Knight on Duty
1994 – Toronto
"Captain, I need a couple of days off," Nick announced as he walked into Cohen's office.
Amanda Cohen regarded him, startled. "Is something wrong?" For all she knew, Knight had the lowest rate of personal days in the entire precinct. He even worked on holidays, switching shifts with his fellow officers so they could be with their families.
"Something came up," Nick replied vaguely. "It's important."
Cohen's eyebrows rose in surprise, yet she refrained from prodding into his private affairs. "You've got quite an amount of unclaimed vacation time accumulated. Since you've currently no outstanding cases, I don't see a problem."
Nick nodded. "Three nights should suffice." At least that's what he hoped for. Shaking his head, he wondered how he had gotten himself into this situation. Two nights ago he had walked into the Raven, asking Janette about a suspect that was known to frequent the club scene. Her information had eventually led to the arrest. He had thanked her as he had done many times in the past, whispering "I owe you one," before claiming her lips in a searing kiss.
"And I assure you, I will collect," she had breathed afterwards into his ear.
He hadn't expected that she meant it literally.
Earlier this evening
Nick woke from the incessant ringing of his phone. He made a detour to the refrigerator and pulled out a bottle which he uncorked with his teeth before picking up the receiver. "Knight," he hissed.
"Nicolas," Janette purred into his ear. "I'm calling about the favour you owe me."
"What is it? It's still daylight," he pointed out rather irritated. Whatever it was that she wanted from him, she should know that he couldn't do anything before sunset.
"I require your assistance, chéri."
"It's nearly spring, and I'm in need of a new wardrobe. I intend to go shopping and I cannot possibly carry all the bags by myself."
Nick sighed. "Fine. Call me when you're done and I'll bring the Caddy around. You can put everything in the trunk."
"Oh no, no, no, no, no. Toronto doesn't offer the selection I need to choose from. I want to go shopping in Paris."
Nick choked on the swig he had just taken from his bottle. "So you need me to pick you up at the airport?"
"I need you to accompany me to Paris," Janette requested.
Nick eyed the bottle in his hand, assuring himself that it contained indeed uncut cow's blood and not a mixture with high percentage alcohol. "Janette, I just woke up. Are you seriously expecting me to quit my job over a shopping spree?"
"Nothing as drastic, mon chér. All I'm asking for is a prolonged weekend. You will be back to your cops and robber game on Monday."
"I don't know. I'm not so keen on being holed up with mortals for eight hours in the confines of a plane. And I'm not sure if the night is long enough at this time of year to arrive before sunrise."
"Oh chéri, when have you last flown long-distance?"
"In the early 70s," Nick recalled wearily.
1971 – 33,000 feet above California
Nick closed the window shade and looked anxiously around. Although most of the passengers were asleep, the majority of the shades were open. In a few minutes, the cabin would be flooded with sunlight.
"Excuse me, how long before we reach Chicago?" he addressed the flight attendant for the third time.
The young lady gave him an indulgent smile. "You're very eager to get home, aren't you? Don't worry; we will arrive at O'Hare in about three hours."
He'd be a pile of ash long before that. He considered briefly hypnotizing the Captain into landing the plane on the closest airport so that he could seek shelter somewhere on the ground. "What shall we do?" he turned panic-stricken to the man beside him.
"Suis moi," Lacroix replied and rose from his seat. [Follow me]
Nick followed him to the rear of the plane where Lacroix opened the door to the lavatory.
Giving him a questioning look, Nick slid past him into the small cabin. "This is horribly narrow," he remarked after Lacroix had squeezed in behind him and locked the door.
"Complain, complain, complain, that's all you ever do, Nicholas," Lacroix scolded. "At least here is more space than in the trunk of that outdated automobile of yours that you've been dragging around for the past ten years. You're free to return to your seat."
"No," Nick quickly conceded. "I'm sorry, I'm just hungry. I haven't eaten since we left Hanoi."
They had managed to get a night flight in a cargo jet to Tokyo where they had stayed the day at the airport hotel. While Nick had spent hours under the shower in a vain attempt to wash the images from Bin Loc away, Lacroix had procured tickets for the next flight to Chicago.
"I'm sure, the lovely stewardess wouldn't mind joining us for breakfast," Lacroix said suggestively.
"No!" Nick protested. "I'll be fine for three more hours." He eyed his master probingly. Lacroix didn't seem bothered by bouts of hunger which meant he had fed before they left Tokyo.
"How do you think I got tickets for a flight that was booked out for weeks," he shrugged in answer to Nick's unspoken question.
Before Nick could comment, he was pushed against Lacroix as the plane rocked roughly in the air.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we are currently passing an area of turbulences at this altitude. Please return to your seat and make sure your seatbelt is properly fastened," a male voice sounded from the speaker system.
While Nick tried to regain his balance, there was a knock on the lavatory door.
