Artemis Strange has Graven Confessions
Written by Kevin F. Pickett

artemis strange

The moonlight was lacing the uptown penthouse apartment with glowing streaks of ghostly silk. A fluffy white cat descended the spiral staircase in the center of the living room. The cat jumped the streaks of moonlight as if the beams had an inherent danger. She was as young and playful as the day her master found her.
In the top floor bedroom slept her master the immortal Artemis Strange.  Artemis was sleeping solo while wrapped in satin sheets on his majestic sized bed. The room was dark except for the moonlight peering through the small gap in the balcony window curtains. 
Artemis tossed in his sleep as usual. He often dreamt of his past life fighting crime in New York City. His most frequent dream was of one traumatic event that occurred two years ago that changed his life forever.
 Artemis was once one of the finest detectives in New York's underworld. He worked the organized crime family networks. He had more surreptitious connections then he needed. The Columbian families were ruthless and knew they could pay him off and they did for a time. When they felt he wasn't needed any longer they tossed him on the subway tracks directly in front of the 8th Avenue local.
He survived the incident and was taken by a rogue team of Priests within the Vatican. They were able to make Artemis immortal. Artemis was rehabilitated and trained for their purposes. Over the past two years of training he has become their weapon against any threat, dead or living.
Artemis is a soldier living in this lavish penthouse suite left by another immortal who tried to kill him. The other immortal, Cicero, failed at his attempt to defeat Artemis. Cicero vanished and Artemis keeps watch on his apartment in hopes of his return for a well deserved rematch. All these past thoughts make sleeping every night a difficult task. 
 Besides the groans from Artemis the penthouse was absolutely quiet while the cat explored and jumped through every inch of the suite. A phone rang in the master bedroom breaking the silence and stillness in the room. The cat sprinted up the spiral staircase to the master bedroom in excitement when she heard the phone. Artemis arose from his sleep with full awareness. He wasn't groggy like most people when he was woken up out of sleep in the middle of the night.  He reached across to his nightstand for the phone. The cat sprung into his lap snuggling into the satin sheets. He put the receiver to his head while tossing back his long white hair to uncover his ear.
"Yeah?" , Artemis said.
The voice from the other end had a nervous tone and sounded almost feminine.
"Yes, Artemis?"
"Yeah, you got him. Now. What do you want?"
"Sorry to disturb you so late in the evening but we seem to have a situation down here at the Church."
"Father Silvio?"
"Yes Artemis it's me, your employer."
"I thought that was you but you sound all girly and spooked out. You sound like my little sister."
"I didn't know you had a sister. You have siblings Artemis?"
There was a long pause and then Father Silvio continued, "... Never mind.  It is with the utmost importance that you come down to Saint Christopher’s right away. Can you do that?"
"Yeah sure. I got a little bit of a hangover from all that communion wine I grabbed from your cellar. I drank like 3 bottles last night. I hope that was alright with you, seeing as I'm about to do you a favor."
Artemis heard the click and the familiar sound of a dial-tone.
"I guess he didn't like that. I'll have to remember to work in some joke about an inebriated confession when I see him."
Artemis tossed away the phone receiver and rose from the bed. The cat pounced out of his lap and onto the floor with a series of purrs. The sleep deprived immortal one, stretched as he walked over to his balcony window. He pulled aside the ruffled curtain to let in the moonlit glow of the city. The cat circled through his legs as he stood at the window. He gazed out at the night sky and grabbed his gut while letting out a ferocious belch. The cat was startled but remained at his side. "Sorry Angel.  You know wine gives me gas." Artemis walked off to the shower room and closed the door behind him. Angel was left waiting at the door for her master to reappear.

Forty Five minutes later, Bleecker Street…

The church looked as if it was transported from another century. It was built when the first settlers bought Manhattan from the indigenes inhabitants.
The church was originally occupied by Protestants but they could not hold up to the onslaught of the holy crusading Catholics when they arrived in the New World. New masons were hired for reconstruction and the church was given the most exuberant facelift. It's new look included the addition of the largest spires in America at the time. It had the illusion of reaching up to God and tapping into heavenly power. The stain glass art and old world architecture gave it a dark but regal presence in the middle of the Manhattan skyline.
A network of underground tunnels and chambers were later setup at war times for protecting survivors. They later became the resident Rectories for the Priests living there today.
The church was christened Saint Christopher's, after the patron Saint of travel, since it was one of the first churches erected in the most frequented harbor in the Americas. The Pope thought the title was fitting.

Artemis always managed to enter Saint Christopher's undetected.  The church's double doors barely moved as Artemis slipped in. The shadow of a tall man glided into an empty seat near the alters to heavenly Saints.  Father Silvio was standing by the incense alter of Saint Joan of Arc. Artemis grabbed a bible from the seatback and started to read. He moved his fingers across the page guiding his eyes. It looked as if he were speed reading. He paused on an arbitrary page and spoke aloud, "That's a bunch of horse shit."
Father Silvio put his head down to ignore the outburst. He finished his prayer and walked over to wear Artemis was sitting. He sat in the seat directly behind Artemis and lowered his head with a disappointed look.
He tapped Artemis on the back, "I didn't see you come in, but anyway, it's always good to see you my son. I wish it was under better circumstances but our visits always involve something evil and mysterious. I hope you are up for a healthy task."
Artemis ignored Silvio and looked over at the alter of Saint Joan of Arc. He couldn't help but stare into the candle lit by Father Silvio. Artemis' flashbacks to his time spent in Rome began again...

