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Blood and Bourbon

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Story Four, Caroline V

“Jesus, how does anyone trust one another?”
“I think they mostly don’t…”

Caroline Malveaux to Autumn Rabinowitz


Sunday night, 13 September 2015, PM

GM: Caroline’s ghoul continues to helplessly plead as she turns away. There are other matters demanding her attention.

There’s an overlooked email from Franz, one of her family’s attorneys. He has arranged for Caroline to anonymously pay for Lauren’s hospital say, as requested. The girl was recently discharged. The aunt, Franz relays, was expectantly grateful, and sent a plate of cookies to the office. She was also very curious who paid for her niece’s stay, though no one told her.

Caroline: Caroline fires back a reply in thanks and makes clear it is to remain anonymous.

GM: There’s also an email from Tulane. She’s missed five days of classes. She has four more days before she’s automatically dropped from them.

Caroline: Another email dragged into the trashcan with more aggression than needed.

GM: There’s also a text from Roxanne.

We have Bliss. We’ll keep you posted on when it’s time to rescue her.

Caroline: Good luck. Let me know if I can help rescuing Evan.

She steps into another room to call Marco.

GM: The phone rings a few times before Marco picks up.

“Caroline.” The cop’s voice is flat.

Caroline: “Marco.” She doesn’t have to work to put emotion into her voice, and she hates herself for it.

“I know you can’t be very happy with me right now.”

GM: “Not as unhappy as Jacobson’s wife was.”

Caroline: “I know. I… I’m sorry doesn’t cut it.”

GM: There’s more bitterness in the police sergeant’s voice than anger. “Why are you even calling, Caroline?”

Caroline: “I told you that I’d follow up on what led to that night. I did.”

“Do you have a pen?”

GM: “Yeah.”

Caroline: “Emmett Delacroix.” She swallows audibly through the line before continuing, “He’s the contact for the street-level dealers with the more money than morals crowd.”

She remembers him from that long-ago charity event. What an ass he made of himself. And hearing the NOPD was already arresting him in the hospital… well.

It seems like the Sanctified would approve of bad things happening to this sinner.

GM: Marco patiently listens as Caroline frames Em for her brother’s cocaine, linking it to the recent disturbances in Mid-City. She can’t give away Em’s address, as Autumn and Turner still need time to drop off the body at his apartment, but she is confident the police will be able to uncover that bit of information on their own. She doesn’t want to look as if she’s investigated this too closely.

“Okay. We’ll look into this,” says Marco.

“Also, one more thing. Next time you have something to report, call 911. Not me.”

Caroline: “Marco!” Caroline again doesn’t have to work to put pain into her voice.

GM: “He died for you, Caroline! You didn’t even show up to his funeral!” the police sergeant all but yells.

Caroline: “I couldn’t!” she all but shrieks back, choking on it. She continues, more quietly, almost a whisper, “I couldn’t… I don’t face her. Couldn’t face him. What was I supposed to say? I’ve never had someone die for me.”

GM: Marco’s voice is a low grind. “You don’t say anything, if you can’t. You just show up, look sad, and let people know you give a damn!”

Caroline: “I wouldn’t have called again if I didn’t give a damn, Marco. I wouldn’t have spent nights running this down. I just… needed to do something, first, before I talked to her. Something to show that I care. Something more than just stand there, so she knows her husband didn’t die for some spoiled rich girl. Please, don’t slam the door on me.”

GM: There’s a pause. When Marco speaks again, his voice doesn’t have the same anger, but nor is there warmth. It’s just tired.

“Thanks for the tip, Caroline. We’ll make sure the bad guys get put away. But it’s gonna be better if you call 911 from now on instead.”

Caroline: There’s only silence on the other end of the line for a moment as Caroline collects herself. When she speaks she’s collected herself, resigned herself.

“I understand… and I’m sorry, Marco.”

GM: “Yeah. 1272 Paul Wayne Haggerty Road. That’s her address.”

The line clicks.

Caroline: She sighs as she sets the phone down for a moment. Another door shut. Another reminder of this life, and of all the lives she’s already destroyed. She doesn’t really regret framing Emmett—she’d flush a hundred would-be hustlers down the drain to protect Westley—it still cuts to have Marco cut her out of his life after having done so. She moves to the bathroom and turns the faucet to hot, running a hand through her hair as she waits for the water to warm up. The face that greets her in the mirror is stained with half-dried bloody tears and set in ugly lines of grief and anguish.

“Get it together,” she growls as she digs out a washcloth and wets it to wipe down her face. And she does, wiping away each trail of tears, each smudge, each line, with the hot towel.

GM: And when the blood is gone, it looks the same as it did before. The expression on it is heavier and the look in its eyes darker. But there are no physiological signs of any of the physical or emotional stress she’s experienced over the past week. It’s the same face.

She’s going to stare this face in the mirror forever.

Caroline: Forever feels so far away as she turns off the water when it begins to fog up the mirror, returning to collect her phone again and punch in a number. She’s put off her report to her babysitter for too long already.

GM: Several rings echo.

“You didn’t call me yesterday, girl,” sounds Wright’s voice. “Really hurt my feelin’s. I thought we had somethin’.”

Caroline: “I’m sorry, I had no progress to report on my sire last night.”

GM: “Oh, now that’s some good news t’ pass on.”

Caroline: “I do have information tonight, however.”

Didn’t help that I had to deal with your ‘brothas’ as well, she thinks nastily.

GM: There’s an expectant silence from the line’s other end.

Caroline: And report she does, largely repeating what she reported at her confession. Her sire has been spotted in the French Quarter, where he appears to be held up, and has been seen with Savoy and the Serpents both.

GM: “Well now, it’s jus’ like your mama said. Put your mind to it an’ there’s nothin’ you can’t do.”

Caroline: “I know it isn’t much,” she demurs.

GM: “Sho’ ain’t next to his staked an’ gift-wrapped ass.”

“You’re gonna call all me every night, even if you ain’t got nothin’ ‘cept ’I diddled myself in the shower’ to report in. We clear?”

Caroline: “Crystal.”

GM: Wright hangs up.

Caroline: She turns and flips over the table beside her, letting out a scream of rage and frustration as she does.

