“I guess no one has it all.”
Wednesday night, 2 September 2015, PM
GM: The shooting at the Eight District police station is all over the news. Former homicide detective Richard Gettis gunned down two teenage heiresses in completely cold blood, all for no apparent reason at all. Caroline Malveaux, news outlets crow, heroically saved the girls’ lives even as Gettis singlehandedly fought his way out of the police station, leaving an attorney named Mitchell Lowenstein dead in the process. A city-wide manhunt now seeks to bring in the murderous ex-cop in, but they haven’t caught him yet.
Celia’s heard all about it. Everyone’s heard all about it.
It’s not too long after she does that Jade finds herself summoned to the Evergreen’s rooftop garden by Antoine Savoy. Preston is there like always. After complimenting the younger Toreador’s always gorgeous appearance and making pleasant chatter for a few minutes, Savoy continues,
“I presume you’ve heard of the recent shooting at the Eighth, my dear. I’ve been in touch with an individual who wants to contract Dr. Dicentra’s services. They want Yvonne Devillers’ scar removed. I’m to understand laser surgery has come a ways, but it still leaves a faint trace, and they want the scar completely gone.”
Celia: She has heard the whispers at Elysium, even, about the shooting. “One of the spares,” the harpies had tittered, “who needs a family with that many daughters.”
Jade had no reason to be bothered by the news. It was Celia who knew the Devillers on a personal level. Celia who remembered the friend from high school with the longer name, the girls several years her junior but so alike in appearance that they could be triplets rather than twins.
For all their technological advances, the use of laser treatments still leaves remnants of scars and blemishes behind. Not like Jade’s work, which always leaves the skin free and clear. Her eyes settle upon her grandsire, considering the request.
“I’m certain I’ll give them no cause to complain, grandsire. The Devillers girl is a breather; does your contact wish for it to be done over a series of ‘treatments,’ or just the once?” The Masquerade, she means. “Lasers take multiple treatments and months to see results.”
GM: Who needs so many indeed? You can afford to lose a few kids when you have six.
Rather like Celia’s own mother and father. Plenty of spares.
Savoy inclines his head.
“They mentioned that very fact. The girl actually is going to receive laser treatment surgery. My contact simply wishes you to come in at the end and ensure it’s a flawless job.”
Celia: Not something she needs to worry about then. She asks after the details: the timeline, the location, and, eventually, the fee.
“I assume your contact is familiar with my pricing.” The barest lilt in her voice at the end of the sentence turns it into a question. She has done work for kine before—plenty of them come to her spa—but they wouldn’t be asking for a night doctor if they were ignorant of the way their society works. Somehow she had always imagined that the people in the upper echelons of society—the Devillers of the world—were above being managed by Kindred.
How silly. She knows the truth of the world.
GM: “They’re amenable to you performing the alterations at Tulane Medical Center after Yvonne’s final treatment there, and compensating you for the inconvenience of getting in. They’re also amenable to Yvonne coming in to your spa and having the scar removed there. They don’t care what explanation you give the girl for how you do it, so long as the Masquerade is maintained and her suspicion isn’t aroused.”
“My contact wishes to remain anonymous, which makes the collection of any boon rather more difficult.” Savoy smiles ruefully. “They would thus prefer you to ask for a specific service up front. They’re willing to trade the equivalent of two boons rather than one in compensation for the loss of, shall we say, flexibility.”
Celia: Getting in has never been a problem. Pietro had seen to that; it’s the first thing he taught her how to do. It’s also just over the border, and a new face, a pair of scrubs, and the ability to mask her predatory nature has made the Second Tradition all that much more easy to violate.
“I’ve been lying about scar removal for years,” she says with a smile. Cross fiber friction. Beta keratin. Injections. Fillers. Collagen. That last one has been a big one; who knew that it was such a miracle substance, and from the body itself.
The smile threatens to fade at his next words, but she keeps it in place.
“Hard to pre-collect on a favor when I don’t know what sort of person they are, grandsire, or what they’d be able to do for me.”
GM: “Splendid,” her grandsire smiles back at her first reply.
“Doubtlessly,” he nods at her second one. “I can say that my contact is powerful, and most any favor you could ask of an elder, you can ask of them.”
Celia: Powerful, anonymous figures.
Her favorite kind.
An elder, though. What would she ask of an elder? Why, it would depend on the elder of course. She much prefers to tailor the boon to the patron; there’s a certain detachment it will need to take on with this hurdle in place. Something tangible, perhaps, if the elder in question doesn’t wish to associate with a neonate like her. Her mind rips through the possibilities, idly wondering if the Devillers are claimed by Vidal himself (Garden District, she remembers from high school), and if that is the reason he wishes to remain anonymous.
Because he and her grandsire are such good friends, of course.
She avoids the snrk of amusement only because her body is not given to such human displays.
“I see,” she says at length.
GM: “You can take your time to consider what,” Savoy smiles. “The girl’s surgery is months away, after all.”
Celia: “I wasn’t expecting a mysterious benefactor,” Celia admits with a rueful smile.
GM: “They would seem less benefactor than trading partner,” Preston observes from her tablet.
“Ah, but that lacks the same dramatic air, doesn’t it, Nat?” smiles chuckles.
“Perhaps, sir,” the Malkavian agrees mildly.
Celia: “I’m a closet romantic, Madam Preston; unlife is much more thrilling this way. Rose tinted. Et cetera.” A wink lets her in on the joke.
What would she ask even of her grandsire if the boon were with him? The truth of her sire, perhaps. They’d had many talks over the years about his enigmatic childe, but none that had ever sated Celia’s curiosity about the monster who crawled out from under her bed.
But that’s so personal. And likely the only two people who can tell her what she seeks are the sheriff himself and the grandsire sitting across from her.
“Your contact,” she says after a moment, “is familiar enough with our city to obtain or offer information on certain covenants or members?” She assumes it’s a lick. Who else would know about the night docs?
It’s not as if she can have the contact teach her a skill.
Maybe it’s worth a shot. Someone had once said something about shooting and goals.
GM: Preston doesn’t smile.
But Jade’s never seen her do so.
Her grandsire, at least, chuckles again before answering, “They are. Who or which did you have in mind, my dear?”
Celia: Jade heard a funny joke about Preston and a night doc. She keeps it to herself.
“My sire.” Her lack of heartbeat keeps the color from her cheeks at the words; it feels very much like telling her new boyfriend that she’s still hung up on her ex. She stops herself before she can offer further explanation.
GM: Savoy only nods in understanding.
“What should I ask them?”
Celia: Everything you’ve refused to tell me over the years.
Why he chose me.
What the fuck the thing was in his head when he murdered me.
“Where to even begin. He’s a mystery no one ever discusses.” Celia keeps the accusation from creeping into her tone. “I don’t suppose you’d want to paint a broad picture for me so that your contact can color it in while we’re wheeling and dealing favors, grandsire?”
GM: “Oh, you can dispense with that, my dear. There’s no need for favors between us,” Savoy smiles indulgently. “Whatever my grandchilde wishes of me, she can ask. I know she’s equally ready to help me when I have need of her.”
Celia: She hasn’t turned him down yet. Nor can she imagine that she would; she owes much of what she is to his generosity those first nights.
“I only want to know what I come from. What sort of Kindred took me for his childe. Who he was, maybe, that caught your eye to bring him into this world.” A selfish question, she can’t help but admit; she wants to be what catches her grandsire’s eye now.
She spares a quick glance toward his steward. Perhaps this is a family matter.
GM: Preston does not look up from her tablet.
The French Quarter lord chuckles. “You don’t pick your questions small, do you, my dear? That’s a long story. And an important one, at that. Long and important enough it’s better told another time, under more befitting circumstances.”
“For tonight, what do you say we resolve or table the question of what my contact can do for you?”
Celia: It seems petty to wring a promise for a future tale out of him. Celia just dips her head in deferment.
“As you say, grandsire, another time and place. I’ll need some time to think on the contact’s offer. I wouldn’t want to drag others into our business unnecessarily.”
GM: “When you’re afforded time, take your time,” the elder Toreador smiles.
Tuesday evening, 3 November 2015
GM: Several months later, Natalie lets Celia know that Yvonne Devillers is scheduled for an appointment with her.
“I’m really glad you’ll be able to help her,” smiles her however-many-times-distant cousin. “I had classes with her sister Adeline at McGehee.”
“It’s so sad what happened to them…”
Celia: “Have her schedule it with Celia,” Jade had told her grandsire about the appointment with the girl, “it’s not as if Dicentra is on the list of employees.”
