Arabian Knight

Chapter 2

Nick never thought that he'd be able to solve the puzzle so easily, but as he began repositioning the pieces, he saw a distinctive pattern beginning to emerge. There was a picture of a jade dragon whose head was on one side of the cube while the body wrapped itself around the other sides. Its feet were on the bottom and wings stretched out along the top. The puzzle practically solved itself and as the last twist completed the pattern, Nick felt the cube shift in his hands. It began a series of clicks as the tiled six sides began to collapse open like a cardboard box being flattened out. In the center of the flattened cube was a crystal sphere, measuring three inches in diameter. Inside the sphere was a swirling of blue smoke which slowly twisted and curled to form the words, 'Make a wish.'

"Man oh man oh man!" Schanke exclaimed loudly. He glanced around the squad room to see if his outburst had drawn the attention of others. The place was bustling with activity, and even if his fellow co-workers had not been otherwise occupied, they apparently had learned to ignore the sound of his loud mouth. Also, if anyone had looked, the computer monitors and stacks of paperwork on Nick and Schanke's facing desks basically obscured the view of the sphere from those nearby.

"Man, oh man, it's for real!" Schanke stated excitedly, keeping his voice low.

Nick glanced up at him momentarily, then brought his eyes back down to stare at the sphere, unsure of what to think or what to do. No, he had not seen this before, but this was undeniably the one he had been told about so many centuries ago.

Baghdad - 1258

Her name was Shalimar and she had told him one fascinating story after another. Between the soft cadence of her voice when she spoke and the rich descriptions of her carefully crafted tales, she had kept the vampire completely entranced. He kept his word and spared her life that first night. There were several other women that had been picked to fulfill his needs and Nicholas saw no harm in changing the order. Shalimar had agreed to return the following night to engage him with even more delightful tales. Nicholas warned her against breaking her word. If he were forced to hunt her down, he made it very clear that he would not be kind upon finding her.

At the appointed time, the following night, she arrived just as she had before with her veil hiding her face. Again she kept her distance from him, sticking close by the door and refusing to sit. There was no way she could have known that he could reach her from anywhere in the room in less than an eye blink, but if she imagined herself safe by keeping several feet of space between them, he would allow it. Nicholas lay back against the cushions of the bed and peacefully listened as she began a new story.

"I shall now tell you about the magic box which gives its owner three wishes."

"Did you not recite that one last night?" Nicholas asked, sitting up with a frown. "Have you run out of fresh anecdotes so soon?"

"No, not at all. Last night was about Aladdin and his magic lamp. This story is quite different. Shall I continue?"

Nicholas gave a slight nod and waited a few moments after her narration began before settling back down into the cushions, satisfied that this story was in fact not the same as before.

"There exists a magical box, small enough to fit in your opened palm, made of finest jade and thin layers of white marble. The box is actually a puzzle. Different sections can be turned one way but not the other. The sides have small panels that pull outward and push inward at specific points. To solve the puzzle, you must maneuver the sections until a picture of a dragon appears, its entire body spanning across all six sides of the box. And once the dragon is completely uncovered, the box will open to reveal a crystal sphere. Inside the crystal, blue smokes swirls all about until forming the words, 'Make a Wish'. If your wish is to be granted - and not all are -- the blue smokes swirls again until it forms the words, 'As you wish.' At that point, the puzzle box closes and the dragon goes into hiding until the puzzle is solved once again."

"Why would the magic box grant some wishes and not others?" asked Nicholas.

"Because not all wishes can be granted."

"But if the magic is truly powerful--"

"Yes, the magic is indeed powerful, but even magic knows its limits. If a man wished to rule the entire world, the magic would have to face far too many forces in order to make such a thing possible. It would have to change the hearts and minds of all the people of the earth to make them want to follow only one leader and one line of thought. I believe you have seen much of the world. Do you think such a thing is possible?"

In the last thirty years alone, Nicholas had seen more than his share of would-be kings hell-bent on ruling the world. He shook his head in response to her question. "No, I don't believe that such a thing *is* possible. And if one were to wish for an end to all wars, the same problem would exist, would it not?"

"Yes. One could, however, wish to become a powerful leader. That is within the realm of the magic box; as well as great wealth, long life and many other wonderful things. If your wish is within reason, then it will be granted."


Nick blinked his eyes when a balled up piece of paper bounced off his forehead. He had done it again; lost himself in visions of his past and garnered another barrage of 'Knight in Wonderland' comments from his exasperated partner.

"You know what I wish?" Schanke huffed. "I wish you'd stop zoning out on me like that when I'm trying to have an intelligent conversation with you. Oh no!" Schanke gasped in alarm. "You don't think that counted, do you? I didn't just screw up your chance to make a wish, did I?"