"Sirs, I must ask you to return to your seat," the flight attendant requested.
Lacroix opened the door a crack and caught her gaze. "You will be unaware of our presence in here. Do not disturb again." Satisfied, he closed the door and locked it again.
"I hate flying," Nick muttered, unaware that he was fiercely clinging on Lacroix's arm while the plane took another dive.
"Mankind has made some progress since then, Nicolas," Janette's voice brought him back to the present. "It takes less than four hours to get to Paris if we take the Concorde."
"Really? I thought the Concorde merely flies Paris – New York."
"Occasionally they offer service to Toronto, like tomorrow evening. We could be in Paris by midnight and be back early Monday morning."
"Why don't you take Lacroix?"
"Oh Nicolas, you know how he is. He gets bored after the second outfit I try. He would merely sit there, reading the paper without sparing me a single glance. You, on the other hand…"
Nick smiled as she let the sentence hang in the air. He never tired of watching her parade in front of him.
"Besides, you're the one who owes me a favour," Janette continued. "And I need him to look after the club in my absence."
After he arrived home, Nick retrieved his huge travel trunk from storage. The surface was covered with lots of labels, conveying a better roadmap of his previous whereabouts than any modern database could provide. Nick smiled as he recalled how often he had evaded customs and immigration by simply flying to the shore from the ship that had carried him across the ocean. Once he had even entered the country in this very trunk. Although traveling was less time-consuming now, it was impossible to avoid passport control once the aircraft had reached its parking position at the gate. This meant creation of a paper trail which could pose a problem, especially in his case. He went upstairs into his bedroom and searched his drawers. From the very back he pulled out a passport that identified him as a citizen of the European Union. He assumed it would ease his immigration if he used this one.
He was on his way downstairs when the lift door opened and Natalie stepped into the loft. She blanched as she saw the trunk and looked at Nick anxiously. "You're leaving?"
"No." He practically flew down the remaining stairs to give her a reassuring hug.
"Then what's this?" Nat indicated the trunk.
"I'm merely going on a weekend trip."
"Weekend trip? With a trunk that fits twice the size of my wardrobe? What are you carrying with you for a weekend?"
"It's not so much what I carry with me, it's what I might bring back," Nick explained. "I'm accompanying Janette on a shopping tour."
"Don't ask." Nick rolled his eyes.
"I won't, but I'm all ears." Natalie settled onto the couch and regarded him curiously.
Sighing, Nick brushed his hand through his hair. "I owed her a favour and she decided to collect. She asked me to help her with her luggage. I know, it must sound awfully old-fashioned to you, but it's the natural thing to do for me."
"Actually, I find it awfully sweet," Natalie grinned. She noticed the passport in his hand and reached for it. "Belgium?" she queried after reading the country of origin. "Nicholas de Brabant, huh? What happened to Nick Knight?"
"It might turn a few heads if Detective Knight boards the Concorde to spend a weekend in the most expensive hotel in Paris."
Natalie's eyes widened. "Wait a minute. Are you telling me that you and Janette are flying to Paris for shopping? What's wrong with Bloor Street?"
Nick shrugged. "It's not Rue du Faubourg-St-Honoré."
* * *
After he had secured his trunk on the Caddy's backseat, Nick stopped at the Raven to pick up Janette. He found her at the bar, seated next to Lacroix. She wore a tight-fitting black leather suit that was partly covered by a bright red wrap around her shoulders.
"Take good care of my club," she said and rose from her seat.
Lacroix placed a kiss on Janette's brow. "Your club will be in excellent hands, as I am sure Nicholas will be in yours."
"Don't you have a radio show to do?" Nick asked, puzzled over the exchange.
Lacroix raised his eyebrow. "Why should I when no one is here to listen?"
Nick never knew whether he should be flattered or embarrassed that Lacroix's nightly broadcasts were aimed at a single audience: him. He opted for ignorance. "Where's your luggage, Janette?"
"In the backroom," she replied.
Nick went to fetch the items and was relieved to find a suitcase of a size that would fit into his trunk. "Do you have the tickets?" he asked when he returned with the suitcase.
"Of course." Janette put a wide brimmed hat on and retrieved her handbag and a pair of sunglasses from the bar.
"Lacroix," Nick said in acknowledgement.
"Nicholas. Bon voyage."
* * *
Nick remained tense after settling into his first-class seat.
Janette padded his thigh reassuringly. "Relax, mon amour. Surely you agree that this is far more comfortable than our first Atlantic crossing."
1651 – Atlantic Ocean
It had been a combination of Lacroix's eagerness to claim a piece of land in the New Netherland colony and Nick's curiosity to explore an utterly foreign territory that held much promise for a new beginning according to van der Donck's enthusiastic description that had prompted their decision to sail on the Flower of Gelder from Amsterdam on April 26, 1651.