Risky, isn’t it, to bring her here where it’s tied so closely to the rest of her business, but one of the rabble had been picked up and dealt with just recently for thinking he could run amok through the city with no heed for boundaries, and Celia hadn’t been interested in pushing her luck with the city as on edge as it is. All that nonsense at the trials, the executions… she’ll stick to her side of the tracks, thank you very much.
Besides, it’s sort of like hiding in plain sight. Of course Celia isn’t Dicentra, and why would Jade use her own place of business for modifications like this? Double bluff and all that.
Now, dressed in the typical loose pants and shirt that proclaims the name of her business, Celia just offers Natalie a sad smile as she stands across the desk in the lobby.
“Devastating,” she agrees. “I can’t even imagine what she’s going through right now, what the whole family went through. I’m just glad I’m able to help in some small way; I was in the same class as the eldest myself.”
GM: There was a reason Savoy offered Tulane Medical Center as an option. But that carried its own inconveniences.
Natalie nods. Like many ballet dancers, she’s thin and willowy: “they make us with cookie cutters,” Diana had once joked, half-seriously. The receptionist’s face, though, has a round shape and lingering baby fat that makes many people assume she’s in her teens rather than 20s. According to Piper, it’s also made her cry in the bathroom more than once over how she wishes her face is thinner, because her instructors call her fat. Diana had just nodded grimly at that over the dinner table and said, “They do not spare your feelin’s in ballet, at all. I’d be concerned if she has any eating disorders too, sweetie. Those are also very, very common.”
The girl smiles a lot, though. She reminds Celia of her mom, in ways bad and good.
“I heard,” Natalie says. Cécilia comes in for her share of treatments, though Celia usually isn’t the one to see her. Day hours work better for her.
“She must feel glad her sister can come someplace familiar to get this all… just finished.”
Celia: Of course Natalie has an eating disorder. Don’t all college girls? Still, Celia had shown her a few times how to contour her face with makeup—“not that low, it drags your face down”—and suggested a haircut that would help hide the worst of it, but short of Natalie going under the “knife” there is little Celia can do for her.
Still, she’s been tempted, even if she knows that people with plumper faces tend to wear their age better than those without, which she has also told Natalie plenty of times.
“Lasers got the worst of it,” Celia assures her. “She’ll be good as new once we’re done here.”
Unless she means everything else with the manhunt and shooting.
“No trial, at least. Those can be messy.”
GM: She’d nodded and said, “You’re right, I should be happy about that.”
Piper doesn’t think it makes her much happier, though, when she doesn’t have much age to wear.
“Oh. Yeah. I’m not celebrating what happened to that… cop or anything, but… a trial would’ve been so painful. I’m glad they don’t have to go through that.”
Celia: Piper has too many opinions that have nothing to do with her.
But that’s why Celia likes her. She gets all the best gossip.
Celia just nods and sighs her agreement.
“Hey, the thing I’m doing with her is a new technique out of Brazil,” she says after a moment, “they do all those butt lifts down there and they’ve got this procedure and topical to remove scars, but it’s supposed to help firm and tighten skin as well. If your teachers are still being rude, do you want me to try it with you? See if it helps?”
“It has a quick expiration once opened, so I figured why waste the product if we don’t use it all with Devillers.”
GM: Natalie’s eyes have barely widened before the response it out of her mouth.
“Oh my god, yes, please!” she nods, eagerly. “They all say my face is so fat…”
Celia: “Because there’s nothing else to critique. I’ve seen you dance; you’re better than the rest of them and they know it.”
GM: “Oh, well, there are some other girls who are really good. But… thanks.” Natalie smiles.
Celia: Celia shakes her head.
“I lived with a ballerina for most of my childhood. I’ve seen good, and I’ve seen really good. Trust me, you’re the latter. But yeah, when I’m done with her just come on back and we’ll see how it goes. I’m sure they call it Vixen-ary for a reason.”
GM: “Most of your childhood?” Natalie asks, curiously, then smiles at the name. “Ha. That’s funny.”
Celia: “Divorce,” she says with a shrug.
GM: “Oh. I thought… I don’t really know what I thought,” she admits with a little shrug too.
Celia: “She thought Flores was a better name so she kept it,” Celia says with a laugh, waving a hand as if the rest of it—everything they’d been through—doesn’t matter.
“We’ve been stealing better surnames since the beginning of time.”
GM: “Oh, she’s right, Flores is a really pretty name! Underwood sounds, um, pretty somber.”
“It’s good for Payton, though.”
Celia: “So is the name Payton. Very… her.”
GM: “Flores is very… you, too. It’s just a really light and lyrical and pretty name.”
Celia: Celia beams at her.
She always enjoys hearing she’s pretty.
Even if it’s just her name.
Her father’s name.
GM: Everything about her is pretty.
Whatever else it might be underneath.
The outside is unfailingly pretty.
Natalie smiles back, then slowly ventures, “I didn’t know your family was divorced…”
Celia: “Oh. Uh, yeah. A while ago. When I was a teen.”
GM: “Oh, wow. That is a while.”
“I never had any idea…”
It’s not like she hides it.
GM: “But, um, I guess that explains why Lucy and your mom always show up to church by themselves.”
Emily only goes on holidays and special occasions, these days. She prefers to study or sleep in.
And Celia, despite her mother’s wishes otherwise, can’t go at all, except for the odd night service. Diana has long since stopped asking.
“I guess I’m dumb, ha.”
Celia: And Celia hasn’t bothered to pretend to go to church since… well, not since she died, anyway.
“No,” Celia tells her, the word sharper than it’s meant to be. Old trigger, that.
“My mom is just private about it, is all, and with Dad as a senator… y’know, not something they really broadcast. Was a quiet event.”
GM: At least it wasn’t ‘stupid.’
Natalie’s quiet for a moment at the sharp word, then says,
“Um, tell me if this isn’t my business… but can I ask why?”
“It’s just,” she adds, “we see Lucy and your mom at church every week, and we never talk with them.”
Celia: “My dad is an abusive piece of shit,” Celia says flatly.
“He was hurting her. She got out.”
GM: “Oh,” Natalie says slowly.
“I’m so sorry…”
Celia: “It was a long time ago.”
GM: “Is that why Payton and Prudence and my dad don’t talk with her, because they took your dad’s side…?”
Celia: “I… don’t know, actually. Payton offered shelter when I needed it, and told me how to get the restraining order, and gave me the number to call when I reported the abuse. I don’t think she was on his side.”
“I think it’s… I mean, mom and Prudence don’t really seem close, we never really saw much of her when we were growing up, and I had to kind of forge my own connection with Payton.”
“Mom isn’t close with Stan, either.”
“Honestly?” Celia sighs. “I think it was the dancing.”
GM: “The dancing?” Natalie asks curiously.
Celia: “And then mom got pregnant with me while she was still in school, and Payton told her… uh, she wanted her to terminate me, so that kind of… soured things.”
“Yeah, because they don’t think dancing is a real career.”
GM: Her eyes widen. “Oh my god, she wanted your mom to abort you?!”
“I mean, to be fair, I’d have probably told her the same. She was sixteen.”
GM: “Um. I’m… glad she didn’t.”
GM: Natalie gives a weak chuckle.
“I guess that explains why my dad’s not a big fan of my dancing, though…”
“Or the rest of them, I guess.”
Celia: “It’s kind of like any liberal arts degree, isn’t it? People think it’s not sustainable. And yeah, it’s hard, I get it. A lot of people don’t make it. But if you’ve got the skill for it, go for it, you know? If you don’t at least try you’ll always wonder _what if?”_
“People said to me, ‘makeup isn’t a real skill, you can’t do anything with that.’”
Celia waves a hand around the lobby of her very successful business.
GM: “Ha. I guess you showed them.” Natalie smiles as her eyes follow Celia’s hand.
“But I guess it’s not fair to say they aren’t fans, they are. They go to my performances and everything.”
Celia: The physical building doesn’t even represent everything she’s done, just the tangible results. MeVid, Instagram, special effects and prosthetics on movie sets, consults with people all across the country… not to mention the rest of it, the All-Night Society she’s part of that she can’t even talk about, the experiments, all the medical training…
“That’s something, at least. Payton was always too busy for my mom.”
GM: “Oh. I didn’t hear that.”
“I’d feel really sad if my family didn’t go to my shows…”
Celia: “Family support is everything. My mom’s a gem. You should invite her to one of your shows, you know. I’m sure she’d love to go.”
GM: Natalie shrinks a bit. “Oh, um, I’d love to, but I don’t think my family would like that…”
Celia: Her smile dims.
“Right. They should probably work their stuff out.”
GM: “Yeah…” Natalie gives a hapless shrug.
“I hope they do, I won’t be doing dance a lot longer…”
Celia: “I’m just saying, if I did everything my family wanted me to do, I’d be a mother of seventeen by now with no career, no business, and probably some jerk, misogynist husband.”
