“I’m tired of always getting shit on by everything! I’m tired of no one giving a damn!”
Friday night, 25 September 2015, AM
GM: It takes longer than one night, but Jocelyn eventually puts together a lengthy and semi-organized Word doc that she sends to Caroline:
Jocelyn knows little about Evan’s early background. He didn’t talk much about his mortal life, beyond vague references and anecdotes. Now that Jocelyn reflects, he was always good at deflecting the topic without really seeming to. His surname, though, is obviously Louisianan. He fell in with Jocelyn and Gwen in 2013. It was around then, the early-mid 2010s, that things were returning fully to ‘normal’ among the local all-night society after Katrina. New Orleans’ kine population still hadn’t climbed back to pre-Katrina levels, but the city was recovered enough for Vidal to remove his moratorium on new Embraces. He was also more permissive towards newcomers who wanted to make their havens in the city. Evan was just… another face in the crowd during that period. He said he came from a “small town” and was looking to make it in the big city, now that more Kindred were being allowed in. He never talked about his Embrace.
“Gwen doesn’t either,” Jocelyn remarks. “Some of us… well, I guess we’ve got a lot more skeletons in the closet, or just more things we don’t want people to know, now that we’re dead.”
In contrast to Evan’s background, Jocelyn has a great deal of solid information to offer regarding his usual haunts.
Evan was a tenant of Sundown, the regent of Faubourg Marigny. He always liked the Bohemian district’s vibrant clubs and nightlife more than the sterile downtime environs of the CBD. “It doesn’t even feel like New Orleans there,” he’d say. Jocelyn admitted he was right, the CBD isn’t her favorite part of town either. But it’s the best part that has a Sanctified regent. The other Storyvilles weren’t enthused about Evan swearing fealty to Sundown, but given the Nosferatu’s unswerving political neutrality, it was probably the next-best choice after a Sanctified regent.
Evan spent a lot of time in Marigny, in any case. He liked to hunt in the popular night spots, but he also enjoyed them in their own right. His favorite club was the Spotted Cat, which is more music- than dance-oriented. He avoided feeding there.
Another notable locale is the Frenchmen Art Market. Evan, Gwen, and Jocelyn would sometimes go on outings there—just spending the evening browsing everything the local artists had on display. Roxanne and Wyatt weren’t as into it. “Total stereotype, I guess, but we had fun,” Jocelyn admits. “It was nice just to look at all the arts and crafts, talk with people, and forget about being vampires for a while.”
Much more to Jocelyn’s disapproval, however, was Evan’s proclivity for visiting the French Quarter. It was an irregular enough thing that Jocelyn and Roxanne were able to keep it secret from Gwen and Wyatt, but they were adamant that Evan needed to stop. He usually agreed with them and would keep doing it anyway. He “didn’t see the harm. That’s the most I got out of him,” Jocelyn elaborates. “He said he wasn’t hunting there, wasn’t talking with Savoy, wasn’t doing anything important… I mean, I guess that could be worse, but still… he shouldn’t have been doing that.”
Despite his distaste for the CBD, Evan spent a fair bit of time there as a result of the other Storyvilles making their havens, personal and communal, in the downtown district. He’d spend the night with Roxanne in her haven on a semi-regular basis. Often enough, in fact, that “Maldonato might’ve, or maybe was gonna, ask him to finally just swear fealty. He spent like every other day at her place.”
As for Evan’s own haven, he has an apartment in Faubourg Marigny that is currently sitting empty. It’s been long enough that his landlady was ready to throw out his things. Roxanne “mindscrewed her several times,” but revisiting her lover’s empty haven seems to pain the Ventrue, and she’s told the other Storyvilles to handle it. “I’m not sure what we’re supposed to do though. The landlady keeps remembering it’s sitting vacant. I don’t wanna turn her into a ghoul, she’s not really done anything wrong, but I don’t want Evan to lose his place either,” Jocelyn gripes, plainly frustrated that the world is all-too willing to move on without Evan Bourelle.
Jocelyn compiles a number of names under this section, with several further sub-headers. Evan was fairly social.
• Pearl Chastain: Jocelyn admits she exaggerating how ‘in’ she was with her clan’s primogen, just a bit, during that first night at the Orpheum. The Toreador matriarch does not like Jocelyn’s artwork or her chosen medium, at all. It was mainly Evan who got her into the elder’s, maybe not good graces, but at least ‘tolerated’ graces, by playing up Jocelyn’s bloodline. “She thought my sire, grandsire, and great-grandsire were all right. So… I guess that carried over. Elders care a lot who your ancestors were, I’ve found.” As for Evan himself, Jocelyn doesn’t doubt that Chastain liked him more than her. She found him well-mannered and properly deferential without being dull. “He was always a bit of a lady’s man, but mainly with older women,” Jocelyn mentions. “He said his first crush as a kid was on Mrs. Robinson—from the movie. And that his first time when he was 16 was with a friend’s mom.”
Caroline: Caroline’s list of Kindred to visit grows long indeed, and dangerously so. Names on a list of powerful individuals—in some cases the most powerful in the city. While she works to arrange those meetings—and to arrive to them with something of interest enough to draw upon the interest of such personages—the Ventrue offers to help with some of the lingering loose ends, such as Evan’s haven. It would be a small matter to allocate some funds towards that purpose, and, with Sundown’s permission (pending her own meeting with the Nosferatu) plant a smaller more enduring lie in his landlord’s mind—that he was perhaps out of town on a trip—to explain his absence.
GM: Jocelyn’s dossier continues:
• Sundown: As Jocelyn mentioned, the regent of Faubourg Marigny was Evan’s landlord. The Toreador doesn’t know as much about Evan’s relationship with Sundown as she does about his relationship with Chastain. However, she knows that the Nosferatu harpy generally “liked his style,” as the Toreador puts it, and they seemed to get along. Sundown also probably knew more about Evan’s nightly activities than Chastain did. Beyond simply being Nosferatu and the Toreador primogen existing in a more or less permanent funk, “I also hear that Sundown pretty much always asks for his corvée as information. Same thing with Gus Elgin. That’s sewer rat regents, I guess.”
• Marcel Guilbeau: Caroline’s elder clanmate is known for taking semi-regular lovers, always two at a time, and living with them in a menage a trois. Evan was one of these lovers for maybe half a year or so. “I’m not sure who the third lick was in their three-way.” So far as Jocelyn knows, their parting was amicable enough. “I think so, anyway. He hooked up with Roxanne not too long after. Evan’s actually always been a little possessive. You don’t really notice it at first, since he’s pretty laid back, and let Roxanne take the reigns of the krewe. So he doesn’t really seem like he wants a lot. But when he has something, that he really does want, he doesn’t like to share it. That’s part of why we don’t want him to lose his haven… I know he was pretty attached to it.”
• Marguerite Defallier: Evan was also a sometime associate of Defallier’s. “That thing for older women again,” Jocelyn admits. “Helps that she actually does look older than he does. Not like some of the other elders Embraced around our age. Also, they’re both poseurs. Kind of. Evan wasn’t… he wasn’t really much of an artist. That’s the thing in my clan. You can either be good at art, and be an artiste, or you can suck at it and be a poseur. Poseurs are usually airheads Embraced for their looks. I guess we tend to do that a lot. The poseurs usually try to get by as critics, patrons, whatever.”
“Evan’s tried to fit in by practicing music. He’s okay. I mean, he doesn’t suck or anything, but whoever Embraced him probably didn’t do it because they thought he was gonna be the next Louis Armstrong. Defallier’s a poseur too, but tries to be an artiste. So I guess that was one thing they had in common.”
• Amandine: Amandine is a Cajun girl and Vodouisant associated with the Baron’s Acolytes. “Yeah, I know,” Jocelyn remarks. “Evan wanted to convert her to the Sanctified. Said it wouldn’t be impossible, that Marie Laveau was a Catholic too and all. Plus I guess they both small-town Cajuns, so he figured he had a shot. Roxanne thought he was wasting time but didn’t see the harm.” Jocelyn isn’t sure what clan Amandine is, but knows she can be found in Tremé and the Seventh Ward. She’s a neonate who first showed up in the city after Katrina.
Jocelyn’s profiles on the next names are shorter. Caroline should ask her if she wants more information on individual ones.
• Abraham Garcia: Another post-Katrina and fellow Toreador with pull in the media.
• Maxzille Babinfeaux: A Cajun Toreador and one of the older Anarchs (“She was totally Embraced in the ’60s”) who’s stayed with Coco after the recent factional split. They liked each other.
• Carter Landry: Unaligned post-Katrina neonate in Riverbend. Jocelyn isn’t sure of his clan. “I don’t think he belongs to any covenant.”
• Mallory Yang: Jocelyn isn’t sure where Yang lives or what clan she is. She is Asian, which somewhat stands out. “Don’t think there’s that many Asian licks. I think she’s another post-Katrina too.”
• Arthur Duchamps: Another post-Katrina Toreador who likes to hang out in the French Quarter. He and Evan sometimes partied together. Jocelyn isn’t sure of his allegiances. “But if he’s in the Quarter, Savoy might’ve gotten his slime over him.”
• Marisol Beaugendre: An older Toreador, but still a post-Katrina arrival. Doesn’t belong to a covenant either, which is particularly notable for an ancilla.
• Edward Zuric: A busker who plays in Faubourg Marigny and the French Quarter. “He gave Evan music lessons. He’s a Gangrel, but my clan likes him. We let him into the Guild of Apollo, actually. We do that sometimes, with other licks who show they really appreciate art.”
• Josua Cambridge: Another post-Katrina Toreador, and one of Marcel Guilbeau’s current lovers. “Someone Embraced him without permission, but Marcel took him in.”
• Becky Lynne Adler: Caroline is better-acquainted with her clanmate than Jocelyn is. The Toreador only knows she and Evan were acquainted and on friendly terms.
