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Red Shadow

Chapter One



House was looking at the wall of drawers in the morgue. They were old; 
fronted by stainless steel, with black handles and a little clip to hold the name 
tag of the deceased within. The morgue at Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching 
Hospital had storage for over forty bodies at any given time; clearly the 
builders didn’t have as much faith in medicine nearly a hundred years ago. 
The brick floor had long ago been replaced with tile and the overhead lamps 
with fluorescent lights; the drawers were refrigerated now, but their number 
was still the same: four tall, ten across of storage for the dead.


The morgue was nearly silent and in semi-darkness, with the only light spilling 
in from the door leading out hallway. House checked his watch, wondering 
how much longer it would take. Arliss, the M. E. wouldn’t be down unless 
there was a death tonight, which was unlikely. House settled his shoulders 
back against the cold tile wall and kept his gaze along the gleaming doors. It 
was nearly two twenty seven in the morning, and his leg was seriously 
complaining about the extra standing time, but House had already downed 
another little helper that would kick in soon.


He gripped the silver-headed cane loosely.


After another ten minutes, he looked up, alerted out of his musings about 
whether Cuddy was a C 36 or 38. The creak was soft, but definite, and House 
let his gaze move along the wall of drawers in a quick, sharp scan.


Down along the third row, three from the end, a morgue drawer door slowly 
swung open.


House felt the hair on the back of his neck rise; felt his balls tighten. He forced himself to stay perfectly still and overcome the primitive responses. For a long moment, nothing happened. The door stayed open, revealing the black square 
it had been covering, and House had to squint to see it properly. He slipped 
his hand into his pocket.


Long pulse beats went by, and House smelt the traces of formaldehyde, 
chlorine now tainted with a hint of dead roses. He watched as quietly, the tray 
rolled out of the drawer in a slow glide of oiled metal. It clacked when it 
reached the end of its extension, and the body lying on it didn’t move.


House didn’t move either, feeling his arms suddenly chill with goose bumps, 
his jaw tighten in a reaction he couldn’t control. Shadows loomed and 
stretched. Finally, the feet flexed. The toe tag rattled softly; with a sudden 
lurch the body sat up. House pressed back against the wall, biting his lower lip 
hard enough to taste a hint of blood.


The body turned her head stiffly, looking around the morgue. Her glance 
passed over the room for a moment, then she snapped her gaze to the right 
so quickly that her hair swung loosely.


House kept his gaze on her paper gowned chest; he knew better than to look 
into her lurid red stare, so like the banked glow of a pyre. He cocked his head 
and waited, forcing his shoulders to relax; his damp palm gripped the cane 
more tightly and the other hand flexed in his pocket.


With the slow sinuous movements of a pale viper, the body slipped sideways 
and got to her bare feet; House noticed the pink polish on her toenails as she 
glided over to him. All his nerves were on high alert, and the smell of dead 
roses mingled with the sharp stench of fruit long rotted and gray with mold. 
House forced himself to look at her chin, her neck of marble white. The urge to
raise his gaze higher grew stronger with every step closer she came.


House closed his eyes. He pulled his hand out of his pocket, and the soft hiss 
of falling rice echoed off the tile walls of the morgue, the grains scattering everywhere in a cascade.


The body froze, her attention shifting instantly to the spilled mess. Rice rattled, 
small polished bits rolling out of the darkness into the light coming in from the hallway beyond the morgue. House held his breath, and for eternity the cold 
room stood in stillness.


He wanted to breathe. He wanted to look more closely at her and knew if she 
caught his gaze he’d be lost in those gutted flames of her eyes.


The body moved, bending down to the rice. There was no sigh since there was 
no breath, but the slump of her shoulders in the paper gown made it clear that 
this time, folklore was right. House waited until she turned a pale palm up and 
began to drop grains into it one by one before he shifted his weight and 
brushed by her.


Cold.


He moved carefully, not wanting to slip on the mess that was saving his life. At 
the door he stepped through and looked down the hallway. Chances were 
better than ninety percent that she already had Arliss under her influence, and 
that he’d either see nothing when he came back to the morgue, or that he’d 
be her sustenance for the night if House couldn’t keep him out.


*** *** ***



One day earlier


House had come to a decision. He had a room full of brains; good ones, and 
not likely to dismiss his whim if he bullied them. Carefully he leaned on the whiteboard and wrote a list of symptoms down, his letters thick and strong on 
the gleaming white surface.


Extreme sensitivity to sunlight
Altered nutritional needs
Halitosis (severe)
Anemic complexion
Possible dental anomalies
Hemophagia



“Diagnosis?” House demanded with a smirk he didn’t feel. Cameron was 
taking the list seriously; Foreman was leaning back, rolling his eyes and 
Chase was trying not to grin.