Artemis' eyes fell into darkness.  All he could see was a bright singular light bearing down on his soul. Before Artemis could scream the whole world was filled with blood.
His next flash was of him sword fighting in the courtyards of a Romano citadel. Artemis was wearing white robes and was parrying advances from an elderly man dressed as a Priest.
The elderly Priest yelled, "Faster, faster!"
Artemis was in constant retreat from the old mans advances.
The old man yelled out, "You must get faster. Skill will come with time but you must get fast so that you can handle whatever comes at you." Artemis lowered his sword to ponder the new instruction and was suddenly struck with a long staff by a younger priest standing behind him.
The much younger priest said in a very condescending tone, "You must never lower your defenses unless you are told by one of the instructors. Hmmmph!" Artemis raised his sword to the young priest and bowed. The young Priest  began to make striking blows that Artemis easily deflected. His stance was firm and his legs were wide apart to keep balance. The young priest hesitated in between strikes until Artemis timed a perfect counter that allowed the young priest to fall forward. While the young Priest was falling, Artemis spun out of the way and recovered to a full stance holding his blade to the back of the young priest’s neck.
The elder priest yelled, "Stop!"
Artemis pulled his sword back and placed it in his belt guard.
The young priest exclaimed, "Arch-Bishop Vesuvio please?"
The elder priest known as Arch-Bishop Vesuvio walked up to the young priest and grabbed his staff. Vesuvio looked at the staff and then slapped the young priest with his hand. "Father Philip you disappoint me. We are supposed to be instructing not competing. This is not tolerated even from priests. Tell me Father Phil, when was your last confession?"
Father Philip's face rushed with blood while his aura glowed with crimson red. He looked at the sword in the Arch-Bishop's hand and the gleam in his eye was evident of his evil desire. Father Philip's soul was filled with rage and his intent was to take Vesuvio's sword and strike him down. Arch-Bishop Vesuvio closed his eyes and raised his hand to Father Philip's eyes.
This was not a common act because everyone in the courtyard stopped to watch. Father Philip glanced from side to side and it almost seemed not by his own will, but he grabbed Vesuvio's hand and kissed his blood-red sapphire ring. Vesuvio opened his eyes and looked down at Philip.
"You have done well my child. Now confess or you will endure the wrath of Saint Joan of Arc!"
Artemis and everyone who was close by shook from the resonating tones of the Arch-Bishop voice.

Artemis awoke out of his self induced dream and opened his eyes. He was staring into the flame of the candle burning in Saint Joan’s alter. Father Silvio put his hand on Artemis' shoulder. Artemis' eyes were transfixed. This alarmed the Father. "What is it my son?"
Father Silvio paused but inquired further, " Does this alter offend you?"
Artemis broke his fixed glare and looked down to the floor.
"What is the significance of the 'Wrath of Joan of Arc?'", asked Artemis.
The Father turned away from Artemis and began to walk down the walkway towards the pulpit.
"This is a strange inquiry. I see that you had a vision of sorts and you in turn ask me about something that I was just about to entrust in you. It is the sacred secret of this church known to very few."
Father Silvio entered one of the confessionals and gestured for Artemis to enter the other side. Mr. Strange reluctantly entered the confessional booth and closed his door.
"OK Padre I have to tell you that any confession from me would only be a drunken confession so why don't we try something else."
Father Silvio pulled open the separation screen and reached in Artemis' side of the booth. Artemis jumped, but not fast enough to avoid Silvio's quick slap.
Artemis rubbed the spot on his face where the Father hit him and said," What was that about?"
Father Silvio said in a condescending voice, "You know very well that wine wasn't yours to take. Now let's get on to pertinent business, oh and you will confess before God when this matter is settled."
Artemis continued to rub his face. "Geesh, did you have to hit me so hard?  Your little girl hands sting Father."
"Anyway, we need to get to business. Did you come prepared?"
Artemis reaches into his trench coat and pulled up the hilt of a sword.
" I'm always ready for a party Father."
"Good. Then I need to ask you what you know about Joan of Arc."
Artemis sat back grasping his chin. When he rubbed the hair stubble it made a scratchy noise, almost like he was awakening his brain with every stroke.
"She was a badass bitch. I saw that Jovavich chick play her in the movie."
"Yes she was badass as you say. Her abilities as well as visions were gifts from our heavenly Father. Have you ever heard of her sword or her "Wrath"?" Artemis looked puzzled.
"I heard that said before but it's a mystery to me as to what it means."
Father Silvio cleared his throat and said, "Her wrath is her sword. Anyone who was said to feel her wrath was surely dead or their death was being threatened. That sword could kill the most unholy of beings. Beasts, monsters, demons and even you Artemis."
Artemis jumped at hearing the words. For all this time he thought immortality meant he could not die, and could not be murdered. But now the dreams of living, century to century had come to an end. An end that could be brought about with a sword he never knew about. Artemis mustered up a growling sound from his inner body and finally said, "What the hell father? I'll bring back the communion wine. Stop with the ghost story for immortals. Next you're gonna tell me that you have the sword."
Father Silvio looked Artemis square in the eye and said, "Well kind of."
Artemis yelled out, "What the bloody hell?"
"Quiet Artemis.  Now listen closely because this next part is the crucial secret we all hold." Silvio brought his voice down to a whisper so that only a mouse listening close by might be able to decipher his words.
"That sword had been kept here for centuries but now it is gone."
Father Silvio fell back into his seat with his hand over his eyes. You could tell he was weeping. The sounds of a grown man crying were enough for Artemis.
"Now you sound like my sister again. It's bad enough that you knew there was something that could kill me, but you lost it. What the hell Father?"
Father Silvio pulled a handkerchief out of his robe pocket and blew into it making a loud racket more annoying then the crying.
"I'm sorry Artemis. I don't usually lose my cool but I have to correct you when you said LOST. It wasn't lost. It was stolen and we are quite sure by whom. Would you follow me to the cellar please?"
Artemis kicked open his confessional door and followed behind Silvio as they made their way to the cellar.