• Yellow Sidra: A fortune-teller in the French Quarter. Evan wasn’t exactly friends with Sidra, but he believed in her powers. “Which I guess isn’t that crazy. If vampires can be real, why can’t fortune-tellers be right?” Jocelyn isn’t sure how old she is, “Though she still tells fortunes on the street, which I can’t see someone as old as the prince doing,” and thinks she’s either a kook or a warlock. “Watch out either way.”
• Tina Baker: A post-Katrina Invictus Brujah who Evan got along with.
Jocelyn writes that the last place she saw Evan was at the krewe’s communal haven in the CBD. They’d just gotten back from hunting on sinners in Central City. “It was around 4 AM, so the night was winding down.” The krewe watched a couple TV episodes of Game of Crowns over Omni TV. There was maybe an hour left before dawn when the show’s credits started rolling. Jocelyn, Gwen, and Roxanne wanted to see what happened in the next few episodes, so they decided to spend the day at the group haven. Wyatt and Evan passed (Wyatt had already seen the show) and drove back to theirs.
Jocelyn looks up at Caroline when she’s finished reading. “‘Tell me if any more characters bite it.’ That… that was the last thing Evan said, before he left.” The Toreador’s eyes start to rim with red. “Like… like he’d be back any…”
Caroline: “Any minute.” Caroline does her best to comfort Jocelyn on the topic. The report she’s generated is a great starting point and gives her a dozen leads to follow. Perhaps the most interesting to Jocelyn however is the one that the Krewe couldn’t bite on. “Hound Agnello claims he knows who Evan was ‘last seen with’ and where, but he wasn’t willing to come off the information for me.” She bites her lip before continuing, “Who’s Mabel?”
GM: Jocelyn does not seem overly comforted as she blinks slowly and wipes her eyes. “I… what? Why not? He still got his panties in a bunch over us not letting you in?”
Caroline: “He’s an ancilla and a powerful one at that. Did you think he’d take kindly to being told he couldn’t have his way, in his own home, by a group of neonates that couldn’t give him a good reason why they told him to pound sand?” She doesn’t sigh, it’s part of her respiratory pause that like so many habits of the living is sliding away, but she does pause in her response. “Who’s Mabel?”
GM: “Well, fuck him then! It’s none of his damn business who’s in our krewe, especially if he doesn’t wanna do jack when one of us goes missing!” Jocelyn snarls, the sadness and worry on her face turning rapidly to anger. “I guess that’s what being a good Sanctified does for Evan, huh? And you know, throwing a tacky party where he’s a cock to everyone, that’s just the cherry on top. Just, fuck. Him.”
Caroline: The Ventrue suffers Jocelyn’s tirade quietly, and is almost as quiet in her response to it.
“Joceyln, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know better than I do.” She bites her lip. “It’s just who they are. Take it from me, trying to swim against that current isn’t pleasant or productive, for you or for Evan. Gwen is one of his tenants, as far as he’s concerned he owns part of the krewe. He’s also got the ability to make life very unpleasant for her—and now me—so yell at me about it, but step outside and put on a smile for him when he next invites you to a ‘tacky’ party. In the meantime, he’s hardly the only person who probably has information, and for what it’s worth, I’d rather go out and get it from them on our terms than beg it from him.”
GM: “No. The Storyvilles have done… we’ve done everything right. We don’t deserve this. Evan doesn’t deserve this. Not from him. And I’ll damn well skip his next stupid party where all he does is bully younger licks while being too chickenshit to invite anyone his own age. Guess the Boggs sure did a number on him.” Jocelyn gives a half-hearted roll of her eyes, but it mostly comes out as a glare. “And fuck begging him for anything. The sewer rats will all know whatever he thinks he does.”
Caroline: If nothing else, Caroline can understand being sick of begging.
Monday night, 28 September 2015, AM
Caroline: It’s not long after her last conversation with the Lord of the French Quarter that Caroline finds herself opposite the Toreador’s warden at a table in front of a steadily dying down bar in the French Quarter. When asked, Lord Savoy had been rather clear that he and Evan had very little contact outside of at Toreador functions and had suggested if she had concerns he could arrange an introduction to Lebeaux, who might have his things to say on the matter. Caroline’s heard of him in passing. Coco’s childe.
The Ventrue is in white and black this evening—hardly unusual—in a long sleeved black top and thin pencil skirt that hangs to her knees broken up with a thin black belt. Heels are, of course, mandatory.
GM: Peter Lebeaux is short but well-built man, nearly stocky, with a square jaw line and a full but well-maintained mustache. His gray eyes take silent note of Fuller, but he does not otherwise comment on the ghoul’s presence. The French Quarter’s warden wears a gray trench coat that he’s taken off inside the bar, plain pants, a white button-up with the sleeves rolled up, and a navy tie. The clothes (and the man) have a slightly worn edge that makes them seem one grade short of professional. It’s a look Caroline has seen on a lot of cops. All that’s missing is a cigarette dangling from his lips.
“Lord Savoy said you have a missing persons case, Miss Malveaux,” Lebeaux says.
Caroline: Caroline’s own coat hangs over her chair.
“I do, Warden Lebeaux. At least I hope that is what it is. Are you familiar with Evan Bourelle?” she asks.
GM: “In passing,” the Kindred cop answers. “He isn’t a resident of the Quarter, so he’s outside my usual jurisdiction.”
Caroline: “He’s been missing since August 18th. No one seems to know anything about where he went, and all I seem to hear is how great he. How well liked.” She swirls her drink. “In fact, the only thing I’ve heard that’s even a little out of the ordinary is that he has a habit of visiting the French Quarter.”
GM: “Well, there’s a difference between being liked and having clout.”
The Kindred cop takes a pull of his drink.
“Kid might have more people looking for him if he had the latter.”
Caroline: “Given,” Caroline agrees, “but no one seemed to know anyone that had it out for him, which makes me wonder who benefits from him disappearing.” She gestures to herself. “Me, I can see why plenty of people would want to put me in the ground—and often for good reasons. With him though…” She takes a drink. “Here I am, following the one piece that looks different than the rest.”
GM: Lebeaux nods. “The first question any cop asks in an abduction or murder investigation is who benefits. Materially, politically, or just emotionally, if they had a reason to dislike him. I don’t know how deep you’ve been looking into Bourelle and whether it’s possible to rule out that last one. Not everyone advertises their grudges. Smart licks don’t.”
Caroline: “True, and maybe I missed something, but… I get to thinking, what brings a good little Sanctified boy down to the French Quarter that isn’t Lord Savoy and isn’t hunting?” She runs her tongue over her fangs. “Something he doesn’t want to talk about, or tell anyone about?”
GM: “Kid did a poor job if that was the case. More licks than me could tell you he’s been seen with Yellow Sidra at Jackson Square.”
Caroline: The taste left over in her mouth by her greyhound is foul, but she’s getting better and hiding it. She can even keep it down for a couple hours now.
GM: “Probably getting his fortune told. Going back more than once suggests a motive beyond simple novelty. Could also have been something else, though. You’d have to ask Sidra.”
Caroline: “More of a lead than I had before,” Caroline smiles at the cop. “Is that all he was getting up to in the Quarter?” she asks probingly.
GM: “All that I know of,” Lebeaux answers.
Caroline: The Ventrue takes another sip of her drink. “I guess I should pay her a visit.”
GM: “Could probably do worse,” the Brujah nods. “Now most mortal murders and abductions are committed by someone who has a prior relationship to the victim. That’s still a useful avenue to investigate with us, but not always as useful.”
Caroline: She can see something of his sire in the Brujah’s (ironically) calm, patient nature.
“You think it could be completely unrelated?”
GM: “Could be the kid got ashed by hunters. We’re not in the ‘90s anymore. Tech can be as much a liability as asset these nights. More unexplained disappearances than ever can be chalked up to licks who don’t watch what they say online or over their phones, and that number’s probably going to keep going up. Could also be he was ashed by some older-school hunters with bibles and holy water.”
Caroline: The Ventrue pays attention to the Brujah’s words carefully. “Keep your business quiet?”
GM: “Always,” Lebeaux answers, taking a pull from his beer. “Society’s more interconnected than ever. More eyes on everyone than ever.”
Caroline: “The government is watching all the kine, makes sense that they’re watching us too.”
GM: “Not even just the feds. Local cops have been busting or at least inconveniencing licks for years. That’s also easier now than ever.”
Caroline: “Doesn’t seem to be slowing you down, Warden Lebeaux.”
GM: Lebeaux grunts noncommittally. “So far as Bourelle, could also be he got on the wrong side of Caitlin Meadows. She’s ashed her share of recent licks.”
Caroline: “Does she have any reason to?” Caroline asks by way of counterargument.
GM: “Possibly. Bourelle’s trips into the Quarter.”
Caroline: “You think he’s ash though, at this point,” Caroline asks soberly.
GM: Lebeaux shakes his head. “I’m not on this case. There are possible reasons he could have disappeared and still be unliving. But I am observing there are a lot of things that could have ashed him, while lacking a personal connection that’s easier to investigate. Maybe he felt like seeing some nature and met an angry ’loop outside the city. Maybe he felt like playing tourist and snuck inside the LaLaurie House.”
Caroline: The Ventrue arches an eyebrow at the last.
GM: “I don’t speak eyebrow, Miss Malveaux,” the Kindred cop remarks over another pull of his beer.
Caroline: “Haunted houses, Warden Lebeaux?” she replies with amusement.
GM: Lebeaux stares back at Caroline without a trace of humor.
“Some dumb kids, kine, went into that ‘haunted house’ not too long back.”
Caroline: “I’m well aware. One cop in the hospital. Another gone insane trying to murder teenagers. Two young girls shot. A third in a coma from a fall.” She recounts in the shakiest tone he’s heard from her, the first time she’s seemed to be in anything but complete control. “I didn’t realize it had to do with the house, though.”