GM: It loudly crashes to the ground over the expensive hardwood. No one else is present in the house to hear except for a half-dead junkie.

Caroline: God, she hates being under his thumb. Hates the ridiculous restrictions. Hates her own helplessness with regard to her sire.

GM: And as the helpless and abused so often do, she can take it out on someone else.


Monday night, 14 September 2015, AM

GM: Lacking a car, Caroline hails an Ryde driver after walking down from her house to Audubon Place’s gated entrance. She’s had enough of bathroom stalls, and nearly as much of backseat car makeouts.

She tells the driver to cruise the neighborhood as she scrolls her Facebook feed for Tulane-related events. As luck would have it, there are some older (21+) students getting together for a private party off-campus.

It’s a relatively small gathering inside someone’s semi-ratty, student-budget apartment. Maybe a dozen people, all told. Caroline isn’t part of their social circle, but a few applications of her supernal presence and she’s the party’s center of attention. The affair breaks off fairly early, as it is a school night. At least for those who have or can be bothered to attend class in their junior/senior years. The party’s host and her boyfriend prove only too receptive to a three-way with the Ventrue.

Caroline: It’s exactly the release she needs after the the rest of the night. Tumbling in a comfortable bed with two oh so delicious and moderately intoxicated youths, the ability to take little drinks here and there from each and make the moment last. Always before it’s been in some public place, or with some darker end. By comparison this feels almost innocent, despite its explicitness.

They’re so young. They’re so eager. They’re so filling. She leaves them in each others’ arms, thoroughly exhausted, as she departs into the night. She has a few more stops. There’s such an emptiness to the interaction. Yes, the thrill of the blood. Yes, the satisfaction of the monster inside her chest. And certainly it was more enjoyable than most of her past liaisons in dirty bathrooms or garbage-filled cars, but she can’t help but feel that it was missing something. Or maybe everything. This is the closest she comes to interacting with people. The most pleasurable company she enjoys.

She shakes off that near brush with self-pity. Tulane Medical isn’t far, and she needs to make her rent. In these last nights she’s experienced far worse almost every night. Torture, violence, and horror. She isn’t going to let loneliness shake her.

GM: Perhaps the explanation for her loneliness is simple. That when two kine find comfort (and possibly love) in one another’s arms, all she can do is deceive and take. Kill them in small doses. She’s going to do it again, that agelessly 25-year-old face in the bathroom mirror reminds her. Again and again. Forever. Immortality isn’t free.

Caroline: Neither is a home under the sheriff’s protection, and after what she kicked over tonight, God does she need it. After everything she’s done so far to make trouble for the sheriff and his hounds, she needs to pay in full. She needs to prove she can exist in this world. She needs a good impression. Needs a measure of trust. So she turns to lies. And manipulation. And control. What else can she do?

GM: For the second time in as many nights, Caroline makes her way to TMC and bends a nurse’s mind to her will, donning a set of scrubs. Things are “crazy” in the hospital right now, her new friend shares. The police have arrested the same bedridden man twice. After that criminal Gettis illegally arrested him the first time. And the bedridden man’s doctor, Jared Brown, has recently gone missing.

Caroline: Caroline listens ideally to the chatter of the nurse as she goes about her business.

GM: Caroline makes her way into the hospital’s blood bank with the staff’s assistance and stuffs as many of the red-filled cold plastic bags into the scrubs as she can fit. It swiftly becomes apparent they have only so much room. The mentally enthralled nurse helpfully provides a backpack for Caroline to store her haul in. By the time it’s so filled that the Ventrue has to actively struggle closing the zipper, she notices something else.

The tenth bag she pulls out is hot to the touch.

Caroline: She turns it over in her hands.

GM: The contained blood violently swirls in place, like angry storm clouds. The smell of partly-melted plastic assails her nostrils.

Caroline: She pauses on her way out of the refrigerated unit to check the logs, doctoring them as needed to reflect an smaller original tally and checking to see if there’s a source for the mysterious bag of vitae.

GM: Caroline finds no listing. The bag of blood is literally off the books.

Caroline: She reflects on Autumn’s earlier words about a Krewe ghoul in TMC. It doesn’t stop her from pocketing the vitae, but she does leave a small note behind on a piece of paper borrowed from the storeroom. It reads, JG. C/O CM. C Autumn.

Not her most inventive code, but it seems likely to get the point across to the right person if they find it, and vex others.

She’s not out to rob the other ghoul of something she needs, but nor is she going to leave the vitae behind where it might be found on an inspection into the stores.

Especially given how much she’s making off with.


Monday night, 14 September 2015, AM

GM: Caroline hails another Ryde cab and gets driven back to Audubon Place. she’s dropped off by the yard of Donovan’s soulless McMansion home.

It’s still an expensive-looking, three-story affair with a wide driveway and impeccably-maintained yard with several neat rows of trees and flowerbeds. A Porsche and BMW sit in front of the house. Unsmiling guards see the Ventrue in. They walk her down polished hardwood floors and past bland photographs of still landscapes that would get an “A” in photography class for meeting all the teacher’s grading requirements, and nothing else. Not so much as a smudge of dirt or creased rug is present in the house. There are no scattered clothes or electronic devices, no dirty dishes, no sign it’s actually lived in. It feels more like a model house than a lived-in home. Indeed, for all the dwelling’s well-to-do-ness, its architecture is almost offensively generic, the same McMansion style copied in hundreds of wealthy suburbias. This house lacks a soul.

The guards escort Caroline to a spartan office room with a desk, three chairs (one behind the desk, two in front) and absolutely nothing else. Donovan almost sits behind the desk.

But he doesn’t. The figure looks like Donovan at first, but at second glance, he’s a duplicate. An aborted duplicate. The duplicate wears identical clothing to the sheriff: black sweater, navy slacks, polished leather shoes, all without a crease out of place. He has the same neatly combed black hair, the same clean-shaven chin, the same posture and blank expression… but that’s where it ends. The man is shorter and plumper than his master, like someone squashed Donovan down with a trash compactor. He possesses different facial features and is obviously not the same man. The entire mimicry feels false, hollow, incomplete. It’s as if someone tried to build a Donovan duplicate and simply gave up halfway through.