For more than two months they spent their days in the cramped confines of a storeroom in the interior of the ship, leaving their shelter only at night to prey on their fellow passengers. Lacroix had been adamant in his instructions to spare the crew lest their labour was required to convey them to their destination. When they finally arrived in New Amsterdam, they seized the first opportunity to fly from board while the ship had to undergo a quarantine period before her approach to the harbour was granted. Officials assumed that a strange plague had wrought havoc among the passengers causing many of them to vanish during the voyage.
"Even spending the flight in a lavatory is more comfortable than that, Janette," Nick recalled in horror.
* * *
After Nick had presented his passport to the officer, Janette lowered her sunglasses and caught the man's gaze. "You've seen my passport. I may proceed."
"You may proceed, madame," the officer replied, much to Nick's relief.
"You don't have a passport?" Nick hissed as soon as they were in the baggage claim area. He had been too preoccupied to notice her lack of a passport at the check-in at Pearson Airport after discovering that the tickets Janette had procured were issued for Nicholas and Janette de Brabant.
"It has expired. I couldn't possibly travel to Paris with a document that says I was born in 1949."
"What if he had been a resistor?"
"Oh, chéri, have you forgotten everything we're capable of? We do have more abilities besides hypnotism. One of them would have granted me access into my home country." Janette batted her eyelashes at him and advanced to the conveyor belt.
"I have no doubt," Nick mumbled and followed her.
* * *
As soon as they had entered their suite at Le Crillon, Janette moved to the telephone and placed a call. "Oui, c'est moi. Nous sommes arrivés. Tout va bien." [Yes, it's me. We've arrived. All went well.]
"Seriously?" Nick eyed her in disbelief. "You actually called him to let him know we arrived?" It hadn't even occurred to him to call Natalie.
Janette shrugged. "You know how reluctant he always is to let you venture across the ocean alone, especially since 1912." She wrapped her arm around Nick's neck and snuggled closer, leaning her head against his shoulder.
"Well, I'm a grown man. I wish he would accept that."
"It's not that, chéri. It's the distance. He hates it when he cannot sense whether you're okay or in danger. "
April 16, 1912 – London, England
"Evening news! Titanic sank in the Atlantic Ocean! Evening News! Ocean liner hit by iceberg! Great loss of life!" The newsboy's shouting roused Janette from her sleep. It took a while before the words registered.
"Mon dieu, Nicolas," she gasped, jumped from the bed and quickly donned her robe. She stepped onto the porch and signaled the newsboy who handed her the paper in return for a coin. Janette scanned the front page on her way to the parlor.
Lacroix stood in the middle of the room and stared out into the night, another copy of the newspaper seemingly forgotten in his hands.
Janette thought that he looked even paler than usual, which was remarkable considering that he had already consumed his evening meal as was his habit shortly after sunset. "Is it true?" she asked tentatively.
"I cannot sense him," he stated softly without turning around.
"How could this happen? He assured me the ship was the safest ever built."
"Nicholas' trust in the abilities of his mortal friends has failed him yet again. I never should have allowed him to accompany Mr. Andrews on the maiden voyage." Lacroix turned towards her. "Get dressed. We're leaving within the hour."
Janette hurried back to her room and threw a few possessions into her trunk before completing her attire.
* * *
As the carriage stopped at Cockspur Street, Janette frowned when Lacroix disappeared through the crowd that had gathered in front of Oceanic House, London's headquarter of the White Star Line. He hadn't even bothered to help her from the carriage, as his thoughts were apparently entirely elsewhere. Her worries about Nicolas had increased when Lacroix hadn't spoken a word during the twenty minute drive from their house at Grosvenor Square. She hastily gathered her skirts and followed him.
"I wish to talk to someone in charge," she overheard Lacroix addressing the desk clerk as she stepped into the building.
"I'm afraid Colonel Concanon is very busy at the moment, sir. You will have to wait in line."
"I will do no such thing."
There was a moment of silence and Janette didn't need to see Lacroix's face to conclude what kind of glare the clerk was receiving because his heart rate increased significantly while he stammered, "Of course, sir. Right through this door."
They were admitted into a smoke-filled office. The wall space that was not covered by shelves spotted framed drawings of various steam ships that were owned by the company. A 50-year old man sat behind a desk that was covered with nautical charts. He looked up startled as Lacroix strode into the room.
"I demand a full report on the details surrounding the sinking of your ocean liner," Lacroix commanded.
"Are you from the Board of Trade?" Concanon asked after removing the pipe from his mouth.
"What I am is currently irrelevant to you. Suffice it to say I have a close personal interest in the fate of a passenger."
"My sincere sympathies, sir. We're also still oblivious to the fate of the company's chairman. Mr. Ismay was on board as well."
Lacroix leaned slightly onto the desk and spoke distinctly. "What have you established so far?"