GM: “Two cops and one lawyer dead,” Lebeaux corrects. “And I suppose you didn’t, as a breather.” He gives a humorless smile. “But then, you probably thought vampires belonged in movies and sappy teen novels too.”
Caroline: Caroline frowns. “Detective Gettis and who else?” she asks.
GM: “May I ask what their names are to you, Miss Malveaux?”
Caroline: “I was there when he started shooting,” she replies.
GM: Lebeaux simply nods at this.
Caroline: “Tried to save as many as I could, but afterwards everyone clammed up. Police didn’t want to talk about it. I never got the full story.”
GM: “Mitchel Lowenstein was shot dead by several officers after Gettis used him as a human shield. Emil Kane died from a a cerebral hemorrhage in the hospital. Gettis was shot dead by SWAT, but I expect you heard that on the evening news.”
Caroline: She bites her lip. “I hadn’t heard that Detective Kane had passed away. He seemed a man of principle.”
GM: “What made you feel so there, Miss Malveaux?” Lebeaux asks.
Caroline: “We spoke in the hospital, when I was still alive. I tried to convince him that it would be better if he played ball with the narrative that was being pushed. He wouldn’t budge and tried instead to convince me that I should confide in him.” There’s a contemplative tone to her response.
GM: “People who won’t catch the ball can get hit by the ball.”
Caroline: “Principles tend to have a cost,” Caroline agrees.
GM: “And one that can be well worth it, but a man who’s smart as well as principled shops around and uses coupons.” Lebeaux takes another pull of his beer. “What sorts of things did he seem to want you to confide in him?”
Caroline: “He wanted to know what I wanted. Seemed interested in proselytizing. Believed some higher power had been involved in how he stabilized the girl, Ms. Savard.” The sour look on her face is far worse than when she sips her drink. “Went on and on about how the duty of the police was to the people.”
She looks down and away. She almost looks ashamed.
GM: “His death wasn’t your fault,” Lebeaux says.
Caroline: “No,” she nods in agreement, “but maybe if I’d listened to him I could have prevented my own.” She takes another deep, bitter, sip of her grayhound. “I was out drinking that night. That entire weekend really. The drunkest I ever remember being, trying to block out the thoughts of everything associated with that night. Guilty conscience, I guess.”
GM: “Listened to him, and done what?” the Brujah poses. “It doesn’t sound as if he told you to be a teetotaler. Doesn’t sound as if teetotaling would have been too reasonable under the circumstances either.”
Caroline: “You sound like you’re speaking from experience, Warden,” Caroline replies.
GM: “I’ve seen and known a lot of people who drink to cope.”
Caroline: “Even when you were alive?” she asks. “The job never got to you?”
GM: “It gets to everyone. We all have ways of coping. Homicide detectives—and paramedics—have some of the blackest, most disparaging humor about dead people you’ll ever come across.”
Caroline: “You must have fit right in after your Embrace.”
GM: “Most don’t actually mean it.”
Caroline: “Maybe not then,” she replies evenly.
GM: “If you’re serious about Bourelle, I’d start by interviewing his known associates and stopping by his usual haunts and last known whereabouts.”
Lebeaux finishes his beer.
Caroline: “Thanks for the advice.”
Yes, she can see plenty of Coco in him.
GM: Lebeaux rises to pull on his coat.
“Here’s another piece, too, for the road. Stay away from haunted houses.”
Caroline: “That one I think I can manage.” She has a little of her drink left. “Have a good evening, Warden.”
GM: “I’d find it of interest if you discover what happened to Bourelle. One murder or disappearance can be relevant to a whole lot else, sometimes.”
The Kindred cop dons his hat.
“See you, miss.”
Monday night, 28 September 2015, AM
Caroline: After finishing her drink and paying, Caroline departs with her ghoul in tow. She heads towards Jackson Square. It’s still early enough in the night, and she expects it’s a lead that the Storyvilles did not follow up on that closely given its location.
GM: Jackson Square is full of its usual crowds of tourists, panhandlers, musicians, and occasional police. St. Louis Cathedral looms high over the iconic statue of Andrew Jackson on his horse. The French Quarter was always Westley’s preferred playground over her own, but Caroline has been to the famous cathedral and its surrounding square on innumerable Sunday services led by her uncle.
Tonight, though, it’s the square’s psychics, mediums, fortune-tellers, and other professed diviners draw the Ventrue’s attention. Uncle Orson never had favorable words for any them, but dying changes a lot of things.
Jackson Square’s psychics are a similar bunch. Almost all of them are older women. Some dress in colorful shawls, scarves, and bangled earrings to play up the ‘gypsy fortune-teller’ aspect, while others simply wear glasses to give themselves a more understated oracular look. All of them have colorful signs marked with palms, eyes, or suns and moons advertising their services, and no apparent shortage of customs.
The predator among them hides in plain sight. She’s dusky of skin and could be either Latina, Roma, or some typically New Orleans mix of races. She stands out somewhat for young she looks (around maybe Celia’s age), but is dressed similarly to her peers in a purple gypsy skirt, a low-cut black and white-striped shirt, and a top hat threaded with red and purple scarves in place of a band. Gold glints from her ears and fingers. Her inky black hair is a wild and untamed forest that plays sometime home to a monkey wearing a purple vest and miniature top hat of its own. The tiny animal occasionally scampers across her shoulders and uses her hoop earrings as swings while remarkably shuffling a tiny deck of tarot cards: tourists pause to snap pictures of the critter, which the young fortune-teller smiles for. The critter is probably good image branding. Her sign advertises a variety of divinatory methods: palm readings go lowest, but she’s also willing to peer into her crystal ball, consult her tarot deck, and perform “other divinatory methods upon request.” She would look identical to the square’s other charlatans, but for the fact Jade’s Beast instinctively growls at the presence of another predator.
Caroline: Caroline lets her ghouls mill about the square while she approaches the fellow Kindred alone. Her more professional garb stands out clearly against the more bohemian fortuneteller and marks her as an outsider. “I was hoping you could tell me someone’s fortune, palm reading.” She smiles more with her eyes than her teeth. “I’m concerned about a friend. Particularly his lifeline.”
She’s relatively straightforward about her interests but willing to throw flattery at the fortuneteller. Evan Bourelle is missing. Has been missing. No doubt a fortune teller of means knows that: Caroline hopes she knows something more, and she’s willing to pay (one way or another, within reason) for that information. She’d heard that Bourelle was relatively close to her.
GM: “Missing friends? That isn’t what people usually come to me for,” the fortune-teller remarks idly at Caroline’s initial request.
Sidra just gives a knowing ’I’ve heard it all’ look at the flattery, but once the Ventrue starts quoting prices, she’s all business. The two haggle for a few minutes. Sidra performed several readings for Evan, and agrees to give Caroline the last (“probably most important” one) for a boon owed. If the Ventrue finds it useful, she can pay her for the others. Client confidentiality isn’t really a thing among fortune tellers, but as far as Sidra is concerned with Evan, it’s nothing at all.
“Because he’s dead.”
Evan’s “fate line” indicated doom. His lines were also very dark—literally dark, which meant they were “danger points.” Those indicate accidental or sudden deaths. The chimp on Sidra’s shoulder screeches and tugs on her earrings at that prophecy.
“He wasn’t killed by another lick, though, and there’s a powerful force that might avenge his death. Or might not. He broke off the reading at that point, and I couldn’t get anything else.”
The fortuneteller flicks a stray hair out of her face. “And now he’s been missing for weeks? You don’t need my gifts to put two and two together. Evan Bourelle is ash.”
Caroline: Caroline asks a few other related questions: when Sidra last remembers seeing him or giving him the last reading, before she takes her leave from the fortuneteller, trying to keep her irritation over the vague guidance from showing.
Not as bad as Wright, assuming it pans out, but close to it.
Tuesday night, 29 September 2015, PM
Caroline: The Ventrue is not content to take Sidra’s answer for all that it is: an end. While the fortuneteller was perhaps her most interesting lead, many others remain on Jocelyn’s list of interest.
For more, for lack of a better word, mundane Kindred she’s content to take opportunities to speak with them as they arise about Evan. Her inquiries are not particularly subtle: she’s trying to discover what may have become of him, and key to it is identifying where he was seen in the nights and hours before his demise. Still, she’s not overly pointed with them and takes what they will give her, using the opportunity presented by the inquiries to introduce herself.
Less ‘opportunity-driven’ is her meeting with Sundown. The Nosferatu is a power player in the city, and Caroline is far too skittish to approach him casually. Instead she picks her night to approach him on his own turf, rather than in Elysium. Her pitch is simple: one of his tenants is missing, she’s interested in discovering what became of him and would like to poke around Evan’s haven and perhaps favorite areas, to discover if there’s anything to be found. She see’s an alignment of interests that costs the apolitical harpy little. If the Nosferatu shows interest in his missing tenant, she’ll offer her own knowledge of when he went missing, and where he was last seen to bait out similarly information of relatively low value. If pressed, she reveals she’s concerned that hunters may have slain the missing neonate.
Marcel Guilbeau she inquires politely of, after her first meeting with him for Ventrue matters goes well. She does not accuse or pry into his life, but instead simply inquires as to whether or not the Ventrue has seen the well-liked Toreador in recent months.
Finally, amid her Kindred inquiries, the heiress does not forget the value of more mundane searches. He was last seen in his car. Where is the car? It takes special skill or influence to check impound yards, and local streets around his haven. If Sundown can be persuaded she visits Evan’s haven itself to poke around for anything out of the ordinary. She digs into his cell phone bills: when was his last call made? Are there any cameras in the vicinity of his haven that might have captured him—blurred as he might be—on the night he disappeared, or those leading up to it?
GM: While Jocelyn is able to provide some of the nightclubs that Sundown is often seen at, Caroline finds herself halted on the way to the VIP area by a handsome black ghoul in a casual jacket and button-up who introduces himself as the club’s manager.
