Five Things that Didn't Happen
PART ZERO: THE FIELD OF MAD SCIENCE LOST A PROMISING MIND WHEN NATALIE LAMBERT DECIDED TO GO INTO THE FORENSIC PATHOLOGY BUSINESS
"I told you, Nick. My supplies are gone; my suppliers' supplies are gone. It had been discontinued, remember? Plus, it really didn't work. You know it didn't." She shook her head and frowned, muttering, "Really, really didn't."
Nick put himself into her path and grasped her hands, halting her progress as she tried to leave the morgue. "C'mon, Nat. Please."
His hands were a little warmer than they had been before the... experiment, she guessed she could call it -- maybe half a degree. "The side effects were ridiculous, and the agent in your system was fighting it very effectively, especially at the end. Even if I could get some more -- which I can't -- this isn't really the answer, Nick." But was it close, she wondered. Was she asking the right questions?
He gave her the big sad eyes. "Please, Nat. Do you know how long it had been since I last felt the sun on my face? Since I last ate food? I know that I behaved like an idiot, a dangerous idiot, under its..." He did at least have the grace to look around and verify that they were unobserved. "Influence." He ducked his head, in well-deserved embarassment. "Couldn't you, I don't know, synthesize something? Something similar? That might not be so...."
"Intoxicating? Lethal? Doomed to failure?"
"I was going to say problematic, but yes."
Hmmm, she thought. "Well," she told him, freeing her hands. "I am a scientist. Let me see what I can do."
His smile was bright as sunrise.
"But! This time there will be protocols! You'll be under direct supervision, at all times! We'll need to recruit Schanke, and maybe Grace. I'm not letting you run around like a crazy person, messing up all my results, getting yourself killed, not again."
"Whatever you say, Nat. Honest."
"You know the difference between doing science and just screwing around?" Nick looked confused at her, and she went on, gesticulating emphatically. "Well, I do! And this time we're not just screwing around!"
Nick started to wonder if this was a good idea after all.
"Well finally!" Grace exclaimed. She was entering the lab just as Nick was leaving, rubbing his arm (even though the little puncture wounds had closed up almost immediately.)
Natalie turned to her in absolutely-honest confusion. "Finally what?"
"Finally you're going to put some actual brain-power to that problem! Nick's a sweet man, and a good cop, but he's a miserable vampire! And he obviously knows it."
Nat's jaw dropped.
"What? I heard you from the hallway. And it's not like it isn't obvious. How can I help?"
"Okay. Yeah, this is... good." They sat down and drew up some experimental protocols.
PART ONE: LITOVUTERINE-C
They christened the first compound Litovuterine-C. Before experimenting with it in-vivo-(ish), Natalie synthesized an antagonist. If she lived to be a hundred, she didn't think she'd ever forget the horrifying sight of Nick's cells literally starting to evaporate under the influence of the Litovuterine-B.
"We don't want the reaction running away with him, like last time," Natalie explained to her co-conspirators. (Out of consideration for Detective Schanke's virgin ears, the word "vampire" was not being bandied about. He'd had a front-row seat for Nick's earlier adventure in better-living-through-chemistry, and he'd accepted that Nick's "sun allergy" was maybe bad enough to get him fired, so he was on-board. No need to confuse the dear man.)
"This is the antagonist."
"Antidote," Schanke put in.
"Whatever," Grace cut the argument off. "Just show us how to use it."
"Oookay, This has been formulated to reverse whatever the Litovuterine-C has done, and banish it from the subject's system. The trick is to get it into him. We have darts, blow-darts, hypodermics, and scalpels we can dip in the stuff. It shouldn't take much."
Antagonist-administration practice went great. Schanke apparently won money frequently at darts night in a local bar, and Grace, surprisingly, had been one of Nature's spitwad masters in primary school, and had never lost her eye.
They made sure that they could all effectively hit a target at 15 feet before letting Nick know about the new experiment.
Natalie assigned herself to Day Shift, on the Nick-Watch; Schanke took Swing (since he could easily keep an eye out while they were at work), and Grace took Grave. They all recorded their observations (AT LEAST once an hour, Schank! More often is fine.) and reported back to Natalie via phone or phone message at the end of each shift. (Yes, please call me more often if something crazy happens! And you have your darts -- USE THEM IF YOU HAVE TO! Didn't you hear me say the side-effects could be FATAL???!!!) Having learned at least one lesson the first time around, Natalie let her data compilation and analysis wait until it was somebody else's turn to keep watch.
