METAMORPHOSIS, PART 2
Early the next evening the same middle-age woman knocked on the lid to the bin. Stretching cramped limbs, both vampires quickly exited.
She handed Nicolas a scrap of paper and indicated two bicycles leaning against a support post then quickly left the barn. Hutch noticed that the Count's horses had disappeared during the day. Securing the pack to one of the bikes, the men slowly left the small village behind. Hutch realized that he was completely dependent on Nicolas as he had no contacts and no idea where he was. Nicolas wasn't telling him much either.
The night stretched long before Hutch as he rode beside his companion. The forest had given way to fields surrounded by high hedges and tall poplar-like trees that could have been poplars for all the American knew. His knowledge of trees was spotty at best.
With a jerk of his hand Nicolas hurried them off the narrow dirt road. His sharp vampire ears had caught the far off chatter of internal combustion engines on the road behind them. The rattle turned into a roar as the two fugitives found it difficult to hide in the open fields.
A long convoy of German machines, consisting mainly of troop transports and supply trucks, rounded the slight bend behind them. The dimmed headlights of the vehicles caught the two vampires in their glare and froze them like hunted rabbits. Hutch stood still and gestured for Nicolas to do the same, which in fact was all that could be done. As the headlights moved on, the two tried to slip away and not abandon the bikes.
As they stumbled through the plowed field pushing the bicycles, the roar of a motorcycle drew their attention. Two German military policemen were bouncing over the field toward them. Using their enhanced strength, Nicolas and Hutch hurried faster toward the edge of the field. Without taking to the air or other vampiric means of locomotion, Nicolas knew it was a lost cause. Nicolas wanted no tales taken back to the German High Command about fleeing men with super abilities even if they probably wouldn't be believed.
He urged Hutch ahead of him into the dark of the woodland before turning and waiting for the approaching soldiers. His fangs slid down out of his jaw and his eyes glazed as the changes he couldn't quite control during danger took over. When the first motorcycle entered the woods, he leaped and knocked the man from his cycle then turned back to face the next one. With ease he dumped that machine and turned to face the first Nazi who was just getting up and rushing toward him. Then Hutch leaped from the brush and grabbed the man in a killing grip. Gunfire snapped as the second rider fired his handgun from the ground. Nicolas flinched as bullets passed harmlessly, not painlessly through his torso and carried on his attack in the face of the pistol. With inhuman speed he snatched the man and snapped his neck.
In the blur of an eye he was back beside his companion as Hutch was starting to make contact with the terrified human's throat. "Stop, Hutch. Don't kill him. Not that way!"
Hutch turned and snarled, protecting his victim from competition. Laying a gentle hand on Hutch's shoulder, Nicolas tried to pull him from the screaming human. Hutch backhanded Nicolas, but didn't release his grip on his victim. The blow threw the elder vampire into his own killing frenzy, quickly leaping to his feet and shoving Hutch from the German. The two vampires faced each other literally hissing and snarling while the soldier lay stunned on the ground.
Nicolas regained his senses first and quickly overpowered the young vampire, but not before the soldier was fleeing toward the open field. Pushing Hutch away, he actually flew to the human and grabbed him just as he was nearly to the edge of the woods.
Quickly crushing the soldier's throat, he started to turn back to Hutch only to be bowled over by the attacking airman. He held onto the struggling young vampire, hoping that the bloodlust would dissipate since the humans were dead and the imminent prospect of feeding was gone. It took a few minutes for Nicolas to subdue the growling creature, but as he had thought the young vampire soon began to make his transition back to human appearance. With a deep sigh, Nicolas released his hold on Hutch who slumped to the ground.
Lying on his stomach, Hutch shuddered and sobbed tearlessly into the detritus on the forest floor. Knowing that escape was more important than sympathy, Nicolas left the weeping vampire and flew low across the deeply plowed field to the bikes and their packs. The shots had been heard and one truck was pulled to the side of the road where it was disgorging armed troops. Snatching the pack from the fallen bike, Nicolas fled back into the woods.
Once there he yanked the American to his feet and slapped him across the face. Hutch gasped for air then turned toward the shouting coming from the edge of the field. His first thought was to grab a rifle from the scabbard on the nearest motorcycle.
Nicolas shook his head, "Let's get out of here. You don't stand a chance even with that." He gestured to the semiautomatic weapon Hutch was shouldering. "I had hoped to give you a few flying lessons before this was necessary." Nodding in comprehension, Hutch slid the rifle over his shoulder by its sling.
