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Blood and Bourbon

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Story One, Alice VII

I get one happy moment, as the world takes a big fat shit on me, and I’m supposed to be content!?
—Alice Guillot

Friday evening, 28 August 2015

GM: The two girls make their way down the stairs. A figure blocks their way down from the second floor. Tall. Dark. ‘Run DMC.’ Cold eyes sweep over them both.

“I got some private bid’ness to talk over wit’ you, girl,” he says, staring at Alice. When Penny opens her mouth, he adds, “Nothin’ you’d find too interestin’.”

The other college student leaves whatever’s on her mind unsaid.

Alice: Eyes blazing with a barely contained heat flicker back. Normally, Alice tries to be as harmless and friendly as possible to the leeches. She looks and sounds like she is having a very bad night however, and a bit of her frustration comes across.

“Alex, right? I’ve seen you around, and stuff.”

As if realizing how irritable her tone sounds, she adds a bit apologetically, “Sorry. That sounded rude. Let me try again.”

She breathes and says, “I’m always happy to do commission work. You know us starving artists.” She turns and tells Penny, “Try not to bring the house down without me! I’ll be down in a few minutes, and I promise I’ll come say goodbye before I head out.”

GM: Penny looks between Alice and ‘Alex’, but it seems as if she tries to avoid looking at the latter for too long.

She finally replies after a moment, “I’ll do my best! You know I’m just a floor away.”

Penny heads off. Alice is left alone with the vampire.

Alice: As Penny leaves, so does Alice’s false bravado. She is in no way, shape, or form prepared to deal with an angry lick right now.

“Um, so. You definitely have my attention. You have some business to talk about?”

GM: Wright wordlessly advances up the stairs. His footsteps are thick and heavy. Alice seems expected to follow.

Alice: Alice pauses a moment before doing so.

Shit shit shit shit. Please just be interested in art.

GM: They reach the building’s next story. The vampire opens a door to a dorm room. It’s about the same as any other dorm one might expect to encounter on a college campus. There are two beds festooned with pillows and stuffed animals. Photos, posters, and other homely mementos decorate the walls and refrigerator, while school papers, binders, and two laptops are semi-haphazardly strewn about the floor. A darker-skinned brown-haired girl dressed in ’80s attire lies on one of the beds, face-down and motionless. She could just be sleeping.

Wright closes the door after Alice steps in.

Alice: Alice’s face goes pale. “I’ve heard some stuff about the Windsor. I’m not, uh, I don’t do that sort of service, dude.”

GM: “You been watchin’ me, girl,” the vampire states. “Why?”

Alice: “Because you guys make me nervous?” Alice answers honestly. “I mean, sorry. Listen, you probably didn’t choose to be uh, y’know. You’re just making do as best you can, right? But the way you guys look at us. Like cats watching mice. It’s spooky. I’ve got friends at this party. I was afraid you’d…” she gestures at the girl on the bed, “someone I know.”

GM: Wright looms over Alice’s petite form. He’s a big man, broad-shouldered, and thickly-muscled. And that’s just the man he was before being turned.

The vampire takes a step forward.

Alice: Alice lets her instincts kick in.

Is he about to attack me?

GM: “Take three steps back.”

Alice: Step, step, step. Alice, like a deer caught in headlights, backs up.

GM: Alice’s stomach explodes in pain. She feels like she’s been shot. The impact knocks the ghoul square off her feet and back-first onto the bed. The soft blankets hurt less than hitting the floor might have. She briefly jostles against the other girl lying there, who doesn’t stir.

Alice: Alice can feel the broken rib, conscious only by the unholy fortitude granted by the vitae in her system. She soundlessly cries out at the pain, the wind having been knocked out of her.

GM: Wright looks her over impassively. “First. Do not give me shit about bein’ a black guy hittin’ a white girl. Second. You’re welcome.”

Alice: Alice coughs a bit of blood and weakly says, “If anything, I was profiling you. You probably get enough of that shit already. You could have killed me, and I know it. So thank you. Uh, not because of being black. Because of the other thing. So, I am sorry.”

And Alice is sorry. Not just because she was been hurt, but because she treated him like a monster instead of a person.

GM: “You’re new to this, ain’t you?” Wright asks flatly.

Alice: “About a year? My uh, ‘domitor’ was an art guy. Liked my work, then got tired of me after a month and left. He was pretty new too, I think.”

GM: “Torries,” Wright snorts. “My boss? He’da ripped your head clean off. No hyperbole.”

Alice: Alice does not look like she is going to argue. “Understood. In the future, um. What should I do? I know that people in my position don’t really have any sort of sway. Would coming up and asking to have my friends ignored be the right thing to do?”

GM: Wright stares at her for a moment. “Christ, girl. You green as a new dollar bill.”