"The ship collided with an iceberg on the 14th at 11:40 pm local time and issued a distress call about 30 minutes later. The Carpathia reached the location around 4:00 am. By this time, the entire ship was already gone. They were able to rescue the survivors in the lifeboats."
Lacroix raised his hand to stop him. "You said this occurred during the night?"
"Unfortunately, yes. That made it harder to find any survivors in the water."
Janette noticed that the tension lessened slightly from Lacroix's stance.
"Proceed. What kind of rescue efforts have you launched?" he inquired.
"Two more ships had responded to the distress call, however, we haven't heard that any more survivors were recovered yet than those already on board the Carpathia. The Carpathia is currently en route to New York where she will be expected in 2 days."
"Where exactly did the sinking occur?"
Concanon pointed at the chart in front of him. "41° and 43.5' North by 49° and 56.8' West. That's about 700 nautical miles east of Halifax."
Lacroix studied the chart and pointed to a landmass north of the indicated location. "What's this?"
"The Dominion of Newfoundland. A scarcely inhabited rock in the sea."
Lacroix nodded. "When is the next passage due across the ocean?"
"We're expecting the return of the Olympic in Southampton on April 21. She's scheduled to sail back to New York on the 24th."
"Very well." Lacroix nodded and turned on his heels to leave the office.
* * *
Janette studied Lacroix's face on the back seat of the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost while the automobile rattled through the countryside of Surrey. He seemed more relaxed after they had left Oceanic House. "It's fortunate that the wreckage happened at night, n'est-ce pas?"
Lacroix frowned slightly. "At least we can rule out that he went down with the ship. I had feared the sinking had occurred during the day with no way to seek shelter except in the body of the ship. "
Janette stared at him in horror. Although their kind couldn't drown, it would be horrible to be trapped underneath the water. Yet, she had no doubt that Lacroix would have gone to the bottom of the ocean to retrieve Nicolas.
"If he took to the air immediately after the collision, that would allow him roughly seven hours to reach the nearest coast before sunrise, which is about 400 miles away," Lacroix continued wistfully.
"Mon dieu! That's impossible on that atrocious diet he insists on!" Janette exclaimed.
Janette wasn't sure what would be worse: to sink with the ship or to be caught by the rising sun on the open sea.
Her thoughts were interrupted as the car stopped abruptly and the motor died.
"What appears to be the matter?" Lacroix asked the chauffeur with a hint of irritation in his voice.
"Nothing of concern, sir. I just need to restart the motor." The chauffeur jumped from his seat and opened the hood to retrieve the crank.
Janette examined the seams on her gloves to avoid Lacroix's darkening complexion.
"Well?" Lacroix inquired after three attempts to restart the car had failed.
The chauffeur jumped as he had not noticed Lacroix moving behind him. "Maybe one of the cylinders is malfunctioning." He pulled a dirty cloth from his coat and leaned over the hood.
Before he could start to wipe at the cylinders, Lacroix pulled him back and bit into the man's neck. "I highly doubt that this mode of transportation has a future in long-distance travel," he observed as he returned to Janette's side.
Janette pouted. "Nicolas was quite fascinated with these automobiles. He even acquired the skills to drive himself."
"Nicholas also believed that the Titanic was the safest ship ever built. See where his misplaced judgement has gotten him," Lacroix seethed. "Horses can be mastered. Accordingly horse-drawn carriages are much more suited to cover distances than this unyielding piece of metal."
They spent the day in Farnham and continued their voyage in a coach on the following evening.
* * *
Janette stretched; glad to escape the confines of the coach. They had reached their destination after midnight and took lodgings in the South Western Hotel, a luxurious residence that was frequented by First Class passengers before embarking on their liner.
On the following evening, she accompanied Lacroix to Canute Chambers, the local office of the White Star Line. They had no trouble getting tickets on the Olympic as many passengers had stepped down from the journey after hearing of the disaster.
* * *
"This town is getting on my nerves," Janette sighed as she returned from a walk to meet Lacroix at the hotel. On the previous nights, she had been hunting alternately on Albert Road where easy prey could be found in the shadows outside the bars or at the docks where scattered late night workers went about their business. The sorrow she tasted in their blood about a lost friend or relative heightened her worry over Nicolas' fate to a state of nervous frenzy. Almost every family in town had a loved one working on one of the ocean liners and many of whom would never return. She felt entirely helpless to be stuck on this side of the ocean and counted the days until they were able to depart.
The dejected mood that had settled over the port town was lifted temporarily with the arrival of the Olympic. A large crowd had gathered at the pier to welcome crew and passengers. After a scrutinizing examination of the vessel, the lifeboat capacity was found lacking. In consequence, the Olympic was stocked with 24 additional boats and more crew to man them.