Holding hands, both vampires levitated into the trees and began slipping between the branches of the huge trees. It seemed that hours slipped by as they dodged the troops scattered in the forest. Finally a few hours before dawn their embellished senses could no longer discern any humans nearby. It took precious night time for Nicolas to find a small cave carved into the side of river.
The two blocked the entrance of the cave with heavy brush and branches of trees. It was now nearing dawn and both vampires were near the end of their tether.
"Go clear to the back of the cave," Nicolas ordered tersely as he put the finishing touches on the door to their refuge. He then followed Hutch now carrying both the pack and the rifle to farthest reaches of the damp cave.
"There will be leakage of light. Not much I can do about that. We will have to simply cover our eyes. I don't think there will be any direct light that will burn our skin." Hutch nodded, feeling as if he could sleep standing up.
"Drink this," Nicolas handed Hutch the last of the wine bottles they had brought with them.
"What about you?"
"As I have said, we can go about a week without feeding. I am feeling no terrible hunger now. You, however my friend, are still healing so you need this more than I do. I don't want you falling into another 'killing frenzy' anytime soon."
Hutch nodded. He remembered nearly killing the Nazi soldier and didn't want to feel that out of control again soon. He raised the bottle to his lips and drained it quickly as he felt the lethargy of day hitting him.
While Hutch was drinking, Nicolas had made two meager pallets from the spare clothing. Hutch slumped down and was immediately unconscious. Nicolas carefully covered them both with the packs and slid into vampiric rest--not quite sleep, but restful all the same.
* * *
The next night saw Nicolas and Hutch flying low to the tree tops with frequent pauses to let the newly fledged vampire rest. Hutch was beginning to feel the now-familiar onset of blood hunger, but he kept it to himself, not wanting to trouble his companion. Near midnight Nic brought them to a halt near a large farmhouse and barn complex.
"You need to feed and we're out of the bottled stuff," Nicolas whispered to Hutch. "If we're careful, you can have some fresh cow's blood. In that barn, if my nose is correct," Nicolas murmured, gesturing toward a thatched barn.
Flitting from tree to bush, the two made their wary way to the barn just as the farmer's dog began barking and snarling from its chain behind the house.
"Damn!" Nic snapped. "Dogs simply don't like us! You go ahead and I'll quiet the thing."
Hutch nodded, not worrying about the dog now that he had the scent of blood in his nostrils. He slid into the gap between the large double doors of the barn. Shuffling nervously in a stall was a brownish cow with graceful horns curving over her brow. Hutch went into the stall and gingerly patted her flank as she shifted away from him. He had absolutely no idea how to quiet her as she lowed plaintively and turned her horned head toward him. With a rush of displaced air Nicolas seemed to appear at her head and quickly mesmerized the cow. "I need to learn that trick!" Hutch whispered loudly.
"Feed," Nicolas commented shortly. "The farmer may appear at any moment. It would be a bit embarrassing for him to find you sucking blood from his favorite milk cow."
"Yeah." Hutch quickly lowered his fangs and made short work of feeding from the cow. Licking her wounds, he raised his head as he heard a door slam from the direction of the house.
Nicolas nodded and the two men left the stall, levitating quickly to the loft. Their quick immersion in the loosely packed hay was none too soon as the farmer opened one of the double doors and peered into the dark. He roamed over to the stall where the cow was placidly feeding from her hay bunk. Finding nothing amiss, he left the barn and pulled the door firmly shut behind him.
Both fugitives heaved sighs of relief and slid out of their prickly hiding place. With vampiric swiftness, they leaped into the air from the open loft door and continued their journey. Nicolas nodded with approval at his apprentice, watching Hutch taking to the air with ease now.
Even with Hutch's frequent fatigue, flying seemed their only option as all the major roads and most auxiliary roads continued to be clogged with military traffic. The chances of getting out of France seemed slimmer with each moment. Neither voiced their concerns--it seemed redundant. The price of not making it was too high to even consider.
It was nearly morning when the two finally dropped into an alley behind the small restaurant in La Clerc. For the last few minutes of flying Hutch was almost certain that he could smell the sea. Thinking it must be an illusion, he mentioned it to Nicolas and was somewhat reassured to find out that it wasn't his imagination--the Channel was close by. It wasn't as close as his senses were telling him but close enough for a certain sense of relief and accomplishment.