Nick looked down at the globe and saw that the invitation to make a wish was still visible. He shrugged with nonchalance and said, "Guess not."

"Good. That's good. But that's what I was just saying; you have to be careful what you wish for. You have to think of something really special and you have to be very specific. So what are you gonna wish for? No! Wait. Don't tell me or else it may not come true."

Nick chuckled lightly. "Schanke, this isn't a birthday cake. I'm not blowing out candles."

"Yeah, but still, everybody knows it's bad luck to make a wish, then blab about it before it has a chance to come true."

"Of course."

"So, you gonna make one or what?"

Nick gave it some thought. Of course there was only one wish he would love to see come true; the one thing he had been dreaming of for centuries. To be mortal again was his heart's desire. He wondered if he needed to say the words aloud, then immediately felt silly for even entertaining the idea that such a goal could ever be achieved by simply wishing it so.

"Knight! Schanke!" Captain Cohen called out to them from her office door.

All thoughts of magic wishes and mortality were quickly cast aside as duty called and the two detectives rushed to their captain's office. They all remained standing as Captain Cohen informed them of a call she'd just received. Nathan Tyler, a murder suspect they had been seeking for several days, had just been reported as hiding out at an old girlfriend's apartment. The detectives were encouraged to move quickly in order to apprehend the man. Nick was nearly out of the squad room when he noticed that his partner was not right behind. Schanke had stopped off at his desk to grab his jacket from the back of his chair, but became transfixed by something on Nick's desk.

Nick approached and grabbed his arm. "Schank, let's go."

Schanke's expression was hard to read as he said softly, "Hey, whatever it was, I hope it was something great and I hope it all works out for you."

Nick didn't understand what his partner meant until he glanced at his own desk and saw that the magic box was no longer open. It had closed itself up and the puzzle was ready to be solved again.

On the drive over to the address given them by an anonymous informant, Schanke couldn't stop thinking about the magical puzzle. "I wonder how long it'll take," he mused aloud.

"It's not that far," answered Nick, as he maneuvered the Caddy swiftly through the light, late night traffic. "We should be there in about ten minutes."

"No, I meant, how long would it take for your wish to come true?"

"Schanke, don't."

"You didn't see it, Nick! Just before it closed up and scrambled itself all up again, I saw the words."

"What words?"

"'As you wish.' That means you made a wish, right? And now it's going to be granted. You didn't wish for something dumb, did you?"

"Schanke, can we not talk about that? Our minds should be on the case."

"What's to think about? We get there, you do your famous go around the back routine, catch the guy single-handedly as he makes a break for it, then leave me with all the paperwork."

"Would you rather go around the back?" Nick asked, sensing the frustration in his partner's voice.

"No. No, why screw around with a perfect system? You didn't by chance wish for a new partner, did you?"

Nick shook his head and grinned. "You're still here, aren't you?"

Schanke shrugged and nodded. "Yeah, guess I am. But you have to admit, there was a time when you would've wished for a different partner. Am I right?"

"Yeah, in the beginning, you did sort of rub me the wrong way."

"But then you finally came to respect and admire my vast experience, my award-winning performance under pressure and -- let's not forget -- my irresistible personality.

"You forgot to mention your unpretentious modesty," Nick teased.

"Hey... goes without saying."

Once they reached the suspect's hideout, the two detectives separated. Schanke chose to approach from the front of the building while his partner chose the rear. As soon as Nick had made it to the semi-darkened alley, he elevated himself into the air to reach the fourth floor windows. As he neared the third floor, he felt a sudden heaviness to his body. Something was weighing him down, pulling him back towards the ground. He tried to force himself to stay in the air but gravity quickly overtook him and he fell ungracefully to the concrete below.

Nick landed on his feet but crumbled to the ground when his knees couldn't handle the sudden force of his weight. There was no time to try to figure out what had happened as he became distracted by the sound of a window on the fourth floor being flung open. He looked up to see a man climbing out of the window and onto the fire escape. There was just enough light from the street corner for a positive ID.

Nick scrambled to his feet, wincing as he put weight on his left foot and felt a twinge of pain shoot through his ankle. Something definitely wasn't right, but he pushed that nagging thought aside as he pressed his back against the wall, hiding himself amongst the shadows. Pulling out his weapon, he readied it for use as he waited for the suspect to come right to him. It only took a few seconds more for Nathan Tyler to maneuver his way down the fire escape. Once reaching the ground, he paused for a second to decide which way to run. That was when Nick made his presence known. "Police! Don't move!" he warned with his gun trained on the man's back.