The trip to the cellar was easy with the new elevator installed. When they arrived on the bottom floor it was well lit and there were several overturned crates of wine. A few bottles were smashed and it reeked of alcohol. Artemis put his right hand in the air and said, "This wasn't me Father. I just took one crate and I didn't knock anything down." Father Silvio turned to Artemis and said, "I know it wasn't you. It was him."
"Him who?"
Father Silvio put one finger to his lips,"Shhh. He might have returned. Just follow me quietly. We have to get into the lower chamber."
Artemis looked puzzled for a moment and said, “There’s a lower chamber?"
"Stop asking questions. There's a lot you don't know about this church. We built the rectory in the cellar only fifty years ago. It was used as a bomb shelter and military command access tunnels for the Army during the war. The lower chamber was here before the war and they just dug into it."
Artemis started to get annoyed with the long story, "Spare me the history lesson Monsignor. What about the sword?"
"Well since it was a nice hidden area we kept the sword in a small anti-chamber in the back. An alter of Saint Joan of Arc was built over it to hide it from others. "
When they arrived at the alter Artemis noticed a large iron container lying in front of it.
Artemis tried to move the container but it barely budged.
"What the hell is this?"
Father Silvio said, “Do you always touch things first and ask questions later?"
"Stop being a wise ass."
"No! What if it was a pressure sensitive nuclear warhead?"
"Well then we wouldn't be having this conversation, would we?"
"That's not the point. You always take what isn't yours. You're just a bully."
"Oh, this is about the wine."
Father Silvio raises his voice, "Yes this is about the wine. Why the hell did you take it? It didn't say 'Artemis take me home', it was meant for the Holy Communion. You stole from the church and I hope when this is done you will do the right thing and confess."
Artemis said under his breathe, "Ain’t gonna happen."
Father Silvio lowered his voice too, “You are so incorrigible."
"Anyway Father, what is in this box?"
"Well nothing at the moment but we are sure it's being occupied during the day by a vampire."
"A vampire? You mean Count Dracula lives under this church?"
"Not exactly. This coffin arrived a few days ago. The same time the sword disappeared."
Now Artemis had to switch to detective mode. He asked Silvio, "What does the sword look like exactly?"
Silvio held his hands up to show the size. He stretched his hands wide apart while saying, "Yes that's about right. It was about 1.5 meters. You obviously know it was a claymore."
Artemis looked puzzled, "What's a claymore?"
"One of those swords Mel Gibson used in Braveheart. You know, the long sword? But this one had a filigree catholic cross etched into the handle. There are gold accents all around the blade and handle. The hilt was stained black from where it was touched by God. ", described Silvio.
"I know what a claymore is, Father. "
Artemis starts to rub his chin," Hey, that sword can kill vampires, right?"
"Yes, and that is why we are worried. A vampire taking that sword leaves the world defenseless against their kind. The vampire is sure to return by dawn for his coffin. I gather I don't need to explain your mission."
"Not at all. It sounds like a piece...", Artemis paused.
Both Silvio and Artemis looked at each other when they heard the sound of a bottle of wine exploding on the floor. Artemis drew his short Roman broad sword from inside his coat and pushed Silvio to the back to protect him.
Artemis was trained in the classic form of sword fighting and just like many swordsman he trusted his blade more then a slug throwing hand gun. He kept his eyes in front of him but he also used his peripheral vision to keep an eye on Silvio. He may not act like it often, but times like these showed how much he cared for his Priest. 
Father Silvio took a peek from behind Artemis to see what was going on. At first all he saw was an empty room. Then he saw what could only be described as the blur of a cloud of smoke, pass by the entrance way.