Nicolas was lightly tapping on the rear door of the restaurant while Hutch took up a position of watching each end of the alley. There was a small crack of light as a man opened the door. Nicolas said something and the door clicked shut then immediately opened with no light showing. The dark-haired man gestured them into the kitchen then with no greeting or comment, hustled them down the stairs and into a dim wine cellar.
"Wait here!" the man stated in accented English and left. The latch on the windowless wine cellar clicked as it was locked. Both vampires paced the confines of the cellar with Hutch occasionally stopping to study a bottle of wine. He had no urge to drink any, but like most Californians he was interested in the wine-making business in one degree or another. The labels were from obscure French vineyards and reading them was simply a form of distraction.
There was little conversation between the two fugitives. Hutch had his concerns regarding his changed nature, but saw no reason to burden his companion who seemed to have worries of his own. Inevitably the sun rose, unseen from their hiding place, and Hutch didn't fall into a stupor. Noting this, Nicolas told him that he thought the healing was complete, but that he should rest.
Behind a wine rack Hutch sank into some Hessian sacks and closed his eyes. It was a more natural rest than any he had experienced thus far.
A few hours before noon Hutch was awakened by a touch on his shoulder and found Nicolas was leaning over him. "I think someone is unlocking the door." Hutch nodded and rose, instantly awake and alert.
The vampires faded to opposite sides of the staircase. The rattling was louder and the door crashed open and men rapidly descended the stairs, carrying semiautomatic weapons at ready. Hutch began a quick transformation, but Nicolas stepped out into the men's field of vision, smiling his charming smile. The men raised their weapons threateningly as Nic spread his hands in the age-old gesture of submission.
* * *
David Starsky looked up from the microscope he was intent upon. His research of late had been so frustrating; he had almost given up coming up with a formula for a new type of fuel for some experimental engines being tested at this complex. Right now he had hopes for a hydrogen peroxide mixture for some smaller rockets the allies were trying to develop.
"There is someone at the gate for you with credentials from MI6." The young lab assistant was radiating curiosity.
"Thanks. I'll go meet him," the scientist responded. He assumed that it was either Bodie or Cowley, and he didn't want to keep them waiting although he mentally questioned why they stayed outside. The youthful scientist smiled at the frustration of his assistant, obviously wondering why MI6 would be asking for the American scientist. But he wasn't in the mood to indulge the young man's curiosity. He knew his assistant wasn't pleased with his job lately and Starsky knew he was the one at fault; he had been short and snappish with the eager youngster. He just had very little patience with the whole world after Hutch had gone missing in France. What had worried him most was the fact that the Red Cross had had no luck so far in locating him in a prison camp. Perhaps Bodie had some word and that was why he had driven out from London.
Walking rapidly over the picture perfect grounds of the estate on which the research facility was housed, Starsky no longer noticed the carefully tended gardens and lawns. It was a tribute to how distracted he was over his lost lover. Usually he had difficulty getting to the gatehouse without stopping to smell the huge roses that bloomed all summer and now into the fall. The colors were delightful to the eye and the aroma pleased the olfactory nerves. But this time he rushed by them, hoping that the MI6 agent had some news.
On the road just beyond the heavily guarded front entrance to the facility, was a gray Bentley with Bodie lounging negligently against the long hood. He turned at the crunch of Starsky's steps on the gravel driveway.
"Lo, Bodie," Starsky said, walking past the armed guards with their rifles held at ready across their chests. He nodded to the one he recognized who relaxed infinitesimally but still watched both men suspiciously.
"Starsk, good to see you." Bodie held out his hand to the scientist who took it in a tight grip.
"Let's take a ride around the countryside," Bodie murmured, leading the way to the open door of the car. Starsky settled himself on the left side as Bodie slid behind the wheel and started the powerful engine.
"You've got some news?" Starsky asked as the automobile slid smoothly down the narrow lane that fronted the grounds of the estate, tires quietly whispering their passage.
"Yeah." Bodie continued to maneuver the car expertly on the narrow winding road, finally pulling up at a small turn out. After turning off the motor, he shifted to face his companion, watching the blue eyes with sympathy.
Starsky was sure that he wasn't going to like what Bodie had to say. With his credentials he could have come into the research facility and talked to Starsky in the lab or the lounge. This fact meant that he wanted privacy for Starsky when he told him the news.