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Most telling of all are the eyes. Where the sheriff’s gaze is alternately stormy and frigid, like an upset Arctic sea, the mimic’s is simply empty. Like staring into a starless void. Gray eyes, which Caroline is instantly sure are only gray like Donovan’s because of contact lenses, regard the Ventrue as unblinkingly as they did during the two’s last meeting. Even the windows to his soul are fake.

“What is your business, Miss Malveaux,” the mimic states in the same hollow monotone as before.

Caroline: “I’ve come to pay my corvee to Sheriff Donovan,” she replies evenly.

GM: “I will accept it in his stead.” The mimic’s bland tone does not fluctuate.

Caroline: “Of course,” Caroline replies demurely. She slides off the bag and counts out seven pints of blood for the doppelganger on the table between them, trying not to look into his empty eyes. Hoping that she never has to look into eyes like that on the face of someone she cares about.

But fearing she will. Eternity is a long time.

GM: The mimic stares at the blood bags with all the interest that watching paint dry on a wall might elicit.

“Your corvée is accepted,” he intones.

Caroline: “You’ll convey the sheriff my continued thankfulness for this opportunity?”

GM: “Sheriff Donovan wishes me to convey that his patience for your search is not unlimited. Hound Wright has reported few developments. You have seven nights to locate your sire before you are executed.”

The mimic’s face remains the picture of disinterest. It’s not a threat that comes out of his mouth. Just a different sequence of syllables, bereft of any significance or meaning but that which Caroline attaches to them.

Caroline: The words send a chill through her, and it is only with conscious will that she doesn’t shiver at them. If her blood could run cold, it would.

Thankfully, the blood in her veins is not her own.

GM: “Do you have further business to conduct with Sheriff Donovan, Ms. Malveaux,” the mimic blandly intones at Caroline’s silence.

Caroline: “Not at this time.” She bites her lip. “Were that to change, should such be brought here for the sheriff’s convenience?”

GM: “Yes.” The same vacant look.

GM: Caroline and the mimic exchange final, one-sided “pleasantries.” He doesn’t watch her leave so much as blankly stare in the same direction she departs.

Eternity is a long-time—and one all-too close at hand.


Monday night, 14 September 2015, AM

GM: After taking leave of Donovan’s home and on the way back to hers, Caroline calls the number provided by Gus Elgin. Her call is not answered by the master of Elysium himself, but a man who identifies himself as Master Elgin’s ghoul. He thanks Caroline for her courtesy and replies she has his number if she wishes to make a later exchange of information with the Hidden Clan.

Caroline: The conversation if brief, polite, and largely one-sided. She conveys that she is grateful for the service that the master of Elysium offered, but she has chosen to pursue an alternative course. She apologizes for any inconvenience it might have caused, and bid him that their paths cross again in a favorable manner.

GM: “It is no inconvenience to him, Ms. Malveaux,” the man reiterates. His voice is high but thick, and has the slightest lisp, like a fat man who’s inhaled just a bit of helium.

“Your courtesy in notifying him, however, is appreciated. If you should wish to exchange information with the Hidden Clan at a later date, my domitor bids me to tell you that your ‘rite of hazing’ has already been performed. He hopes that you will have a pleasant evening.”

Caroline finds little out of order in her home as she returns. Aimee is still sprawled over the couch, not asleep so much as passed out. Caesar and her other ghouls are absent, the former now for good. Many of the house’s furnishings are still missing from Wright’s last visit. The domicile is as still and lifeless as Donovan’s empty-eyed ghoul.

Caroline: She puts that unpleasant thought out of her mind for the moment and lets Aimee rest for the moment, seeing to business. First she carries the drained body from the ice-filled bathtub upstairs to a more private location. It’s unpleasant, and it’s going to be unpleasant, but not so much as if it’s found.

GM: Caroline finds a human-shaped trash bag in the ice-filled bathtub upstairs. The stench is ungodly even with the bag tied shut. The premed student aware that corpses can, in fact, shit themselves after death.

Caroline: She double-bags the body.

She double checks her emails and messages to see if anything new has come in. She writes out instructions—reminders really—for Autumn when she gets back. Shep and the car. The meet with her Krewe contact regarding the body. Getting some rest and seeing to Caesar. He’s not to go to a shelter, though he can be boarded, briefly, if needed.

She also asks that Autumn round up a couple of specific items for her for the next sunset. She fires off a text to Wright, requesting to meet with him at his earliest convenience tomorrow night. She fires off another message to Roxanne, asking her to touch base tomorrow night. She fires off a text to Ms. Haley, politely inquiring as to whether Coco is to be found at Blaze the next evening.

GM: No replies from Autumn are immediately forthcoming. Perhaps the ghoul has gone to sleep. While Caroline is checking her phone, she finds a new text message from Jocelyn.

Im going to the Elysium at the Orpheum tomorrow. Theyre having another then. U want to come?

Caroline: That text, is a burning distraction in the back of her mind as she types out the others and tries to let her head clear before responding.

GM: Wright simply texts back:

Over what?

Caroline: Details of delivering my sire.

GM: Caroline’s burner phone rings.

Wright.

Caroline: She doesn’t want to deal with him right now, but screening his call after texting him is likely to end badly. She takes another moment to center herself and answers.

GM: “Ain’t around tomorrow. What is it?” he says without preamble.

Caroline: “I need a few details, most of which an assistant can provide, such as how and where he’s to be delivered when I capture him, but I also specifically need to know you’re willing to pass on another request to the sheriff for access to the French Quarter for the purpose of apprehending him. Not being able to enter where I’ve explicitly determined he’s hiding out imposes certain logistical challenges on this.”

GM: “Anywhere that gets him in our hands without flippin’ the Masquerade over a dead guy wit’ a stake in his chest. Perdido House, Donovan’s house, whatever.”

Caroline: “There will be individuals standing by at each ready to receive him?”

GM: “There always somebody at those places.”

“So far as Vieux Carré.” Wright seems to chew on Caroline’s words, but find nothing to immediately take offense to. “I’ll pass it up. Don’t hold your breath.”