“Afraid you’ll need to call ahead. Keeping everyone at his clubs happy is a full-time job for Sundown,” the man smiles over the thumping music and neon-drenched, dancing crowds. Though he takes Caroline up to the manager’s office, introduces himself as Wayne and is nothing but cordial, it is plain the Afterhours King does not meet with just any neonate off the street. If Caroline does not wish to approach the Nosferatu harpy in Elysium, or does not know a mutual acquaintance to introduce them (a good idea even in Elysium), the price for his time is a boon owed—unless she can convince the “doorman” that what she has to say is already worth his master’s time.
Caroline’s pre-existing relationship with Marcel Guilbeau, on the other hand, grants her opportunity to speak with the prince-in-exile in a week’s time. His ghoul agrees to pencil in Caroline after her meetings with Hurst and the other gerousiastes.
Caroline: Caroline presents a very blunt and direct pitch to the ghoul, not actively dismissing him, but also not coaching her commentary in the same flowery language that she might for the Kindred himself: she’s happy to meet on the Nosferatu’s terms. The subject is his missing tenant, Evan Bourelle, and her desire to investigate his disappearance. She’d prefer to meet with the Nosferatu, but is willing to work through the ghoul for permission to investigate in his territory. She’s willing to pass on all of her findings to him.
GM: Wayne seems amiable when he hears what Caroline wants to meet Sundown for—locating his domitor’s missing tenant, and for free no less. The ghoul says that he is “sure Sundown will want to see you about this, ma’am.” He will get to back to the Ventrue when there is an opening in his domitor’s schedule.
Monday night, 5 October 2015, AM
GM: A night later, he does. Several further nights later, Caroline is granted audience with the Nosferatu regent. (Weekends, regrettably, are a very busy time for the nightcub owner.) The Midnight Bayou seems like many of the other Quarter clubs Caroline has been to. She’s not as acquainted with the Marigny ones. Crowds of dancers writhe and undulate under pulsing red lights to pounding music that’s almost loud enough to split one’s head. Here, the dead feed with impunity among the teeming throngs, and can feel ever-so-briefly alive.
The upstairs VIP lounge is a more subdued affair. It’s done in a similar color scheme to the downstairs floor, with dark walls and low red lighting. Patrons lounge about in leather booths and chairs, talking quietly, admiring the art on the walls, and sipping expensive drinks. Soft background music replaces the headsplitting blare downstairs. Smiling waitresses glide across the floor, relaying orders between customers while a bartender expertly mixes drinks in the back.
Caroline can’t spot any obviously hideously ugly or disfigured Kindred in the room who match the Afterhours King’s purported clan. The club employee who led Caroline upstairs ushers her into a seat at the rear-most booth and says “Calvin” will be with her soon. A waitress takes her drink order.
Caroline smells the other vampire when he approaches. He’s a racially indistinct, slightly tan-skinned gentleman with dark hair who appears somewhere in his 30s. He’s good-looking, too—not so attractive as to be threatening, but more than handsome enough to put everyone around him at ease. He’s dressed in a gray sports jacket, collared blue shirt with the top buttons undone, and no tie—a “casually professional” outfit that seems equally at ease is a club floor or a corporate lobby.
“Miss Malveaux, I presume,” the man smiles as he assumes the booth seat opposite of Caroline’s.
Caroline: “Correctly,” Caroline replies with a matching smile. “Regent Sundown?”
GM: “The same,” the Nosferatu answers. He takes an order of his own from the waitress as she sets off. “No need to actually drink that. We have enough privacy here.”
Caroline: “I’d expect nothing less based on how others speak of your clubs, Regent.” Tonight the heiress is dressed in a black dress that is a little shorter than her father might prefer, but blends neatly with the club crowd.
“I look forward to a night in which I can more thoroughly enjoy all that it no doubt has to offer, sadly, this is not entirely a social call.”
GM: “In a hurry somewhere?” Sundown asks, seemingly more idly curious than wounded. “You should stop and smell the roses, Miss Malveaux. You’ll find time is one of the Requiem’s great blessings.”
Caroline: “Too often in a hurry. I shall enjoy, I think, finding that time in the future,” Caroline agrees. “But then I’m certain that someone as astute as yourself, Regent, no doubt deduced that I would not presume to spend your own time simply for my own amusement—no matter how charming a host you may be reputed to be,” she continues coquettishly.
GM: “And here I thought licks only came for the clubs,” Sundown chuckles faintly. “That’s flattering of you, Miss Malveaux. But all right. You’re here over Evan Bourelle?”
Caroline: “As well-informed as you are accommodating, Regent,” Caroline quips.
“Yes, I’ve been looking into his disappearance for a friend and had two matters that I believed it wise to approach his regent for, before I trespassed. The first was the matter of his haven. I’d like to examine it to see if any evidence is available that he was perhaps attacked or abducted there. The second is the simple matter of arranging for payment on the apartment’s rent until such a time as I complete my investigation or he returns. I’m happy to do so, but wouldn’t wish to give the impression I was attempting to strong arm or establish a foothold in your domain.”
GM: “Naturally not,” Sundown nods. “That’s thoughtful of you to pay his rent. The Storyvilles are lucky to have another Kindred concerned for their missing krewemate.”
Caroline: “His disappearance weighs heavily upon them,” Caroline replies. “More than anything, I think they just want an answer.”
GM: “Yes, I’m sure they must.” The waitress sets down a frosted drink Sundown doesn’t touch, along with whatever Caroline ordered. “The permission’s yours to do both of those things, if you’d like. I can’t say whether they’ll help, but his krewemates should feel better knowing more’s being done.”
Caroline: “I’m certain they will—and will be grateful that his regent was concerned enough to throw his own support behind the investigation, should I discover anything,” Caroline replies.
GM: “The Guard de Ville, too.” Sundown offers a faintly amused smile. “My clan’s not normally in the habit of giving out free information, but Hound Agnello was here not too many nights ago, and wanted to look into Bourelle’s haven as well. Four eyes can pick up more than two, if you’d care to coordinate efforts.”
Caroline: “I may reach out,” Caroline replies diplomatically. “But it can also be helpful to reach independent conclusions.”
GM: “It can,” the Nosferatu nods absently. “Miss Baker and the Storyvilles should be impressed if you turn up anything on your own.”
Caroline: “I’ll be certain to relate anything of value I discover to you as well, Regent Sundown. You have a stake in the matter after all.”
GM: “Give my clan some credit, Miss Malveaux,” the Nosferatu smiles deprecatingly. “But that’s gracious of you to offer all the same. And if you do happen to find anything of Bourelle, you’ll have my gratitude. He was a good tenant, and by all accounts a good Kindred.”
Caroline: “All the credit in the world cannot buy respect,” Caroline quips, “and it would be a poor showing of it not to show it directly. All the same, I take your meaning, Regent.”
GM: “Just as I take yours, Miss Malveaux. I’m sure things have been rough without a sire, but respect will take you far. Not every Kindred learns it.”
Caroline: “There were benefits, Regent,” Caroline replies. “Sometimes it is the burnt hand that teaches best.”
Monday evening, 5 October 2015, PM
Caroline: Caroline continues her investigations into Evan’s disappearance. She’s been true to her promise to Jocelyn and keeps his apartment paid for despite his obnoxious landlord. She combs through it for any information that might point towards his disappearance. Evidence of surveillance, forced entry, a struggle, or anything out of the ordinary—insomuch as any Kindred’s existence can be ordinary.
GM: Evan Bourelle’s Marigny haven is a two-bedroom and one-bathroom apartment located at 922 Elysian Fields Avenue. Rent is $1,800 a month and the owner pays for utilities. Pets and smoking are not allowed on the premises, which Caroline supposes is a useful set of criteria for narrowing down buildings where Kindred may make their havens.
Margaret Ingram, the landlady, is not inclined to let Caroline look around on the premises, and must be compelled into doing so through Caine’s gifts. The woman’s reason is fairly simple: someone lives there. The apartment’s occupants are a one Mabel Beasley and Evan Bourelle, a single divorced mother and her adult son. Like many millennials, Evan was still living with his mom to save on living expenses in a tough economy. He recently went missing and Mabel has been beside herself. She also fell behind on rent… Margaret was willing to cut her some slack, but in the end, she isn’t running a charity here. Mabel eventually sorted out her financial issues, but has fallen into a deep depression, and is often absent from the building. She is not currently here.
Jocelyn replies with an LOL when Caroline texts her about that fact. No, Mabel isn’t Evan’s mom. He just thought it was a good cover, since she looks several decades older than him. And she actually did seem to dote on him in an almost mom-like way. He’s always been a hit with older women. They’re his favorite donors. Roxanne didn’t approve of his using their real names, but Evan didn’t think it was a big deal. He said it “wouldn’t tell anyone a lot anyways.”
The Toreador says Evan spent a lot of nights over at his lover’s haven, as well as the coterie’s communal one. Roxanne was constantly bringing up moving to someplace nicer, but Evan liked the building and didn’t seem interested in doing so.
The apartment itself is neat and tidy, to the sort of degree that’s only really possible when keeping it clean is one person’s paid job. Furniture is relatively new and comfortable. Various effects, such as laptops and phones, are missing: Jocelyn says that Roxanne took them, along with “a couple other personal things.” She preemptively adds that no, Evan’s phone wasn’t among them, and yes, they have tried to track it through “a million different ways.” None begot any results.