“Well, maybe that’s not true. Even Maxen said I could major in dance.”
“What’re you doing afterwards? When you don’t want to dance anymore?”
GM: “Oh.” Natalie looks muted. “Did your dad want that…?”
“Um, I’m still making up my mind. Maybe go to grad school.”
Celia: “He told me college was my opportunity to meet a husband.” Celia rolls her eyes.
“Because this is the 1950s and that is all that matters.”
“Sorry,” she says after a moment, “talking about him… brings up all the old…” she waves a hand.
Bullshit, she means.
GM: “He, um…” Natalie starts.
“Um, I’m sorry, never mind.”
GM: “Oh, just… I had a rude question, that wasn’t my business.”
Celia: “You can ask.”
GM: “Did he… abuse you too…?”
Celia: “Yeah. He did.”
“Had him arrested for it, but that never made the papers.”
GM: Natalie’s silent for a moment.
“I’m so sorry…”
Celia: Celia just shrugs.
“Long time ago. I’m over it. He’s not part of my life anymore, and I got out. I won.”
GM: She just died, too.
Celia: But now she has a new family.
And her grandsire is… well. The grandfather she’d always wanted? Something like that.
GM: Her sire’s nothing like Maxen, of course.
Nothing at all.
“You’re right,” Natalie nods. “You have your business, and your family and a boyfriend, you have a lot.”
Celia: No, her sire would need to have a presence in her Requiem to be anything like Maxen. At least Maxen fought for her. Protected her. Kept her mother from vacuuming her out of her teenage womb and flushing her down the toilet, instead of abandoning—
She’s not bitter.
“And wonderful employees,” Celia adds with a wink.
GM: “Ha. Well, wonderful boss,” Natalie smiles.
Celia: “Treat them like you’d want to be, that’s the secret. You know, like actual people.”
GM: “It vorks, zough so does brrown nosing,” says Anoushka as she walks into the lobby with her bag slung over her shoulder. Most of the employees are getting off or have gotten off by now.
“Oh, I wasn’t…” says Natalie.
“Ov course, comrrade, yust teasing,” smiles Anoushka.
Celia knows ‘Anoushka’ gets a kick out of seeing how ham-fistedly she can play the Russian persona before Natalie gets suspicious.
So far, the college girl hasn’t.
Celia: Few people do. Anoushka, already cunning on her own, learned further from the best.
“Out for the night, ’Nou?” Celia asks the ‘Russian.’ “Hot date?” She wiggles her eyebrows.
GM: “Da und da,” Anoushka only smiles back. “Vorrking late?”
Celia: “Always,” Celia mock-sighs. “Have fun on your date while I slave away.”
GM: “Chase tvo rrabbits und you von’t ketch either vone,” the ‘Russian’ answers somberly, then smirks and bumps Natalie’s shoulder with her fist.
“Keep up ze fight, Comrrade Natalie.”
“Um, I’ll try.”
“I still don’t know what to say when she calls me comrade…” Natalie remarks after Anoushka’s left.
“It feels weird to call her comrade back, but weird not to call her anything.”
Celia: “I amuse myself by shortening her name into various forms every time we chat,” Celia offers.
GM: “Oh, maybe I’ll try that. ‘Oush?’”
Celia: “There you go.”
“Make jokes about vodka and bears, maybe.”
GM: “I’ll try that, then.” Natalie smiles and glances up at the clock. “I should be getting off soon, too… comrade.” She gives a faint giggle.
Celia: Celia grins.
“Da, comrade, iz time for you to go.” Her accent falls apart halfway through the sentence. “You can head out now if you’d like. I’ll wait for the girl and tomorrow we can try it out, that way you’re not standing around idly.”
GM: Natalie giggles some more at Celia’s accent. “Cool, thanks.”
“That’s a perk of working here, not much idly standing around,” smiles Piper as she walks into the lobby, also with her bag over her shoulder. She’s traditionally pretty. Long blonde hair, blue eyes, nice complexion. Thin from a history of eating disorders, with a penchant for working out that keeps her butt firm and her stomach flat now. Celia knows she likes to order kids’ meals, too, and claims that she can never finish what she orders, though that doesn’t keep her from slamming back margaritas like they’re going out of style.
Her work at Flawless has kept her skin clean and clear, and Celia’s removed more than one blemish she’d developed through masking and extractions. Tattoos cover most of her, though nothing Celia can see above the neck. She wears her typical full face of makeup, along with spa-appropriate yoga pants, t-shirt, and tennis shoes.
“Oh, do you do that at other places?” asks Natalie.
“Yep,” answers Piper. “I worked at one with this points system where you had to pay points to leave early if you didn’t have a client.”
Natalie frowns faintly. “But why would they want you to stay if you don’t have clients…?”
Celia: “Last-minute calls. Makes walk-ins easier on the desk. A lot of places use them to do side work, too. Laundry, sweeping, garbage. Technically if you’re an employee they can control your hours like that, but if you’re only making commission instead of hourly it’s a pretty awful system for the workers.”
“Plus, like, hire a service for all that.”
Celia expects her employees to clean up their own areas, but not the spa in general.
GM: Partners in Grime covers the rest.
Besides, there’s value in contracting with them even beyond the cleanliness.
“Yep,” says Piper. “Just more convenient for them. But kinda shows they don’t really care about you or your time.”
“That seems like a kinda depressing place to work,” says Natalie.
“Yeah, we might be cleaning the bathrooms there too,” says Piper, then smiles. “But hey! That isn’t where we work.”
Natalie looks more than a little nonplussed at the idea of cleaning bathrooms.
Celia: It’s not a very glamorous job. Not that Celia knows. She’s never been bent over on hands and knees to scrub at grime. That’s what the help is for.
GM: “We’ve had a couple clients who left the bathrooms really messy…”
Celia: “Everyone always says it’s boys who are gross, but if you’ve ever been to a bar you know girls are just as disgusting in bathrooms.” Celia wrinkles her nose.
GM: “Oh my god, they are!” agrees Piper. “I know a guy who worked at a coffee shop and cleaned the women’s bathrooms, and he said he once found a soiled diaper in the bin for tampons. He called it a ‘poop explosion.’”
“Instead of the trash.”
“The bin was metal and he had to clean the poop all out.”
Celia: “Ugh. That’s disgusting.”
GM: “Ewww!” says Natalie.
“He also said the women’s stall was once locked from the inside and he had to crawl underneath to unlock it.”
“He said he thought guys would do that, but not girls.”
Celia: “Assholes are an equal opportunity thing.”
GM: “He also said the only clogged toilet he had to deal with was the women’s.”
“Okay, I guess we are just as gross,” says Natalie.
Celia: “Randy complains I leave my hair in the drain in the shower,” Celia admits.
GM: “Ick. Also, um, I think I have to go study,” she says, pulling on her backpack.
“Oh. Sorry if we grossed you out!” says Piper.
“It’s okay. I actually do,” says Natalie.
“Okay. See ya!”
Celia: “Have a good night, Natalie.”
GM: “You too! And thanks so much for the Vixenary, Celia.” She smiles and heads out the door.
Celia: “No problem!”
A beat of silence, then, “All women leave hair in the drain,” she mumbles to Piper as the girl disappears.
GM: “They doooo!” agrees Piper. “We have hair too.”
“Longer hair, usually.”
“Also, lemme guess, the Vixenary’s for… her face?”
Celia: “Figured we’d give it a go. Supposed to firm skin, reduce scar tissue, blah blah blah.”
GM: “She thinks her face is fat. It’s so sad! She has a great facial shape.”
Celia: “That’s what I said. It suits her personality, and having a round face doesn’t mean the rest of you is fat. And she’ll keep the elasticity for ages longer than people without as much…”
“I guess I get it, though. We’re all appearance obsessed, why not her too.”
GM: “It’s a shape-lier shape than mine, I’m so jealous! Like you say, it ages better.”
Celia: “Piper, you’re gorgeous, I’m gonna need you to chill.”
GM: “Oh of course I’m gorgeous, I put a lot of effort into it,” the esthetician beams. “I’m just saying she has a great facial shape! Mine’s more rectangular, it won’t age as well.”
“And it’s really sad how she feels about it, she’s cried in the bathroom over how fat she is.”
“She says she has one instructor who called her a pig in a leotard, I get that dance is competitive and instructors are mean, but that’s just so cruel to say to a kid!”
Celia: Celia arches a brow.
“She mention which instructor?”
GM: Piper taps her lower cheek. “Mmm, lemme think, what was her name…”A few seconds pass. “Oh, Kowalski!”
She smiles as she successfully recalls that bit of gossip.
“I mean, she says all of her instructors can be pretty harsh, but that was the one who called her a pig.”