On the eve of their scheduled boarding they were informed that the departure might be postponed, depending on the assessment from the Board of Trade. "This is unacceptable," Lacroix seethed and sought out Captain Maurice Clarke who was in charge of the final inspection. He approached him at the hotel's bar and invited him to a glass of port. During an amicable conversation about the comfortable ways of transatlantic travels, Lacroix subtly pressed his will into the Captain's mind.
"I am certain you will find the improvements to your satisfaction," he purred. "There is no need to delay the voyage."
* * *
On the following morning, Captain Clarke was indeed impressed after running mock lifeboat drills to try out the new davits.
Yet when Lacroix and Janette rose in the evening and got ready for their departure, they learned that the crew refused to sail on a ship with collapsible lifeboats. They insisted on conventional open type wooden boats. Apparently, they didn't care that Captain Clarke was satisfied with the safety arrangements on board the Olympic.
Lacroix strode into Canute Chambers and demanded a word with the local manager. "What are you planning to do about this mutiny onboard your ship?"
"We are currently trying to find another crew."
"Hm. It is my understanding that the current crew is merely concerned about how safe the lifeboats are. Don't you agree it would be less time-consuming to convince them of the safety than to hire an entire new crew that may have equal concerns?"
On the next day, six collapsible boats were lowered and left in the water for two hours and then examined to see how much water they contained. Five out of the six remained dry while the sixth had a small leak but it took two hours for the water to appear. It could easily have been bailed out during use. It was agreed that the boats were indeed safe. The sixth boat was duly replaced and 168 new crew members joined the ship.
Unfortunately, the original crew were not only dissatisfied with the lifeboats but with the new crew. They saw them as inexperienced and undesirable to have around.
On the evening of April 26th, Lacroix received a message that the White Star Line had formally cancelled the voyage. The next scheduled trip was set for the 15th of May.
"Over 60 crew members deserted their posts," the manager explained after Lacroix had paid him another visit. We had no choice but to cancel. Now we have sufficient time to find an appropriate crew.
"But we must get to New York as soon as possible," Janette broke in. "Are there no other ships available?"
The manager leafed through a thick book. "Not from this port. The Nieuw Amsterdam sails from Rotterdam on the 29th," he informed them. "But she's likely booked out and you won't reach Rotterdam in time."
"Come," Lacroix said vigorously.
"Oh how I wish we had known this before. We could have been in France by now. We'll never be able to reach Rotterdam in two nights," Janette lamented as she followed him back to the hotel.
"We don't need to travel to Rotterdam. The ship will take the route through the Channel and pass Dover two days after leaving Rotterdam. We should be able to fly on board from there," Lacroix suggested.
"But what about my luggage? I cannot wear the same dress throughout the trip. I require at least six evening gowns to be en vogue."
She shrunk slightly back from the glare she received from Lacroix. "Frankly, my dear, I do have other concerns than your wardrobe."
* * *
Three nights later they arrived in Dover close to dawn. They had taken the boat train back to London and a coach for the remaining part of the journey. Janette had used the stop-over at their London residence to reorganize her baggage. She had stuffed her most valuable belongings into a sea bag which she had snatched from her latest victim in Southampton. It was easy to carry and she was amazed how much of her wardrobe actually fit into it, including three gowns.
On the first of May, they chose a vantage point on the chalk cliffs that offered a wide view onto the Strait of Dover. After two hours, they spotted the ocean liner on the horizon and watched in anticipation as she drew closer. When she was in line with their location, they took to the air and touched down unobserved on the larboard side of the vessel, while many of the passengers were gathered on the starboard side in order to catch a glimpse of the famous cliffs.
They made their way into the interior of the ship where Lacroix stepped into the first cabin that belonged to the first-class passengers. No one was inside although a few scattered items indicated that the cabin was occupied. "I believe this will suit our needs, don't you agree?"
Janette eyed the heavy drapes that could be used to secure the windows from sunlight, the small parlor with a comfortable sitting area, a dressing room and two bedrooms. It offered all the comfort she could wish for if the purpose of their journey wouldn't be such an anguished one. "Oui, it will do," she agreed.
They had been sitting in the parlor when the cabin door opened and a young couple entered. The man stopped in his tracks upon finding two strangers in his cabin. "Excuse me; you must have mistaken the cabin. This belongs to me and my sister."
"I'm afraid it is you who're mistaken," Lacroix stated and approached him.
"I'm sure the Captain will clarify the situation," the man said and turned towards the door, only to find his way blocked by Janette who had noiselessly glided behind him.
"Are you two traveling alone?" she addressed the girl.
"Yes, we're immigrating to America," the girl stammered.
"Good, then you will not be missed," Lacroix hissed through extended fangs which he buried an instant later into the young man's neck.
The girl's scream was cut off when Janette bit fiercely into her throat.
* * *
With each passing day, Janette felt her anticipation rising. Lacroix spent most nights on deck, standing at the railing and casting his senses out for any sign of Nicolas. When he returned to their cabin around dawn her questioning gaze was returned with an imperceptible shake of his head.