Artemis twirled the gladiator styled sword in his hand while keeping guard of the alter and Silvio behind him. He moved in towards the cloud as it advanced on their location. Artemis gestured for Silvio to stay put. He kept the tip of his sword pointed upward while he took a few steps forward.
The cloud flew by and knocked Artemis over. Artemis reacted like a cat and did a forward roll as he fell.  He was back on his feet in seconds.
Artemis turned to check on the Father, but the shadowy smoke was now sitting between them.
Artemis leaned into the shadow to take a closer look. He didn't say anything but a smile emerged on his face.  
"Hey Silvio I think you're wrong. It's a..." At that moment a gun shot rang out. Artemis looked around and saw his big friend, Detective Russ Shea of the NYPD, crouched by a wine rack with his .38 service revolver aimed at the smoke.
Artemis didn't know why Russ was there. All he knew was he had to stop Russ now.
"Russ, stop!", Artemis screamed as he moved in front of the smoke with his sword extended out.
Russ continued to fire, not seeing or hearing Artemis.
Artemis was able to deflect the next two shots with the quickness of his sword before Russ saw him and stopped shooting.
Russ lowered his gun and said, "Sorry dog. You know I always got your back after you took the heat for my brother Donnie. I don't know why but something told me to follow you tonight. I got down hear and saw that thing trying to rip your face off."
Artemis said, "It wasn't ripping my face off. I was looking into the smoke and then I saw something beautiful."
They all looked at the smoke cloud together while it slowly dissipated and took the form of a young girl.
Silvio exclaimed, "Oh my. It's a girl."
She was in her twenties and had amber colored, long flowing hair. Her clothes were gothic in style but very modern.
She looked at Artemis as he looked back at her.
"See, she's so cute and innocent." he said to himself.
The girl smiled at Artemis and looked at no one else but him..
Artemis was entranced by her beauty. They both stared at each other for awhile with no words. The attraction was obvious.
Artemis broke the silence by saying, "Hiya doll. Is that your coffin sitting over there?"
Russ smacked his forehead and said, "The award for best pick up line from a supernatural being, goes to Artemis Strange."
Silvio started looking around the cellar when another smoke colored cloud glided into the room. This cloud was larger and darker in color then the first. It made a rumbling noise that sounded like thunder.
Silvio called out, "Artemis, I think you should pay attention to the second smoke cloud. It's coming your way and it sounds pissed."
Artemis stepped closer to the girl. She continued to smile and reached out for Artemis' hand.
Russ took aim at the second smoke cloud. He got off one shot but missed.
The second smoke cloud shifted towards Russ' direction and in seconds, it had him entangled in smoke.
Russ was knocked off his feet and dragged across the floor. His body was flung into the wine racks along the wall. Russ' body lifelessly slid down the wall. He was lying still with broken bottles and wooden racks covering over him.
Artemis shook him self out of the daze he was in. He moved towards Russ to help while the girl dissolved back into smoke.
Her smoke cloud drifted into the center of the room where it converged in on the larger smoke cloud. The two clouds intertwined with a great thunderous clap. They twisted for awhile and then vanished out of the room. A trail of dark smoke could be seen clearly leading out of the cellar.
Artemis grabbed the shattered wine racks and began pulling them off of Russ.
Silvio walked over with his head down and his hands folded for prayer.
"This ain’t no time to be praying Father. This is a time to be thinking." Artemis said in a condescending tone. Russ sat up with two broken bottles at his feet. One bottle was upright and unharmed.
Artemis reached for the bottle and said, "Hey, that's a good omen, an unbroken bottle after falling on it like that. It's even standing upright, as if to say 'drink me'."
Father Silvio jumped and tackled Artemis. They wrestled on the floor for awhile. Artemis managed to pull the cork on the bottle before Silvio could get it from him.
"You don't need anymore wine.” Silvo exclaimed.
"This is definitely a time to drink Father. Did you see what we just saw?"
"Artemis, your logic baffles me. First of all, how can a bottle standing up be a good omen when we got that thing sitting in the basement of my church?", Silvio points to the coffin. Russ looks at the large rusty iron box.
"What's that?"
Silvio chuckled and said, "That's a coffin."
 Russ thought about it for a moment. "Oh, so that girl was a..."
Father Silvio interrupted, "Vampire!"
Russ grabbed the half drunken bottle of wine from Artemis.
"I need a drink too.” Russ said as he turned the bottle upside down and chugged the rest of the wine. He handed the finished bottle to Silvio. "You sure you don't need this, Father?"
Silvio stood up and then threw the empty bottle against the cellar wall. It exploded on impact and shattered into small shards all over the floor.
"First off, we need to discuss these matters. Secondly, stop drinking all the god damn wine!"
Artemis picked up another bottle of wine and walked over to Silvio. He handed Silvio the bottle and said, "We have to think this out, Father. The best way to do that is first get the edge off. That thing, better yet those things will be back and we better have a plan."
"No. You know I do not agree. But if we must can we at least drink at a bar or something.  Any place but here, drinking the communion wine.", begged Silvio.
Artemis grabbed the empty wine bottles.  He walked to the entrance way and said, "Lets say we drink some liquid courage. I know the perfect place. Then when we're ready, we go after those basterds?"
Russ popped the cork on another wine bottle and took a sip. As he lowered the bottle he said, "I'm in. I wanted to drink some beers tonight with you anyway Artemis."
Silvio grabbed the bottle of wine from Russ and looked at Artemis with an accusing stare. Silvio put the bottle to his lips, drank, and then said, "Ah...hell. I'm game for some shenanigans."


City roof top

The Chrysler Building was once New York's tallest building. It had amazing art deco lobbies and dinner rooms. Most areas are now closed of to the public for unknown reasons, like the Observatory. The Observatory is laid out with arches opening up to the outside sky and a grand ballroom used for the high society in the early days of New York. Now two vampires were using it for a late night rendezvous’.
Trista stood by the ledge and looked out over New York. The sun had not yet risen. Trista had not been to New York in 100 years. She had not seen these tall towers before. She missed the twin giants standing in the lower part of the city. That day was tragic and Trista knew of it but she still regretted never coming to see her city again.
A tall dark man approached her from the shadows. His movements were subtle. It seemed like he glided across the rooftop. She didn't turn to let him know she could sense his presence. As he got closer he could see that she was crying.
"My darling Trista. Tisk, tisk. That was your coffin in that cellar, was it not?" He put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her into his chest. Tears of blood flowed down her cheeks. She was sobbing heavily. Trista looked up at him and said, "It is good to see you Dimitri." Trista continued to cry and Dimitri just held her tighter.
"What is wrong my dear? Why have you traveled here?"
Trista looked away as tears of blood continued down her face.
"Dimitri, I needed some time to think, to think of the consequences of my actions. I have to pay for what I've done."
Dimitri pushed her away and turned his back to her. He lowered his head and spoke.
"You did no wrong. We do not have consequences. We are Gods chosen children, and we gladly accept that position. Do not deny your nature, your very being?"
Trista interrupted, "Are you saying we are free from sin? Are you willing to put that to the test, Dimitri? I know for a fact that we can die and whether you accept your fate or not, you and I will be judged."
Dimitri quickly turned back to her. His face was monstrous and his fangs were protruding from his mouth.
"They are the dogs who live outside the temple walls. They are not worthy of His praise. Our purpose is doing the things we do in service to a higher being. We can not sin. We are not bound by those laws.” Dimitri yelled.
"And for your sake Dimitri, I hope you are right."
Trista pulled a sword from her inner coat. She held it up for Dimitri to see its full beauty.
Dimitri changed his tone and lowered his voice, "Is that Saint Joan's sword?"
Trista stared at the sword and whispered, "Yes Dimitri, it is. That is why I came to this church. It was here."
"Are you going to destroy it? You know that is one of the few weapons touched by God. It can kill us with one strike from the blade."
"I know Dimitri and that is why it will be the instrument of my death."
Dimitri stepped closer to Trista reaching out to embrace her. "No Trista. You can not do this."
Trista pushed him back before he could embrace her. She said, “You know I must. This life of sin must end. What I did in Spain was my last feast. No one is above killing a Priest. I know my crime and the sins with it haunt me every day that I sleep. My debt will be repaid when I have a Priest properly execute the revenge the church is owed. Do not try and stop me Dimitri."
Dimitri started to cry. "So your intentions are to die by the hands of a Priest? You mustn't do this Trista. We are no longer lovers but my heart is still connected to you."