“Come on House—watch too many Hammer horror films over the weekend?” Foreman muttered. Cameron looked slightly confused.


“What?”


“He’s pulling our leg. Look at the symptoms—“ Chase murmured softly. “--The 
only other two to add to that list would be negative respiration and negative 
pulse, right?”


Cameron got it, and shot House an incredulous look that he ignored as he 
sipped his coffee. Foreman finally gave a noisy sigh. “You really expect us to 
do a differential diagnosis on vampirism?”


“Why not? Got bigger plans today?” House shot back. “Call it a good exercise 
is hypothetical thinking, an extended look at a malady with a historic 
precedent of sorts.”


“Taking into account that it’s completely fictional—“ Foreman snorted, crossing 
his arms. Chase cocked his head thoughtfully.


“I dunno--there had to be a basis for it somewhere though—too many legends 
in too many countries; too many similarities for sheer coincidence.”


“Isn’t the consensus that most cases were probably attributable to porphyria?” Cameron murmured, chin in hand, “erythropoietic porphyria more precisely?”


“Yes,” House murmured, looking back at the whiteboard. “And that works as 
long as the patient is alive. It’s when the symptoms continue after alleged 
death that bothers me. Pumping a patient full of Hematin and haem arginate 
once they’ve stopped breathing seems like such a waste of perfectly good 
drugs.”


“Once they’ve stopped breathing, they stop being our patients,” Foreman 
snapped.


“They just become our pain in the necks—“ Chase punned, earning himself a muffled giggle from Cameron and a roll of the eyes from House.


“Chase, Chase, Chase—something tells me you’re not taking this seriously. 
Since you’re willing to speak up, why don’t you share with all of us what the traditional treatment would be for our post-terminal patient.”


“A one meter stake, preferably seasoned ash or rosewood, hammered through 
the thoracic cavity with enough force to penetrate the four chambers of the 
heart. If the patient doesn’t spontaneously turn to dust, then filling the mouth 
with garlic is reccommended.” At the incredulous looks from Cameron and 
Foreman, Chase shrugged a little. “What can I say? My mother was a 
Christopher Lee fan.”


“Let’s hope she never went from stalker to staker—any further suggestions?” 
House looked around at the other two. Foreman managed a cynical smile.


“I thought you were supposed to cut their heads off. Vampire or not, that would DEFINITELY inhibit any ambulation from that point on,” he drawled.


“Right—so you’d just get the patient to lie down on the exam table, whip out a Bahco number eight and just start sawing away,” Cameron smirked. “I doubt 
you’d get the consent form signed for a procedure like that.”


“Next of kin,” Chase pointed out knowingly. Or permission from the wronged 
party. Even a verbal permission qualifies.”


“The wronged party . . . “ House mused. “So the standard staking or 
beheading are effective treatments.” Inwardly he was amused to see all three 
of them taking the hypothetical situation with more interest.


Cameron frowned prettily. “And sunlight. I suppose if you can’t get the vampire 
to step out into daylight you could always turn one of those Maglites on them.”


“I thought it had to be natural sunlight—“ Chase objected. “Othewise you 
could just flood a cemetery with Klieg lights and be done with it, right?”


“It’s not like we can put it to the test,” Foreman interrupted with barely 
suppressed annoyance. “Since nobody’s been diagnosed with vampirism 
lately.”


“Not officially. But consider: the disease basically transforms the patient into a parasite, the search for a host or food source would become primary, right? 
All organisms adapt and strive to live—in this case the infection acts as a 
parasite within the host—our patient—who then becomes one GIANT parasite 
with the capacity to reproduce and pass on the original infectious agent,” 
House rattled off.


“Back up to the ‘not officially’ part,” Foreman grumbled, impressed with the explanation, but still not willing to give in completely. “Has a patient actually presented all of these symptoms you’ve listed?”


House held the pause for a moment, not meeting anyone’s eyes. He set his 
marker down on the tray and reluctantly sighed. “No. No patient has presented these symptoms here at the hospital.”


Yet, he added mentally.


*** *** ***



His conversation with Wilson hadn’t gone well.


“Want to stay up all night with me here at the hospital and hunt for vampires?”


“Wow,” Wilson dimpled lightly. “Incredibly tempting as that is, I was planning 
on going home and planting a stake somewhere else tonight.”


“I thought you and Julie were on the outs.” House accused, studying the other man’s face.


“We . . . still have good sex,” Wilson admitted with wry amusement. “Oddly, 
the knowledge that we’re separating tends to make things more interesting.”