When she joined him on the sixth evening on deck, she noticed a slight alteration in his stance. He scanned the horizon with heightened alertness before closing his eyes briefly. "I sense him," he stated hoarsely.
Janette moved closer and pressed her head into his shoulder as immense relief flooded through her, causing a release of long-suppressed tears.
"You're ruining my suit, my dear," Lacroix commented without returning the embrace.
Janette shuddered at the memory. "I've never seen him so desperate."
"He had a strange way of showing that. I remember being hurled against a wall when we finally met in New York," Nick recalled bitterly.
Janette sighed. Lacroix had acted as he always did. Instead of expressing his joy over the reunion, he had transferred the anger that had accumulated in him as a result of the unaccustomed fear he had endured on Nicholas. In consequence Nicholas had withdrawn further and taken the train to San Francisco where he resumed his search for a cure.
"I was desperate, too," Janette whispered.
Nick reached for her shoulders and pulled her close, placing a chaste kiss on her forehead. "I cabled immediately when I reached St. John's. If you had checked your mail before leaving London in a mad rush, you could have spared yourself a lot of anguish." And probably spared a few lives, he added silently. There had been far more victims following the sinking of the Titanic than those accounted for on the passenger lists. And all because he had to go solo across the Atlantic. He had been forced to drain a fisherman whom he discovered on a trawler shortly before his strength was about all used up. With replenished energy he made it safely to the Southern shore of Newfoundland where he found shelter in an abandoned hut. Plagued by hunger, he set out to hunt for wild animals in the woods, but found them extremely dissatisfying after the human blood he had consumed from a living source.
Janette pouted and crossed to the small refrigerator. She pulled out a green bottle and studied the label intently. "Maurice has been true to his word. I asked him to send a few samples of his best vintages. Are you going to join me?"
Nick's eyes lingered a moment appreciatively on the bottle in her hand before he walked to his trunk. "No, I've brought my own." He retrieved a case of unlabelled bottles from a hidden compartment in his trunk.
Janette regarded him appalled. "You dragged this through customs? What if they had opened your baggage?"
"Says the woman who travels without valid ID," Nick returned humorously.
"But you can't be seriously insisting on that swill when the French cuisine has such treats like this to offer." Janette opened the bottle and poured a goblet.
Nick's nostrils flared as the rich aroma reached him. He quickly opened his own bottle, raised it briefly in an imitation of a toast and took a long swallow.
After taking a few sips from her goblet, Janette left it on the table, retrieved her travel bag and vanished into the bathroom.
Nick eyed the tempting offering. He had agreed to help her with her luggage, not to submit to a change in diet, he reminded himself. He left his bottle beside the goblet and moved about the suite, checking the drapes and placing the "ne pas déranger"-sign on the door. After changing into his pajamas he settled onto the bed and turned the television on. [Do not disturb]
His jaw dropped slightly and his eyes flashed golden as Janette emerged from the bathroom, wearing a black-laced negligee.
Picking up the goblet, she walked around the bed and slid under the cover. "You look hungry, Nicolas. Are you sure you don't want to join me?"
Nick swallowed. "You look gorgeous," he said hoarsely and leaned over to place a tender kiss on her mouth.
Janette smiled against his lips. She reached around and locked her fingers in his hair to hold him in place before returning the kiss with ardor.
* * *
"I guess, I was famished," Nick admitted with a lopsided grin.
Janette returned the smile and brushed her finger against his neck, gathering a remnant drop of blood from the rapidly closing bite marks. "I must say this swill you insist on does have its advantages," she remarked after licking her finger clean. "If it initiates such hunger in you."
"I doubt that cow's blood was the trigger. It was you."
* * *
"Well, where do you want to start?" Nick asked as they stepped out of the hotel soon after sunset.
Janette intertwined her arm with Nick's. "Let's begin at Ungaro's. From there we can work along Avenue Montaigne and then Faubourg-St-Honoré." She dragged him into a side alley and took to the air.
Nick followed her and landed a moment later on Avenue Montaigne. The moment they entered the fashion house, they were the centre of attention. While Janette was taken to the backrooms, the remaining staff made sure that Nick was comfortably seated on a couch. They offered him a variety of beverages from coffee to champagne. He finally agreed on a glass of merlot, just to put an end to the continuous flow of attention.
After about twenty minutes, Janette appeared in a classic black knee-length slim fitted dress.
Nick smiled in approval.
She walked towards him and leaned down to whisper in his ear. "You like?"
"Very," he confirmed.
Satisfied, Janette returned to the backroom. Five minutes later she reappeared in a shoulder-free cocktail dress. The combination of occasional red fabrics interwoven with the black ground colour and deep V neck accentuated her already seductive allure. Janette merely smiled at him before leaning down to leave a soft kiss on his lips. "I can see that you approve, chéri."