 Emerald Palace Bar - Chrysler Building Lower Level

The heavy iron door flew open with a gust of dry air coming from the bar. There was a familiar stench in the air that reminded you of perfume and road kill. The bar was dimly lit with candles decorating the walls. Inside, against the far wall, was the bar.
The wind from the open door blew back the bartender's long blond hair.
The bartender was young and hip. He wore a black AC/DC t-shirt and tight black jeans. It was a throwback 80's rock look.
The bartender was pouring what looked like a pitcher of wine. He handled the wine bottle with great care. It bubbled slightly while it was being poured.  When he finished, the pitcher was topped off with pink foam covering dark crimson nectar. 
There was an oldies style jukebox near the door. Some kind of death-metal fusion rock screamed from it like it was alive. It was almost as if it were playing entrance music for the awkward trio of Father Silvio, Detective Russ Shea, and the immortal Artemis Strange.
The bartender looked up as they walked in. Three stools at the bar were vacant. The three walked up to the bar and sat down in the empty stools.
Artemis beckoned for the bartender by whistling and gesturing with three fingers. Within seconds the bartender was before them, pouring three shots of Jim Beam.
Father Silvio was appalled. He stopped the bartender and said, "Please, I'd prefer it if you poured us some Jameson." Silvio said to Artemis, "I'm buying tonight. If I'm going to drink then it's going to be a wee bit of the good stuff from Mother Ireland."
Artemis responded with, "I thought you were Italian."
"I'm half Irish. One half is for drinking and the other half is for fighting. Guess which half is in control right now."
Artemis laughed at Father Silvio's answer.
"I never saw you drunk before, Father. This is definitely an improvement." said Artemis.
"I'm not trying to get drunk. I just need to take the edge off. But anyway, why is everyone here drinking wine and we're drinking whiskey?"
Artemis leaned closer to Father Silvio and whispered, "That ain’t wine they're drinking. This is the local vamp bar, Father. I knew we could get a lead on Lady Vampirella and get a few drinks at the same time. So let me do the talking and we can get on with the hunting. I'm gonna ask the Duke some questions." Artemis tossed back his shot of Jameson and wiped his mouth as he tapped the glass on the bar. "One more of these barkeep."
"Who's the Duke?" Russ said to Artemis.
Artemis ignored Russ, drank the freshly poured shot sitting before him, and got up. Before he could walk away, Russ grabbed Artemis' arm. Russ leaned close to his friend and said, "I'll never forget what you did for my brother Donnie, but you gotta stop the self-righteous sacrifice act and let us help you."
Artemis didn't turn to even look at Russ. He kept his eyes forward and gave no acknowledgement of Russ. He then walked away.
Artemis stop over at a private both with a rather large man sitting alone.
The man was built like King Kong.  He was drinking blood from a sifter with class and elegance. This was the Duke, the de facto vampire leader in the city.
He was once a Duke in old France but now lived with the said title, Duke, as a badge of honor with his current role.
He sat alone drinking his blood with the utmost distinguished table manners. His giant hands held his sifter as if it was a long stemmed rose. He had one pinky raised as he sipped his drink.
Artemis stood over him blocking the light in the room. The Duke gave Artemis a glance but frowned as if he smelled something bad and continued to sip from his glass. As he lowered the glass he put his nose to it and sniffed the essence of the warm blood. Artemis grew impatient and with one swinging hand, he knocked the glass from the Duke's hand. The glass shattered when it hit the floor. Blood splattered over the table and wall.
"So uncivilized you are Mr. Strange. I rather enjoy my drinking time. This would be the second time this year you have ruined my evening. What is it this time? Do you need to see our blood bank receipts or is there a group of missing young boys and you still think I have something to do with it? I'm not a pedophile Mr. Strange, I'm a vampire and last I heard there are no laws against that."
Artemis sat down in the booth opposite the Duke. "No sense in crying over spilt blood, Duke." Artemis said to the Duke.
The Duke exhaled and let out his bulging gut. "That wasn't funny. But I'm glad you decided to sit down.  Now we talk as equals instead of you doing your macho cowboy routine and me playing the innocent informant trying to catch a break. I grow tired of such games. We both know I have a considerable army waiting to take your head off.  But you hide behind your masters at the Vatican. Everyone is so superstitious these days thinking you are something sent from god, when we both know you are just a man.  If only I could hire more atheists. Vampires that are less believing in silly myths. Vampires are so pro-catholic these days. My dear Artemis, when the time is right and you least expect me, I will be there waiting for the look on your face as your brains are carved up for my evening appetizer. Anyway, what can I do you for my friend?"
