5:30 p.m. Starr 5 Hotel, E-Town

Joshua Blackburn adjusted the lay of his jacket and applied a dab of cologne. He was dressed in a traditional tux which he had rented early in the day. He was alone in the small room that the police had set them up in. He checked the invitation for the address once again and picked up his room key, wallet and cell phone.

The hotel room door opened and Sara Mclintock dashed in. "Sorry I'm late, give me 20 minutes."

Josh blinked as she began to climb out of her work clothes, heading to the bathroom as she did so. "You're coming with me?" he asked in surprise.

"Of course." Sara paused, looking at him, startled. "Don't you want me to go?"

"Of course I do," Josh answered back. "It's just this is the first one this year that you've decided to go to."

"Well, the cause is a good one, you're wearing that tux — you know how jealous I am — and I bought a new dress. You'll just love it. It's so we can try to tango properly tonight." Sara gave him a saucy wink.

He glanced at his watch. "Twenty minutes."

6:00 p.m. The home of Terry Gear, St. George

Zoe Davis climbed up the stairs and knocked on Terry's door. He's the only guy I know who actually lives above a garage, she thought with a small smile. Receiving no answer, she used her key and let herself in. Outside, storm clouds began to drift in.

She looked around the small apartment. Everything was neatly in its place, and gave the appearance of no one living in it. Instead of the usual stack of magazines one would expect to find in a bachelor's place, the small coffee table held a copy of Detective and a bunch of puzzle and mind teasing books, as well as Gourmet.

She heard the shower turn off and glanced towards the bedroom. The door was half open. Terry walked into view his back to her. His hair was still wet, a towel wrapped around his waist.

Zoe stood still. She had seen Terry before in just shorts, or a bathing suit, with his hair wet from swimming. But this was different. She released the breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding when he walked out of sight. A few heartbeats later, he was back. Red briefs, clinging to his still slightly damp skin. Zoe swallowed convulsively. He was toweling his hair, the muscles in his back and arms standing out, moving sleekly with each actions.

Zoe repressed an insane urge to walk in and run her hands over his back, to feel his muscles move under her hands. She took an unsteady breath, forcing her hands to uncurl and relax. He walked back into view, buttoning his black pants. He bent over, smoothing the pants, adjusting the crease. Zoe shifted and her tongue darted out to moisten dry lips. She wanted badly to touch him, slide her hands over him where the fabric hugged his body.

He reached out and slid the black silk shirt over his broad shoulders. He fastened the cuffs and then beginning with the top button, proceeded to button the shirt. His hands moved around the waist band of his pants, tucking the shirt in, checking the lay so that no spot bunched up. Zoe couldn't pull her eyes from the movement of his hands, wondering what it would be like to perform that duty for him.

He reached for his socks and pulled them on. He slipped his feet into his dress shoes and then placing his feet, one by one, on the bed bent over to tie them. His pants outlined his ass. God, can this man wear clothes… After finishing with each he would stomp his foot down, settling the shoe.

He walked away again and Zoe could hear him in the bathroom. She sat down slowly. What's the matter with you, Davis? This is Terry. She ran a hand over her stomach, soothing the gown, but doing nothing for the butterflies or her desire. She closed her eyes imagining what Terry was doing. Styling his blonde hair, running a hand over his jaw, checking his shave. In her mind it was her hand…

She was jostled out of her daydream by footsteps. Her eyes flew open, and she hoped she wasn't as red as she felt. Terry stood in the doorway, a look of surprise on his face. A tie was draped in his hands.

The surprise turned to a warm, appreciative smile as she stood up. His eyes went over her body quickly. "You look great. I didn't hear you come in. Hope you weren't waiting long. Just let me get this tie on. What holster should I take, the shoulder or the belt? Are you okay? You look a little flushed."

"It's remarkably hot and steamy in here. You should open up a window, it's humid enough to curl even your hair!"

