For two weeks, an icy silence reigned between mother and son, despite Nick's best efforts at reconciliation. Getting nowhere with Sherman, he spoke with Mildred.

"Did he tell you--about me and Agnes?"

Mildred nodded, and pulled out a small wooden case. Inside it--was a stake. Nick's eyes darted down.

"It was no accident that Agnes met you, then."

Again, she nodded.

"I came here to destroy her. Instead, Agnes became my Watcher. I would never have survived, without her guidance. I love her, Nick. I knew that I would love her son. They've both given me so much. To see them at each other's throats---"

Nick looked up at that phrase, and stared. Mildred winced, just a bit.

"Er, I mean, to see them so angry at one another, drains me dry, frankly."

Nick stared again. Mildred realized how easy it is to trip over phraseology, so she gave up.

"It makes my blood boil?"

Nick chuckled.

"I prefer mine chilled."

Mildred felt her awkwardness vanish.

"Nick--you are an Angel."

"Mildred--let's not use that particular compliment, alright? Its just--awkward."

Working together, Nick and Mildred maneuvered the feuding Potters into the living room. Agnes spoke first.

"Go on and say it, Sherman. You think that I've become a monster!"

Sherman closed his eyes.

"Mother---you're no monster. Neither is Nick. I am. Some of the things I did in Germany---I'm gonna burn in Hell for."

Sherman collapsed to his knees, and began to cry. Even Mildred had never realized how deep the pain ran. Nick vowed to find and destroy the Immortal known as Kronos, whom Sherman had known as Major Kronoupolis, leader of the vicious Boys From Golgotha. Agnes merely held her boy, and felt her anger rise to dangerous levels. This might have passed, but for what occurred next.

"Agnes--do you smell smoke?"

"Yes, Nick. Its coming from...."

Sherman's eyes popped open.

"Its Auntie Russell's house. Its on fire!"

Agnes got up, and wondered how her son could tell that. But the house across the way was indeed burning. Agnes' heart sank.

"My mother's home...."

Nick cocked his ears.

"Wild giggling...like hyenas."

Sherman stood up, and went to the closet for his weapon. He said one word.

"MacMartinsons. Now, mother, don't try and talk me out of this. They have it coming--all of them."

But when Sherman turned around, his mother was already gone, with Nick stirring and Mildred gently knocked unconscious.

"Oh, my God."

He then realized that his mother agreed with his vengeful statement, and had gone on ahead of him--to do a vampire's work.

In her home, the cold-hearted Henrietta MacMartinson celebrated a great victory over what she saw as being wrong with the world.

"The Russell home burns with God's own fire, and a house of darkness goes down with it. Those uppity pieces of garbage are all gone, now, and soon we will find that their traitor allies in the Potter clan go the way of the wind, as well. There is a way of things, my children. This family was forged together from the families that owned most of the southland, before the Yankee rape of Dixie. Before property was raised up from the status of cattle and called human by carpetbagger courts. Before good, right-thinking people were forced to forget the first rule of strength. That rule states clearly that the strongest always rule. Without exception."

Henrietta had often invited people into her home, to show off her ancestral collection of war sabers and uniforms. She even invited in people she did not like, or despised. One night last summer, Agnes Potter had been among those invited in, albeit briefly. This was a mistake no MacMartinson would live to regret.

"I warned you, Henrietta."

They were all stunned to see Agnes Potter standing right in the middle of their living room. The matriarch gestured.

"Get that half-human trash out of my sight."

The bulky Josiah MacMartinson smiled, thinking of what he would do to Agnes, once he had her outside. But Mrs. Potter showed no fear. She merely looked up at the big bully, a kind of pity in her eyes.

"You touched my son, Sherman."

The hulking fool shrugged.

"Yeah, I did. With these two good hands. So? Whatcha gon do? Cept' Nothin?"

Agnes grabbed both his hands, and pulled back--ripping his arms out of his sockets. The big man screamed. Agnes smiled, and tossed the arms at his shocked mother.

"Nothing, you said? Well, two take away two is nothing, after all."

As Agnes heard a rifle cock, she moved the agonized giant into the line of fire. Harold MacMartinson shook when he realized what he'd done. Agnes came at him, and held him up.

"The Lord discovered that he had slain his brother in anger---and so he was marked."

Slashing fingernails took Harold's throat like it was wrapping paper.

All 14 residents of the large house came at her, including some that Agnes had not known were MacMartinsons. She recognized one as the 'victim' that one of her nephews on Mammy Russell's side had supposedly assaulted. Her Sherman had watched as he was hung on this girl's word alone. The kitchen knife she wielded became her last meal, instead.

"Perjury, my dear, turns to nails in your throat!"

As she literally whittled down their ranks, Agnes felt more and more of her vampiric nature dictating her actions. She found that it was much easier to live with than she thought.

The last five each held rifles and ropes, but all Agnes did was laugh.

"You all are nothing to me--less than nothing."

While Henrietta sat and watched in abject horror, Agnes merely seized all the ropes and strung up her kin, just as they had done to many an innocent.

"Don't you worry, Henrietta. I'll shoot them down."

But Agnes did not use the rifle to shoot down their nooses. Crazy with fear, Henrietta seized her crucifix. Though it touched Agnes' flesh, she was not at all affected.

"But---you're a vampire. Why doesn't this thing work like its supposed to?"

Agnes stared at the Cross, and wondered how much of her soul she had lost this night.

"Well, Henrietta--I don't think there's anything wrong with The Cross."

Agnes then poured lamp oil over a shaking Henrietta.

"You see, if you had sent you and yours to Church on Sunday, rather than teaching them hate in your basement, you might have faith enough to repel me. But you don't. The Cross is only a conduit for your belief in the Lord. For his Love. But you've blocked him out with hate. Now watch."

Agnes held the Cross, and her hands began to burn as she did.

"I am a vampire, Mrs. MacMartinson. But I still have more faith than you."

Small flames erupted from Agnes' hands, but she did not release her grip.

"I warned you. Warned you to stay away from my family. But you wouldn't listen."

Somehow, Mrs. MacMartinson found the strength to sound haughty.

"Because, we are the strongest. The strongest can do whatever they like."

Agnes put down the cross, gently, and pressed her still-burning hands on Henrietta MacMartinson, who shrieked as she went aflame.

"I warned you, Henrietta. I warned you that there was an exception to that rule. The exception states--The strongest always rule--until they meet someone stronger."

Finding a certain book, Agnes left, and let the fire consume the rest of the house.

The book was a goldmine. It showed the name of all the 'secret' MacMartinsons. By having unknown relatives, the bigoted clan had long been able to sit on juries, incite crowds, and control events without being held directly responsible. Among them were three deputies, a phone operator in Hannibal, six teachers, and one judge. For the vampire, it was a long night, but worth it all. Forty-five people, not including the fifteen known MacMartinsons, would disagree.

So, for that matter, would Sherman T. Potter and Nicholas Knight.

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