"Spit it out, damn it!"
Bodie moved uncomfortably in the seat, finally opening the door then walking toward the open field and leaning on the rock wall edging the pasture. The day was clear and the grass in the pasture was gleaming with the previous night's heavy dew. Starsky impatiently followed, his posture stiff with repressed anger at Bodie and the world.
Starsky reached for Bodie's shoulder as he turned and faced the ravaged face of the American. "Yeah, there's news." Bodie turned again to look out at the peaceful field. "Hutch was picked up by the Luftwaffe three nights ago." Starsky sighed and laid his forearms on the stone fence then rested his head on them.
"So he's a prisoner of war."
"It's worse. He was taken from the Luftwaffe by the Gestapo."
"Shit! Those bastards!" Starsky shuddered at his own memories of his incarceration by the Gestapo. "But why? Hutch should be a legitimate POW."
"We don't know. Our contact was sure he was taken to Gestapo headquarters in Paris."
"The Luftwaffe has been making waves with the Gestapo, but of course they haven't gotten anywhere. There's a great deal of rivalry between the two."
Bodie looked over at his companion and pointedly ignored the tears streaking the expressive face. Starsky straightened and slammed his hand into the unforgiving rock wall, never noticing the blood that flowed or the pain that shrieked from his damaged knuckles. He turned and rushed down the road while Bodie followed at a more discreet pace. Finally the scientist stopped and sat on a large rock beside the wall and held his head in his hands. Bodie squatted beside him with one hand on his shoulder, feeling helpless to give further support.
"The Cow has feelers out with all our agents in the underground in Paris. If there's anything to find out, they'll find it." Bodie wasn't too hopeful--agents disappeared into that building in Paris never to be heard of again, let alone pilots.
Scrubbing his face with the back of his hand, Starsky headed down the road to the Bentley. "Let's go back to the lab. I wanna pick up some stuff and then we can go back to London."
"Yeah, I'm gonna stay in town for a while in case there's any information from those feelers. I don't think I can sit out here in the country and do nothing."
"All right. I've no problem with that. The flat seems a bit lonely lately." Both men walked back to the Bentley and climbed into their respective places. The low growl of the powerful engine soothed the mental processes of both men.
* * *
The rattle of gunfire did not materialize in the crowded cellar as Hutch expected. He watched as four, no five, men clattered down the open staircase. The last man in the line caught his eye. Shorn of curls and wearing a filthy beret, Raymond Doyle was almost unrecognizable. Hutch's eyes scanned the other figures and their menacing gestures with the Sten guns. Doyle loitered near the top of the stairs with one hand casually resting on the trigger and the other braced on a clip sticking out of the side of the magazine. For all the relaxation of the pose, the menace was evident.
There was a strident conversation in French between Nic and one of the group at the bottom of the stairs. Hutch couldn't understand what was being said, but he could see the relaxation of the stances of the group as Nicolas answered their questions. He stepped away from his place in the shadows warily when Nicolas gestured to him.
Upon seeing Hutch, Doyle shouldered the Sten gun and slipped down the stairs between his companions. He said a few words to the others and their weapons were lowered or slung on their shoulders.
"Hutchinson," Doyle greeted the American. "Wasn't quite expecting you."
"Know what you mean," Hutch returned, eyeing the ragged figure of his friend. "Last Bodie told us, you were either killed or captured."
"Yeah. That was the plan." Doyle shrugged and turned his attention to the other fugitive who had slid back into the shadows, watching the two intently. "My orders are to get you back to England as soon as possible. None of us can quite understand how you managed to get this far. The roads have been clogged with troops for the last week." Doyle and the elder vampire continued to study each other while Doyle spoke to Hutch.
"It wasn't easy," Hutch said, trying to avoid any further explanation in front of strangers. It wasn't going to be easy to explain to Doyle who should trust Hutch. But telling someone that they literally flew the last few miles to avoid the crowded roads and highways was going to be difficult.
"Let me introduce you to my guide. Ray Doyle, this is Nic Chevalier." Hutch was trying to distract Doyle from how they traveled. He had a hunch the tenacious Doyle wouldn't give up easily.
Both nodded, acknowledging the other, but although there was suspicion on both their parts, they were willing to reserve judgment for the moment since the American airman seemed to trust the other. There was some shuffling from the men on and around the stairs, and a brief comment from one of them. Then all four tramped up the steps, leaving the other three in the dimly lit cellar.