The bedroom that looks like Evan’s, if the heavy-duty window curtains are any indication, feels a little empty. There’s posters for music bands on the walls, a closet with neatly folded, mostly casual men’s clothes, a small collection of somewhat dated FPS and action RPG video games, a few paperback books, and a trash bin that’s a minor giveaway as to its owner’s undead nature given the lack of tissues, food wrapping, and other garbage one might expect from a living person (Evan’s is mostly ticket stubs and empty cologne bottles—there’s not even any used deodorant sticks, given their kind’s lack of perspiration). All told, it feels a lot like the bedroom of most any twenty-something male of moderate means. The only really personal touch still remaining is a photograph of Evan and his paramour. The missing Toreador is a young man of average height and build with auburn hair and boyishly good-looking, clean-shaven features. He’s dressed in swim trunks and his arm around Roxanne’s waist, who’s wearing a one-piece bathing suit and has hers hooked around his shoulder. Both Kindred are smiling, an expression that looks all-too natural on Evan’s face and out of place on Roxanne’s, but not unpleasantly so—it’s like seeing a long-haired woman who’s finally let her hair down. A sandy beach’s midnight-black waters stretch endlessly into dark skies behind the couple. Unlike most of Jocelyn’s pieces (her name is signed in the bottom corner), it’s also in color. The two’s otherwise pale complexions look ruddy, perhaps from feeding, or perhaps simply from Jocelyn’s choice in lighting, and almost alive. It’d be easy to picture the college-age two as boyfriend and girlfriend if the image showed them during the day.
Caroline: It feels like invading someone’s privacy to rummage through the apartment with no one present, but it’s hardly a first for Caroline. Even stripped of the ‘personal things’ that his lover absconded with, it’s still a look into his interests and his past. The picture of the missing vampire with Roxanne makes Caroline’s skin crawl for the sheer personalness of it. Just two ‘people’ seemingly in love. A look into their past, into their feelings. She doesn’t know if she’s ever seen Roxanne smile before.
GM: She’s fairly sure she hasn’t.
Caroline: The heiress takes the ticket stubs—later using them to build a timeline in the immediate past for the missing Toreador. What were the last shows he went to? Did they point to a routine? She has Autumn take the rest of the trash out and dump it on principle.
GM: The stubs are mostly for shows in Faubourg Marigny, and a few in Mid-City and the Seventh Ward. Evan appears to have enjoyed live music and attended concerts on a regular basis. All of this is leaving live bars that do not require reservations. Jocelyn adds that his favorite venue was The Spotted Cat Music Club.
Caroline: The heiress plots out the nights of each show closest to his disappearance. Of particular interest are any shows that he threw away two tickets to.
GM: Caroline finds none, although that does not entirely rule out Evan attending them with company.
The one thing Caroline discovers out of order isn’t even in the haven proper, but outside of it.
There’s not much left. Time and weather has washed almost all of it away. Caroline has to ask Autumn to take a closer look with her preternatural senses. But there’s enough concentrated in a single area (around the trees a short distance away from Evan’s window) for Margaret Ingram to confirm that there were a fair number of birds roosting around the area some weeks ago—when Evan disappeared. There weren’t flocks of them, but now that she thinks about it, she couldn’t look at the window without seeing at least one.
Caroline: The bird droppings are interesting. It’s thin, but thin is far better than nothing, and the first indication that there was someone, or something, more unusual about his disappearance than the going ‘hunter’ narrative. She’s seen the ability to control animals in action—though her actual understanding of it is somewhat limited by her lack of experience or proficiency with such gifts. The heiress bounces the idea of someone spying on him using birds off Autumn, seeking any guidance she can provide as she continues to look around.
GM: Autumn answers that the Gangrel and Nosferatu are the only clans in the Camarilla with any inborn proficiency for the discipline. Getting birds to follow someone isn’t a particularly advanced application of its powers—even a dabbler could do it. Even she knows someone could use the discipline towards that end, and she freely admits to not knowing very much about how it works. “The Krewe sometimes uses animals to spy on people. Wasn’t my department, though.”
As far as she knows, barring wholly individual anomalies of the Blood and other niche circumstances, Kindred proficient with bestiae sermo (known less formally as taming and doolittling) can affect all animals equally. Users may prefer to utilize certain types of animals, but these preferences are no more binding than Caroline is bound to use her own mental powers on people from a certain demographic.
Caroline: The Ventrue digs into the birds with Margaret, seeking more information. Does she remember what kinds of birds? When they first showed up? When they stopped coming around? She plays with the woman’s trust, lulling her into a sense of security as the Beast wears at her mind, gets her to open up and care about this so mundane topic for a stranger. When was the last time she saw Mabel? How is she holding up?
While they talk, Caroline has Autumn ‘document’ the bird’s appearance with a few photos of their leavings, in case someone decides to clean up afterwards. Her final question is whether she’s mentioned the birds to anyone else.
GM: Margaret isn’t sure exactly what kind of birds they were. “They were ordinary little things, really.” Maybe sparrows? Songbirds? They’re the kind you see everywhere and don’t really think about. There were maybe some crows. They weren’t owls or eagles or “any ones really recognizable like that.”
They showed up a few days before the reported date of Evan’s disappearance. She can’t remember noticing any the day afterwards.
She saw Mabel about four days ago. The woman remains deeply depressed over the disappearance of her ‘son’, and Margaret could see her eyes were red from crying. She is somewhat puzzled where Mabel is spending her time, but figures the apartment maybe has too many reminders. His bedroom is right next to hers, after all.
As long as rent keeps getting paid, though… whatever.
No, she hasn’t mentioned the birds to anyone else. She hadn’t even thought about them before Caroline brought the topic up.
Caroline: The heiress thanks the landlord for her help and texts Jocelyn about the birds. Can she check around their communal haven, and ask Roxanne to check around her own?
GM: Jocelyn is surprised to hear about the birds, although she has to ask Caroline what’s significant about them. She’s heard that some clans can control them, but it’s plain she doesn’t have much idea how. The possibility the birds could have been used for spying on Evan is very alarming. Could that mean it was a Gangrel or Nosferatu who had it out for him?
You mean you wanna come over? I can ask, but I don’t think Roxanne’s gonna like the idea…
She adds that they’ve looked around their own havens already, although admittedly not that thoroughly next to Evan’s. Is there something specific they should be looking for?
Caroline: Caroline’s willing to come over and look if she’d prefer. She doesn’t want to be perceived as prying through into the Storyvilles’ havens. The evidence at Evan’s house, she explains, was thin but relatively straightforward: trace deposits of bird shit on the tree branches, railings, and so forth around his haven, and even on the sidewalk. Not the type of thing that would normally stand out, but for the fact that it wasn’t in areas that birds typically spent long periods of time—long enough for any accumulation to build up. Combined a mention from his landlord that she’d seen a lot of birds… it was enough of a tip off for Caroline’s increasingly paranoid mind. It’s not exactly glamorous to look for though. If they have cameras set up (she doesn’t pry into the rest of the krewe’s security systems) that actually record digital data rather than record over regularly, that might also provide ready evidence. Even shadows on the ground might give away the presence of the birds, if the cameras weren’t aimed up.
She explains that the appearance just before, and disappearance immediately after strikes her as incredibly suspicious, and that someone used them to spy on him—likely someone involved in his disappearance—seems very likely to her based on the timing and her understanding of how animals can be used by those with the appropriate abilities. If they were also spying on Roxanne’s haven and/or the Storyville communal, it would have given someone a good opportunity to plan their when and where to strike at him. She no longer thinks it likely he was attacked by hunters.
GM: Jocelyn is mortified when Caroline passes along the additional information of the birds’ timing. That is starting to look like another Kindred was behind it.
The question of whether more birds were spying on their krewe gives her pause. She says she’ll pass that information along to Roxanne and see what the Ventrue thinks, as well as inquire into the matter of any security footage.
Her answers prove somewhat disappointing. She says Roxanne didn’t see any birds in the tapes she had, but also that they don’t go back very far. Roxanne didn’t have any left from the time of Evan’s disappearance.
I guess that’s our lesson… :(
What do u think we should do?
Caroline: The heiress isn’t really shocked they don’t have long-term surveillance, though she advises them to make the ‘mild’ investment into it. Digital storage is cheap, especially at the comparatively lower quality of most video surveillance (they’re not recording in 1080P). She recommends keeping at least a month of records (and anytime something significant happens, archiving that month and starting a new hard drive). Beyond that, birds are something else to keep an eye out for—and animals in general behaving oddly.
For now, she advises they simply update their security—and investigate (if possible) to see if they’ve been under similar surveillance by more mundane means—by looking around. She’s happy to do it for them if they’d prefer. While they decide, she’s going to talk to Evan’s landlord about it. She presumes as a (powerful) Nosferatu with an interest in Evan’s whereabouts, the harpy might be both willing and able to do some further digging. Maybe even with the birds directly. Songbirds have short lifespans and brains like those of a goldfish, she recalls. But ravens and crows on the other hand are smart birds. Very smart birds. Smart enough that they might remember who asked them to look around even weeks later.
GM: Caroline goes through the last ghoul of Sundown’s she dealt with, who arranges an audience with his domitor some nights later in an upstairs club office. The Afterhours King taps his chin in thoughtful emphasis as the Ventrue relays her findings.
“Not a bad night’s work, Miss Malveaux. Birds, and specifically crows. You’re right they’re smart animals. It’s a needle in a haystack to go looking for specific crows, admittedly, but this is something to go on. It suggests quite a few possible things.”
“You’ve given me an initial lead so far as what happened to my tenant. What boon would you ask in exchange?”
Caroline: Caroline interlaces her fingers in front of her. “I looked into his disappearance because it was of some importance to others I cared for. It seems selfish to ask for a boon in return.”
She smiles. “But if it one were to be granted, I would ask for two matters, Regent Sundown. First, if any further leads develop, I would very much appreciate an opportunity to be a part of that following investigation. And second, credit where due if and when others inquire as to this matter.”
GM: “Easily done,” the Nosferatu replies. “Not a bad choice, Miss Malveaux. Reputation is worth its weight in gold… and perhaps red.”
Caroline: “Two of my favorite colors, Regent Sundown,” Caroline grins savagely.