The first oddity was noted on Natalie's own shift.
"Eat up, Nick. C'mon." Given the mobster-plate-sharing & the hot-dog-fiasco last time, Natalie had not expected to have to coax Nick into eating a plate of bacon and eggs.
He just looked at the food dubiously. "It's not -- it doesn't even smell like food." He leaned forward and sniffed. "It smells like dirt."
"Dirt?" She put her hand on his forehead. It felt ice cold -- colder than room temperature, colder than he'd felt before the first Litovuterine experiment. "Huh. Let me get a thermometer."
Nick closed his eyes and leaned back in his seat. His arm intercepted the sunlight from the open window. Nat was pleased to note no smoke, flame, or apparent pain. On the other hand, his skin looked very odd. Was he sparkling?
Swing shift brought more surprises.
"He just took off! Leaping from building to building, just like that Tick cartoon!"
"Did he seem, you know, high? Like before?"
"Not really. In fact he's seemed kind of somber and dutiful since he started taking this stuff. Glum. And he did come back on foot after he collared the perp."
"Did the guy see him? Did he say anything?"
"They never really believe them when they say crazy stuff about what Nick's done. I think it'll be fine."
"Okay. Did you write it all up?"
"Um. I was just gonna."
Nat sighed. "Good work, Schank. Keep it up. Thanks."
The phone woke Natalie up at 4 am.
"Morning, Nat! I'm afraid I had to dart our boy."
Adrenaline surged, and Natalie was suddenly wide awake. "Why? What happened? Is everybody okay?"
"He broke into Don's house, went in through Jenny's window. He was watching her sleep. Too creepy. So I darted him. The antagonist worked fine; he seems to be totally back to normal. A little embarassed."
"You did the right thing. We're calling this one a failure. Thanks, Grace."
C is for Cullen.
PART TWO: LITOVUTERINE-D
It took a few weeks for Natalie and Grace to put together another experimental compound that they thought might work, and that passed enough of their preliminary tests that it was worthwhile to formulate & test its antagonist, and give it to Nick.
They injected him at about 6:30 in the morning, just as the sun was coming up. They planned for Grace to stand by with her blowdarts for a while, in case something terrible was going to happen.
Natalie sat at the desk, documenting their actions, and Grace and Nick stood by the window, watching the morning light grow.
"How you feeling?" Grace asked.
"Being walkers with the dawn and morning,
Walkers with the sun and morning,
We are not afraid of night,
Nor days of gloom,
Being walkers with the sun and morning," Nick replied.
"Langston Hughes! Nice."
Nat came over. "Well, my notes are fully updated, and it's been 20 minutes since the injection. Thanks for staying, Grace. Nick? Wanna brave the rosy-fingered dawn?"
Grace went home, and Natalie and Nick walked out. At first he seemed fine, lifting his face to the sunlight with eyes blissfully closed. They passed a bakery, and he seemed attracted by the scent. Natalie pulled him in and bought them donuts, and he ate his with every evidence of enjoyment. (Maybe a little too much? Was he going to run amok with this again?)
After some time, though, Nick raised the back of his hand to his forehead and staggered to a stop.
"You okay, Nick? You need to get out of the sun? What are you feeling?"
"There is a pain—so utter—
It swallows substance up—
Then covers the Abyss with Trance—
So Memory can step
As one within a Swoon—
Goes safely—where an open eye—
Would drop Him—Bone by Bone."*
Huh. "Well, that doesn't sound good. Let's get you in out of the sun for a while."
Nick shook his head and straightened to his full height. He stretched forth his hand and declaimed, "Remember that pain has this most excellent quality. If prolonged it cannot be severe, and if severe it cannot be prolonged.**"
They weren't far from The Raven. Nat knew that Janette generally left a door unlocked during the day, as a service for Toronto's vampires, so they could get in out of the sun if necessary. She dragged Nick inside.
Janette was perched on a bar stool, drinking alone. (Should they be worried about her now?) Without even turning to look at them, gazing bleakly into the distance, she said, "I cannot believe that you are continuing with this madness. Do you mortals never learn?"
Nick cut her off by instantly appearing before her, grasping one of her hands and pressing it to his face.
"Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st.
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee."***
"Oooh. I like this one," Janette purred, gently stroking Nick's dark-gold hair back from his face.
"Yeah, no," Natalie said, and stabbed Nick's hand with the antagonist.
D is for Drama
PART THREE: LITOVUTERINE-E
Nat took some time to analyse what had gone wrong with the Litovuterine-D. She supposed she shouldn't have been that surprised by the weird mental component of its effects, but she was going to have to figure out how to minimise it if Nick was ever to have any chance to return to a normal, mortal life. Nick had to come downstairs and donate samples for testing several times before she and Grace finally had another compound they thought was worth injecting him with.
Once again, they began the experiment at dawn, in the break room just up from the morgue, where they could expose Nick gradually to the daylight, or drag him back away from the sun if necessary. Grace stood by with the antagonist darts ready.
Natalie injected Nick with the Litovuterine-E. He took a deep breath, then doubled over in pain, just like he had with the Litovuterine-B at first. Seconds ticked by, and he didn't straighten up; he was beginning to make a pained, strangled sound.
Even though he wasn't standing in the direct sunlight to start with, a thin smoke or vapor started to eddy up from him. Natalie yelled, but Grace was already shooting him with all the darts in her pipe.
Nick coughed and straightened up. He looked shaken, but essentially whole. Grace and Nat helped him back into the morgue and made him lie down.
E is for Evaporation.
PART FOUR: LITOVUTERINE-F
"Okay, well the good news is that we have a very clear idea now of which direction not to go," Natalie explained, looking on the bright side.
Grace looked convinced, Schanke definitely less so. Nick looked resolute. "I'm 100% committed to continuing with these experiments," he said. "You don't even have to ask."
"Come on, Nick!" Schanke exploded. "The doc says you could've died! And sure your condition or illness or whatever is pretty bad -- I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't eat regular food -- and it might possibly get you fired, or I guess you could get real sick if you're not careful. But you could've died."
Nick smiled at him. "You're a good friend, Schank. I appreciate it, more than I can say. But I still want to try."
"Besides," Grace put in, "the antagonist worked great. No harm no foul."
"Ultimately it's Nick's decision," Natalie pointed out.
"Yeah, I guess," Don conceded.
"Okay, then. Sounds like we're all agreed. I'll continue my researches."
Later that night, Janette visited the morgue.
(Natalie almost dropped a liver when she turned around from the scale and suddenly Janette was just there.)
"Evening, Janette," she said, trying to be cool about it. "What brings you down to my humble abode?"
Janette frowned at her. "You are playing a dangerous game, Doctor."
Janette stalked around her. Natalie took a breath and refused to let herself be intimidated. (How's that workin' out?)
"Nick told me that you nearly killed him the other morning. I should destroy you right now, myself, for your arrogant foolishness, and to keep him safe."
"It's his decision, Janette. It's his.... life." She put the liver down in a dish.
"You have no idea what you are trifling with. You have no idea at all."
"The Enforcers. You said before."
"Pah. They are a risk, it is true -- a terrible risk, which you insist on woefully underestimating. But I am more concerned that you are risking Nicolah himself. You nearly killed him!"
"We didn't, though. We're being more careful this time."
"No matter how 'careful' you aspire to be, the ultimate goal of your 'experiments' will be to kill him! Today, tomorrow, or twenty years from now -- you desire to be the death of him."
Natalie spread her hands, admitting the essential truth of the accusation. "It's what he wants, Janette. I was content to drop it after the Litovuterine-B. He begged me to continue. He wants to be mortal again."
Janette turned away, shaking her head. "He longs for death. Would you assist any of your human friends to commit suicide?"
"It would depend on their reasons," Natalie replied quietly. "He wants to be mortal. Am I really the one you should be trying to convince of something?"
"He does not listen to me," Janette whispered.
And then she was gone.
Natalie and Grace came up with additional tests they could run on the next compound before trying it for real. Nick joked that they were the vampires, since they required so many blood samples for their research.
Finally they had something they thought would be 100% safe, and might very well work. Schanke was concerned enough that he stayed well after his end-of-shift, so as to be able to watch Nat administer the drug, and provide back-up for Grace if the antagonist had to be used.
This time, Nick didn't double over in pain. He breathed deeply for a moment, then moved deliberately over to the window and put his hand into the morning sunlight. He smiled.
