew the girl. However, Cameron made no comment and

continued. "But if I had thought I could have used it in my favor, I would

have."

"Did you do it?"

Cameron grinned. "Why would I?"

Frank shrugged. "You hate Julian. Maybe you or one of your people wanted to

frame him."

"It wasn't a particularly good one," Cameron commented drily.

"True, Frank agreed. "Or maybe you thought you'd get some points with

Julian? Make up for killing his Sire?"

Cameron snorted at the mere thought of that.

"But like you said," Frank continued. "This was a sloppy murder. Julian's

not sloppy and he's not stupid. Neither are you. So who is?"

Cameron pondered the question. "Someone who's not a trained killer,

detective."

Frank raised one eyebrow. "I would have thought that described all of you."

Cameron made no reply to the pointed comment. Frank sighed and opened his

notebook, oblivious to the stares he and Cameron were getting. He reviewed

his

notes.

"The floor captain found Gressham in the alley ... half charred by the sun

... his cell phone had melted a little ..." He looked up at Cameron in

shock.

"His cell phone?!" Frank got up, delighted to have a lead. "Where there's a

cell phone, there are phone records. Great talking with you, Cameron."

Cameron watched Frank Kohanek leave the club and shook his head at the mood

swings of the human detective. His eyes glinted with humor as his saw Lillie

descend the staircase on Julian Luna's arm. *Oh, well,* he thought. *Some

other time.*

* * *

Once Frank had somewhere to look, he moved fast. Once again Julian provided

Frank with the phone records. Once again, Frank looked them over on his

dinner break.

During the three days he had been in San Francisco, Gressham had made a

handful of local calls and one long distance call to New York on the day of

the

murder. Frank looked at the time. The call had begun at 4:53 am and lasted

only 4 minutes. Was he murdered *during* the phone call? If so, the other

party

may have heard something.

Happy that he was making progress, Frank called the number. He got a

high-pitched squeal for his trouble. The number was out of service.

* * *

Frank went to see Julian in the morning at the end of his shift. The Prince

was still awake, but obviously tired and ready for his rest. Frank outlined

his latest

discovery.

"... but then when I called the number, the line had been disconnected."

"Interesting," Julian remarked. "I wonder -- was it a Manhattan number?"

"No," Frank replied. "Brooklyn."

Julian closed his eyes. "Sabbat."

"Who?"

Julian opened his eyes and stared at the detective. "A group who deserve the

epithet "vampire"," he informed Frank severely. "They delight in chaos and

destruction. San Francisco has been very lucky and we've kept them out.

Looks like Gressham was a Trojan horse to let them in the city."

"Why would they kill him?"

"They eat their own," Julian said contemptuously. "They've been known to

kill for failure."

"Or maybe one of you overheard it and decided to take matters into their own

hands. If these "Sabbat" are as bad as you say."

"They're significantly worse, Frank. In fact, now that we know why Gressham

was here, I think you should stop your investigation."

"I'm not finished."

"You've uncovered the Sabbat. That's enough. I can lock down the city and

clear out any trouble makers or possible associates. Whatever their plan

was, their

means is gone." He smiled. "You've done well, Frank. This could have been a

serious plot against us."

"You're not interested in finding out who killed him," Frank stated. Then he

looked at the Kindred before him carefully. "You *know* who did it. You knew

from the beginning."

"No, not the beginning," he admitted. "I had my suspicions, but there was no

motive. When I knew the motive, I was still left with questions as to what

Gressham was doing here. Now I know. You've helped with the case enormously,

Frank."

"What about the murderer? You can't take the law into your own hands. The

Conclave ... "

"I told you once before, Frank," Julian reminded him. "I am the law among my

kind." He rose. "Jeffrey will see you out."

* * *

There were only two people Frank could turn to in this situation -- Sonny

and Lillie. He chose Lillie.

Lillie sat in the upstairs office listening to Frank rant about being

summarily dismissed from the case.

Finally Frank sat down, talked out. "I don't suppose there's a Court of

Appeals among the Kindred?"

Lillie smiled and shook her head. "I'm sorry. Julian's right, his word is

law in this city." She pondered what Frank had told her for a moment. "You

said Julian

*knew* who the murderer was?"

Frank nodded.

"But why hasn't he -- "

She was interrupted by the telephone ringing. Her conversation was short.

She came back more puzzled than ever.

"It was Julian," she told Frank. "He wants to meet with me tonight at the

mansion. He said he would let me judge Gressham's killer."

* * *

Lillie arrived at the appointed time and was stunned to see Cameron sitting

at the Conclave table with Julian. The two men were alone.

"What's all this about? You said you knew who killed Gressham?" She looked

at Cameron. "Why isn't the rest of the Conclave here?"

"I'm hoping we can settle this on our own, unofficially," Julian replied.

"If, after hearing from the perpetrator, you are in agreement, the official

version will be

that Gressham got involved in the Sabbat and they killed him. It's nice and

neat, and might have been the truth. I doubt Gressham would have survived

long

with them."

Lillie was still confused. "But why? Who's really responsible?"

Julian nodded to Jeffrey, who was standing by another door. He opened it and

in walked -- Sasha!