He finally sits down on the empty bed across from Alice’s. “What you do is you do not fuckin’ watch us. An’ you do not tell us where an’ when t’ eat. You stay outta the way. An’ if you’re lucky, thas’ where you stay.”

Alice: Alice looks a bit sick at talk of ‘eating.’ Or maybe it’s just her crushed guts. Probably a bit of both, actually. She looks like she wants to ask Wright more questions. To learn more, but she isn’t sure whether doing so will reward her with another blow.

GM: “You gonna toss your cookies, do it in the bin.” The vampire glances towards the trash can. “This somebody’s bedroom.”

Alice: “I’ll be all right.” Alice examines herself, to see how visible the damage is. She resigns herself to having to use up some of the vitae in her system to mend the rib.

“Do I look reasonable enough to return to the party, without uh, making people ask tough questions?” She looks to Wright. “I don’t know much, but even I know drawing attention to this sort of stuff is a death sentence.”

GM: “Got that right.” Wright looks her over. “Try standin’ up.”

Alice: Alice stands, gasping as the rib scrapes her innards.

GM: “Better mend up,” the vampire states by way of answer.

Alice: Alice focuses, feeling some of the rushing power in her veins draining into the broken bone, speeding its recovery.

GM: The ghoul still feels a bit unsteady on her feet, and she’s pretty sure she’d have blacked out if she wasn’t on the “red stuff,” as she likes to call it. But the painful scraping against her liver recedes.

Alice: Alice isn’t quite sure where to go from here. Awkwardly, she looks at the vampire. “Thanks for informing me, and not killing me. Um, if you ever need artwork done, feel free to call me.” She rattles off the number of a burner phone she uses for ghoul stuff. “I mostly do street art, but I can handle some basic engineering and metal, or woodwork too given the right tools.”

Alice realizes how weird it must sound, for her to basically give her ghoul resume to this guy, but she’s gotta get her next fix from somewhere.

GM: Wright gives Alice another flat look-over. This time it’s maybe tilted a few degrees. Maybe even in her favor. It’s hard to say.

“That how you get your month-to-month fix?”

Alice: “I’d say this is the first time I met a client by getting pummeled by them, but I get a lot of work from Mid-City, so it would be a lie.” Alice shrugs. “Anyway, you have been extremely clear, and I understand your message. There won’t be a next time. Yeah pretty much. Mostly, other ghouls bring stuff by and ask me to fix it up for them, or paint pretty things for their higher ups.”

GM: “Painting, huh.” The vampire’s expression looks a bit speculative now. “What else you do?”

Alice: Oddly, the funk Alice felt earlier has gone. Getting into a one-sided scrap with this vampire, and standing up has left her feeling more alive than she has in weeks.

“I know a bit about ghosts, I guess. After I started my uh, habit, I wondered if other stuff was real. I dunno about a lot of it, but ghosts and spirits sure as fuck are.”

GM: “Ghosts, huh.” Wright’s repeated nearly the same words, but his face looks a little more thoughtful. “You jus’ know a bit, or can you do a bit too?”

Alice: “I can do a séance, I guess. It’s not a very pleasant experience though. Ghosts are fucking mean. Might be able to send one away, if I knew enough about it.” Alice shrugs. “I’m still learning. Theres a lot of restless dead in the big easy. Uh, not you guys. Ghosts, I mean. I feel bad for them. I’m no mambo, though.”

GM: Wright raises an eyebrow. “Bad for ‘em? Now why’s that?”

Alice: “They are trapped here, unable to go… wherever the fuck we go after. Unlike us, they don’t even get to enjoy any of the nice perks of having a body. They are just souls, trapped and twisted forever. That’s a pretty sad state, y’know? I’m gonna die someday, hopefully not soon, and hopefully pass on wherever. I don’t know exactly how it works with you guys, but you at least have the option of checking out if you want to. Ghosts don’t.”

GM: “Oh, f’us it’s pretty simple,” Wright states. “We gonna burn in the big fire below. Gonna roast us some marshmallows wit’ the Devil. Roast ‘em over pitchforks an’ have fuckin’ s’mores.”

Alice: “I have a feeling lots of people are on their way to that particular barbecue, dude.”

Alice nods, deciding something. “It isn’t my usual thing, but I guess if you want help putting a ghost to rest, I would be up for helping out with that too. As best I can, anyway.”

GM: “Maybe,” Wright replies to Alice’s initial remark, his brown eyes just a bit more distant than before. “Still up t’ them.”

Alice: Alice isn’t really much of a theologian, and arguing damnation with a vampire seems like a pretty hard fight.

This dude probably knows more about sin than I’ll ever know. No way am I arguing that shit with him.

With her business pitch made, and Wright’s lesson hopefully finished, Alice waits to see what the vampire has planned next.