Artemis sat silently staring into the eyes of the Duke. He didn't move. The light from the candles reflected in his eyes.  The flame reflection in his eyes was unmoving. His eyes squinted as if he was focusing on anger. The Duke started to stir in his seat. It almost looked like the fat man had an accident in his pants. Artemis did not budge but the Duke was now sweating.
"Alright Artemis. Alright. I am sorry for the threat. What else was I to say after you knocked my very special blood wine out of my hands, just as I was savoring that rusty metallic aroma? It's about a hundred dollars a glass. You owe me at least that."
Artemis reached in his coat pocket and pulled out a short cigar. He used one of the wall candles to light it and blew the burning embers of tobacco into the Dukes face. The fat man brushed away the ash as he coughed.
"Consider that my payment. Don't you know you disgust me? You sit there like a pompous Diva. We both know you have a blood trail that leads from here to Coney Island. I'm holding myself back from plunging my blade deep in your neck, Duke. But I'm trying. I'm trying to look past our differences for now. All I need is some information and then I'll be on my way."
The bartender approached the table with another sifter and a decanter full of dark red blood. He laid the large sifter down before the Duke and poured another drink. The Duke gently held up the glass to his nose and took a playful like sniff. His eyes rolled back in his head and then he took a sip. The Duke waved his hand for the bartender to leave.
"My dear, Mr. Strange. It would appear our interests today are the same. I can only assume you are looking for Dimitri."
Artemis blew some more smoke out while he held the burning cigar in between his fingers. "Who's Dimitri?"
"He is an old friend. Wait. That was too strong a word. He's an old acquaintance. He just happens to be in town and with the mixed company you're traveling with today it's obvious you're on the trail of something dangerous. Dimitri I must say is very dangerous. Are you looking to kill my friend, Mr. Strange?"
Artemis grew angry. He grabbed the pitcher of blood and drank it. Drops of thick slow running blood poured over his lips. Artemis held the pitcher higher to exhaust the last bit of nourishment. The Duke looked on in shock as Artemis finished his supernatural health drink. This was a rude jester all things considered. The Duke had no idea of the consequences of such an act. What could vampire blood do to an immortal man? No one truly knew the extent of Artemis' immortality. Would the blood make him stronger or would it act as a poison and attack the immortal fortitude Artemis possesses?
The Duke spoke slowly, "I don't know if you knew what that was. They keep my private stock of 100 year old Nobleman blood from France, which you just drank. It has the power to turn anyone into a vampire. Mere men have died drinking that much. Tell me Mr. Strange, and remember this is for posterity, how do you feel?"
Artemis fell out of his seat and lye on the bar room floor shivering. His face was bright red and his eyes leaked blood. Russ ran over to check on his fallen friend. Silvio walked up to the Duke and grabbed him by the shirt.
"By the Holiness of the Pope I rebuke you." The Duke was frozen in terror. He didn't know if the Priest had some holy supernatural power over him. He was truly frozen. His arms didn't work and all the feeling in his legs was gone.  Russ got down close to Artemis and shook him. "Get up buddy. What did you drink?" Silvio turned to the Duke and commanded, "What did he drink?" The Duke stared back at Father Silvio and slowly tried to get the words out. "It was blood. It was one hundred year old vampire blood. It's poison to mortal men. I guess we get to see how immortal Artemis is now. "
Silvio shouted back. "Why would you let him do that when you know I will kill you for it?"
"Temper, temper, Father. Look at him now.” the Duke cackled.
Artemis stood up with vigor and anger. Russ reached to help him up but Artemis did not need his help. He brushed off Russ' hand and whipped the thick vampire blood from his mouth.
The Duke spoke again, "You see, he is stronger and more alive. Now release me from your infernal spell, Priest."
Silvio laughed as he said, "I didn't put you under a spell. All I did was put the fear of God into the heart of an idiot. You can move as you wish."
The Duke mumbled some obscenities and then continued, “Anyway, I have made Artemis ready. I've wanted Dimitri dead for decades. He finally returns to New York and demands my throne. I had no idea what to do until you three walked in."
Artemis leered at the Duke and growled as he talked. "Where is he?"
The Duke trembled and managed a few words, "He and that vampire slut of his are in the observatory. I was living there for years. I turned it into my own personal penthouse. Now that wretched swine has cast me out. I want revenge Artemis, I want blood!"
Artemis took long hard breathes as he spoke, "You'll get your blood and I'll finish this night with unspoken death in my hands."