Celia: Celia tucks the name away. She doesn’t recognize it from her time there.
“That’s a really fucked up thing to say to anyone, especially a kid. No wonder she has body issues, Christ.”
GM: “Oh, yeah, it’s so sad. She says all of them can be mean. But some more than others.”
“That one time I worked on your mom, when you couldn’t make it, we talked a bit about dance. And she said it’s endemic to the culture, that instructors have this whole idea that being mean pushes you to be a better dancer.”
“It was really eye-opening! They all look so dainty and pretty but I guess bitches be bitches behind the scenes, right?”
Celia: “Elitist culture. Bleed for your art. That sort of thing.”
GM: “Yes, she said that’s exactly what it was! There’s this belief that if you aren’t suffering, you aren’t a really committed dancer.”
“And Natalie’s said stuff like that too.”
“So coming from two dancers, I really believe it.”
Celia: “It’s that whole ‘weak people quit’ thing. ‘Pain is weakness leaving the body’ or whatever macho bullshit guys at the gym say to excuse working out after they’ve pulled a muscle and are too pig-headed to take a break so they injure themselves further, because god forbid you rest your body for a week.”
Celia cuts off.
“I guess I get it. Prove you’re the best, right? That you can handle it.”
GM: “Yeah, I guess that’s it! And the whole obsession with being thin, sometimes I catch Natalie skipping lunch or purging in the bathroom, making herself throw up. Not all the time, since, obviously, she has college and dance and isn’t with us every day, but I kinda think that’s the only reason why not all the time.”
“Your mom told me 50% of all dancers have an eating disorder, 50%!”
As if Piper didn’t do the same thing at her age.
“That’s… wow. You mentioned the purging, thought maybe it was a one time thing… hope the Vixen stuff works, I guess, all that vomiting is bad for the teeth.”
And teeth, unfortunately, are something Celia cannot fix.
GM: “I hope so! I think she’ll probably always think she’s too fat, though, that just seems like part of the culture.”
Celia: “A girl could weigh a buck ten and someone will still tell her she’s fat.”
GM: “I know! I wish there was something we could do but there kinda isn’t.”
Celia: There is. Celia will see to it.
GM: “I mean, I did it high school, you kinda only get over it with time. Or if there’s a big crisis.”
“Natalie told me there’s a girl in her ballet company and who also went to Tulane with her who had anorexia, and weighed only 79 pounds. 5’0” or something, but still. Got hospitalized and dropped out of the program."
Celia: “They’re insane,” Celia says with a shake of her head.
“I guess I just didn’t like dance enough to torture my body for it.”
GM: “I know.” Piper shakes hers too. “I bet she and your mom have even more horror stories.”
“Don’t blame you, though! Much happier to make other people pretty than to go through all that.”
Celia: “Less backstabbing, people are happy to see me… can’t complain.”
“Plus all the juicy gossip people bring in.”
GM: “Ohhh, speaking of backstabbing, at least kind of, did Natalie tell you about her clever plan?”
Celia: “No. What is it?”
GM: Piper grins and lowers her voice. “Okay, so, her family wants her to stop dance after college, right?”
“So, she’s got this whole plan, had it for a while.”
“Took a gap year after high school, but stayed in the city, to do volunteer stuff.”
“While also, oh, still doing dance.”
“And in college, she’s double majoring, because that takes an extra year.”
“Aaannnd she wants to go to grad school, because that’ll also take a few more years.”
Celia: “And she dances the whole time.”
Celia: “Ha. Clever.”
“I wonder if I should ‘offer extra hours because we need the help,’ make it sound like she has to go part time at school…”
GM: “It is! She says it’ll only last until she’s… what, 22 college, 23 double major, 24 gap year, 26 or 27 grad school, and you can still dance a while after 30, so she still has to quit early, and she’s still really sad about that. But I think she’s happier just to do it longer.”
“Also, you should tell her that! The extra hours idea.”
She frowns. “Hm, but I dunno if her family would go for it, they seem like they expect ‘better things.’ Quote unquote.”
Celia: “Mm, we’re distantly related. Her family can’t really say that without insulting me and my industry.”
Not that she doesn’t expect them to anyway.
GM: “She didn’t say it directly or anything, I just got that whole vibe, that they expect her to get a degree and do something ‘respectable.’”
“Since, obviously, they don’t want her to dance for her career.”
Celia: “Better your child be unhappy than not respectable,” Celia says with a firm nod.
GM: “Yeah, we all say how parents are supposed to care about their kids being happy before anything else, but some parents just don’t care about that at all. I guess you’d know too.” Piper looks at her sympathetically.
Celia: Celia arches a brow at that.
GM: “Your dad, and all. I hear.”
Celia: “Did you? Natalie was asking me about him earlier. She seemed kind of… ah, not very well informed about it.”
GM: “Welllll, technically not hear. But your mom doesn’t have a wedding ring. She comes in all the time, with Lucy. And he never does. And you never talk about him. I haven’t heard your mom or Lucy talk about him either.”
“And Emily’s evasive about it.”
“Just feel like that’s what it is.”
Celia: “Observant.” She smiles. “Yeah. My dad’s not in the picture. He, ah…”
How had she phrased it earlier?
“He’s an asshole.”
GM: “I’m sorry. Isn’t my business. But, the girls here notice how your dad’s never once come in for a massage or anything.”
Celia: “We haven’t spoken in a number of years.”
GM: As if it not being her business has ever stopped Piper, though.
Celia: Not once.
GM: “Won’t try to tell you that having a business and a family and a boyfriend makes up for that,” she says. “I’m really sorry.”
Celia: “It happens. Not everyone gets a winning family. I’ve made do. And I don’t miss him, not anymore, so at this point it’s pretty much whatever. I made my own family.”
“He can die in a hole somewhere.”
GM: “You did,” smiles Piper. “I guess no one has it all. But you can have a lot!”
Celia: Celia does have it all, though: a loving mother, a dad she calls Ron that feels more like an old “bro” than a dad, a string of boyfriends and lovers, an adoptive sire, an adopted sister, a child who calls her mom, a grandsire who spoils her…
What else does a girl need, really?
Thursday night, 5 November 2015, PM
GM: It’s around the same time that Dr. Dicentra’s services are requested for one client that she receives a call from another. The voice on the line is Becky Lynne Adler’s. She invites the night doctor to discuss the job’s details at the public haven she and her brother-in-blood share in the Garden District.
Celia: Dicentra agrees to the offered time and location. It goes without saying that she expects safe passage when her services are asked after, though she alludes to as much on the phone with Becky Lynne. Dicentra can hardly be the one to present herself to the domain’s regent when “Dicentra” does not exist.
Nevertheless, she has enough tools at her disposal to ensure that she is not apprehended should the Ventrue fail in this first duty, and she calls upon them for the night in question. A sleek, black car picks her up from Marigny and drops her off at the public haven. A gift of the blood obscures her from those who would look at her and simply know at the sort of thing that lurks within. A stolen face and borrowed body give no hint as to her true identity. She looks like any other girl off the street.
The Garden District hardly seems the appropriate place for the leather getup.
At the proper hour, Dicentra knocks upon the door.
GM: A black car with tinted windows follows the night doctor’s vehicle, but makes no effort to arrest her drive towards her destination.
The Ventrue’s haven is nestled in a quiet part of Chestnut Street. The house proper is smaller than most set back from the road, veiled from the sight of the outside world by means of a row of carefully cultivated greenery, the centerpiece of which is an ancient live oak tree, draped in a beard-like coat of Spanish moss. A tastefully elegant wrought-iron gate spans the driveway, connecting two brick columns on either side. A flat plaque on the face of one column welcomes visitors to the address in stylish gold ormalu. The home’s white front porch is decorated with several potted plants and a white swinging bench.
The gate swings open after Dicentra identifies herself through the intercom. She’s greeted by a smiling, blonde-haired and plump-faced ghoul who leads the night doctor to a well-appointed sitting room and says her mistress will be present momentarily.
Soon she is. Becky Lynne looks as lovely as she ever does at Elysium. She’s dressed in a knee-length, sweetheart-necklined strapless white dress with pink trim and matching open-toe heels. A heart-shaped gold locket hangs from her neck.
“Thank you so much for stoppin’ by, Dr. Dicentra,” she smiles as she assumes her seat. “I have to admit, I was expectin’ a mask. One of those beaked plague doctor ones. Don’t ask me why!”
Celia: Always white with her, Dicentra can’t help but note, and it probably does its job putting visitors at ease. No scary monsters here, right? Dicentra doesn’t comment. Who knows if she even sees Becky Lynne at Elysium.
The night doc rises as Adler approaches and greets her with a warm enough smile, then takes her seat once more. She laughs lightly at the opening words.