Zoe stepped closer. Coaxing the tie from his hands, she said, "Here, let me take care of that for you. I tie a really good full-windsor."

Close enough to feel his warm breath against her face, she draped the tie around his neck. A deep smile formed on her red, sensuous lips. "I just love silk," she said while touching the shirt and running her fingers down his strong chest and over rippled abs. She could feel his stomach tighten as she brushed over it. The exotic smell of her perfume teased his senses seductively.

Finished with the knot, she adjusted his collar and stepped back, admiring her handiwork.

"Perfect! You look quite handsome."

"Thank you, " he murmured, begin to look a little flushed himself. He walked back into the bedroom. A few seconds later he return with a shoulder holster and a jacket to match his ensemble.

She reached forward to help with his holster straps, delighted at the chance to touch the sleek silk again. Following the strap around his side and back, she evened out the shirt beneath.

As Terry slipped his jacket on, Zoe leaned over to pluck her purse from a nearby chair.

"Well… shall we?" she asked with an alluring smile, running her hand down her hip to smooth out the soft velvet of her dress. As dashing as Terry was looking tonight, she was pleased that she had chosen a dress of deep forest green, enhancing the natural green of her eyes.

Terry tore his eyes away from her hand and quickly shut off a few lights, grabbed his beeper and locked the door behind him. Ease off Gear. Deep breath. You are not having sexual thoughts about Zoe. More steady he turned and gave her a rare full smile. "Is milady going to be driving the chariot or will she let her humble date do so for once?"

Zoe flashed him an impish grin.

"As long as I get to shift gears," she bantered while pulling the keys from her small leather purse and then handing them to Terry.

As they turned to leave, her soft brown curls danced playfully against the smooth skin of her neck and shoulders.

6:05 p.m. Derelict buildings, somewhere in Hamilton

The young man moved smoothly. With a small amount of effort, he gained the top of the 10 foot chain-link fence in a single bound. Flipping himself over the top, he landed lightly. He was unremarkable, brown on brown, dressed simply in faded jeans and lumberjack jacket. It was his eyes that would make him stand out in a crowd. Small, dark and predatory.

His ears picked up the small shift to his left, his nose detected the smell of bodies. But he walked on, his face up. This was just the outer guard and a person venturing inside would get only a good beating for his affront. The young man had no such fears, he was known here.

He passed into the largest building, moving downward. At an opening, he paused and eased himself gently inside. There he stood for long moments, letting the inner guard look him over. Here you died if you were not one of the family.

After a few moments he continued, ever downward, until he reached a large door. He knocked, waited, and knocked again. The doors opened. Inside were more young people like himself, dressed to blend in to the place they had chosen to call home. But dangerous, every last one. Not averse to killing, in fact killing was a past time, right up there with coupling.

The young man looked around, spotted his destination. Striding forward he went to his knees, throat exposed. "Sire?"

The man turned, his black hair streaked back, a single white strand folded over his left ear. His clothes alone were silk; his features were handsome. He had won the right to lead this family years ago, and through many challenges had kept it. Power lay over him like a blanket.

"Speak, Thomas. You have found her?"

"No, Sire." The young man's head snapped back at the backhand. He raised a shaking hand, angry at his body for its betrayal, and wiped away the blood from his cheek, the skin hanging loose under his fingers.

"But we have more then we knew before. Her name is Victoria and she is a private detective."

"Find her!" The leader's bellow brought the family upright, noses testing the air for danger. "Find her, damn you all! Find her so that I may suck the marrow from her bones! Do not return until you find her."

The family scattered. Hunting time.

6:30 p.m. Player's Bench Sports Bar, Huntsville
(written by Jason Wright)

Lt. Taglianetti sat near the end of the bar, a Jack Daniels in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Overhead a TV blared, reviewing the evening's planned sports events. Baseball and Cyberball were on tap for tonight. Tag prayed that they would find something else, either a real sport or something that humans played, like boxing or football. Hell, he'd even settle for soccer right about now.