Nick hummed in agreement and took a huge swallow from his merlot after she had vanished from sight. His jaw dropped as she stepped in front of him again, wearing a sensuous long black gown that was fastened with a single strap on her right shoulder, leaving her left shoulder as well as her arms bare. "Perfect," he managed hoarsely.
Nick looked almost disappointed when Janette appeared next in the clothes she had arrived in.
"That will be all for now," Janette declared and handed her VISA card to the clerk.
Nick duly accepted the three bags and accompanied Janette out of the store. After a 6 minute walk, Janette entered the boutique of Guy Laroche. Again they were greeted by a team of buzzing attendants who took care of everything they deemed wanting. This time Janette chose a black top and a long-sleeved gown with revealing corsage.
Across the street was Dior's. When they entered the store long after hours, it dawned on Nick that Janette had made appointments for each boutique she intended to visit. With a sigh, he mentally prepared himself for a long night.
* * *
By the time they reached Cardin at the corner of Avenue de Marigny and Rue du Faubourg-St-Honoré, they were both loaded with several bags.
"How about I drop these off at the hotel while you go ahead?" Nick suggested. He was getting hungry and he definitely needed a break. He had the feeling that he was enjoying himself far too much watching Janette displaying herself in front of him. It was easy to get lost in the moment.
Janette handed him her bags as well. "Eh bien. Don't take too long," she said with a measured glance over her shoulder and stepped into the boutique of Pierre Cardin.
* * *
Nick knew better than to keep her waiting. He merely dropped the bags on the couch and drained half a bottle of cow's blood before rejoining her. He arrived just in time to admire Janette in a thigh-length, black tapered sleeve-less dress.
* * *
Around 4 am Janette declared, "That will do for this season. Is there anything you need?"
Nick blinked. "I don't think one more piece of clothing would fit into my trunk. Thank you, but I can get everything I need in Toronto." He paused. "I would like to visit Montmartre though, if you don't mind."
"C'est entendu." [Agreed]
They dropped another dozen bags off at the hotel before heading towards Montmarte where they landed in the deserted Place du Tertre. Upturned chairs, tables and discarded easels hinted at the buzz that had been going on during the day. In the distance scattered bin men were busy cleaning the left-overs from today's flood of tourists away. Nick turned his gaze toward the upper storey of a colourful stone building.
Janette followed his gaze. "Is that where you had this tiny studio-apartment when you were hanging out with your painter friends at the turn of the century?"
Nick nodded in affirmation.
"Amazing that it's still there. I'd have expected luxury condos in a location like this."
Nick smiled. "After hearing Aznavour's La Bohème, I couldn't let that happen. I bought the entire building and had it turned into affordable studios for painters in need. The painters are the soul of Montmartre. It wouldn't be the same without them. Fortunately the city realized that it's worth preserving and turned the entire district into a national heritage site."
They walked through the narrow cobble stone lanes until they passed Sacre Coeur. They stopped in front of the church and admired the view of the city that lay sparkling at the foot of the hill, with the Eiffel Tower as a glittering landmark in the distance.
"Hmm, tempting, isn't it?" Janette purred and leaned her head against Nick's shoulder. "To stay?"
Nick gazed down at her. "You would miss your club."
Janette shrugged. "Perhaps. Perhaps not. I could open a new one. Besides, I do not intend to remain club owner for all eternity."
Nick regarded her sharply. "You're thinking about moving on?"
"Not yet. You would miss me too much." Janette leaned close for a kiss, but when Nick was about to touch her lips, she evaded him and took to the air.
Nick followed eagerly. As soon as they arrived in their room, Nick reached for her and savoured the kiss she had denied him before. Instantly his desire for her that had been constantly building throughout the night erupted into passion and he revelled in the hunger that only his kind could satisfy.
* * *
Nick closed his trunk with a sigh of relief, glad that all of Janette's purchase fit inside.
"Nicolas, can you put this into your secret compartment?" Janette held out a bottle.
"I cannot possibly carry this through customs," Nick objected.
"You had no problem carrying an entire caseload on the way here."
"That was cow. This is human."
"I'm sure Lacroix would appreciate a bottle of Maurice's finest vintage."
"If you need a souvenir for Lacroix, buy him one of those plastic Eiffel Towers they sell on every corner," Nick said exasperated. Yet he reached for the bottle and stored it in his trunk, knowing full well that it would end up there anyway the moment he turned his back.
* * *
"Don Constantine assured me he had a man positioned at the airport," Janette shrugged before Nick could voice his relief that their baggage was not selected for closer inspection.
When they arrived at the Raven, Nick used the back door to bring the trunk into Janette's quarters. "I'll retrieve it tomorrow when you've finished unpacking."
"And I will make sure to thank you properly for your assistance," Janette promised and held out her hand.