chrysler observatory

Chrysler Building Observatory

The elevator bell chimed as the doors slid open. A long hallway reached down to a dark arched entrance. Lavenderish silk paneled curtains fluttered in the entranceway. The trio exited the elevator on guard for any traps they could be walking into. Silvio asked Artemis, "I thought this was closed years ago. How did the Duke procure this establishment?"
"Just like any other vampire. They find the darkest crevice to crawl into and call it home until someone else claims it. The Duke obviously had a good thing going here until Dimitri showed up. But Dimitri kicked over some rocks and now he has two enemies in New York." Artemis peered around the area. He could tell they were in the presence of danger. Artemis said to Silvio, "It might be a good idea for you to go back to the church. Make sure someone's there if they get past me. Destroy the coffin if you have to. Russ will stay here and play backup."
Russ responded with, “Your back is got.”
With those words Russ pulled out his service revolver. He jerked it to the side releasing the cylinder. He snapped in a full load and swung the gun back to lock the cylinder in place. Russ looked at Artemis and said, "Let's go partner.” Silvio didn't hesitate and ran down the hall, back into the elevator.
Artemis pulled his long white hair back and tied it off. He knew a fight was coming and he didn't need his hair getting in his eyes. Before they continued Artemis spoke directly to Russ, "I haven't forgotten about Donnie. He was a great partner. We always had each other’s back when we were on or off duty. I really miss being on the force, but it doesn't compare to how much I miss Donnie. Why'd they do it Russ? I gave them what they wanted and then they killed me. But that wasn't enough. He had a wife. I couldn't stop them Russ. They made sure I was dead first and then they went after him. Maybe that's why I'm back. I'm back to kill all those basterds responsible for Donnie. I work for the church but my blood drips with revenge."
Artemis stepped forward and walked slowly through the archway. He stuck out his hand to signal Russ to keep back. The observatory was honeycombed with archways that lead to the outside moonlit sky. The room was not well lit but the moonlight streaked through the archways creating shadows that danced on the walls. Artemis could see a tall figure walking towards him.
Russ aimed his gun at the shadow.
"Ease up Russ. You're only going to piss him off."
Russ whispered to Artemis, "Don't worry. I got the holy water infused bullets from the church. Let me just put two holes in this punk bitch." Artemis puts his hand up to cover Russ's gun. As he does this Trista steps out and stands in front of Dimitri to block Russ's shot.
"Hello again. It does appear that we both do not want to hurt each other." said Artemis.
"You presume too much Sir Strange. Dimitri wants you all dead. He does not believe in working things out with mortals. He is going to keep the sword and kill you if you try to take it." Trista responded.
"Well then somebody is gonna die tonight. That prospect doesn't weigh on my soul. But I bet it does burden you just a little bit." Artemis said with no emotion.
"Enough Trista! Just kill them. I can cut their heads off before they blink.", Dimitri said.
"Silence Dimitri. There does not need to be bloodshed tonight." Trista yelled back at Dimitri.
Artemis looked into Trista's eyes and caught her gazing back. A tiny tear drop of blood slid down her cheek as she held back her pain. Then she opened her eyes wider and looked around the room.
"Where is your other friend? Where is the Priest?", Trista cried out.
Artemis began to get nervous. Russ takes a step back out of pure instinct. He could feel the climate change. The temperature in the observatory had risen drastically. Trista was somehow aware of foul play. Artemis stuttered a few words, "Yeah, you know Priests. Always ditching out in the last minute."
"You sent him to destroy my coffin. How could you? That is all I have. He mustn't do this. He mustn't." Trista said with much sadness.
Dimitri pushed Trista aside and rushed with great vampirical speed at Artemis. Trista ran in a blur towards the elevator. Russ tried to react but by the time he had the gun aimed Dimitri and Artemis were clashing swords. Trista was already in the elevator with the doors closing.
Artemis was showing incredible speed with his sword. He was definitely moving faster than normal.
They dueled around the observatory with sparks shooting with every sword clash. In the shadows it looked as if they were both caught in a waltz with an invisible third partner.
Russ couldn't believe what he was seeing. He had never seen Artemis fight like this with a sword. Artemis had shown him the Roman gladiator sword and Russ knew how heavy it was. To see Artemis wielding it like an orchestra conductor was amazing.
Artemis was fighting against the Sword of Joan of Arc. But who was this Dimitri? His sword play was unmatched. He was definitely trained in classical fencing and broad sword dueling.
It seemed as if Dimitri had the upper hand until the two paused. Two deep cuts were visible and running with blood on Dimitri's face. Dimitri’s eyes were glowing white. His rage was eminating from him as raw energy. Russ could feel the intense heat.
Artemis continued his quick sword play. He pushed Dimitri back with every clash and thrust.
They dueled for awhile on the edge of the building. Any other person would have fallen from the vertigo and wind gusts but these two immortals were balancing with the poise of cats and holding on with an invisible force called courage.
Dimitri flipped his sword behind him plunging it into a stone pillar. He lifted himself up onto the sword. Artemis swung his sword at Dimitri expecting to take a cheap shot while Dimitri was defenseless. Dimitri was ready and grabbed the sword with his bare hands. As Artemis pulled back more blood dripped and Dimitri did not flinch. Before Artemis’ sword was free Dimitri grabbed it harder and was able to pull it from Artemis’ grasp.
Dimitri jumped down from his sword implanted in the pillar. He held up Artemis’ sword and laughed out loud.  “You lose something my friend?”
Without missing a beat Russ shot Dimitr six times in the chest. The New York City Detective unloaded his revolver into the vampire. Dimitri fell over dropping Artemis’  sword. Artemis had his chance and dove for the sword. He landed in a roll grabbing the sword and getting back to his feet in seconds. When he looked around Dimitri was gone. He looked back at the pillar and the sword of Saint Joan was gone too.
With a deathly scream Dimitri came from the shadows and charged Artemis into a retreat. The swords clashed and Dimitri was now in command. Artemis twirled his sword in his hand and spun around in a classic swashbuckling maneuver. This all happened in a blur. The tide turned and Dimitri could be seen on the defensive in a poor retreating stance. A great white light burst from Dimitri’s eyes throwing Artemis back across the room.
Russ lost sight of Dimitri for a second.  Somehow Dimitri had gotten behind him with the sword of Joan of Arc pushing through his back and piercing his lung. 
Within moments Artemis appeared beside Russ with his sword out stretched decapitating Dimitri. Blood poured out of the stump of Dimitri’s torso. The blood flowed like a fountain as the body fell over.
Artemis was still holding the sword outstretched as blood sprayed all over his face. As Dimitri’s body hit the floor Artemis stood over him and proceeded to chop the body into pieces. Chunks of flesh flew out with every chop.
Russ did not move. He grasped the front end of the sword which was protruding from his chest and pushed it out. This had all happened in about 5 seconds. Russ raised his gun and put 5 bullets in the fallen head of Dimitri Romanov. Artemis caught Russ as he fell. Artemis could not let Russ die. This was beyond his power.
Russ said to his friend, “We need to get to the Church. Trista left as soon as you guys started fighting. I know she’s after Silvio.”
Artemis was only thinking of his friend Russ but now he had to decide how to save Silvio.
Russ looked Artemis right in the eye and said “You need to get to the church. I can hold on. Save Silvio and then take care of me.”
Artemis did as Russ asked and picked up the sword of Joan and tucked it in his jacket. He lifted his friend and carried him out of the observatory.