“Not for a number of years now, Lady Speaker.”
GM: Jade has seen her in other colors.
Always lighter ones.
“I guess that wouldn’t be too practical, anyways,” the Ventrue chuckles. “Is it much trouble to do up your face like this?” she asks, curiously.
Celia: “Less trouble than having an overeager ‘fan’ attempt to rip off a mask, and no more trouble than any other trick of the blood.”
GM: “Oh, no. I hope you didn’t learn that first bit from personal experience, Doctor.”
Celia: “They didn’t get what they wanted, in the end.”
GM: “I suppose neither of you did.” Becky Lynne shakes her head. “Manners aside, violence always just seems more trouble than it’s worth, in the end, next to askin’ nicely.”
Celia: The doctor’s lips twitch in an almost-smile.
“‘Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.’”
GM: Becky Lynne gives a wider smile at that.
“Foundation, isn’t it? My brother’s a big fan.”
Celia: “Is he? I wouldn’t have guessed that. And you, Lady Speaker? Where do your preferences run?”
GM: “Oh yes, he is! He was Embraced around when the books come out, and there’s a sense of optimism and confidence in human progress endemic to the decade that he really likes. Me too, for that matter. I’m a Jane Austen girl at heart, but my brother introduced me to Asimov and I found a lot to like there too.”
Celia: He sounds like he’d get along with a certain someone’s ex. Not Dicentra’s, though; she doesn’t have any exes. She might not even be a she.
“In both quality and quantity. He was prolific. And very… accessible.”
GM: “Yes, he’s not big on the purple prose or flowery language. The books are very easy to read. You’re a fan yourself, doctor?”
Celia: “When I find the time. He helped shape the genre; how could I not be?”
GM: “There are people who don’t consider science fiction ‘real’ literature. But that just seems so silly, doesn’t it, given how many bright minds with things to say took up the pen.”
Celia: “I believe he wrote just as much nonfiction as he did fiction.”
GM: “I’ve heard of his books there!” Becky Lynne nods. “Can’t say I’ve read any of them, but he was a very smart man. I guess that’s no surprise, back then science fiction had a lot more ‘hard’ science in it.”
Celia: “Even if not, it’s a poor mind that tears down what it doesn’t understand to make itself feel superior.”
GM: “My mama always said there’s no shame in not understandin’ something, only not tryin’ to understand it better,” the Ventrue nods.
Celia: “We have forever,” Dicentra says with a nod, “we may as well not let our minds stagnate.”
GM: “Where do you like to keep yours busy, doctor? Medicine, I’m sure?”
Celia: “It’s a vast field, there’s always more to learn. Some of the kine have ingenuous ways of looking at things; the urgency of their expiration dates causes progress at a much faster pace than our own.”
GM: “We might have eternity, but they have urgency. Just ask any panickin’ coed who’s left a paper ’til the last day how much that counts for,” chuckles Becky Lynne.
Celia: “They will always wait until the last possible moment to get things done,” Dicentra agrees with a nod.
GM: Becky Lynne makes pleasant small talk of a similar nature for the next few minutes before getting down to business.
“I’m sure you’ve heard of the shooting last summer, Doctor.”
“My sire Alder Councilor Matheson claims domain over Whitney Hancock Bank and the eponymous family, if you’re not familiar. Their daughter Sarah was left with a nasty scar. Laser surgery has come a ways, but I’m sure you know it’s not flawless, and also how it is with women—just the slightest scar or blemish gets them judged and turns away prospective husbands.”
Celia: “He wishes for the scar tissue to be removed.”
She does not touch the subject of a woman’s worth. ‘I survived a shooting’ seems like a solid opener, but who is she to judge.
“I heard she is in a coma.”
GM: “Precisely,” Becky Lynne smiles. “That’s where you come in, Doctor. And yes, she was, but she’s awake now.”
“Where might be a convenient time and place to perform the procedure? My sire can facilitate a fair bit on Sarah’s end, includin’ the modification of any memories.”
Celia: She bets he can.
Dicentra asks where the girl lives, as well as whether or not she’s still in the hospital. The location and time does not much matter to her; there are few tools she needs to perform her services, though she is amenable to working within whatever cover story her sire deems appropriate. The hospital, a private care facility, or medical spa will all work.
“Plastic surgeon,” Dicentra suggests, “under general anesthesia. That generally provides convenient cover for the memory issues.”
GM: “Good idea, Doctor,” Becky Lynne smiles. “There’s a lot the sanguine voice can do, but mundane tools are always better for the Masquerade.”
Sarah is out of the hospital and lives in the CBD. There is a medical spa in the area that could potentially suffice, Becky Lynne says after looking up nearby ones on her Solaris, as could a visit back to Tulane Medical Center for some follow-up care.
“Whatever would be most convenient for you, Doctor,” the Ventrue smiles again.
Celia: “Your sire is outside the city,” Dicentra says at length. “I presume he will not be present to create the false memories for the girl.”
Or to snack on the lick performing such services.
GM: Becky Lynne nods. “My brother-in-blood or I can see to that.”
Celia: Dicentra gives that a nod as well. After a moment she asks about payment: with Adler Councilor Matheson out of the city, who will be responsible for the fee?
GM: “The Alder Councilor can still manage quite a few types of payment, even removed as he is,” the Ventrue smiles. “Primogen Hurst and I can fulfill whatever he isn’t personally able to.”
However, there is also another matter Becky Lynne brings up: Matheson “isn’t terribly popular right now, let’s not mince words.” Becky Lynne’s sire does not wish to indebt himself to an unknown party while he is “unpopular.” The elder Ventrue will consent to grant Dicentra a specific favor rather than an open one, negotiated here with his childe.
Celia: That seems to be a common theme these days.
“Pragmatic,” Dicentra says dryly.
GM: “I might be able to sell him on an open-ended boon if he knew who he was dealin’ with under the mask, so to speak, but I’m goin’ to take a gander that’s worth more to you than one boon,” Becky Lynne nods.
Celia: “Several more.”
Celia: But she smiles all the same.
“Tell me about him, so I can stay within the confines of reality for this boon.”
GM: “About my sire, you mean, Doctor?”
GM: “Let’s see. He sits on the Prima Invicta, as you might’ve known from his title, Doctor, and is also high in the esteem of our clanmates and the city’s other elders. He claims domain over Hancock Whitney Bank. You can look it up on your phone, or my phone if you haven’t brought one, I don’t like to sound as if I’m braggin’ even on someone else’s behalf,” the Ventrue offers with a faintly bashful smile.
Dicentra pulls the information up. It’s not Bank of Columbia, but it holds $30.6 billion in assets and is one of the largest financial institutions in the South, with branch locations throughout the region. It’s headquartered in the Big Easy.
Celia: Dicentra smiles.
“I do not mean to ask after his secrets, just to be nudged towards talents I can put to use, as he has been nudged toward mine.”
GM: “Can I ask what sorts of talents you might be lookin’ for, Doctor?” Becky Lynne asks. “He’s an elder of my clan, with the knowledge, resource, connections, and Blood that reachin’ such an age entails.”
Celia: Exiled with two relatively young childer, for all that he wasn’t in the city during the years of their Embrace.
Someone has been rather loose with their guard duties.
GM: Or there’s just a lot the prince doesn’t tell people.
Celia: What? The prince doesn’t tell people things?
That simply can’t be true.
Must be those connections Adler mentioned.
Celia: Dicentra waves a hand, smile still in place.
“That’s enough to set my mind at ease, Lady Speaker. I’m certain we’ll come to an agreement.”
GM: “Certainly, take your time,” the Ventrue smiles. “Oh, I’m not sure we settled—would you prefer to work on the Whitney girl at Tulane Medical Center, or that nearby medical spa?”
Celia: “The name of the spa?”
GM: “Excuse me, please,” Becky Lynne says as she checks her phone, then looks up.
“Rejuvene Med Spa.”
Celia: Rejuvene. Hadn’t another girl once known someone who had worked there? Dicentra draws a blank.
“Easier to sell the idea of plastic surgery at a hospital,” Dicentra says. At least Adler hadn’t suggested using that harlot’s spa.
“Your sire,” she says at length, “has been in and around New Orleans for some time. I assume he has contacts here or you wouldn’t sit before me. Perhaps he can shed some light on a certain someone for me, if he was around during their arrival and rise to power.”
GM: Matheson was exiled when the Civil War broke out. Everyone heard this during the trial.
Donovan only appeared on the scene when his sire did, some four decades afterwards.
But what does Dicentra care.
“Perhaps he can,” Becky Lynne smiles. “Who should I ask him about?”
Celia: Perhaps asking would be a disservice to them both.
But what does Dicentra care.