Caroline: “Thank you.” She pauses before continuing on, “I don’t want to belabor this, but… he has allies. He’s had a century to accumulate influence, favors, servants, and lay plans. Which means when this happens, it’s likely to get very ugly on the back end coming out of Vieux Carré… delivering that bucket of problems into Donovan’s lap isn’t going to cause problems?”

GM: “Girl, if this gets ugly, it’s Donovan who’s goin’ to be your problem. You keep the First Law. Whether you the prince or a serf.”

Caroline: “And if they don’t feel the same way?”

GM: “Dafuck? Anyone else breaks the Masquerade, they’re gonna burn at the stake too. It is not fuckin’ optional.”

Caroline: “What I mean is, what happens if I show up at the sheriff’s home and the serpents or private security or ghouls come in guns blazing?”

GM: “They won’t if they know what’s good for ’em.”

“You get us your sire. Some idiot shoots up Audubon, they’ll get fucking burned at the stake.”

Caroline: “Okay. One last thing. To draw him in or out, certain rumors might have to get circulated as to my intentions. I don’t want that to be a surprise.”

GM: “Then un-s’prise me.”

Caroline: “I’ll make every effort to do so ahead of time, but if word comes across that sounds crazy…”

GM: “I swear this is like pullin’ fangs. Girl, what shit are you plannin’ on pullin’?”

Caroline: She grits those very fangs. “I’m planning on doing or saying whatever is necessary to draw him out, using myself as bait. Exactly that that’s going to require, I won’t know until I get started.”

GM: “Wouldn’t that have saved us a headache if you said from th’ start? Whatever then. You don’t break the Masquerade, we won’t burn you too.”

Caroline: “That’s all I had.”

GM: Wright hangs up.

Caroline: Tick, Tock. Tomorrow looks more and more like a loss she can ill afford. Seven days to pull everything together. Or seven days to write a will.

GM: Caroline finds she has received another text back from Haley during their conversation:

I’m afraid she won’t be. She’ll be attending tomorrow’s Elysium Primo if you want to catch her then.

Caroline: I’d simply like to know the earliest opportunity to deliver my gift to her.

GM: Ok. That will be at tomorrow’s Elysium.

Caroline: Thank you.

Caroline’s response goes flying away at the speed of data as she pulls up Jocelyn’s message. Apprehend her a hundred-year-old sire in a district she isn’t permitted to visit, where he’s surrounded by his allies and possible servants in a week? Why not take off a night for a party.

I’d love to.

GM: Great! It opens at nightfall.

Caroline: What’s a fashionably late arrival?

GM: So they actually hate licks who try to show up fashionably late. But it’s open for Kindred to just pop into whenever. So I guess there isn’t.

Caroline: I have a few affairs to see to in the early evening, but I’ll see you there.

GM: Watch out too. Adelais is supposed to be there

Caroline: We’ve met.

GM: Ok, I gtg, cya later

Caroline: “Bye,” she murmurs quietly to herself, watching the screen until it locks.


Monday night, 14 September 2015, AM

Caroline: In truth, Caroline has matters to see to as well. Aimee, in particular, is woken up and told in no uncertain terms she is to stay in, rest, and recover today. Under no circumstances is she to leave the house. If anything goes wrong she’s to call Autumn.

GM: Aimee groggily awakens. She’s still clad in the same dirty sweatpants Eight-Nine-Six force-marched her to the park in, and her face is still caked with crusted-over blood. She all too readily swears not to go anywhere. She begs Caroline for another sip of blood. Please. She still hurts so bad.

Caroline: “Tomorrow,” Caroline promises, loathing herself for it, so long as Aimee doesn’t get in any trouble today.

GM: Aimee swallows, still visibly distraught but at least not pushing the matter, and meekly asks for some ibuprofen.

Caroline: Caroline sets her up with a large glass of water, four ibuprofen, and a remote for the new, smaller TV, and a small array of snack foods from the increasingly barren kitchen until she feels well enough to get up.

GM: Barren proves all-too apt as Caroline goes through the refrigerator for the first time in a week. There’s enough to scrounge up a modest meal, though much of the other food is starting to spoil. Someone will need to pick up new groceries, though somehow Caroline can’t see many Kindred doing that for their ghouls.

Even tired as she is, Aimee ravenously sets into the crackers, olives, salami slices, and peanut butter-dipped celery sticks. She doesn’t look as if she’s eaten for some time.

Caroline: Caroline leaves her to it as she makes for her daytime refuge. Not as glamorous as her bed, but after raiding another haven she’s all too aware of the dangers of remaining out in the open.

The panic room is actually on the second floor, off the room she uses as an office, but which was originally a bedroom, complete with a walk-in closet she uses to store her more out of fashion or season clothing. Buried behind walls of apparel is a concealed latch that opens into a hidden room at the heart of the house. It’s not large, but in a pinch would hold perhaps half a dozen people, especially if several of those were children. With just herself and a triple-bagged corpse it isn’t bad, save the smell, which she is able to ignore when she forces herself to stop breathing.

She slides the steel bar that locks the room into place and settles into the chair she dragged inside.

A phone worth a hard line hangs on one wall, an old first aid kit beside it. There’s one outlet she plugs her phone into, and little else. It was supposed to be a last resort, and, she supposes, it is.


Monday evening, 14 September 2015

GM: Caroline settles down on the bare room’s equally bare cot and goes to sleep. She wakes up a second later. The body’s stench is worse. But it’s not the first thing to draw her attention.

Caroline: Panic rooms can come with a lot of amenities. Air circulation, plumbing, weapons caches, communications, sound proofing, phone lines, food supplies, electric generators. And surveillance.

Caroline’s panic room is fairly basic, for the most part. But she had a hunch, given all the recent goings-on, and gets up to check the feed on the motion-activated cameras she installed earlier throughout the house.

GM: Aimee gets off the couch and picks up the landline phone, though no ring sounds. She holds it to her ear, then sets it down. She disappears into the garage, where the power tools are kept, and returns with an improvised stake fashioned from scrap wood, as well as a mallet. She walks into Caroline’s bedroom, turns up the covers, checks under the bed, then the closet and bathroom. She finds no trace of the Ventrue.