GM: The Storyvilles, meanwhile, are thrilled by the news that Caroline has given them their first solid lead to go on in… well, ever. They start speculating as to Gangrel and Nosferatu who could’ve had an axe to grind against Evan. Maybe it was Lidia Kendall. She’s a well-known Gangrel high in the Baron’s favor. Roxanne is pleased enough, in fact, to offer another boon of her own to her younger clanmate.
Caroline: Caroline makes the rounds, if invited, to check the main Storyville haven and Roxanne’s own for signs of animal based espionage, though she admits in advance that such evidence might be something of a long shot given the time frame, and understand if they’d rather keep their secrecy.
GM: Roxanne, for all her gratitude, does not invite Caroline to either haven.
“Sorry,” says Jocelyn. “If it makes you feel any better, I haven’t seen hers either. I don’t think she let anyone except Evan.”
Caroline: The blonde vampire laughs it off. “In that case I’ll assume it’s because she has the walls painted bright pink, plastered with ‘My Little Pony’ art, and every surface covered with stuffed animals, rather than any personal slight.”
GM: Jocelyn laughs at that. “Yeah, I bet. She’s just a softie deep down.”
Her lover’s face grows a bit more serious. “I know she seems kind of bitchy, but… I think-”
Caroline: The heiress interrupts, “I don’t have any room to complain about her acting like, or at least being perceived as, a bitch. We all are who we are, and we also all only get to see shadows and reflections of each other. Everyone is someone else’s close friend or lover for at least one good reason.”
GM: “Well, true,” Jocelyn says. “It’s just… I think her breather family’s really screwed up. I know she came from a pretty rich one, like yours, and everyone was supposed to be really successful. Which I guess is also like yours. The screwed-up part was how her dad used to beat her mom. I overheard it once, when she was talking with Evan. She said she remembered, when she was a kid, seeing her mom lying face-down on the stairwell carpet, and not being sure if she was dead or alive. And her dad just got angry and pretended it never happened whenever she brought it up, so they didn’t.”
The Toreador grows a little more quiet. “I think that’s why she likes Evan. He’s really gentle, but without being a pushover.”
“And, well, that’s why she’s… the way she is herself, to most people.”
Caroline: “Jesus,” Caroline replies. She spends a moment picturing her own mother covered in blood at the bottom of a flight of stairs. Her family has always been messed up—and perhaps never more so than recently—but she never felt physical fear of them, or for them, as a child. “I guess we don’t really know what’s going on in someone else’s head.”
She lets a second of silence pass. “I don’t hold any of it against her if that’s what you’re worried about, Jocelyn. I don’t know if we’ll ever be BFFs—I think we’re both just a little too used to domineering and getting our way—but I don’t have any hard feelings towards her. Maybe it’s a blue blood thing—either by nature or our respective breather nurtures. I don’t see very many of us that seem that close to each other.”
GM: “Oh really?” Jocelyn says thoughtfully. “Becky Lynne and her brother Hurst seem pretty close. And she’s more like, well, a camellia than cast iron.”
Caroline: Caroline shakes her head. “I wouldn’t sleep on Becky Lynne if I were you. She’s just, I think on account of her sire, far better at hiding it than most of us. Even then, she’s way better at playing the polite and meek part than actually living that. I swear, it’s like rich girls from controlling families with daddy issues are catnip for blue blood sires.”
GM: Jocelyn laughs at that. “Speaking from experience?”
Caroline: “Yeah…” she bites her lip. “I guess I fit the mold. I always wanted my father’s attention. Thought maybe if I was perfect enough he’d have time for me instead of just using me as a campaign prop when it suited him. I’d guess that’s what a lot of sires see: someone eager to please. And one looking for another father figure.”
GM: “Well, at least your jerk vampire dad got what was coming to him, right?” the Toreador says with a waner smile, obviously trying to cheer Caroline up.
Caroline: The blonde Ventrue shakes her head. “Justice is for the prince. I want something sweeter.” She gives a fang-filled grin. “Victory.”
GM: “For sure, me too. But didn’t you already get that over your sire?”
Caroline: “I’ll have it when I’ve taken back everything that I lost,” Caroline replies. “Directly or indirectly. It’s not enough to make someone else suffer. Thriving is the real victory. And it’s coming, more quickly than anyone might think.”
Sunday night, 11 October 2015, AM
Caroline: Caroline clues her own landlord in to her findings, mostly out of respect, but also under the theory that someone else in the loop from within the prince’s faction is likely to help her out at some point—or at least unlikely to hurt. Especially if that other can likely do his own follow-up with the birds and beasts. Almost forgotten is how it seems like the decent thing to do, since he’d also bothered to investigate the missing Toreador.
Rocco: The respect is appreciated. Rocco is only too happy to offer Caroline his aid and even pledges her a boon in reward for her efforts. He shares his findings on Bourelle’s disappearance, which largely overlap with Caroline’s.
“I understand Marcel Guilbeau used to be an old lover of Bourelle’s,” Rocco mentions off-handedly, “and when I spoke to Marcel, he mentioned that Evan was trying to convert a member of the Crone to the Lancea et Sanctum. This could be related to his disappearance. It’s also interesting to note that someone who’s already been linked to his disappearance happens to have an affinity with animals, being Yellow Sidra. What are you thoughts, Miss Malveaux?”
Caroline: The heiress seems to think on that one. “She seemed to be selling me quite hard on the idea that it was some third party—hunters for instance—that killed him,” Caroline agrees of Yellow Sidra.
“I guess what perplexes me there is motive. I haven’t really seen anything to suggest he was on bad terms with anyone, and the birds make it seem like whatever went after him it wasn’t purely a crime of opportunity. It feels premeditated.”
She taps her fingers on the arm of her chair. “I could see Yellow Sidra selling information on his comings and going though to someone—or his meetings with her seeming like enough pretext to hurt him for someone that had strong feelings on dealing with those outside of the Sanctified…”
Rocco: “You have spent more time with the Storyville Krewe than I have, Miss Malveaux. Do you consider any of them to be reasonable suspects, possibly responsible for Evan’s disappearance?”
The thought crosses Rocco’s mind that his own sire could be responsible, but he isn’t entirely certain if utilizing birds to spy on her victims beforehand is the scourge’s usual method of course.
He adds, “I am curious to know what Bourelle’s ghoul Mabel knows about the Crone he was trying to convert. You will acquire this ghoul for me as corvée for this month, Miss Malveaux. You may question her before giving her to me under the proviso that you share with me everything she tells you.”
The hound, of course, plans to personally follow-up on Caroline’s findings that birds compelled by mystical means were present at Evan’s haven before his disappearance.
Caroline: Once again Caroline taps her fingers on the chair’s arm before responding to the question about the other Storyvilles. “I think it unlikely that any of them were involved, Hound Agnello. Among other things, I don’t believe that any have gifts that would allow them to control birds—nor do I think any would have a need to do so. I believe they also all have alibis for the night of his disappearance. Finally, they lack a motive. He was well liked by his krewe members.”
She runs her tongue across her teeth at his assignment. “Of course, Hound Agnello. Will there be anything else?”
Rocco: “There will not, Miss Malveaux. Good evening.”
Monday night, 12 October 2015, PM
Caroline: Caroline finally hires a mundane PI to stake out the haven and report when Mabel returns, and in turn sends Autumn and Fuller to pick her up for an interview when she resurfaces.
GM: Autumn texts Caroline around a week later that they’ve picked up Mabel. She was returning to clean Evan’s room and an inconsolable mess upon being confronted. She also claimed to be working for and staying with Roxanne Gerlette, and to be maintaining Evan’s haven under the Ventrue’s instructions.
You want us to let her go with a memory wipe?
Caroline: Bring her in, Caroline sends back. After a moment she amends, Be gentle.
When the ghoul arrives Caroline does her best to soothe her, slicing through her fears and anxiety with her supernal charm to calm her down. She has Autumn bring out a stiff drink for her and sits her down in a comfortable chair across from the Ventrue, smiling softly and assuring her that she has no desire to hurt her or blame her, but that she has a few questions she’d like answered as part of her effort to find Evan.
She asks about the night Evan went missing, and the nights leading up to it. Certainly she’s been interviewed before on this topic—probably extensively by the Storyvilles—but Caroline probes. Was there anything unusual in the area she saw? Animals acting bizarrely? Neighbors acting weird? Was there any sign of a struggle anywhere outside or inside the building that night or morning? Any vehicles hanging around? The probes piece by piece, trying to build a picture and tease out any details that may have escaped her.
Next Caroline moves onto Evan’s activities. She heard that he was trying to convert someone in the nights before he disappeared. Does she know anything about that? Did she hear or see anything about meetings with other Kindred? Does she remember any names that might be helpful? Did he ever return harmed, or with ripped or torn clothing? Did she overhear any phone calls with raised voices?
She asks, at last, as gently as possible whether she has any reason to think ill has befallen Evan.
Throughout the interview she’s reassuring, patient, and kind to the woman. She knows she must have been asked a lot of this in the past, but any detail might help. Anything others may have missed. It’s possible that something was overlooked, that might break the entire thing open. A small tape recorder runs, recording the conversation.
GM: Mabel is a comely-looking and long-haired blonde woman in her middle years with a full and curvy figure. Caroline can see her matching the ‘Mrs. Robinson’ type Evan preferred to a ‘T’.
Or at least, once matching it. The woman’s gaze and expression are dead. She hasn’t applied any makeup, her clothes have a rumpled, slept-in look, she doesn’t look as if she’s washed her hair recently, and her eyes are still red and puffy. She doesn’t smell as if she’s showered in a while either.
The ghoul has clearly been mesmerized by Autumn or Fuller. When she’s released, she immediately begins screaming at the top of her lungs and attempts to flee. She screams for Roxanne. She screams for Evan. She screams for her kidnappers to let her go. Only Caine’s gifts manage to still her cries and panicked flailings.