Saint Christopher’s, Bleecker Street

Father Silvio was alone in the wine cellar. He was pouring bottles of what looked like gasoline over the iron coffin. Silvio was wearing what looking like a suit of armor with layers of chain-mail. Just as before the shadows in the cellar began to dance. A cloud of smoke formed in front of the coffin and Silvio froze. The cloud of smoke did not take shape. Silvio ignored it and continued to pour. The coffin began to melt and buckle.
The smoke cloud spoke, “Stop it please?”
The cloud then took shape and it was Trista. Silvio continued to ignore the Vampiress while pouring the acid over the coffin.
“I beg you to stop. Please hear me out. I mean you no harm. I didn’t come here to hurt anyone.”
“Why should I believe you?” Silvio said.
“I could have killed you already. I respect your reputation Monsignor Silvio. I came here for you and the resting place of the sword of Joan.”
“Now you have my attention.” Silvio stopped pouring and listened to Trista.
“By now Dimitri is dead, but it doesn’t matter. I just hope the sword is returned. I came across the Atlantic to give my last confession to the Monsignor Diabolique.”
Silvio was shocked and his fear turned to anger. “Where did you hear that name? I haven’t been called that in many years.”
“Then it is true. You are the killer of vampires. The one Priest from this century who still abides by the old ways. You must hear my confession and then I want you to kill me. I want a proper death at the hands of the Sword of Joan. You must do this for me.”
“You must admit this is an odd request. I’ve killed vampires in combat but never have I killed one after it confesses its sins.
Trista moved closer to Silvio as almost to kiss him but just close enough to be intimate.
“You must. I must confess and I must be killed by the one who is blessed with the soul and sword to kill our kind. Will you grant me this request?”
Silvio backed away. He could not commit murder. It had been a long time since his last kill and that was in self defense. His time as Monsignor Diabolique was over, so he thought. This was an honorable request and he knew God would want it done.
“I will do it my child. Please then let us begin your confession. How long has it been since your last confession?”
When Artemis and Russ arrive Trista is chained and laying across her coffin.
“Good Artemis, the sword is here.”  Silvio said.
“Nevermind the sword Father, Russ is dying. I came here to save you from the girl but it looks like you have things well in hand. If you’ll excuse me I have to get Russ to the hospital.”
“You won’t need to do that. Just give me the sword Artemis.”
“Wait are you going to kill her? Is that what this is all about?”
“Her name is Trista, Artemis. She has given me her confession and now I will assist in her death. Hand me the sword.”
Artemis put Russ down and walked over to the coffin with the sword of Joan of Arc. He looked into Trista’s eyes and got lost once again. Artemis could not help but cry for the one whom he may have fallen in love with. They were so much alike. They both did not care for immortality as much as someone to share a lifetime with. Artemis felt a connection as if they could hear each other’s minds. Silvio grabbed the sword and raised it up high. Trista nodded her head to Artemis. He knew it was time to leave.
Artemis was running from the church with Russ over his shoulder as he heard to rattling cry of a lovely vampire breathing her last breathe. Artemis kept up his pace because Russ’ life depended on it. He could not stop to cry. He could not look back. He could not mourn the death of his one true love.

Next Morning, Saint Christopher’s Church

Artemis sat next to Silvio with his head down. He wasn’t talking and he wasn’t moving.
Silvio broke the silence when he said,” I hear Russ is in god health. I didn’t think he was going to make it. I never would have expected you to deliver the sword before taking him to the hospital.”
“I was coming to save you Father. I didn’t care about the sword.” Artemis said.
“But you made a great sacrifice. You surprised me.”
“That’s why I’m here today. I’m surrounded by all these Holy objects and there sits ME, the most fiendish person to ever live and I get immortality and I get to save souls but I never get to know what it’s like to have a soul. I died Father. Now I live and I have to cope with sacrifice and honor. I have to unburden myself. And I need your help.”
“If you’re asking for more Communion wine the answer is no.” said Silvio.
Artemis raised his head with teary eyes and said, “I need to confess Father. I need to tell someone about all the evils things I did to get me hear. I skipped that part of the training at the Vatican. I guess it took a suicidal vampire to convince an old dog to speak to God.”
“Well, it’s never too late. Shall we begin?”