“The would-be usurper in the Quarter.” A long shot. No doubt if Matheson knew anything worth sharing it’d have come out at the trial as well, when he had the city’s attention. “Failing that, the Brujah primogen.”
GM: Becky Lynne still nods. “What information should I ask him for, on either of them?”
Celia: Whatever skeletons they have in their closet.
“Elders have such long, rich histories. I’m certain he can find some part of it to entertain the doctor while she works.” Secrets. Scandal. Some sort of tangible reward for the very tangible, hands on work she’ll perform for him. Her too-innocent smile suggests as much.
GM: “I’ll ask him if he knows any stories worth sharin’, Doctor,” the Ventrue smiles back. “It’s been a pleasure doin’ business.”
Celia: “With you as well, Lady Speaker. Call me when the girl is ready.”
Monday evening, 9 November 2015
Celia: The call for her actual services comes quickly. Becky Lynne Adler assures Dicentra that everything is in order, all she needs to do is show up and perform.
The evening of the operation Dicentra has another car with a different driver take her to Tulane Medical, and it’s an older, more harried sort of guise that Dicentra steps into. The sort of person who doesn’t draw attention, the sort of person who has worked plenty of overnight shifts and this is just another patient penciled into her busy schedule. Her nametag reads “Peters.” Nondescript, like her this evening. A trick of the blood masks her Beast, and as she strolls through the halls towards the patient’s room she uses another trick to divert attention elsewhere. There are so many things to captivate the kine’s attention in hospitals: bleeding, screaming patients, beeping machines, the cute doctor with the wandering hands.
She has a male nurse with her, a fellow shadow dancer whose half-breed scent is masked. Another mask obscures his identity and his name badge has a name as fake as her own. A gift from his brother, the techy one.
Dicentra finds the room with Sarah Whitney inside and knocks twice before opening the door.
GM: “Come in,” sounds a man’s voice.
Inside, Dicentra sees a room set for a laser surgery: white and empty but for the bulky gray monitors and other medical equipment. Becky Lynne’s wearing a baby blue dress and no kind of disguise at all: maybe Ventrue influence just buys that much. Or mindfucking. A large ghoul in a suit with the impassive posture of a security professional stands patiently nearby, along with the plump-faced blonde Dicentra saw at the Garden District house.
The kine who must be Sarah Whitney lies passed-out on the surgical bed, with synthetic sheets drawn up around her. She’s a short-framed and gentle-featured girl in her late teens with soft brown hair, pretty features, and hazel eyes.
“So pleased to see you tonight, Doctor,” Becky Lynne smiles. “The girl’s already received her last round of laser surgery. Medical staff won’t bother this room for a good while longer.”
Celia: “Good evening, Lady Speaker.” Dicentra inclines her head toward the Ventrue, eyes sweeping the room. “Good setup. The memories will be easy to edit. Let her believe the lasers have come further than reality and she’ll never question it.”
Dicentra nods toward the door.
“If you’ll excuse us, Lady Speaker, I’ll send for you when we’ve finished.”
GM: The female ghoul glances at her mistress.
The Ventrue merely inclines her head. “Of course, Doctor. Give a holler if you need anythin’ else from us.”
Celia: Dicentra catches the look. She gives the ghoul a wry smile and only says that “very few night doctors allow their process to be observed.”
Once the party shuffles out Dicentra allows her “nurse” to lock the door so they’re not disturbed and draws the curtains around the bed for additional privacy. Though his medical knowledge is not quite the level of hers, the ghoul has had some training in the subject, and she has used him prior to administer IVs, sedatives, and serve as an extra pair of hands. They sterilize, prep their tools, and get started.
It’s an ugly wound. Or it had been, prior to the rounds of laser therapy. Dicentra had heard about it from someone else’s sister, who isn’t yet done with med school but had taken the opportunity to learn on a current case when she’d shadowed her mentor and told the tale at the dinner table. “That poor family,” their mom had said. Looking down at the hapless kine now, Dicentra can’t see the extent of the damage that was done internally. But she’d heard enough: the bullet had cut through the chest at an angle, bounced off the breastbone, nicked a lung, punctured the pericardium. There’d been a risk of heart attack with the pericardial infusion, seizures, brain damage… not to mention the ripped esophagus. Flutter valves and a PEG tube in the stomach had let the medical team focus their attention on the life-threatening emergencies.
None of that shows on the surface, but the holes and scar tissue remain where they had inserted the tube in her chest to drain the air and the lower tubes to drain the blood. Another at her throat for the trach. Easy enough to fix.
Dicentra gets to work.
It would be simple to focus on the surface issues and ignore the rest. Easy to ignore the deeper problems she thinks the bullet might have caused for the girl. That’s all Adler and Matheson had requested, to fix the scar tissue. But there’s a part of her that wants to prove (even if just to herself) that she’s the best at what she does, that she isn’t some vain, skin-deep creature, and another part that wants to heal just as much as it wants to kill. So with claw and scalpel she slices into the kine’s chest and stomach, fangs lengthening at the scent of all this blood, and peels back the flesh.
Scar tissue starts deep. Dicentra knows it more than anyone. She starts deep too, smoothing over not just the surface flaws but those that hide within the body itself. Why cover a hole with a blanket when she can fill it in with cement?
What she finds, though, causes a frown to flit across her face. She glances up at her assistant.
“Get the lick in here.”
GM: “Yes, ma’am,” the plump-faced ghoul replies deferentially to Dicentra’s words.
Leah Crawford, the mentor of that other girl’s sister, was one of Sarah’s doctors. Only the best for the Whitney scion.
Their mother had been very sad. Sarah was in her classes.
Her assistant licks his lips at the unconscious attractive girl, and chuckles when Dicentra slaps his hands away from her breasts.
“Lucky her you’re here, or I’d definitely be taking advantage,” he remarks breezily.
Cutting Sarah open, though, seems to kill the ghoul’s boner. However perverted he might be, he’s not that perverted.
He frowns, as if wondering what she’s found, then walks off. He’s back a moment later with Becky Lynne. The Ventrue looks at the sliced-open girl, whose sweet coppery scent saturates the air, and Dicentra sees the telltale oh-so slight shift in Becky Lynne’s jaw that comes from lengthening fangs. Her smile doesn’t waver, though, as she looks back towards the night doctor. Clad as she is in her baby blue dress and ‘girl next door’ headband, she looks like a breather who someone added fangs to as an afterthought.
“Can I be of assistance, Doctor?”
Celia: Is any ghoul or mortal twisted enough to be turned on by a ripped open body? She certainly hopes she never meets them, if so.
“Apologies for the sight, Lady Speaker, but there’s something here that needs your attention.” It’s probably not very often that the prim and proper Ventrue sees someone cut open like this. No doubt she drinks her blood from fluted champagne glasses and has people to deal with the rest of it.
Dicentra, bloody almost up to the elbows, gestures with her chin toward Sarah’s vivisected chest and abdominal cavities.
“Wasn’t a clean shot. But you know that. Bullet came in here,” she points, “bounced here, ricocheted, punctured.” Dicentra draws the line in the air scant inches above the body, tracing the trajectory of the bullet. “Scar tissue removal, no problem. Pretty canvas, no big, I can do it. But this?” A nod toward the lower abdomen, a second toward the chest. “That’s a problem. Who’s the hackjob that worked on her? Because that’s what this is. A hackjob. I can seal her up like this and she’ll have all sorts of issues down the line. Lung tissue here, see it? Paralyzed. Look at the way she’s breathing. Isn’t moving. I’d give it a year or two, maybe three, before she’s back in with all sorts of complications. Guarantee if I peel back that bit of skin over the neck you’ll see some tearing in the esophagus. Heat of the moment, throw a flutter tube in, sure. But months later?”
Dicentra shakes her head.
“She having speech issues? Shortness of breath? Lingering chest pain?”
GM: Becky Lynne frowns deeply as she inspects the vivisected girl.
“Oh, dear. I’m afraid this is quite unacceptable to my sire.”
“I’m not aware if she’s been experiencing those symptoms, Doctor, but you’ll have a boon from me if you can fix up the rest of her. Just fixin’ the scar is worthless as gum on a boot heel next to all that.”
Celia: “I’ll put her to rights,” Dicentra agrees. There’s a pause while Dicentra considers the girl. “There’s, ah, somethin’ else you might want to be aware of.”
GM: “Oh, what might that be?” inquires the Ventrue.
Celia: Dicentra considers her words with care, aware that she’s venturing past her stance of neutrality. But her first objective is to provide care, and if someone is standing in the way of that care…
“I wasn’t exaggerating when I said hackjob. Look here, these lines. Clean. Everything in its proper place. It’s all how it should be. Whoever patched her up did a swell job of it, almost like she wasn’t damaged at all. One in a billion, maybe, the sort of recovery you wouldn’t need me for; there wouldn’t have been a scar if the doctors left off there. The sort of thing you see when the ghouls are hit.” A nod toward her assistant, who has come out of scraps that should put most men down without a scratch on him. “I could claw his face right here and you’d see the blood do its job and return him to normal without the need for any night doc work.”