Removing the gun slung from his shoulder and bracing it against the wall, Doyle eased himself down on the edge of a step. Relaxing his own tense shoulders, Hutch slid down the side of a wine cask and settled on the floor. Only Nicolas remained standing with distinct unease.
"One of our contacts in Paris said that there would be a problem for you to travel during the day. And that special consideration would have to be taken crossing the channel. Now ordinarily we'd have had second thoughts of trying to get anyone out of the country with those types of restrictions. However, our friend in Paris is one of the most useful agents we have so we will do all we can to help." Doyle paused and looked at Hutch then at Nicolas. Neither seemed ready to elaborate on these problems now. "Then London decided that they simply had to have a member of 27 Squadron back. Now why would 27 Squadron be so important?" Doyle cocked his head inquiringly at Hutch.
"The Gestapo seemed inordinately interested in 27 Squadron, as well," Hutch conceded. "All I can figure is that they want their new fighter to remain a secret. 'Course shooting down my entire squadron is not any way to keep a secret."
"New fighter?" Doyle seemed to prick up his ears. "There've been rumors of something...could just be a new fighter--something revolutionary anyway."
Squatting down between the two, Nicolas seemed to relax. "When and how will you arrange to get us out of the country?" he questioned, interrupting the speculation of the two warriors.
"There'll be a fishing boat," Doyle answered readily. "Our friends'll come when the time is right. I've a few things to do this evening. Wanna check out the buildup in the Calais area. It might be a few days before I get back."
"What's this buildup all about?" Hutch questioned. "Is it the invasion?"
"Probably. I don't know," Doyle answered. "Gotta get moving." He rose and took up his gun. "I'll be back here in a few days."
There appeared nothing else to say. Hutch watched Doyle go up the stairs and disappear into the cafe's kitchen above.
* * *
Doyle returned just after dusk two nights later. The two vampires had spent the time in either utter boredom or discussing the ramifications of crossing the Channel. Hutch had felt that Doyle needed to be informed of the type of entities that his passengers were. Nic was a little uncertain even with Hutch's assurances that the British agent was very reliable even if he had a nasty temper. He quickly gave Chevalier a synopsis of the their history which reassured the elder vampire somewhat.
As the sun disappeared for the day, Nicolas left the confines of the wine cellar, leaving the disclosures to the British agent of their special abilities and restrictions to the American flyer.
Hutch slumped on an empty wine cask as the British agent entered the cellar. He watched Doyle descend the stairs, wondering how to talk to Doyle. The agent sauntered down the stairs, taking in all the nooks and crannies of the tiny cellar. His sten gun was held loosely in his hands at an angle that made turning it into a deadly weapon with only a slight shift of his stance very easy.
"Where's Chevalier?" were the first words from Doyle's mouth as he continued scanning the room.
"He went out a few minutes ago."
"You're supposed to stay out of sight," Doyle snapped, turning around in the small space to face Hutch.
"We decided I should talk to you first. He's not far away. He'll be back in a few minutes."
In fact, Nicolas was only in the broom closet outside the door of the wine cellar where he could eavesdrop on the conversation taking place between the two. It wasn't that he didn't trust Doyle; he did, but he wasn't sure how the human would take the announcement that he was to escort two vampires over the Channel to England.
Back in the cellar, Hutch was still gathering his thoughts to talk to Doyle who was fast losing what little patience he possessed.
"Quit stalling, Hutchinson. We don't have all night to play games," Doyle finally snapped, wondering what had the normally loquacious American so close-mouthed.
"This is going to be a bit hard to believe..."
"Then don't tell me. Call your friend back down here. We need to make a few plans to get you to the coast."
"Yeah, but this might make a difference to your plans," Hutch again hesitated. Then plunged into the explanation of what had happened to him after he was shot down.
In as concise fashion as he could, Hutch tried to summarize all that had happened to him while watching different emotions play across the face of the English agent who had seated himself on the steps that took up about half the small room. The expressive face showed impatience that gradually turned to incredulity and finally amusement.
"Not exactly sure what those Nazi bastards did to you during interrogation, mate. But that's the most fantastic story I've heard lately." Doyle chuckled while watching the American carefully, waiting for further signs of the devastating insanity he was sure the flyer suffered from. It was going to be hard to break this kind of news to Starsky waiting in England.