"Well?" Schanke demanded. "How's it feel? You okay?"
The smile became a grin. Then Nick opened his mouth and said something that none of them could understand.
After a few chaotic hours, the group had reached a few conclusions.
1. Nick was not hurt by sunlight.
2. Nick could eat, and seemed to enjoy, a variety of regular foods.
3. He didn't seem manic.
4. Although he seemed to understand them, he could not speak or even write a single word of English.
5. He seemed to be speaking a real language, not just gibberish. Schanke'd had to leave, to take his daughter to school and then get some sleep before his shift started up again. Before he left, he'd insisted that Nick was speaking something like German -- not German itself, which Schanke's grandparents had spoken, but something like German.
Everything other than interpersonal communication was going so well, though, that they decided to wait on the antagonist. Grace went home. Natalie took Nick out for a walk in the sunlight and a nice lunch.
Inevitably, after lunch, Nick steered them to The Raven. (Words had never been the best part of his persuasive skills, after all -- not even before 1228.)
Surprisingly, Janette was up, flawlessly dressed, perched at the bar again and drinking alone. (Okay, yes, apparently they should be worrying about her.)
"What now?" she asked them.
"Hi, Janette," Natalie said.
Nick went to his ancient lover and took her hands between his own.
She sighed, ignoring Natalie entirely, and asked, "What is wrong now, mon cher?"
Nick told her, in some weird language.
She quirked an eyebrow at him and asked him something in what sounded like very old-fashioned French.
He seemed to answer her, but in the same German-like tongue that he'd been using all day.
Janette shrugged at him, and addressed the mortal waiting at the doorway. "He is speaking Brabantic, a dialect of Flemish -- most likely it is archaic Brabantic by now."
"Do you understand him?"
Janette almost snorted. "Even in my day all civilized people could speak French. I never had any reason to learn his barbaric tongue." Her eyes went distant for a moment, looking past Nick still standing in front of her, to someplace in the far-distant past. "LaCroix may be able to speak it."
"I thought LaCroix was dead."
"Nobody who thinks that is ever correct." She sighed again, and looked at Nick for a long moment. She was not capable of looking old, or tired, or like anything other than a beautiful, timeless creature of the dark. "If I think of anything, or if I hear of anything that you should know, I will get in touch with you," she promised.
Schanke had to work his tail off to keep Nick under-the-radar during shift that night. He'd never realized how much talking Nick actually did, during the course of their work.
"Sheesh, Knight. I thought the Cap'n was going to going to kill me with her mind when I told her you were in the washroom again! I had to tell her you ate a bad souvlaki -- I don't think she believed me, though, on account of generally you don't eat at all -- how's that going, by the way? Are ya, you know, digesting okay?"
Nick said something that Don chose to believe meant, "Yeah, thanks for covering for me."
"And I think she's hoping you just have the runs rather than something way more involved, y'know? Cuz I gotta tell you, a lotta the time when something's up with you, it can get pretty dramatic. Yeah, I've noticed!"
Nick shrugged and looked self-deprecating.
"Yeah, well. We're lucky to have you anyhow. You're a good cop, no matter how weird your personal health issues are. Aaaand that's end-of-shift. Wooh! Let's go down & check in with Dr. Science, eh?"
Natalie and Grace were both in the lab, pouring over test results and analysis for their extracurricular (mad) science experiment.
"Returning him to his prior state, you think? His youth?" Grace asked.
"I guess," Natalie said. "Suppose he could just learn English again?"
"And where are we going to find a Brabantic-speaking ESL instructor?"
"Knock knock," Schanke said. "End of shift. Tag, you're it."
"Thanks, Schank," Natalie smiled at him. She made grabby hands in his general direction. "Got your notes for the day?"
"Uh, no, not really. I pretty much had my hands full with just keeping him out of trouble, with the not-talking-English thing, which I assume we don't want just anybody, especially the Captain, finding out about, verdad?"
Grace & Nat both glared at him, but then the phone rang.
"We need those notes, Schank!" Natalie said. Then she picked up the phone. "Toronto Forensic Pathology," she said.
"The Enforcers have been seen," Janette told her, and then hung up.
"What's wrong?" Schanke asked. "You just suddenly went real pale."