Staring into his drink, he hoped Harvey would show up soon so they could start their weekly bullshit session. It let Tag keep up with the other departments, find out what's going on in the rest of the NLPD. Know what's going on around you, his father used to say. Preventing a mess is always better than cleaning it up around you afterwards. His father based quite a few sermons around that very idea.

Tag suddenly remembered all the Sundays he and his father spent together, first listening to his father deliver Sunday service, his father's way of fighting evil. It was the only way the church would let him fight evil, since his father's ideas were considered too extreme, too medevial. Limited by the organization he chose to serve, a situation that his son was now in. Forced to live in the confines of rules of the organization that supposedly did the work that you wanted to do. And all the while, the church, like the police, wondered why they were losing the good fight.

Tag's mind drifted to the second part of Sundays that he enjoyed with his family, the Sunday picnic. A different park every week. Even in pouring rain, his father found some suitable place. God's little gift to me for hard service, his father used to call this uncanny ability. But one day he chose poorly.

"Hey, Tag." The hand on his shoulder brought Tag out of his flood of memories. Harvey Goldstein sat down beside him. "Sorry I'm late, but those shitheads in forensics took forever on a preliminary report."

"Not a problem. Did you hear the final verdict on Vic Pozzo?"

"Yes I did. Life, no chance of parole until you and I are in the old folks home. The boys in Vancouver told me about it. We arrested that asshole a year ago. I thought I was going to be running homicide here by the time they sentenced him."

"The wheels of Justice grind slow in Vancouver and even slower here. You heard about my little TV appearance?"

"Yeah, are you OK?"

"Fine. But get this. After the whole thing, Kai catches one of the guys who did it. He also sees several super types, supposedly fighting the guy. One of these is Diamond, a known violator of the vigilante by-law. Kai lets her walk. I find this out not from Kai Hammer, my friend, but one of the cops on the scene. I talk to Kai. He says he could use the help fighting metas that she… it could provide. I tell him that if he really wants help, then get James and Lancaster to give me a real budget so I can buy stuff that might actually hurt these guys, not just be a glorified SWAT team."

"Got some pent-up anger there, Tag?" The voice came from behind them. Female, and well known to both.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Tag growled as Winona Horowitz slid in beside him.

"Sorry for violating this shrine to maleness with my feminine presence, but I thought I would come down and see if you wanted to spend your evening more productively."

Tag turned to her. "This relaxes me," he said, pointing around the bar.

"Obviously. 'I wish I has bigger guns so I could kill those dirty muties dead!' Very stable. But as your mental and spiritual advisor and guru, at least as long as you wish to keep your position as head of the SCU–or SS if you prefer–I thought I would invite you to an art gala."

Tag laughed. "Why the hell would I want to do that? Especially with you, the little watchdog that they put on me to make sure I don't do my job the way it should be done."

Winona looked at him and deadpanned, "Well, they might have some pictures of naked women there."

Tag's eyes blazed. Harvey stepped back a few barstools. Tag stood up slowly. He spoke equally as slowly. "You had better get the fuck out of here."

Winona sighed. "I wish you had hit me. At least I would have an excuse to put you off the street. You are a damn good cop," she said as she left, "but you're looking like a better racist all the time."

The rest of the evening was somewhat tense at the Player's Bench.

6:40 p.m. The Hanewick home

April Hanewick stopped and glanced out the window in awe as the storm finally broke. The sky cast down its rage, bending trees with shrieking winds and pounding rain.

The phone rang.

"April, it's for you," her mom called from the hallway.

Picking up the phone, April was surprised at the male voice on the other end, "Umm. You probably don't remember me, we met Friday morning. I just wanted to call and see if you were all right. Sorry about not making it to the cafeteria. Maybe I could meet you Monday morning, show you around. That's if you haven't already…"

She suppressed a squeal. "Yes, yes… I… well, I mean… yeah, sure…" Shouldn't sound too interested. "Yeah, I mean… I'm ok… how are you… you were kidnapped and stuff…" April started playing with her hair, twisting a lock in her fingers. Mom was having one of the Wiccan feminist things tonight. A bunch of women who didn't shave their pits… ugh! "What's up with you? This weather bites… really, cool…" Chatting on the phone with her knight was much more preferable. She just had to keep away from Mom. The speech on releasing her feminine power by choosing male companionship over sisterhood was getting old.