She joined the others at the table, opposite Julian. Cameron noted with

approval that while her fear was obvious, she forced herself to meet

Julian's gaze. Like a

Brujah.

"This isn't a full meeting of the Conclave, Sasha," Julian informed her

gently. "If we're all satisfied and in agreement, the matter will end here.

Just tell everyone

what happened."

"I was in the alley looking for rats," Sasha began. "I found one all right.

Gressham was there. He was on the phone to someone; he was awful. About

Uncle

Julian, Aunt Bea, the whole family. I just got angrier and angrier listening

to him. Then I realized he was plotting to overthrow Uncle Julian and kill

him. I don't

really remember what happened. I remember seeing an old TV poking out of the

dumpster; I just grabbed the antenna and rammed it into him. I couldn't

believe what I had just done; I got scared and ran -- and left him there. I

forgot all about the sun coming up."

She looked at Lillie. "When I found out he had died, I tried to tell you,

but everything was happening too fast. I didn't know I had killed him; I

didn't mean to

do it. And I never would have let Uncle Julian be blamed. At the last

Conclave, I was getting ready to come upstairs and confess when you all left

again. When

you came back, everyone said Uncle Julian was cleared and you were going to

look at other suspects. I couldn't stand it if anyone else was under

suspicion

because of what I did. It *was* an accident; I never intended to kill him.

But I'm ready to accept any punishment you demand."

Julian looked at Cameron. It was his turn.

"She's young," Cameron said to Lillie. "She was goaded beyond her control by

loyalty and family ties. Also, Gressham *was* in league with the Sabbat.

Sasha may have taken care of a worse problem for us. I respectfully ask the

Toreador Primogen for understanding and clemency. Let the man's Sabbat ties

be

made public. We can blame his murder on them and keep the truth within these

walls."

Lillie swallowed. "I'm ashamed I didn't check closer into his background. I

accepted what I was told. Had he actually been able to establish a Sabbat

cell in the

city, it would have been my fault for bringing him here. We've all made

mistakes in our lives; allowed our passions to override our judgment. I will

not ask for

Sasha to be punished. As far as I'm concerned, Gressham was killed by his

Sabbat associates."

Julian nodded. "Very well. Sasha," he made eye contact with his descendant.

"You acted in anger and that cannot be condoned. Nevertheless, your actions,

however misguided, did result in derailing a very serious situation. You

will not be punished for the death of Gressham. But think carefully, Sasha,"

he added.

"Next time you lose control, it may be an innocent person."

Sasha nodded and gratefully left the room. The door closed behind her.

"Personally, I'm glad to see she's capable of taking care of herself,"

Cameron remarked. "Eddie neglected her after she was Embraced and now it's

hard for her

to learn what she has to to survive."

"Poor thing," Lillie added. "She kept trying to tell us, but we wouldn't

listen."

* * *

The next evening, Lillie walked down the staircase of the Luna Mansion

alongside Julian. They were at perfect ease with each other again.

"How did they take it?" Julian inquired of her formal annoucement to the

Toreador Clan, which had taken place earlier in the evening at the Haven.

"As you supposed, they accepted it," Lillie said. "I think once they knew he

was in league with the Sabbat, they were a little embarrassed that he was in

San

Francisco working with us."

Julian chuckled. Thanks to this, the Toreador Clan would be on their best

behavior for at least a week.

"How's Sasha?" Lillie asked.

Julian's face darkened. "Not well," he admitted. "She hasn't be resting well

or feeding properly since the murder. I won't be coming to the Haven

tonight. I'll

take her Hunting and stay here with her. She shouldn't be alone."

Lillie kissed him goodbye. "Please tell her I forgive her. That I'm not

angry."

"She knows," Julian replied. "She just can't forgive herself. Yet."

* * *

Frank was back at his desk on his regular shift, shuffling through the

police reports on his desk.

"Yep," he said with satisfaction. "Murder and mayhem. *Normal*, *human*

murder and mayhem. Regular, ordinary crime with no one at the top pulling

everyone's strings."

Sonny smiled wryly at his partner but said nothing. Frank was so engrossed

in his work that he didn't notice the other officers Sonny talked to all

night long.

Frank and the human population of San Francisco would never know it, but the

lock-down of the city had begun. Every Kindred who wasn't known to Julian

Luna was run out of town.

The Gangrel dealt with the stragglers.

* * *

Julian sat on the floor before the fireplace in his bedroom. Beside him was

Sasha. She looked better after they had gone Hunting. More like her old

self. Now

they were rummaging through the old family photographs he kept carefully

hidden away like precious jewels. He told her stories about the family,

about her

grandfather, the stories she loved. He was gratified to hear her laugh.

*It would take time,* he said to himself. *But she'll forgive herself.

Eventually. We all do.*

* * *

Towards midnight, in the airport, a figure sat waiting for the flight to New

York to be called. Things didn't go as planned this time. The young Prince

of the

City had the devil's own luck. Gressham had turned out to be a bad pawn, but

the Sabbat would have their chance again. He had heard there was bad blood

between the Princes of San Francisco and L.A. Perhaps their next attempt to

get a foothold in California should be in the other city. He smiled without

mirth

and boarded the plane with the other passengers. Los Angeles might work out

better for everyone.

The End.