Caroline fails utterly to sway Mabel’s emotional state. That power of the Blood is not hers. The best she gets is stopping the ghoul from screaming any further, now that they are ‘friends’, but there is no life or warmth to her despair-empty eyes. She doesn’t even touch the drink. She just stares numbly ahead.
Evan’s name is what finally brings the first onset of tears. Caroline may not blame her for Evan, but it is all-too plain that the inconsolable ghoul blames herself.
She does not recall any odd happenings with animals. Evan himself appeared notably anxious during the last few nights before his disappearance, though he tried to put on a brave front for his krewemates. He wouldn’t talk to her about what was wrong, though. “Her boy” put on a brave front for her too. He was “such a good boy. Such a sweet boy.”
“And he… my boy… he’s gone… gone…” the woman piteously sobs.
The Crone is named Amandine. Mabel doesn’t know (or simply remember) her last name. She seemed like a “nice girl” for a Vodouisant. She thinks Evan “liked” her. She also thinks they shared blood—Toreador lovers, after all, are not known for their faithfulness. She doesn’t think he wanted to get away from Roxanne. They “had something.” But he wasn’t averse to “having more,” so long as his Ventrue lover didn’t know. She’d probably have reacted… well, how any of the Kingship Clan would, to a straying lover. Roxanne always saw herself as the one wearing the pants, and Evan never fought his paramour in contests for dominance. That wasn’t his way.
She knows he went to see Yellow Sidra shortly before he disappeared. There was his krewe. He also went strolling along the Lower Garden District, shortly before he did, and said he ran into Accou Poincaré. He said he’d always admired his elder clanmate’s style, and the way he “looked after his ‘mom’.” He didn’t seem any less anxious, but perhaps more “resolved,” at least for a few hours.
Caroline: News that Evan was intimate with Amandine is interesting, and complicates Caroline’s analysis. She could definitely see Roxanne taking such infidelity very poorly indeed. It also begs the question as to whether or not Roxanne knew, or knows now. She tables that question for the more pressing one that Mabel alone might answer: about the details of his meeting with and relationship to Amandine. There aren’t so many opportunities for a Vodouisant and a faithful Sanctified to meet that would readily lend themselves towards such a relationship. Caroline digs into all manner of questions about its nature.
GM: Evan didn’t take Mabel along or tell her the full details, but from what he said, Amandine was a “clever girl” with an “attitude” that he liked, and who came from a small-town background that he had in common with her. She wasn’t anywhere nearly so stiff and formal as Roxanne could be. As far as Mabel knows, they went to some bars, music concerts, and events “off the beaten path” away from other Kindred together. They both liked music, as well as the outdoors, but Evan also thought that she “understood him” or at least “one side of him” in a way his krewemates weren’t able to. He also thought that “not everything she did was that bad.” She was just trying to get along in her Requiem like any other person saddled with the curse of undeath, and did it without reveling in what she was or leaving bodies and misery without concern for the kine. The only reason he could see that she opposed Vidal and aided his enemies was because Vidal criminalized her beliefs, which in no way undermined his, and those same enemies offered her guidance, community, and mentorship that no other Kindred did.
She believed what she believed, and he believed what he believed. Did they have to hate each other for it? Wasn’t there enough misery in the Requiem already?
“He’s such… such a sweet boy…” Mabel continues to weep with heart-shaking sobs.
Caroline: Caroline considers pushing further, but ultimately decides the woman is just too fragile. Especially if she presses hard on these already sensitive topics. She encourages her to have a sip of her drink while she steps off to make a call to Hound Agnello—or whatever proxy he has designated for her. She relates that she’s ‘interviewed’ the ghoul, but that there’s a potential complication: Roxanne has claimed her as her own. She inquires as to whether he still wishes for Caroline to turn Mabel over to him or if he’d prefer she be released to avoid the potential incident? She relates that she has the name of the Kindred he was interested in: Amandine.
She also relates, politely, that the ghoul’s mental state is extremely poor, and inquires whether he intends on releasing Mabel when he’s finished.
Rocco: “You did very well, Miss Malveaux,” the hound answers after a moment of silent deliberation. “You may let her loose as I have no further use of the ghoul. Did you find anything else of importance in this case?”
Caroline: There’s a slight moment of pause. “She related that he appeared notably anxious in the nights prior to his disappearance,” the Ventrue adds. “And that he briefly met with Primogen Poincaré in that time as well.” Another slight pause. “There may be another matter as well, but I’d like to follow up with it first. If it plays out into anything I’ll pass on the full story, Hound Agnello.”
Rocco: “I will meet with Primogen Poincare in that case, Miss Malveaux,” the hound answers. “I will also extend to you an offer to accompany me and make introductions in exchange for your continued compliance in this matter.”
Caroline: Rocco isn’t there to see what flashes behind Caroline’s eyes at the invitation. “I would be honored to accompany you on such a distinguished meeting, Hound Agnello,” comes her smooth reply across the line.
“Is there a particular night and time, or shall I keep my schedule open?”
Rocco: “Keep your schedule open, Miss Malveaux. I will be in touch. I advise that during the interim you think of and acquire a suitable gift for Primogen Poincare to make a strong impression.”
Caroline: The heiress bites her lip. “Thank you for the recommendation, Hound Agnello. I will do so.”
Monday night, 12 October 2015, PM
Caroline: The heiress wipes the ghoul’s memory of their encounter and puts her to sleep, instructing Autumn and Fuller to return her to her home. Once they’re on their way she calls Jocelyn and asks if she’s available to entertain. Caroline has a couple things she’d like to talk about.
GM: Jocelyn almost always is for her lover, especially where news about Evan is concerned.
Caroline: The heiress meets Jocelyn at her haven. She mentions that she hasn’t heard back from Rocco or Sundown yet about any follow-up with the birds, but that she did come across some concerning information about Evan’s activities. In particular, his attempts to ‘convert’ a Vodouisant. Convert and quite a bit more, from what she’s heard. She asks if Jocelyn heard anything about that, about any relationship with another Kindred along those lines.
GM: Jocelyn hasn’t heard of many cases of ‘star-crossed lovers’ between the Crones and the Sanctified. There’s a fairly well-known story about Duncan Priory, a visiting Sanctified of some repute, and some little Gangrel Acolyte he’d had a fling with before killing, and before being executed himself. Jocelyn frowns. “Maybe I’m getting the details wrong.” It was the case that first brought Hercule ‘Monty’ Lestrange to prominence as an investigator for hire among the Damned. “We actually wanted to go to him over Evan, but… it didn’t pan out.”
Jocelyn knows nothing about Evan’s (full) relationship with Amandine, though, and is surprised to hear that news. “Wow. I mean, go him if he wanted to score some more action, but that’s pretty risky with a Crone. No wonder he didn’t tell us.”
Jocelyn seems a little hurt by the fact her krewemate felt he had to hide things, but then wonders, “Or maybe that’s just how he was trying to win her over. I mean, our clan are the Cam’s sex kittens. Yeah, that actually does seem like an ok idea to me.”
Caroline: The heiress listens with interest to the story of Monty, but more so when Jocelyn talks about Evan’s potential relationship. She frowns at Jocelyn’s characterization of the idea of sleeping around behind one’s lover’s back to try and lure someone into the church, but says nothing of it for the moment. Instead she bites her lip and asks, “How do you think Roxanne would feel about that if she found out? I kept the details about Evan and his little Crone side-piece quiet, but my impression is that she wouldn’t take something like that well. If it gets out, that’s just shy of motive for her to attack him, maybe in a frenzy…”
She looks the Toreador in the eye. “Do you think she knew about it?”
GM: Jocelyn frowns.
“So, I told you about that thing with Roxanne’s mom and dad, and how he just acted like it wasn’t happening. But, it was kinda more than that. He would flip out over… well, Roxanne said this one time she tried to help her mom, by getting an emergency kit, her dad walked in and asked what she was doing. And when she said her mom was hurt, he grabbed the kit and threw it in the toilet, and screamed at her that she was lying. That she was a filthy liar and just screamed his head off and broke a bunch of shit, about how he wasn’t raising his kids to be liars. And he’d do that any time the abuse came up, or it seemed like she was thinking about it. Just go ballistic about what a liar she was. I don’t think he ever hit her, or at least she never said he did. But it really fucked her up, how her… well, you heard it.”
“My point is,” Jocelyn says slowly, “Roxanne hates liars.”
“Now, sure, everyone in the masked city lies about shit, and I think she’s basically had to make her peace with that. But there’s been a couple times when some of us, in the krewe, lied, or she just thought we did, and she went apeshit over it, saying we were ‘trying to tell her what’s real’ after she calmed down. And she went on about how ‘I know what I saw’ and… well, you can probably guess.”
“My point is, I think she’d explode if she found out Evan was sleeping around and lying to her. That’s why he and Marcel broke up, just so she wouldn’t have anything to be jealous over. So when Evan decided to sleep with someone anyway… I guess he just decided he’d tell no one but Mabel.”
The Toreador gives an uncomfortable frown. “Yeah, I guess that does sound like a recipe for disaster.”
Caroline: The heiress taps her fingers on the arm of the comfortable sofa, one hand held in a fist in front of her mouth in thought. After what seems like an eternity she finally stands, walk towards the window, then turns back to her paramour. “You should ask her to come over,” she finally decides.
“That’s really bad, Jocelyn.” She runs her hand through her hair and continues, “And that she’s almost certainly known about this other lover on the side for a while and hasn’t mentioned it to anyone else during the investigations? Not even to the rest of you? Honestly, it puts her near the top of the suspect list. There aren’t very many other licks out there with a motive, and none with one as good as hers. Especially if she did something in a rage, like we’re all prone to do?”
GM: “No!” Jocelyn declares emphatically, shaking her head. “Roxanne wouldn’t! I didn’t know about Evan sleeping with Amandine, so how would she? And what about the birds? Roxanne doesn’t know how to doolittle, none of us do.”