Aimee walks through the rest of the house, surveying it top to bottom. Caroline eventually hits the fast forward. Only minutes before nightfall, Aimee finally stops looking, discards her tools, and goes back to sleep on the couch.

Caroline: She watches the scene numbly. Watches her closest friend work through the steps of her demise. And it hurts, a fresh slap in the face to start the evening.

Better than a stake, though.

She leaves the body and damning video behind, sliding open the hidden door and changing clothing quietly before heading downstairs. She watches Aimee’s exhaustion- and injury-fueled rest with mixed emotions, reflecting on the naivety of thinking she could shield her from this life, once she was drawn in.

GM: Aimee has gone out like a light and lies motionless on the couch. Most of the food from last night is eaten. The ibuprofen is gone too. As the Ventrue looks “her” ghoul over, her phone blips.

Caroline: She looks down to check it.

GM: Autumn has forwarded an article from the Times-Picayune reporting on several “bodiless murders” in Mid-City. A full police investigation into the massacre at Eight-Nine-Six’s apartment complex is underway. The absence of any bodies has made them impossible to conclusively identify, but numerous missing persons in the neighborhood have now taken on a far more sinister cast. Several names are posted:

Tevari Vaughn. Jason Hayes. Sean Gamble. Miguel Rodriguez. Maxwell Tucker.

There’s not much else posted on them. Just names.

Caroline: Fuck them, Caroline thinks viciously. Before she’s done she’ll look down and smile at Eight-Nine-Six.

She locks her phone and returns her gaze to Aimee. “Rise and shine, darling,” she all but snarls at the ghoul.

GM: Aimee groggily looks up. Perhaps it would take more effort to rouse her if she’d had a full day of sleep, but as Caroline is well-aware, she hasn’t.

“Caroline…?”

Caroline: “How’d you sleep?” she asks with barely contained anger.

GM: “Uhhh… I still feel tired…” Aimme ventures. Her expression grows apprehensive as she takes in the anger on Caroline’s features.

Caroline: “Of course you do. That’s what happens when you spend the entire day trying to kill me.”

It’s hard to pick out the anger from the hurt in her voice.

GM: “W-what?” Aimee blinks confusedly. “I’ve been asleep, here…”

Caroline:THE HELL YOU HAVE,” Caroline snarls.

GM: The fear is plain and naked on Aimee’s face as she awkwardly throws up her hands on the couch.

“I swear! I sw-I haven’t moved!”

Caroline: “I’m sorry you got dragged into this, Aimee… I am. I’m sorry. But…” She shakes her head. “I don’t fucking know how to fix this.”

GM: Aimee doesn’t look certain whether to be relieved or not by Caroline’s softer tone.

“I… I don’t know what you’re talking about, Caroline. I’m sorry. I… I don’t. I’m sorry.”

Caroline: “No you’re not,” Caroline snarls back. “You don’t even remember. And now I have to find some way to make it right.”

GM: Aimee blinks tears. “I’m… I’m sorry. I’ll do whatever I can do to help. Please.”

The ghoul hesitates for a moment, then licks her lips.

“Can I… can I have another drink now? You said tomorrow…”

Caroline: Caroline’s eyes nearly pop out of her skull as she turns her Beast loose. “Shut up!”

GM: The words die in Aimee’s throat. Fear flashes over her face… but the want in her eyes does not die.

Another text pings from Autumn. Outside Audubon. Got most of the stuff you wanted.

Caroline: “Don’t move,” she orders as she calls to buzz Autumn in.

GM: Aimee meekly remains in place.

Autumn comes inside hefting a large cardboard box. “There’s a couple more in the car, but I think I got most of what you wanted. There’s a couple other things.”

“I paid off Jennings with the 4k. He’s chopped the car.”

“I got contacted by the Krewe. They… weren’t happy. They said a bunch of blood went missing from TMC, they had to cook the books, and someone left a note with my name. So you, uh… poached from them. Like with Eight-Nine-Six. I told them I didn’t know anything. I don’t think they’re siccing Mr. Hush on us… yet, but Maurice is going to ‘interview’ you when he comes over.”

Caroline: “When will that be?” Caroline’s gaze remains locked on Aimee.

GM: “2 AM. So there’s a while for you to do other stuff first.”

Autumn follows her domitor’s eye, but says nothing.

Caroline: “There is so much to do.” Her gaze lingers. “Starting with this problem.”

GM: “Something happen? Er, scratch that. What happened?”

Caroline: “Someone tried to cram a crude stake in me today when I was sleeping.”

GM: “Aw, geez. Did she… want to, or did someone mindscrew her?”

Aimee’s throat works, but no sound comes out.

Caroline: Caroline outlines what happened without going into detail as to how she knows it. She lets Aimee struggle.

GM: Autumn eyes the other ghoul. “Damn. I guess you could… try to un-screw her yourself? Or take her to another lick?”

Caroline: “I didn’t even know it was possible to leave instructions like that, much less how to undo it. The question of more interest to me, though, is what was supposed to happen if she succeeded.”

GM: “I dunno. Maybe drag you into the sun, or maybe take you somewhere else. There’s a lot you can do with a staked lick.”

Caroline: “Because that is the more timely question.”

GM: “Well, what licks do you know who’d want to destroy or capture you? Eight-Nine-Six being pretty up there.”

Caroline: Caroline glowers at that question. “What I mean is, was she supposed to… forget it. The question is, how does their instruction interact with my own commands?”

GM: Autumn looks unsure. “I guess that really depends. How long the instructions last, and how strong the commands were. I can look her over with ESP, though, and see if she’s still a danger?”

“So long as she doesn’t have any juice in her system, anyway. I can’t look into a renfield’s head like I can a normal’s.”

Caroline: “Do it.”

GM: Autumn takes a few steps closer to the couch. The older ghoul’s eyes fall out of focus, and it’s just Aimee who winces.

“There’s… an iron fist, grabbing her head. A claw, stewing around her brain… it’s still stewing…”

Autumn’s brow furrows. “It’s… it’s strong, but also… weak. It’s a large fist, but… brittle, next to yours.”