As Doyle was having these thoughts, the door at the top of the stairs silently opened to admit Nicolas to the cellar. He slipped down the stairs unheard by the two people engrossed in observing each other. Hutch was considering flying to the ceiling as Nic had when proving his powers on that first night that seemed so long ago. Or he was thinking of transmuting into his vampire form although he wasn't sure he could control it. He hadn't felt any sign of hunger today or the intense weariness Nicolas told him indicated his complete healing and change over to vampire life.
"He's quite sane, you know," Nicolas commented as he slid past Doyle on the stairs. Consciously he brought on his own transformation. His fangs descended from his jaw and his eyes changed color while carefully keeping his back to the human until the change was complete. Then he turned and snarled at the wide-eyed human just rising to his feet. Watching the man with his keen vision, Nic grabbed the machine gun from the lax fingers. Bullets usually weren't too harmful to vampires, but at close range a machine gun could shatter the spine which would be as deadly as beheading.
Doyle started to turn to flee up the stairs as primitive terror took over his normally stable personality. Hutch flew to the door at the top of the stairs and blocked his escape. By this time Hutch had transformed, and Doyle stumbled back down the steps to bump up against Chevalier. Nicolas quelled his growl as he grabbed the distraught human, then forced Doyle to sit on the cask. Hutch flew down the stairs, his arrival punctuated by whoosh of displaced air. He grinned at Doyle when his features had settled back to his human disguise.
"Bloody, fuckin' 'ell," Doyle muttered under his breath. He watched as Nicolas slowly levitated to the ceiling, hung there, then drifted down like an autumn leaf. "So that's how you managed to get past all the roadblocks and check points," Doyle, ever the practical-minded, said quietly. Yeah, he believed these things, even the one that wore Hutch's face. He wasn't sure that Hutch still existed, but he could see some wonderful possibilities if he did, and if the thing using his face was willing.
During the next hour, the three conspirators began settling travel arrangements. Knowing the secrets of his companions changed the plans of Doyle to some degree. He agreed to meet the two vampires at a cove to be designated at the last moment. Nic knew that he and Hutch could make the short trip in a few minutes instead of the thirty minutes or hour that would be consumed by traveling secretly on foot. It was worrisome that there would be so little notice. They would have to lay in a supply of blood. Nicolas didn't inform Doyle that they would have to venture out and feed before making such a strenuous trip. He hadn't told Hutch either, but knew that he could convince the new vampire as the hunger pangs made themselves known. Besides, Kenneth Hutchinson was turning into a responsible vampire no different from the type of human being he had been.
Doyle watched his companions closely. As far as he could tell Hutch remained Hutch. And the two vampires could easily pass as human most of the time. It seemed that they had to make a conscious effort to display their hidden talents. He was a bit uneasy at the prospect of traveling with the pair, but didn't voice his uneasiness.
* * *
After raiding the village chemist, Nicolas and Hutch flew low over treetops searching for a local farmer that had several cows. The moon was partially obscured by clouds as a small weather front moved through. The two vampires had been waiting in the cellar for three days and nights. So far, except for sporadic visits by Doyle, they had amused themselves with conversation or simply resting. It was now critical that they feed. Nicolas had entered the sparsely furnished drugstore in the village and managed to find some large veterinary needles and tubing. He planned to visit a number of cows or horses and fill the prepared wine bottles with a supply of blood.
Nicolas and his kind had gone through this problem many times. It hadn't taken him long to find the proper herbs to combine with the alcohol in the wine to prepare the bottles to hold blood in its liquid form and prevent coagulation. Not many vampires enjoyed surviving on the preparation, but sometimes, as now, it was necessary for survival.
Since it was dangerous to leave the cellar too often no matter how stealthy they thought they were, it was well to be prepared for a long wait. There was always the chance of observation and being reported to the authorities if they were too active. Every village could have a turncoat and every resistance cell worried about such a possibility.
A thatched barn loomed up beyond the trees over which the vampires were flying. The low altitude was convenient for finding the farm that Doyle had recommended. There was little chance of observation by the rural populace because of the strictly enforced curfews.
Settling lightly outside the barn, Nicolas shifted his pack and glanced over at the cottage. There was no obvious sign of life, but blackout regulations forbade any light showing. The barn door creaked as Hutch pulled it gently toward him. He lifted up on the hinges to facilitate opening the sagging door. Inside there was shuffling of the occupants as strangers invaded their territory. One large whitish cow in the first stall turned, slamming her heavy body against the stall as she regarded vampires with gleaming eyes. She was obviously protecting the calf nested in the straw in the corner. Nicolas quickly moved to quiet her.