"It's nothing," Natalie said. "Some bad news about a supplier I was hoping could send us something that would help."
Grace was looking at her in a way that said she didn't buy that.
Natalie took a deep breath and drew herself up tall, and smiled. "Get me notes tomorrow, okay, Schank? For now, you better get home to Myra & Jenny." (Keep Schanke far away from the Enforcers! The man has a family!)
Schanke looked a little dubious, but he said, "Sure, whatever. Hasta la bye-bye." And he left.
Natalie watched him go, and then said tightly, "That was Janette. The Enforcers have been seen in Toronto."
Nick put his hands over his face and sat down. Grace frowned.
Natlie explained, "The Enforcers are sort of ultra-vampires; they enforce secrecy by --"
Grace cut her off. "I know what the Enforcers are, honey. But what do they care about this?"
"I guess there's a whole history of vampires and dubious science, and so-called cures. They just try to squelch these kinds of inquiries, maybe?"
Nick said something, of which Nat understood nothing except the word "LaCroix."
"Maybe. He certainly wouldn't be happy if we actually did manage to make you mortal again. But would he really call the Enforcers?"
Nick huffed and turned his face away.
"Yeah. I don't know, either," Natalie said quietly. "We still have tests to do, though. And if you could try to, I don't know, repeat after me while I'm running them? Maybe a little English-learning drill?"
"Well, technically it's my shift, and you shouldn't try to be doing the analysis at the same time as you're supervising him, anyhow. Safety first, remember? So I'm staying," Grace said. "Anybody want anything from the break room?"
"Thanks, Grace." Natalie smiled up at her. "Coffee, please?"
Nick mimed something to eat.
"Gotcha," Grace said. "Be right back."
She hadn't been gone long when a horrible feeling of cold and stillness made Natalie look up from her microscope.
The Enforcers were in the room.
Nick saw them, too, and shot to his feet. He said something to them, but they gave no sign of understanding him (or, really, even of hearing him.)
They advanced on Natalie -- slowly. She knew that they were capable of moving too fast to even see, so they had to be acting this way just so as to prolong and enjoy her terror and Nick's frustrated helplessness. She hated the fact that knowing this didn't make her any less terrified.
Nick was shouting at them now, in Brabantic. He snatched up a wooden chair.
Natalie literally could not move.
Suddenly, a little blowdart appeared in each of the Enforcers' necks. A second one sprang into existence on the taller one's jaw. They both swung around towards the door, where Grace stood, blowpipe to her mouth, peppering them with darts.
Nick broke the chair against the floor and advanced on the Enforcers with the jagged wood in his hands.
The Enforcers, claws outstretched, zoomed to Grace.
Before they could hurt her, though, they collapsed in smoke and ash.
"What?" Natalie gasped out.
Grace was breathing hard in delayed reaction. "I made up some darts of the leftover Litovuterine-E. Just in case." She laughed nervously. "They're a totally different color. I wouldn't mix them up by accident, or anything." She put her hands over her mouth and staggered to a chair.
They never did solve the language problem, and put an end to the Litovuterine-F experiment a week later.
F is for Flemish
PART FIVE: LITOVUTERINE-G
The last compound had started out okay -- the initial pain after injection had lasted only about 7 seconds; there was no smoke; Nick could go out into the sun and eat. He seemed maybe a little tired.
But the instant the swing shift lunch break started, Schanke called the morgue and said, "You need to get up here," and then hung up.
Natalie hurried to the bullpen. Nick was sitting at his desk, eating a salad. He had a vacant expression on his face, and he was wearing Schanke's disreputable fishing hat, which usually lurked in his desk drawer. His complexion was very ruddy, almost purple -- Nat was worried about his blood pressure.
"Finally!" Schanke exclaimed when he saw her. "C'mon, pardner, upsy-daisy," he muttered as he manhandled Nick to his feet and dragged him out into the relative privacy of the stairwell, Natalie tagging along.
"What's the problem, Schank?" she was asking, just as he snatched the hat off Nick's head and showed her. (Nick, disturbingly, didn't really seem to notice, and was still slowly chewing on a piece of lettuce and staring into the distance.)
There were two little horns on Nick's forehead.
"Okay, I give up," Natalie said.
"Finally!" Schanke huffed, and stabbed Nick with an antagonist dart.
G is for Gelett Burgess, who wrote The Purple Cow.