The ghoul winces. “Aimee’s… pulling a blanket over you. Dragging… you into the sun. You don’t burn. Loading you… into a car…”

“Driving… I can’t see the rest…” Autumn rubs a hand over her forehead, biting her teeth. “Phone… rings just once… she gets her stake…”

Autumn lets out a low breath. “That’s everything I’ve got.”

Caroline: Caroline lets Aimee go and chews on her lower lip.

GM: Aimee fearfully looks between the two. “I-I don’t know about any of this. I swear. Please don’t…” She trails off.

Caroline: “Jesus, how does anyone trust one another?” she asks, exasperated.

GM: “I think they mostly don’t…” Autumn ventures quietly.

Caroline: “What a miserable state.” She looks back at Aimee. “I have to try and pull that out of your head.”

GM: Aimee does not look comforted. “How…?”

Caroline: Caroline looks back to Autumn. “Presumably the same way they put it in.”

GM: Autumn doesn’t say anything. It’s her domitor’s call.

Caroline: “It’ll be easier though if instead of trying to force it, you’ll work with me. Will you do that for me, Aimee? Will you let me in?”

GM: “I’m…”

Aimee looks, in a word, horrible. Unreasted from a night spent hunting her domitor’s haven, dark circles lining her eyes. Still covered in black and blue bruises from Eight-Nine-Six’s ill treatment. The crusted blood and grass over her face hasn’t been cleaned, and her sweat-stained sweatpants don’t smell like they’ve been washed in some time.

Her swollen eyes well. “Please don’t… don’t… I just want this nightmare to end.” She takes a shuddering breath. “I’m scared. God I’m… I’m so scared. I don’t know if… why this…” She casts a pleading, glassy-eyed look at her domitor’s wrist. “Please let me… let me drink, Caroline. I feel… away from it all, when I drink…”

Caroline: Caroline’s disgust with her friend, her ghoul, her slave is written across her face in big ugly letters, and it is only by the narrowest of margins that it eclipses outright rage. Scared. Must be nice to entertain such a pointless emotion. To have the luxury of panic.

GM: Aimee finally seems to have the sense not to say anything else. She looks away.

Autumn uncomfortably watches, likewise holding her tongue.

Caroline: The moment draws on uncomfortably, but as with the seconds, so too does Caroline’s wraith tick away. Her expression softens as she looks at the pitiful thing before her. Someone she loved, reduced to a broken, tortured, and traumatized addict. Loathing turns to self-loathing, disgust to sympathy, and hatred settles in deeply into her heart. Not for Aimee. Not now. But for the architects of this scene.

GM: Aimee doesn’t look altogether sure what to say in response to her mistress’ change of expression. A flicker of hope shines in her eyes, but it is a feeble enough thing, easily snuffed out.

Autumn spares a glance Caroline’s way, but still makes no move to interject.

Caroline: At last she moves towards Aimee. “One drink, and then you must work with me to undo this? Do you understand?”

GM: Aimee looks up at Caroline. It’s the best ‘deal’ she’s probably going to get.

And. A drink.

The ghoul’s eyes now fully light up. “Okay, I’ll try…”

Caroline: Caroline opens her wrist again for the ghoul.

GM: Aimee drinks with all the contentment of a babe at its mother’s tit. Her eyes close as her cheeks flush. The ghoul’s tongue tenderly runs over Caroline’s pale skin as she sucks and sucks that vein of liquid high.

Autumn tries can’t tear her gaze away. She follows every slurp, every shudder, every contented moan that escapes past Caroline’s wrist. The other ghoul licks her lips several times and eventually asks in a heavy voice,

“Caroline, can… can I have a hit too?”

Caroline: Caroline snatches her wrist away from Aimee when Autumn speaks, turning her gaze on the former Krewe ghoul.

“Do you really think that’s a good idea?”

GM: Autumn stares at Caroline’s still-red wrist longingly.

“Please.”

Caroline: It’s tempting. To seize the ghoul’s love and allegiance. To help put to bed questions of her loyalty behind her moment of weakness. Just a little blood. Just a lifetime of slavery. She wavers for a moment, seeming to consider.

GM: “I’ve been useful, haven’t it? More than she has,” Autumn presses.

Caroline: Caroline nods. “You have.”

GM: Aimee doesn’t respond to that. More of the black-ish bruises on the other ghoul’s face have reverted to a healthy pink, and the puffiness around her eyes has gone down. She still looks as if someone has roughed her up, though she mostly smells worse than she looks.

Caroline: She takes a step towards the ghoul.

GM: Autumn takes more than one and reaches out to take Caroline’s wrist, gazing up at the Ventrue as if for permission.

Caroline: Caroline lets her take her wrist, her eyes meeting Autumn’s… but as Caroline thinks back on Aimee, on the simpering, whining, pathetic junkie now caught almost forever in her thrall, she can’t bring herself to do it. It’s too perverse. She’s already enslaved one young woman tonight. This isn’t Autumn speaking.

She unleashes her Beast’s dominating will upon the young woman, even as she slides closer.

“You don’t need it,” she whispers in the other ghoul’s ear.

GM: Autumn’s eyes glass over.

Caroline: “You value your freedom.”

GM: The ghoul’s dull expression scrunches, like clay too firm to work with… Caroline can control what she says, how she acts, even what she remembers, but she cannot change how Autumn feels.

Caroline: She brings up her wrist and closes the punctures with a lick.

“Forget you saw this.”

GM: Autumn looks at Caroline’s wrist for a long time. Her eyes are still foggy.

“The Krewe came to my house yesterday, mindfucked me into reporting everything you did, and told me to forget telling them,” she slurs out.

Caroline: Her breath catches at the admission. “How did they react?”

GM: Autumn blinks as the mental fog seems to subside. Apprehension creeps into her eyes.

“Uh… pretty neutrally, but they don’t talk to me except to demand information,” she answers slowly.

Caroline: She feign surprise or even blame her. Instead the whole thing just leaves her feeling numb.

“Have they given you any other orders?”

GM: Autumn’s face twitches.

Caroline: Caroline sighs. “Forget this conversation.”

She pats her hand on Autumn’s back even as she breaks eye contact with her, releasing her from her spell. “You’ve done great.”