“You’re rehearsing infidelity and getting off on the guilty pleasure. That’s so 
very—“ House trailed off, making a moue.


“—Jewish?”


“—Typical. For you, anyway. Fine. If you can’t make it, maybe I can get 
Cuddy to be my girly sidekick. She doesn’t scream as well as you do, but I 
like her necklines better.”


“I’ll make it a point to sob myself to sleep tonight. I hope you’re not planning 
on hauling around any stakes—Security will take them away from you, you 
know,” Wilson replied serenely as he picked up a chart from the desk and 
stepped into exam room three in the clinic.


House shot his back a withering look, and lumbered his way out again. He 
hadn’t expected Wilson to take him seriously, but the company would have 
been nice.


For a moment he debated NOT going to Cuddy; despite his suspicions, the 
lack of hard evidence bothered him. As a doctor and a scientist, it annoyed 
him to harbor a hypothesis with no factual data beyond sick leave and lost 
supply records. A pattern hinted at but not solid. The only bright spot was that 
there was enough of one there to intrigue the Dean of Medicine if he laid it out 
right. And if all else failed he could argue with her until midnight and she’d be 
forced to come along.


House made his way to Cuddy’s office and quietly opened the door, looking in. 
Very slowly a smirk crossed his face.


“Those have to be pectoral implants . . . “ She muttered, flipping to the next 
page of the beefcake calendar, oblivious to House slipping inside the door. 
“ . . . Definitely.”


“Doctor Cuddy, I’m SHOCKED!” House shot out, delighted to see Cuddy flush 
brick red and fumble with the calendar in her hands. She looked up at him and scowled, dropping the glossy set of pages on her desk, but House loomed 
over it and sneered. “You sick little monkey.”


“Oh give me a break,” Cuddy muttered weakly. “My last clinic patient gave it 
to me as a thank-you for clearing up his sinuses.”


“Likely story—so who was he? Mr. July?”


“Mr. March, actually—“ Cuddy shot back, toying with her pearls, “Ironic he’d 
be featured in the month with the most hay fever cases. So, any reason for 
this drop-in harassment?”


“Yes. Once you wipe the drool off your chin I need you to issue me a UP key 
for the evening,” House replied, still sneering at the calendar. He absently 
reached over and began flipping through the months, his expression souring. 
Cuddy shot him a withering stare.


“A universal pass key. And just why, pray tell, would I even CONSIDER giving 
you access through every door in this hospital, House?”


“Because we have a dangerous parasite located somewhere in this hospital,” 
he grimly replied, looking up at her so sharply she hesitated. When he didn’t 
smirk, she met him stare for stare.


“Tell me what you’re talking about,” came her quiet order. House paused, and 
then came around her desk, unceremoniously pulling her keyboard towards 
himself and typing quickly. Slightly affronted, Cuddy watched him pull up a few different screens. When House glanced at her, she rolled her eyes and gave 
up her seat for him; he dropped himself into and finally did smirk.


“Still warm--“


“Get on with it,” Cuddy snapped, leaning on the desk. House did. Moving one 
long hand along the screen, he spoke in a low tone.


“We’re going back about a month, maybe five weeks—the ER has a sudden 
run on the blood supply, but in the course of that, three units of O positive go missing. Your head nurse down there is good enough about keeping records 
to note it, but can’t account for where they’ve gone.”


“Missing blood?” Cuddy asked. House nodded, his attention on the screen.


“Two days later, it happens again. Three units missing from the refrigerated 
supply for the ambulance restocking room, no accountability for it—no 
biohazard spill reports, no tainted disposal reports, no doctor authorization for it—just gone. It’s pretty nice that almost all the records for the hospital are computerized, because it makes cross-referencing a lot easier.”


Cuddy gave a little headshake of disbelief. “So we’ve got missing blood. 
Maybe someone’s stealing it and selling it. We’ve had problems with the 
pharmacy before.”


“Possible, but unlikely—the blood banks around here know our juice. I called 
and checked—nobody’s been offering up any PPTH labeled blood, but there is 
a note in the janitor’s log for a few days later that an empty packet was found 
in the women’s bathroom down in Radiology.”


“Just one?” came her question as she stared intently at the screen. House 
turned his head and looked at her, his eyes narrowing. For a long silent 
moment he glared hard; slowly his expression shifted from professional 
concern to controlled anger. Cuddy closed her eyes a moment, then turned to 
face him, meeting his flinty gaze head on.


“You KNOW something,” he accused in a low compelling tone. Cuddy 
swallowed, not saying anything for a moment. Then she dropped her gaze and 
gave the tiniest of nods.


 

Red Shadow 2

                                  


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