With a deep smile Nick sketched a bow and brushed a soft kiss on her hand before turning on his heels to leave.
Janette's eyes lingered on his departing form. With a sigh she pulled the bottle from the trunk and entered the club.
Lacroix stood at the side of the bar and surveyed the patrons on the dance floor. Janette joined him and filled two goblets from the bottle in her hand.
"From the strengthened bond I perceive from Nicholas and your pleased expression, I assume your little excursion has served its purpose?" Lacroix inquired.
"As was to be expected."
"Very well, I owe you a favour."
Janette smiled at him broadly. "And I assure you, I will collect..."
This story contains references to the following episodes:
• Father's Day (Nick's trunk)
• Black Buddha (Nick travelled on the Titanic/ Nick states that he hates to fly)
• Can't Run, Can't Hide (Nick and Lacroix were in Vietnam)
• Cherry Blossoms (Nick searches for a cure in Chinatown)
• False Witness (Janette mentions they "could be in Paris tomorrow")
• Dying to know you (the flashback to 1650s New England marks Nick's first canon-established visit to North America)
• The Hôtel de Crillon in Paris is a historic luxury hotel opened in 1909 in a building dating to 1758. The hotel is located at the foot of the Champs-Élysées and is one of two identical stone palaces on the Place de la Concorde.
• Faubourg-St-Honoré and Avenue Montaigne are the major shopping venues in Paris, featuring exclusive haute couture stores.
• In La Bohème (1965), a song by singer-songwriter Charles Aznavour, a painter recalls his youthful years in a Montmartre that has ceased to exist. The song is a farewell to what, according to Aznavour, were the last days of Montmartre as a site of bohemian activity.
• Adriaen van der Donck (1618-1655) was a lawyer and landowner in New Netherland. His enthusiastic description of the land and its potential in Remonstrance of New Netherland, which was printed in 1650 as a pamphlet created much excitement about New Netherland and triggered a wave of immigration.
• The RMS Titanic was a British passenger liner that sank in the North Atlantic Ocean on 15 April 1912 after colliding with an iceberg during her maiden voyage from Southampton, UK to New York City, US. The sinking of Titanic caused the deaths of 1,502 people.
• RMS Carpathia was a steamship, notable for its role in the rescue of survivors from the sinking of the RMS Titanic on April 15, 1912.
• RMS Olympic was a sister ship to the Titanic. On 14 April 1912, Olympic was on a return trip from New York. She arrived in Southampton on April 21. Olympic, like Titanic, did not carry enough lifeboats for everyone on board, and was hurriedly equipped with additional, second-hand collapsible lifeboats following her return to Britain. Toward the end of April 1912, as she was about to sail from Southampton to New York, 284 of the ship's firemen went on strike because of fears that the ship's new collapsible lifeboats were not seaworthy. 100 non-union crew were hastily hired from Southampton as replacements, with more being hired from Liverpool. The additional collapsible lifeboats were secondhand, having been transferred from troopships, and many were rotten and could not open. The crewmen instead sent a request to the Southampton manager of the White Star Line that the collapsible boats be replaced by wooden lifeboats; the manager replied that this was impossible and that the collapsible boats had been passed as seaworthy by the Board of Trade inspector, Captain Maurice Clarke. The men were not satisfied and ceased work in protest. On 25 April a deputation of strikers witnessed a test of four of the collapsible boats. Only one was unseaworthy and they said that they were prepared to recommend the men return to work if it was replaced. However the strikers now objected to the non-union strikebreaker crew which had come on board, and demanded that they be dismissed, which the White Star Line refused. 54 sailors then left the ship, objecting to the non-union crew who they claimed were unqualified and therefore dangerous, and refused to sail with them. This led to the scheduled sailing being cancelled. The Olympic eventually sailed on 15 May.
• The Nieuw Amsterdam was a steamship of the Holland-America Line. She departed from Rotterdam to New York on April 29, 1912.
• Joseph Bruce Ismay (1862–1937) was chairman and managing director of the White Star Line. He was one of the 712 survivors.
• Thomas Andrews, Jr. (1873–1912) was the naval architect in charge of the plans for the Titanic. He was travelling on board the Titanic during her maiden voyage when she hit an iceberg on 14 April 1912 and perished in the disaster.
• Colonel Henry Concanon (1861-1926) joined the White Star Line under Mr. Thomas Henry Ismay at the age of 28. Later he became assistant manager of the line's American trade and subsequently joint manager of the White Star, Dominion, and American Lines, and director of the International Navigation Company and of the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company.
• The Silver Ghost was built from 1907 on specifically to publicize the new Rolls-Royce 40/50 h.p. six-cylinder model and in doing so established the Rolls-Royce reputation for reliability and engineering excellence.
• A Marconi Wireless Station was operated on the second floor of Cabot Tower on Signal Hill in St. John's, Newfoundland from 1901 on.