The Truth Shall Set You Free
by Judith Freudenthal
1998

"You're really a... a... vampire?" Schanke stammered.

"Yes."

"Natalie, how long have you known?"

"About six years now. We met on my 28th birthday."

"How did you meet?"

"I had to work late. Someone had tried to save innocent victims from a pipe bomb. Apparently, a lot of the explosion had caught him in the face. When I opened the body bag, Nick looked like he had barely cut himself shaving. I called to see if someone was playing a joke on me, they weren't. When I turned back around he sat up, scaring the hell out of me."

"You two have been friends ever since?"

"Sort of. I was more reluctant to let her near me, then she was to be around me. I tried to make her forget, but I couldn't. Since she seemed to want to help me I reluctantly let her. Over time it grew into a wonderful friendship."

"What did you need help with?"

"I want to be mortal again. I'm tired of this cursed existence."

"Natalie, do you think you can help him?"

"Yes, I do. We've made progress."

"I have to know... are you two..." Schanke stammered embarrassed. "Lovers?"

"No. Not in the way you mean. Until I cure him we can't get that close."

"He'd kill you?" Schanke asked uneasily.

"Not on purpose, but I might. For my kind the drinking of blood is how we have sex. I would have to drink her blood and might get so caught up in her emotions and forget to stop in time." Nick decided to try and lighten the mood. "Or I could bring her across and make her what I am."

"Natalie, you'd go for that?"

"Yes." Natalie said too happily for Nick's liking.

"Do you really drink human blood?"

"Not unless it's an extreme emergency. I live off of bottled cow blood. It's not very tasty but it does keep me alive."

"That's why you'd never share you wine, why you never have food, and why the only thing in your fridge are the green bottles." He saw Nick nod.

"So, I guess you're not really in your thirties, are you?"

"No. How old do you think I am?" Nick asked with a grin.

"Fifty?" Schanke saw Natalie trying not to laugh. "Eighty?" He saw Nick shake his head. "A hundred?"

Natalie tried not to giggle. "You're way off."

"Two hundred?" Schanke saw them shake their heads again. "Three?" He couldn't believe it. "Five hundred?"

"You're getting closer," Natalie said.

"Aw come on. How old are you?"

"I'm 800. I've been a vampire for 766 years."

Schanke was stunned. He couldn't believe it.

"Ask me anything you want."

"Nat, is he telling the truth?"

"Yes. He's met Joan of Arc, DaVinchi, Beethoven..."

"Among others," Nick said.

"Man oh man. What stories you must have."

"He does have some good ones."

"Schanke, you must never tell anyone what I am. There are some of my kind who would kill you, me, Nat, and your family if they knew you knew."

"I won't say a word. Too bad. You could really help Jenny with her schoolwork." Schanke changed the subject. "Have you been to the police academy?"

"Yes, many years ago. I was a cop in Chicago for about four years during the mid to late 60's."

"So all those super guesses of yours were really just your vast experience, right?"

"Most of them were."

"And all those times you pulled amazing connections out of thin air, you were working from memory, weren't you?"

"Sometimes."

"You knew Jeremy Stanton and Catherine Barrington didn't you? That's the only explanation for how you knew he was the killer so early on."

"Yes. I didn't know him very well. But Catherine was a good friend of mine. She believed that Stanton killed her husband and I believed her. He had tried to kill her shortly afterwards."

"All those times I saw you shot, but you denied it or later had evidence for me... were you really hit?"

"Most of them."

"Nat, you would remove the evidence from him, wouldn't you?" He saw her nod.

"He couldn't exactly go to the emergency room."

"What other careers have you had?"

"I've been a Union doctor in the Civil War, a medic in Vietnam, an archeologist, archeology professor, cop, a knight back in the days of the Crusades. I was an artist's apprentice back in the middle ages and did a little modeling for him. I've been a stage actor."

Nick loved the stunned look on Schanke's face.

"Where were you born?"

"Brabant, Belgium. I became a vampire in Paris. Some would call that my rebirth."