Gently, Dicentra pulls at some of the pericardium lining.
“The complication is here. Part of it. So, the heart sits in this sac here, you see? It’s got all this fluid in it that comes in and out, lets the heart do its thing. But this here, see? A tiny little tear. That’s gonna lead to inflammation, which is gonna lead to the heart not having enough room to do its thing. So rather than the smooth boom-boom, you’ve got like… _brrrmmp-brrrrmmp.”_ It’s clear that Dicentra is trying to put things in layman terms for Adler. “Cardiac tamponade. Basically blood pressure drops low enough to kill, since the ventricles can’t expand as they need to.”
She shakes her head,
“Whoever stitched her up together the first time wouldn’t have missed it. And you can—” or at least Dicentra can, “—tell by the… well the age of it, really. Like how bodies start to decompose? It’s doing that here too. So this, the lung, the tube right here… that’s all from a second surgery. Something she didn’t need.”
GM: Becky Lynne’s frown deepens as she follows the night doctor’s explanation.
“Well. That simply will not do at all. Do you believe the surgeon just wanted to cause long-term health complications, Doctor, or to kill her outright?”
Celia: “These modifications?” Dicentra considers the girl, then the lick. “Slow death. Make it look accidental. Subtle. Doubt anyone who was just looking to clear up scar tissue would have found it.” The doctor doesn’t need to say ‘anyone but me would have missed it.’
“Even if they didn’t intend to kill, which is quite possible but unlikely given the injuries, she’d have been messed up for the rest of her life. Shootings already cause long term trauma in the victims. Higher rates of alcoholism, depression, PTSD. Long term physical disabilities given the location.”
Dicentra trails off. She read a study about it recently.
“This is just, ah, nail in the coffin.”
GM: “Then I suppose you’ve saved the Whitney line from extinction, Doctor,” Becky Lynne answers with a frank nod. “My sire thanks you. He’s invested quite a bit of effort into them. I’ll let him know what you’ve done, and see if we can get you boon from him instead of me.”
The greater value goes without saying.
Celia: Dicentra inclines her head toward the Ventrue.
“When I’m done it will be as if it never happened.”
She gets to work.
Tuesday night, 24 November 2015, PM
GM: Celia: It’s shortly after Dicentra takes care of Sarah (to a very pleased Becky Lynne), and only a few weeks after the initial offer for Dicentra’s work, that Celia finds herself on top of the Evergreen once more. She’s dressed in her usual Savoy-worthy gown, ring, and heels. She wears a smile, too, turning it on as soon as she catches her grandsire’s eye from across the garden. Click, click, click go the heels. Then the curtsy, the hand kissing, the nod and greeting to Preston who tap, tap, taps across the tablet (Celia asked once how many words she could type in a minute), the exchange of pleasantries (she never tires of hearing him tell her how marvelous she looks), and it’s on to business.
There’d been another shooting. It was all over the news again: the detective who shot up the police station had been taken out while resisting arrest. His face has been plastered across newspapers for the past few days, and even on her way up she’d overheard the name. She’d snagged one of those papers from someone who might not have been done with it—she’d been forgiven when she’d flashed a smile—and it’s in her hands now; she’d been reading it while she waited for Fabian to show her up.
“Tragic,” she says idly. As if her profits from his actions aren’t what she’s here to discuss. She tucks her stolen paper into her purse. “Apparently he and my grandmother were once quite close.”
GM: Preston can type 102 words per minute, the Malkavian humorlessly informs Celia.
GM: Savoy never seems to grow tired of telling her how marvelous she looks, or of seeing all the ways in which she can look marvelous.
“If my words are as a painter’s brush, my dear, your beauty is as as a fragrant rose garden, a virgin spring glade, a crystal ice cave, a tropical coral reef—the artist can paint forever and still only capture some small approximation of its beauty. Indeed, he cannot capture at all, but merely render tribute.”
GM: “Were they? My condolences,” the French Quarter lord remarks when Cécilia brings up Gettis. “His actions came as a terrible surprise to all.”
Celia: Jade smiles across the table as her grandsire flatters her endlessly, two high points of color on her cheeks at the words. It’s a contrived gesture for their kind but honest enough for all that. She dips her chin in demure deferment and can’t help but note how empty his lap looks without her perched on it.
“You’ll get yourself in trouble with that silver tongue of yours, Lord Savoy, when your scores of admirers eventually come to blows over who it is you favor most.” She leans in, lowers her voice to a stage whisper. “I’ll refrain from telling them it’s me.” With a wink she sits back in her chair, crossing one leg over the other.
It’s Celia, however, who peers at him from across the table at the mention of her grandmother and Gettis.
“She sent me to him. When I was having trouble at home, prior to my Embrace. Said he’s not afraid of anything, offered him a favor to help me. Funny language, isn’t it?”
GM: “It would be crass to rub in their faces when it’s so obvious,” the French Quarter winks back in agreement.
“She certainly was apt,” he chuckles. “Whatever his actions, one can hardly say Richard Gettis was afraid of anything.”
Celia: “I never got to say thanks.”
GM: “I am certain the absence thereof weighed heavily upon his mind,” Preston dryly states.
Celia: “He’s certainly been a boon to my Requiem these recent nights. With your friend,” a nod to Savoy, “and the others that have approached me looking for similar services.”
GM: “Opportunities in all tragedies,” Savoy states with a knowing smile. “I’m pleased you’ve gained something from his actions, my dear.”
GM: The pair eventually proceed to their primary order of business. The French Quarter lord’s friend is pleased with the result of Dicentra’s handiwork.
“What boon would you ask of them, my dear?”
Celia: It’s hard to ask for the usual things when his friend wishes to remain anonymous. She’d traded prior boons for teachings, introductions, and even—on a very rare occasion—feeding. There’s also the fact that anything she asks for will have to go through her grandsire, so prying into him or his childe feels decidedly… ungracious. Offensive, even, when he’d said he’d tell her the story.
“This whole world is a surprise to those who find out about it. Kindred, I mean. We do a good job keeping it quiet. The loops, as well.” Roxy had told her about them. And of course they exist. If vampires are real why not werewolves and witches and every other monster she’d ever imagined? “I was hoping that your friend could shed some light on another sort of being, or perhaps point me in the appropriate direction.”
“The… faeries. Or sprites, pixies, nymphs. Whatever they call themselves.”
GM: “The fae, the sidhe, the fair folk, the good folk, the kindly ones, the wild ones, the cousins, the wee folk, the people of peace, the sons of Oberon, the daughters of Titania…” Savoy chuckles. “Take your pick.”
“Whatever they call themselves, indeed. I think they have as many names as there are types of them.”
“Whatever our race’s sins, an overabundance of names is not one of them,” states Preston.
“Should I ask my contact that you’d like to me one of the fae, my dear, or simply for more information about their race as a whole?” asks Savoy.
“Or both, for that matter. They did promise you two favors.”
Celia: Meet one, he asks. As if it’s as simple as all that. She can’t help but imagine a staked prisoner delivered to her (though some rational part of her doesn’t think that the faeries submit to stakes quite so handily as licks do), and she wonders when her fantasies went from handshakes to cold, steel rooms with iron restraints.
Are they friendly, she almost asks, but the words don’t come. What sort of creature is friendly to the monsters that hunt humans for sustenance?
Already she brims with questions about the things.
“Both, I think.”
GM: “Very good, my dear,” Savoy smiles.
“Excellent handiwork on Miss Devillers, by the way. My contact was very satisfied.”
Celia: “I’m glad of it, and pleased that I could help. I’ve known the family since my high school days; the eldest and I were quite close.” Less close now, but college and death do that to people. Still, it’s satisfying to lend her services to the family even if they never know who it is that performed.
“There didn’t seem to be any deeper complications with Miss Devillers. The other one, though…” Celia’s lips twist even as her eyes drift toward his face, looking for a sign of interest.
GM: The elder Toreador smiles encouragingly for her to proceed.
Celia: “Miss Adler reached out for similar services for the Whitney girl. It should have been a straightforward procedure, only… well, someone tampered with things internally.” The sort of tampering Celia has done for her grandsire when he’s needed someone removed.
GM: “Ah, perhaps little surprise,” muses Savoy. “I’m certain she explained her sire owns the Whitneys, and he has many enemies these nights.”
“Nat, we didn’t put one of our people up to that, did we?”