GM: Autumn blinks confusedly as the spell ends.

“Uh, thanks…”

Caroline: Caroline’s gaze sweeps back to Aimee. “Are you ready?”

GM: Aimee’s own gaze lingers on the other ghoul. She nods after a moment. “Yeah.”

Caroline: Caroline disengages herself from Autumn and moves to sit beside her more troublesome ghoul.

“Just relax. This shouldn’t hurt or anything.” She offers a weak smile.

GM: Aimee doesn’t relax, but takes a breath and closes her eyes. Autumn has to remind her to open them, because “That’s how it works.” Aimee reluctantly does so and stares into Caroline’s own eyes.

Caroline: Caroline imposes her will on the ghoul, wrapping her mind in the coils of the Beast.

GM: Caroline’s Beast growls as it circles a psychic barrier. It sniffs, growls, and scratches at the entrance, but can’t yet get in. Aimee hisses painfully and clenches her teeth. She reflexively shuts her eyes, prompting Autumn to give a slight roll of her own.

Caroline: She hisses in frustration as she batters at Aimee’s mind. With that same hiss, she meets the girl’s eyes again.

GM: Caroline’s Beast rears back and smashes into the psychic wall, snarling with frustration. Claws rake and score the surface. Then catch. The Beast pulls and struggles, confused.

Trap.

Aimee’s produces a cigarette lighter from her sweatpants’ pocket, flicks it on, and tosses it at Caroline.

Caroline: It never has a chance to land before Caroline blurs into motion, conscious action supplanted by the Beast’s instincts. She slaps the lighter from Aimee’s hand even as her other hand closes around the battered girl’s throat. If she get in a word edge-wise, Caroline might scream at her friend. She might rage. She’d ask why, knowing the answer, and blast her for her weakness, for creating this situation. For all of it.

It’s all her fault. Down to Decadence, to that night when Caroline’s world came crashing down like a house of cards. Her fault, and yet all she does is create more problems while crying in her pathenticness.

GM: Caroline seizes Aimee’s throat, yanks her forward, and smashes the ghoul nose-first over the adjacent wood table. Aimee screams something, or just cries, and it’s all so fucking tiresome.

Her fault. All of it.

Caroline: And there is so much wrong. A death sentence, the Krewe in her business, Eight-Nine-Six’s constant childish attacks, Autumn getting interrogated like the spy she is in truth. How much time has Caroline already lost dealing with Aimee’s bullshit. She’ll give her something to cry about. She has a week to live, if she’s lucky, and she’s wasting that time with this fucking junkie.

GM: No more.

Again and again, the screaming ghoul’s head smashes into the glass. Maybe she says something coherent. Maybe she doesn’t. The cries are loudest the first few times, when the crunches of her breaking nose are noisiest too. Blood streaks are left smeared over the transparent table, like a child’s messy finger painting. The coppery scent only further inflames Caroline’s mad Beast. Again and again, the screaming ghoul’s head smashes into the glass.

The screams finally cease when Aimee’s weakly-struggling body goes limp. It’s not enough. There’s nowhere near enough blood in the ghoul’s body to make up for what a fucking pain in the ass she’s been. Spiderweb-cracks snake across the glass. The table finally shatters under the repeated stress, its metal legs toppling onto the floor with four dull clangs.

The jarring sensation of her victim falling out from under her reach only incenses the Beast further. Caroline grabs Aimee’s gore-slick hair and grinds her face-first into the shattered glass, smashing her head up and down into their jagged edges, again and again, oblivious to the tiny specks cutting at her own knees.

The red haze finally clears with Caroline’s fist balled in the bloody hair of the limp, three-fourths dead problem that used to be her best friend. The ruined thing’s face is a slashed, bloody crisscross of tears.

Autumn has backed into a corner, utterly silent at the carnage-wrought scene.

Caroline: The scream that tears itself from Caroline’s throat when she overpowers the Beast and finds herself, blood splattered and holding her lifeless friend is indescribable. Rage mixed with love, grief with satisfaction, catharsis with conflict, terror with relief.

But mostly it’s a scream of horror as she pulls Aimee’s minced face from the blood stained pile of glass shards and into her own lap as she falls to the ground.

GM: The shorter woman’s limp body is heavy, but still pliable like a rag doll as Caroline pulls its mutilated head into her lap. Glass nips at the Ventrue’s knees as she sinks to the floor. Aimee’s inviting, so-sweet blood is spattered everywhere. The rug. The table’s ruined remains. Caroline’s hands. Her arms. Her clothes. Her face. Hurting people is messy business. Her Beast, only just pacified with the hideous violence, is already licking its chops at the delectable sight. At the intoxicating odor. It’s like getting fingered by her boyfriend at a funeral. Utterly inappropriate, yet her body’s response cannot be denied. And if she just closes her eyes, leans back and enjoys it…

The Beast runs a tongue over its chops. It doesn’t care. It just wants.

Always, it just wants.

Autumn, all but cowering in the corner of the room, looks as if she’s trying to make herself as small and forgettable as possible.

Caroline: “Autumn.” Caroline’s words come out between near-hyperventilation. An impressive feat for someone that doesn’t need to breathe.

“You’ve… got to… call…. an ambiance. I can’t fix this.” She looks at her cowering ghoul.

GM: The ghoul’s voice is a trembling whisper. “This… the Masquerade… you can just feed her… how are we supposed to explain this?”

Caroline: “I’ll figure it out. She’s going to die!”

GM: “But… your blood, it’ll fix her better than any EMT!”

Caroline: She’s right. But she’s also oh so wrong. Caroline can feel the hunger, can feel the discontent, and she can smell Aimee’s oh so delicious blood… well, everywhere. She sets Aimee’s head down out of the glass as she pulls away.

“I can’t. I can’t.” She shakes her head. “I can’t be near her.”

GM: Autumn swallows as the tremor in her voice partly subsides.

“Please. Just… just cut your wrist, get her stable, and we can… we can’t just call 911! Even if… you mindfuck the entire ambulance, how are they going to say she got this way?”

Caroline: “And if I lose… control again?”