"What's the deal with you, Janette and that creepy Nightcrawler guy?"

"That's rather complicated." He saw that both his friends wanted more details so he continued. "Janette is an old friend of mine. She was the one who introduced me to the Nightcrawler guy. She seduced me and before I knew what happened I hadn't had my way with her." Off Natalie's look he clarified it. "Well, it was 1228 and that's how things went then. Now where was I?" Nick stopped a moment before continuing. "LaCroix entered. He brought me across. Janette and I were lovers for about a century. She left me after 97 years needing to do something different. Ever since we've been good friends."

Nick had been carefully watching Natalie's reaction and was pleased when she didn't seem upset. He knew she knew some of their history.

"Do I even want to ask how old they are?"

"I'm the baby of the family." Nick grinned.

Natalie tried not to giggle.

"Okay, out with it."

"Janette's a thousand years old and LaCroix is 2000."

Nick and Natalie loved the shock on his face.

"I would guess that you don't need your paychecks to survive?"

"No. I don't. Over the centuries I've acquired some wealth." He didn't want to tell his friend how much he really had for fear of causing him a coronary.

"You're lucky. It's tough raising a family on a cop's salary."

"If you ever need money, let me know. Okay?"

"Thanks, partner." A thought hit Schanke. "You haven't always gone by the name, Knight, have you?"

"No. I've had many different names over the centuries."

"Which of your lives did you like best?"

"I like this one best. My next choice would be my time as the archeology professor. I enjoyed teaching."

"Natalie, you have no problem with any of this?"

"No. Except for when he gets lost in guilt and angst. Or gets self-destructive impulses. But then again, everyone has suicidal thoughts when things are at their worst."

"You've never been afraid of him?"

"I was once or twice, but those weren't his fault. Things happened that were beyond his control. He's a good person at heart. I've never been so afraid that I'd considered running away or screaming for help."

"Natalie, what attracted you to him?"

"His looks, his genuine concern for those around him, his sense of humor, his intelligence. He can be so sensitive and so dense at times. He sometimes seems like a little boy in a grown up's body. He knows how to make someone feel special. He tells great stories."

"Nick, what attracted you to her?"

"Many of the same things she said. She has a wonderfully big, caring heart. She could see the good in me when I couldn't. She helps me remember that when I'm feeling down."

"What are things like with Janette and LaCroix?"

"They can be good or horrible. I guess you can say we're a rather dysfunctional family. LaCroix and I often don't get along."

Schanke read between the lines and had seen enough cases of emotional abuse to know that Nick was a victim of it. That it was still going on.

"Have you seen the entire world?"

"Most of it. We tended to stay in certain areas because that's what Janette and LaCroix wanted. We spent a lot of time in Paris. They liked Europe. Being considered among the wealthy made for interesting times. Janette loved the balls we were invited to and the parties important people threw or had thrown for them. For a while I was hooked on ballet. I enjoyed seeing one particular dancer."

"What did you think of The Denied. Some of the comments you made, make more sense now."

"I thought her book was interesting."

"That's all you're going to say?" Schanke said a little surprised. "You were rather evasive when you commented on my thinking the bringing across scene needed to be more real. What is it like?"

"It's almost indescribable. It can be the most erotic thing you've ever experienced. When you wake up your senses are enhanced and it can be disorienting. You also have this unbelievable hunger for blood."

"I've always wanted to know what it's like to fly, and how you can see in the dark. I know you can fly. It's the only explanation for how you've managed to get places so quickly and without a vehicle."

"Flying is the most amazing thing. It's just you and the birds." Nick's face lit up as he talked.

"Natalie, has he ever taken you flying?"

"No."

"My night sight is necessary so it's there. I can see body heat patterns. It's sort of like those infra red pictures you see. When I'm indoors I see like you do. My eyes are light sensitive so bright lights hurt them."

"It must've been incredible to watch history unfold before your eyes. To see the invention and progress of electricity, cars, telephones, all the stuff we take for granted."

"I didn't really pay it much attention back then, but yeah, it was fun.

The end

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