As she returned to her hay rack, they moved to the next stall. In it was a large black and white bull with a ring in his nose. Hutch used his newly learned calming techniques on him. The bull stopped pawing his bedding as the fire was quenched in his eyes. Going from stall to stall, they worked their vampiric magic on all the inhabitants. Finally returning to the bull, Nic opened the door and entered quickly with his equipment. It didn't take long to fill a couple of bottles from the powerful beast.
Hutch used his equipment on two other members of the herd. Then both vampires fed in the natural way. When all was finished, they packed the blood away carefully in a knapsack which Nic shouldered.
Rising swiftly into the cloudy sky, Nicolas and Hutch flew swiftly back to the quiet village. Back in the alley, they slid through the door of the restaurant and down the cellar steps. Nic stored the filled bottles in a cool corner of the cellar. It would keep there for a few nights. If the waiting went on much longer, both men would be stir crazy and slipping out for feeding would again be necessary.
The few days and nights spent in the cellar had been a long and boring time. They had exchanged confidences. Hutch had talked at length about Starsky. He had wondered if lovemaking was still possible for him. Smiling to himself, Hutch settled down on the blankets in the corner of the dimly lit cellar--the owner of the restaurant had taken pity on his guests after the first night and had provided a few rudiments of comfort.
Complete boredom had brought forth his confidences. Remembering one of those conversations widened the smile on the pilot's face.
It had been a night when the distant visitation of the RAF was much closer than usual. The bombs had rattled the wine bottles in their shelves and reminded Hutch of the occasional ground shakes in California. The far off bomb concussions had a similarity to minor quakes which rocked the Golden State often.
Watching the dust filter down, Hutch had brought up the subject of sex to his companion, mentor, tutor, or whatever one should call Nicolas. It had started more to get both their minds off the possibility of being buried alive. Not that burial would kill them, but it still wasn't a pleasant prospect.
Nic had leaned back in his makeshift pallet under the stairs and watched the American closely.
"Of course, vampires have sex!" Then the French vampire had the audacity to laugh. "All beings have sex in some manner. I don't think the vampire life would appeal to anyone if some sort of sex were not possible."
Hutch had hesitated about his long-time homosexual lover. Then he plunged ahead with his enquiries.
"It's just that my partner is a man."
Nic simply waited. He wasn't shocked--not in the least. In nearly four hundred years, he had experienced almost every type of sex that was physically possible.
"In some ways, that will make it easier," Nic finally responded. "It's best that if you are going to have a mortal lover, that it be a strong individual."
"Uh...is it much different? I mean...everything still functions, doesn't it? It's just...I mean...I haven't felt any urges." Hutch stumbled and would have blushed if it had been possible.
"Of course, everything functions," Nic answered and wondered about his inhibited friend. "There are added benefits...If your lover is willing, the exchange of blood is wondrously erotic for you in this form." Nicolas paused, remembering a few very erotic moments in his life. Then he continued, "The basic drawback is that you will let your nature carry you away. You could kill by accident." Hutch was horrified as his active imagination supplied Starsky limp in his arms.
"However, this is what I meant by a strong lover. He must keep his wits about him during the exchange. You can control--all he will have to do is remember to ask you if your impulses have overwhelmed you."
"So it's possible," Hutch sighed. It had been worrying him off and on during the past few days since they'd been holed up in the cellar with time on their hands. Before that he'd been so wrapped up in surviving that he'd frankly forgotten Starsky safe in England.
"Will this change Starsky?" Hutch had finally had the nerve to ask Nicolas.
"It's possible or rather probable that he will become one of us when he dies, if you indulge often. Lovemaking without the blood is possible, but I don't think it's quite so satisfactory. If your lover was a woman, I would caution you more strongly than I do. But she could still control your urges, if you couldn't." Nicolas appeared to be enjoying his teaching of this aspect of their nature more than others. "Remember ignorance is what will allow you to kill."
"So I have to tell Starsky about all this right away."
"The sooner the better. If he can't accept it, then he isn't the lover that you thought he was."
Hutch had few concerns about Starsky's acceptance of his change. It was other people in England that worried him. Occasionally he saw a certain speculative gleam in Doyle's green eyes. He wondered what the agent was thinking up.
* * *