“We did not, sir,” answers Preston. “Harming the Whitney girl gains us little at this point.”
“This would suggest the perpetrator’s motive was one of spite.”
“Whitney Hancock as an institution will continue to prosper with or without Sarah, or any of its eponymous family’s members.”
“A fair point, Nat,” considers the French Quarter lord. “Lyman is retired and Warren does very little on the board. And Sarah is still a minor.”
“Yes, this had to be personal, taking a shot at the bank’s eponymous family. I wonder who would want to do that towards Matheson.” Savoy chuckles. “I truly do! There are so many Kindred with the motive.”
GM: “Fewer, however, with convenient access to Tulane Medical Center,” Preston states.
“On the ball as ever!” Savoy smiles. “Yes, someone on the Krewe of Janus or on good terms with them would have the easiest opportunity.”
“Could have been someone else, of course, but it’d have been more trouble.”
Celia: Sometimes she wonders how much of their conversations are for them, and how much are for her. They pull the words from her mind before she can even begin to phrase them. She waits, following the speaker with the rapt attention of the crowd at a tennis match, until they’re done.
Lucky for her that she’s such good friends with someone connected to the Krewe, isn’t it.
“I could look into it, if it’s the sort of thing you’d be interested in knowing. Matheson already promised a boon, Adler another.” Wring a third from them with answers before they think to ask? Shame this hadn’t happened prior to the trial.
Timing really is everything.
GM: “I think that would be a productive use of your time, my dear. Even if the information isn’t usable by us, it’s likely worth something to Adler and Matheson.”
“The former is Sarah’s aunt, by the way. I don’t know how greatly that may impact things, but it’s another factor you can consider.”
Celia: Celia all but blinks at that. Aunt. Whitney. Warren’s sister. Rebecca Whitney? How had she not put it together? She’d gone to school with the girl, her father had crusaded against dances after her very tragic, very public death.
Even the name—Becky Lynne from Rebecca. She almost laughs.
Goes to show she paid less attention to other people in high school than she did the monsters in her own home. And the age difference besides.
“I’m certain it will mean a great deal to her, then.” A pause. “She made it sound like her sire has put a lot of effort into the family over the generations. He isn’t some long lost Whitney as well, is he?”
GM: “He’s English and so is the Whitney surname, so I wouldn’t rule it out,” Savoy muses. “However, it’s likely irrelevant. Whether the Whitneys are kin to Mr. Matheosn or not, I’d feel safe saying he only values them as tools.”
“In fact, it seems rather strange he’d offer a boon for Dr. Dicentra to fix some scarring that’s easily covered up, and still mostly removable by laser surgery.”
Celia: His friend did the same.
GM: The French Quarter lord smiles knowingly. “Miss Adler is a good girl. I wonder, did she ever directly state the boon was from her sire?”
Celia: Hadn’t she? Or had Celia just assumed?
“She implied.” The irritation doesn’t make it into her voice. She’d thought it was strange, Matheson caring that much about a single girl when there are so many in the world, and hadn’t trusted her gut. Somewhere a bald man might whisper a word she doesn’t want to hear, but it doesn’t cut through the clench of her jaw. Her fingers curl, then release.
It’s a trick she’ll need to remember.
It brings up all sorts of interesting things about his friend, though.
Celia: Not that she’s going to ask.
She doesn’t know what she’d do with a boon from Matheson, anyway.
GM: That’s where the bald man starts to whisper.
Celia: The bald man is free to fuck off any time. Hanging out with someone else that gets off while she gets nothing isn’t her idea of a good time.
Monday night, 30 November 2015, AM
GM:Jade is called back to the Evergreen about a week later. Her grandsire isn’t available to meet tonight, so Mélissaire delivers the information from his friend.
“The fae have a thousand different forms and guises, but they are governed by the same laws. They have many powers, but are most adept at illusion and oneiromancy, or dream manipulation. They are harmed by iron, which is anathema to them and disrupts their magics. They can escape all forms of restraint or entrapment, except those fashioned from iron. They can be mischievous, fickle, and insane, but they are bound by oaths, and can bind others to oaths. They don’t keep ghouls like Kindred do, but they love to strike deals with mortals, and can bind them to service in return for service. The fae gather in communities known as freeholds that are organized into courts ruled by monarchs. Fae courts are loosely allied for mutual protection against threats to a freehold.”
Celia: “Lord Savoy mentioned something about different types.” A soft lilt at the end of her statement and a lifting of her brows turns it into a question.
GM: Mélissaire gives a consoling smile. “I’m afraid I don’t know much about the fae beyond what I’ve just told you, ma’am.”
“But there are a lot of different types of them in folklore.”
Celia: Pity. Celia has so many more questions about them.
GM: “Phookas and brownies and redcaps, and what have you.”
Celia: “Isn’t there an outlaw with a gang called the redcaps?”
GM: “I think so, Lidia Kendall.” Another rueful smile. “I’d be surprised if any of them were real fae.”
Celia: “I read a book about them once. Very violent. I assume that’s why she took the name.” She shrugs. “I don’t suppose they told you if our powers work on them and whether or not we’re the sort of things they kill on sight, did they?”
GM: “I’m afraid not, ma’am. I know Lord Savoy’s had some dealings with them. He says they’re much more… complicated, than Loup-Garoux tend to be.”
Celia: Why couldn’t he just tell her about them then? Celia doesn’t scowl, but she thinks about it.
GM: “He didn’t say anything beyond that, ma’am.”
Celia: “Does he have much dealings with the Loup-Garoux? I thought they were mostly outside the city.”
GM: “The resultant mess if he did would rather speak for itself, I think,” smiles the ghoul. “They keep to the countryside, by and large, like we keep to the cities. Better for everyone that way.”
Celia: She can’t help but wonder what sort of modifications she could make to a loop if she ever got her hands on one.
Probably better that she not.
GM: “If you’re wondering why Lord Savoy didn’t simply tell you about the fae, by the by, I’m not sure how much he knows about them either. It’s possible some of this information was new to him as well.”
Celia: “I swear you’re a mind reader, Mel.”
GM: “Just good at reading people, ma’am,” smiles the ghoul. “I’m not quite that adept at soul-scrying.”
Celia: Celia wonders sometimes if she’s missing out by not devoting more time and energy into learning it. But better that she leave the scrying to others; she has enough people in her head for one person.
GM: “As to the second piece of information you purchased, your grandsire’s friend says the proprietor of Bloom Couture is one of the fae.”
Those plant shoes really are something else. And the indoor rain forest. And they’re even friends. Of a sort. As much as you can be friends with a client.
“Thank you, Mélissaire.”
She thinks the spa might need some new floral arrangements soon.
GM: “You’re welcome, ma’am,” smiles the ghoul.
“Oh, there was something else, too. Your grandsire said that his friend would be willing to sell you a piece of information that would earn this particular fae’s gratitude. The price is a boon.”
Celia: “A boon from who?”
Jade, she means, or Dicentra.
GM: “Savoy said that would be at your discretion, ma’am.”
Celia: “I’ll take the trade.”
Gratitude is so hard to come by.
GM: Mélissaire inclines her head. “Who should I tell him the boon will be from, ma’am?”
Celia: “The doctor.”
Mysterious friend goes both ways, doesn’t it?
GM: It looks as if they’ll see.
Saturday night, 4 December 2015, AM
GM: The better part of a week later, Celia meets Mélissaire at the Evergreen again.
“Your grandsire says to bring a rose somewhere on your person. Don’t allow the fae to know you have it under any circumstances. Bring a stout iron weapon too.”
Celia: “That sounds like I’m preparing for battle.”
GM: “I couldn’t say, ma’am. Lord Savoy only said his contact was clear this would earn the fae’s gratitude.”
“He says a lot of things can seem very strange or nonsensible with the good folk. But they take their rules very seriously.”
Celia: “But iron disrupts their magic..?”
GM: Mélissaire nods. “That’s what he said last week, ma’am.”
Celia: “Doesn’t that strike you as odd, to bring something they don’t like that bothers their magic in the form of a weapon? That’s like… bringing a lighter to meet with a lick.”
GM: “Perhaps so, ma’am,” smiles the ghoul.
“Lord Savoy thinks you should probably hide the weapon too.”
Celia: What, the mysterious elder gets to keep their identity secret but Jade has to share hers or she gets told to bring a weapon to what she’d hoped could be a peaceful exchange? Not to mention Dahlia Rose doesn’t even sell roses at her store.
GM: It looks like it.
They’re an elder and she’s not.
Celia: This time she does openly scowl.
GM: “It’s your decision whether you want to act on this information, ma’am,” Mélissaire demurs. “All I know is that Lord Savoy’s contact told him it would earn the fae’s gratitude.”
Celia: “I suppose we’ll find out.”