"That would be great," he was silent for a while trying to think of something else to say, and then, "Maybe we could compare collections some time." Andrew kicked himself. That was a stupid thing to say. She must think I'm a complete dweeb.

"Collection, cool… wow, comics?" She perked up even more, vibrating a little. He was really into comics. Yes! "Do you read Kingsman? I have the whole Crisis Alpha series… 'cept for issue 6. Mom didn't like the cover."

"Well, I have a copy," Andrew answered back, getting excited. A girl who collected Crisis Alpha! Wow.

"Maybe you can come ov… umm," there was a pause. How would I explain her? Yes, please come in. Never mind the sentient plant. Who is she? Well, she's my mom. Wait, where are you going? Wow, she can scream loud… He shook himself out of his thoughts. "Well, maybe not. My dad's out and my… little sister would bother us. Let me see if I can come over… Umm. That's if its cool with you."

April heard the first of the guests arriving. She winced. Yeah, sure… oh, them…? They're my mom's Wiccan/lesbian militant feminist friends… don't worry, they only castrate men every other weekend. Hey, where ya going? Gee, he can run fast. She shuddered. "Well… there's this… well, Mom's cleaning up…" Only a little white lie, she was cleaning. "I don't mind your little sister…" Inspiration struck. "Um… if it's really a problem… you can come over, sure." Her room was in the back of the house, she just had to sneak him up! "But, well… the front room's a mess, so come to the back door, 'kay?"

April's mind whirled as she waited for the answer. Manohman… hmmm, I'll have to wait near the back door… ok… I can be snacking… Mom and her friends will mostly be in the living room and the basement. What if some of them stay the night? Never mind. OK… ok… upstairs, I can lock the door. Mom gave her her own "personal growth space"… thank God. She bounced on her heels, grinning. This was going to work!

The home of Jon Hamilton

An hour or so later, Andrew excused himself and went in the hall to make a phone call. Ivy could here him speaking softly, a long silence then a rush of words. Rebecca brought her attention back to the game of snakes and ladders.

Curious still, Ivy turned back to the game. She asked Rebecca, "Do you know who Andrew is calling?" while pushing her piece around the board. This was good, she was home… her other home. The grove in Midland Park still had a feel of home to her as well. Her children were safe. Now there was just the rest of her life to consider… but that could wait until after the game. Smiling, she watched Rebecca make her move. "I love you."

Andrew peeked around the corner. "Could I go over to a friend's?"

Ivy looked up. Andrew wore an anxious look. "A friend's? Who?" she asked, glancing at the window as the rain picked up. "It's raining rather hard… how far?"

"Um… not far. Her name is April Hanewick. She collects comics."

Ivy allowed herself a small smile. Her boy was growing up. "Can I talk with you a moment before you go?" She stood, telling Rebecca she would be right back and walked with Andrew into the den. There she stooped down to get to eye level with him. "I know this must be… strange for you… I've changed… God… I know I have… but I'm still your mother and I'll always love you. When I thought I'd lost you I didn't know if I could go on. You and 'becca are two of the most important things in my life, you give me the strength to go on. Rebecca is younger than you… it's likely easier for her to adapt."

She stroked his cheek. "Please remember I love you and always will, nothing will ever change that." She placed her hands on his shoulders, looking him over for a moment. He had his father's serious face and manner; it made him look older. "Go on… take your umbrella and be back by 10 o'clock."

Andrew squirmed a little and raced to the phone as soon as she let go of him.

Back at April's

Andrew came back on the phone. "My mo… ah, babysitter said it was fine, give me your address."