GM: The vampire doesn’t say anything for a few moments. He glances at the room’s door, from where dim music can still be heard, and then glances back at Alice.

“Some party, huh?”

Alice: “Well, the girl of my dreams shot me down, I danced like an idiot on a table, broke at least one rib, and maybe found some work. I just need to crash on the way home, and it will be complete.” Alice grins, just a little giddy from the vitae and adrenaline. “Definitely not boring.”

GM: “That girl was you?”

Alice: Alice gives a sheepish shrugs. “I wanted to dance with somebody. Uh, on a table.”

GM: Wright looks as if he could snort. But Alice doesn’t think she’s ever seen his kind do that. Josua never did.

“Well, it was entertainin’. Fuckin’ spoiled-ass white-bread college kids. Of all the ways to piss away my evenin’.”

Alice: Alice isn’t sure whether she is included in that statement, but doesn’t really disagree with his assessment either way. Most of the kids here probably are white and here using their parent’s money.

GM: “You got any aspirin on you?” Wright asks, abruptly changing the topic.

Alice: Alice rummages in her purse, removing a pack of the little miracle pills. “Here.” She offers it over to Wright.

GM: The vampire sets it on the bedside table adjacent to the motionless brown-haired girl’s head. She hasn’t moved or made a sound since Alice entered the room.

Alice: Alice peers at the girl as Wright draws attention to her. To herself, she mutters, “I hope she’s gonna be all right, whoever she is. She hasn’t moved once.”

GM: Wright stares at Alice. The leeches have damnably good hearing, she knows.

“I ain’t a killer.”

There’s a beat.

“‘Less they’re askin’ for it.”

Alice: Alice touches her stomach. “I know. Plus, you left her aspirin. That is… you didn’t have to do that. A killer wouldn’t do that.”

GM: Alice hears a dull thud emanate from the floor. Downstairs.

Wright gets up from his seat on the bed.

Alice: “Uh, right. The party. I told my friend I would be down in a few minutes.” Alice looks worried. How long had they been talking? What was that noise?

GM: A low growl sounds from Wright’s throat. Alice can see the slightest bit of fang protruding from his lip. He strides across the room, opens the door, and stomps downstairs.

Alice: Alice stands out of his way as he goes, then likewise leaves, closing the door. She follows, unsure if his business with her is finished.

GM: Downstairs, the party seems to be dying down. A number of students lie slumped against walls with bleary-eyed, fugued expressions, being attended to by friends. Most of them are sneezing and coughing. Girls are helping inebriated roommates upstairs. Some of them look really out of it. They don’t just look drunk, though. Some are sneezing and coughing too.

Alice: Alice looks around for Penny, shooting her a text.

Hey! Sorry about that. Still at the party?

GM: A reply pings back in short order.

Yeah! You seen Angela, she’s disappeared on me!

Alice: Alice’s face drops. Angela. I wonder if Penny… well. Mom and my friends were right. Maybe I waited too long. Fuck. She feels any lingering rush from her near-death experience wash away, and briefly considers misleading Penny with some story about Angela going upstairs with some other girl.

No, I feel shitty enough. I don’t need my conscience giving me shit too. Plus, I lie to Penny too much as is. Texting she says, Sorry, no. It looks like things are winding down. I’ll make my way to you, and keep an eye out for her as I go.

GM: Thanks A! People seem pretty out of it, hope she’s ok!

Alice: No longer suffering the fugue inflicted by the ghost, Alice finds the little voice in the back of her head much harder to ignore. There might something going on here.

She shakes her head, intent on walking through the party straight to Penny, then leaving. Making only a token effort at scanning the room around her. I’m barely standing. I’m done. I’m running on empty here, the voice persists.

No! Something isn’t right! Alice stops mid-step, mentally arguing with herself. Why do I feel that way? Aside from Wright, who turned out to be at least sort of okay, I don’t see any monsters.

Alice frowns, shaking slightly, memories race through her mind. Summer, talking to Wright. Her instincts screaming at the danger Summer represented. Angela, saying she would go talk to her sister. Influenza victims. Sick people. Wright growling, striding out of the room. A brief, shining moment as she and Penny danced and all the world fell away.

Fuck. It isn’t fucking fair! Just one moment? That’s all I get? I get one happy moment, as the world takes a big fat shit on me, and I’m supposed to be content!?

The fire flares. People need protecting. They NEED to be PROTECTED. Alice looks up, battered, beaten, but resolved.

Fine! …fine. I had my fun. I haven’t been looking properly. If there’s a chance people need help… someone has to help them.

A final flash of memory, as Angela puts her hand on Penny’s shoulder.

Even if I fucking hate doing it.

Alice strides with newfound purpose, casing the dregs of the party, and wracking her brain trying to connect the clues she has.

I don’t know what has been going on in this party… but I am going to find out.

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