As Tyler's hands went up in surrender, Nick approached him cautiously. He was surprised to find himself limping as he closed in on the suspected killer, but he couldn't afford to worry about his own discomfort just yet. He had a job to fulfill.

"Nick?" Schanke called out from the window above.

"I've got him, Schank," Nick replied confidently. "Come on down."

Since Nick had never needed assistance before in subduing a prisoner, he didn't bother to wait for Schanke to join him and provide backup. It didn't phase him that Tyler towered over him by five inches and outweighed him by about sixty pounds. He'd handled bigger and tougher men before. Nick holstered his gun to free his hands, then pulled out his handcuffs. He snapped one end of the cuffs around Tyler's left wrist then twisted the man's arm behind his back. As he prepared to grab the suspect's right hand, Tyler suddenly raised his right elbow and jabbed backwards with deadly force. He clipped Nick on the chin with enough potency to rattle his teeth and knock him to his knees. As Nick attempted to fight off the dizzying effects of the punch, Tyler spun around to face him. He made a jerking movement with his right hand, and the blade of a knife suddenly appeared from beneath his sleeve.

Normally, Nick's quick reflexes would have enabled him not only to avoid the six inch blade but to confiscate it as well. Unfortunately, things were not quite normal for him anymore. He hissed in pain as the blade sliced across the forearm that he held up in a weak attempt to defend himself. The only thing that saved him from further attack was the warning voice of his partner demanding that Tyler halt. Nick watched helplessly as the giant of a man suddenly turned and fled down the alley. Schanke came into view a few seconds later intending to chase after the suspect. However, he instantly changed directions when he caught sight of his partner struggling to stand up and having little success at it.

"Hey, hey, I got you, partner," said Schanke as he rushed to Nick's aid and provided the assistance he needed to get to his feet.

"I'm okay, Schank," Nick insisted but none too convincingly. "Don't worry about me. Tyler's getting away."

"Too late," said Schanke with a quick glance at the deserted streets. "No telling which way he's headed now. We'll just have to put out an APB on him. So what about you? What kind of damage are we talking?"

"Just got the wind knocked out of me is all," Nick lied.

Schanke supported his partner's weight by slipping an arm about his waist and draping Nick's right arm around his shoulders. He heard Nick grunt in pain and noticed a definite limp as he walked him out of the alley towards the parked Caddy. "What'd he do, kick you in the shin or something?" Schanke asked.

"Twisted ankle. I tripped and fell before he came out," Nick shamefully admitted.

"You tripped? You? Mr. Graceful? Mr. One silver suit away from being RoboCop?

"Off night," Nick offered as way of an explanation. He hobbled along, trying to keep his weight off his injured ankle. It still hadn't completely sunk in exactly what was happening to him. He was still feeling a bit dazed by the blow he'd received and the relentless throbbing of his knife wound made it difficult to concentrate on anything else. He could feel the blood dripping down his wrist and did what he could to conceal the injury from his partner. He just needed to get to Natalie. She'd be able to figure out what was going on and fix him right up. It wasn't until Schanke had him out under the street light that he noticed the ripped jacket sleeve and the bloody trail Nick had left behind.

"Jeez, Nick!" he exclaimed as he leaned him against the Caddy. "Why the hell didn't you say something?" If Nick wasn't so sweaty and breathless, Schanke would have taken the daze look of his partner to be no more than one of his mental wandering episodes. "Stay with me, Nick! Stay with me," Schanke implored as he removed his necktie to use as a tourniquet for Nick's arm.

"I'm okay, Schanke," Nick uttered. "It's just a scratch."

"Scratch my ass. Nick, you're bleeding here like someone forgot to turn off the faucet. Hold on." Schanke gently grabbed Nick's arm and began to apply the tourniquet to control the bleeding. "Let me just get this wrapped around you, then I'll call for an ambulance."

"I don't need an ambulance," Nick insisted even as the pain in his arm increased as his friend applied the tourniquet. "Just take me to see Natalie."

"Nick, I'll admit that Natalie's a great doctor for dead people, but you need someone who specializes in the living, okay? Trust me."

"Schank, I don't--" Nick attempted to prevent his partner from calling it in but a overpowering wave of dizziness hampered his ability to object and he began a sudden downward slide. Schanke helped to ease him into a sitting position on the sidewalk with his back against the side of the car.

"I got you, partner. You're gonna be okay. I'm calling for an ambulance. You just hang on."

There was no use in arguing further even if he still possessed the ability to do so. Nick sat and concentrated on not passing out as he listened to the frantic words of his fellow detective announcing that an officer was down and that an ambulance was needed. Soon after that, Nick lost his battle for consciousness. Strong hands caught him as he fell sideways towards the ground and gentle arms held him securely until help could arrive.


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