GM: “Bleed into a cup then, and I’ll feed her! Please! We CAN’T call 911!”

Caroline: She wants to scream. Wants to just tell Autumn to do what she says. Wants to hide from all of this. Wants to… suck the blood straight out of Aimee’s feebly beating heart.

Instead, Caroline does none of those things. She flees the scene into the kitchen, digging through barren shelves for another glass that Wright’s thugs didn’t smash.

GM: Autumn briskly follows behind, but still maintains a wary distance from Caroline as she bites her wrist and dribbles the blood into the nearest ready container, a cereal bowl.

“I’ll… get this right to her,” the ghoul responds, grabbing the bowl in one hand and a knife in her other before dashing back out of the kitchen.

Caroline: She sags with shame and exhaustion into the corner.

GM: Autumn disappears. The kitchen clock, featuring painted songbirds perched on leafy boughs, ticks by.

Caroline: It’s hard being a monster. It’s harder when you have to face it. The stainless steel refrigerator reflects back a distorted image of Caroline’s bloodsoaked vestige.

GM: Autumn reappears after about five minutes.

“She’s okay. Well, not okay, but stable.”

Caroline: Caroline unconscious licks her lips as she nods. A mistake that puts the taste of Aimee’s blood in her mouth. Sets her wanting.

GM: “No EMTs, no ambulance, no cops. You’re safe.” Autumn’s eyes shine.

Caroline: “I… I completely lost control. I could have killed her.”

GM: “It’s okay. We… all do.” The ghoul only seems to be half-listening.

Caroline: “No… I… that could have been you.”

GM: “No… I’d never make you do that.”

Caroline: “Not intentionally. But-”

Caroline’s words cut off as abruptly as Aimee’s struggles did.

“Oh no. You didn’t…” She trails off. “You did.”

GM: Autumn rubs it. “It’s okay. I still fed her the blood, just like you wanted. There was enough.”

Caroline: Tears pool in Caroline’s eyes as she stares at Autumn. “I’m so sorry, Autumn.”

GM: “My collars to the Krewe are gone now,” the ghoul continues, almost eagerly. “I’m just yours.”

Caroline: Another life caught in the sucking void of her unlife.

“Yeah.”

There isn’t much else to say to that as bloody tears leak like an old faucet.

GM: “Don’t cry,” Autumn murmurs. “We don’t need to worry about them anymore.”

Caroline: She remembers Autumn all but begging her not to do this.

GM: The ghoul is staring at Caroline’s face. Not into her eyes, at her face.

Caroline: She half-sobs, half-laughs.

GM: Wouldn’t you rather have a friend than a slave? Autumn had implored.

The ghoul licks her lips, but doesn’t approach Caroline any closer. She’s had an all-too brutal and all-too fresh reminder of what happens when a Kindred loses control.

She frowns a bit, the adoration in her eyes dimming but not fading.

“Um, actually… we might need to worry about the Krewe after all. If they find out what went down with Eight-Nine-Six, and don’t think you covered up the Masquerade… they’re going to kill someone you love. Since you already had one strike.”

Caroline: That pulls up the sob laugh short, and Caroline’s next words are brutally cold.

“That would be an astonishingly poor judgment call from whoever made it.”

GM: Autumn looks uncomfortable and just continues, “That’s why I texted you the article… the cops are looking into the murders.”

Caroline: “They have their patsy lined up. There was nothing supernatural about the killings either.”

GM: “Planting the body and cocaine definitely helped. But we know there were four people who carried out the killings, and only one of him. And even if there’s no on-scene evidence that suggests more than one person was responsible, that guy would have to be some kinda commando badass to kill five people. And… well, his apartment didn’t really suggest that kind of character.”

Caroline: “He doesn’t have to be. The cops will fill in their own story.”

GM: “Yeah, but there could still be a manhunt for the other perpetrators. What if they catch Turner?”

Caroline: Caroline laughs cruelly. “With only one body and a bunch of minority gangbangers as victims?”

GM: “I’m not saying it’s as serious as killing white tourists, but you still killed five people in a single shooting.” Autumn raises her hands. “But it’s not up to me. I mean, maybe the Krewe’s gonna feel differently. But if they think you broke the Masquerade… well, they’ll probably sic Mr. Hush.”

The ghoul’s expression sobers. “I just don’t want to see that happen to you. Ever.”

Caroline: Caroline frowns through a crimson-stained, tear-streaked, face.

“We’ll find out tonight I guess. You said 2 AM, right?” A shake of her head. “Is she really okay?”

GM: “Yeah. 2 AM. Well, I wouldn’t say she’s okay, but she is stable. She hasn’t woken up, though.”

“I’m not a doctor or anything, but… she looks like she could use some more blood, if she’s this out of it. She’s still got cuts and bruises everywhere.”

Caroline: Blood that Autumn drank.

Caroline could tell her off, could punish her, but she’s already done that to herself.

“And when she wakes up and tries to kill me again?”

GM: Autumn gives a helpless shrug. “I guess you could try to… deprogram her. I checked her pockets, though. There aren’t any more lighters.”

Caroline: “How do I make this right? You saw what happened when I tried the first time. Do I have to just tie her down and torture her mentally until I’m satisfied?”

GM: All Autumn can do is shrug again, eyes brimming with concern for her domitor. “I… I don’t know. I never really dealt with anything like this.”

Caroline: The moment is starting to fade. The fear, the horror. Psychologically, she knows what’s going on, even if physiologically there’s no response driving it. No elevated heart hate, no spiked chemicals in her blood stream. A part of herself tells her that she has no excuse for not maintaining her calm now. The rest of her tells her that’s a joke. That she’s a monster, that she just beat her best friend into a coma and probably left her scared for life. That this entire unlife is insane.

“I have to go,” she murmurs, running one hand across her blood splattered face. And there’s truth to it.

GM: Autumn looks after Caroline with that same helpless expression. “I’ll… hold down the fort, I guess. Aimee’s not going anywhere.”

Caroline: Caroline flinches at the reminder. “Call me if she gets worse. I’ll try to… I’ll try to come back with more for her.”

But she knows that’s a lie. She might come back, but it won’t be with it for Aimee.


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