Caroline: “And if she found something that made her suspicious? Two ticket stubs in his pocket to a show, or the taste of someone else’s vitae in his blood, or him not going where she thought he was going? She could have easily offered a boon to someone to keep an eye on him, confirm her suspicions using the birds—that’s a damn small ask,” Caroline counters logically.
“I’m not saying I think she did it,” the heiress clarifies. “But if I take what I have—and what you just told me—to either Sundown or Agnello, she’s suspect number one, and my guess is their conversation is a lot less cordial than inviting her over to your place for an uncomfortable talk.”
GM: Jocelyn’s eyes flash. “No! FUCK Rocco! We are NOT dragging him into this, you hear me, we are fucking NOT!”
The Toreador actually gives a half-mangled hiss, and Caroline can see her jaw clamp and canines elongate as she strains against her Beast. She finally snarls out again,
Caroline: The heiress puts up her hands, palms out, towards Jocelyn. “Hey, hey,” she tries to calm her. “I’d love to… but he’s not really my type,” she murmurs defusingly, slowly lowering her hands. She cracks a wan smile and pauses for a moment before she continues,
“I’m not going to throw her under the bus to him, but he’s digging, and I can’t stop him. Or Sundown for that matter. What do you think he’s going to do when he gets his hands on Amandine? Or just finds the right witness that mentions them swapping fluids? He’s the one who dug up that lead in the first place, and he’s not going to let it go. And what do you think he’s going to do me if he finds out that I kept all of this from him?”
She pauses, before continuing, “I’m not afraid of him, but he could make my life really uncomfortable as long as I’m his tenant, to say nothing of as a hound.”
GM: The worst of the tension fades from Jocelyn’s jaw, though her eyes remain flat as she says, “Yeah, you got screwed getting him as your landlord. I hope he does go after Amandine though. The Baron doesn’t have a lot of licks, and they really look out for their own.” She mutters, “More than the Sanctified sometimes do.”
“I… I guess you’re right, though. We need to at least clear her. I still don’t think she did it though, she isn’t on good terms with really any redbones or kaintucks.”
Caroline: “I’ve been known to have good ideas every now and then,” Caroline replies. She picks up the Toreador’s phone from where it’s charging on the coffee table and hands it to her. “And sooner is better. He’s meeting soon with Primogen Poincaré. I don’t know what Evan told Poincaré, but he was one of the last licks Evan talked to.”
GM: Jocelyn unlocks the phone’s screen, looks at it for a moment, and then looks up to Caroline.
Caroline: The heiress grits her teeth, thinking she’s received a call or message. “You want me to step out?”
GM: “What? No,” Jocelyn shakes her head. “I’m just thinking, if this goes far enough… well, Rocco’s already involved, and you’ve brought up Sundown and Accou. They aren’t bad, but… well, what would you think about bringing this to Skyman, calling him in?”
Caroline: The heiress bites on the end of her thumbnail lightly, a nervous habit Jocelyn doesn’t often see. “I don’t think he’s particularly fond of me at this moment. And right now I don’t really have anything to bring him except—for the most part—things you all already knew. Well… some of you at least.”
“Maybe if we come up with something real, something actionable. Otherwise it just feels like going to him with another problem, asking for more table scraps.”
GM: “Fair enough,” Jocelyn grants. “It just… seems like our only trump card here.”
Caroline: “Maybe he is, but that’s the key with Bridge. Knowing when you need to play a trump, and when you can still win in suite.”
Tuesday night, 13 October 2015, PM
GM: Jocelyn has Caroline and Roxanne meet in her haven the next night. Meg anxiously hovers over her mistress’ guest at first, but an all-too sharp glare from the older Ventrue sends the anorexic ghoul scurrying away. Roxanne herself is accompanied by two other ghouls who she has wait outside.
“Jocelyn said this was about Evan,” the Ventrue says as she sits down on the couch and regards Caroline expectantly.
Caroline: Roxanne’s ghouls find company with Fuller, who drove Caroline over. The heiress crosses her legs.
“It is,” she replies. “Evidence has come forward that Evan was spending a great deal of time with another Kindred, a Crone named Amandine. I was hoping you could shed some light into the nature of that relationship.”
The heiress holds a thin moleskin notebook in one hand and a pen in the other.
GM: “Not much more than Jocelyn could probably tell you,” Roxanne answers. “He thought he’d be able to convert her to the Sanctified. I thought it was a stupid idea, but he was sold on it and ran everything past me, so I granted him permission.”
Caroline: The heiress scrutinizes the her dark-haired companion. “Permission? Permission for what? To talk to her?” Caroline prompts.
GM: “Permission to make extended contact with the enemy. There are risks. This is my krewe. So yes, he needed permission. Just like Jocelyn would.”
The Toreador looks at her, but doesn’t disagree.
Caroline: Caroline bites her lower lip, then sighs, “I’m just going to come out and ask, because I like you way too much to play this game: did you know they were fucking?”
GM: Roxanne’s already sharp gaze hones to a serrated edge as she leans forward. Her pale face is still, but Caroline can make out the faintest of tremors behind it.
Caroline: “That they were swapping blood,” Caroline repeats, her gaze settled just as sharply on her fellow Ventrue, trying to read her expression and reaction. “That’s what it looks like, at least.”
GM: Roxanne is silent for a moment—then literally howls as she launches herself at Caroline, eyes mad with the Beast.
Caroline: Roxanne howls, all clawing nails and snapping teeth as she leaps over the table at Caroline, only to find her fellow Ventrue all too ready for her. Caroline blurs away from her rush and kicks the raging Roxanne in the back and into the sofa she occupied only a moment before. She snatches one of the dark haired woman’s arms, even as she steps in and plants her knee in her back, shoving her chest and back into the cushions. It’s not even close to fair even before she drives an elbow into the back of her attacker’s head, burying her face in the cushions and muting even her howls.
Jocelyn is there a moment later with a stake, but Caroline waves it aside with a shake of her head. “Just hold her,” she says, shifting her grip on Roxanne’s wrist for better control. Her voice is thick and heavy.
With Roxanne planted harmlessly in the fabric the Toreador grabs her krewe-mate’s other arm struggling arm and plants her own weight alongside her lover’s with another knee in Roxanne’s back. The two hold the struggling, raging, and screaming (into the the pillows) Ventrue like parents holding down a misbehaving child in the supermarket until her struggling ceases.
GM: It’s a testament to how impotent that struggling is rendered when Meg re-emerges from deeper within the apartment, evidently having been drawn by the initial sounds of struggle if her fear-struck features are any indication. They turn more confused, though, when she sees the two vampires holding down Roxanne so totally, so soundlessly, that it doesn’t even look like a fight is taking place.
“Meg, what are you-” Jocelyn starts in a half-irritated voice.
“J-Jocelyn? I thought I heard…” the painfully thin ghoul squeaks, looking between her, Caroline, and the all-but-asleep-looking Roxanne.
“We’re fine, Meg, go clean or something,” Jocelyn sighs.
Caroline: “More than fine,” Caroline snarls, grinning triumphantly.
GM: “O-okay, her purse is…” the ghoul hesitantly points at the knocked-over purse and its spilled contents. It’s the one sign of evident violence in the room. Caroline feels a muffled vibration coming up from Roxanne between the pillows.
“Okay, sure, pick that up,” Jocelyn grants in that same half-irritated tone.
Meg gives a furtive look between Caroline and her domitor, then scampers over the assorted items and starts picking them up. Her thin hands are full when she seems to realize she needs the purse. She awkwardly shuffles over to it on her knees, not seeming to want to stand over the also-kneeling (if seated) Caroline’s and Jocelyn’s heights. She tries to pull over the purse with one hand while holding all Roxanne’s assorted things against a single arm when she had previously required two. Some of them inevitably fall out.
“S-sorry, Mis-tress—Ms. Malveaux…” she mumbles, furtively glancing at the two Kindred again before quickly trying to sweep as many of Roxanne’s dropped items back into the purse as she can.
Jocelyn gives a long-suffering sigh.
Caroline: Caroline shakes her head and slowly mouths one word at Jocelyn, away from the struggling ghoul. Hopeless.
GM: Jocelyn rolls her eyes.
“Sorry…” Meg apologizes again, though with her gaze fixed on the purse, she couldn’t have seen either Kindred’s expression.
It’s as she’s pawing through Roxanne’s things that the ghoul pauses and falteringly asks, “M-mistress?”
“Yes, Meg?” comes the tired response.
“I’m not… sure where this should go…”
“The purse. It all goes in the purse,” comes another tired response.
“No, this… doesn’t look like it goes…”
“If it came out of the purse, it goes back in the purse.”
Caroline: The heiress spares a glance back to the hapless ghoul.
GM: Meg darts her head up, and upon meeting Caroline’s gaze, quickly looks away. She holds up the item in her hands like an offering to ward off the Ventrue’s displeasure.
It’s a small picture, about the size of one that goes in a wallet. It depicts a slightly younger-looking Roxanne, but whose gaze is notably less severe, dressed in a long-hemmed white dress with a crucifix-set silver ring bearing the inscription ‘I will wait’. Caroline recognizes the attire from the purity ball (or at least one like it) she attended with her father to win support among the state’s northern evangelicals. The older man in the picture (for there is always an older man) is an equally familiar face to the Ventrue, though. Caroline recognizes him as Maxen Flores, one of her father’s long-time political allies, and the current senate majority leader in Baton Rouge since the Malveauxes took their name back to Congress.
Caroline: Surprise blossoms across Caroline’s face a moment before she all but snarls, “Maxen Fucking Flores is her father?”
GM: Jocelyn gives a confused look. “Sorry, who?”
“I guess he does look like her dad, though. That’s… a little weird she’d still carry his photo…”
Caroline: “It’s always the dad in pictures like that.” She should know, she still has that ridiculous ring buried in her jewelry box somewhere. Or at least, did. It’s been a while since she’s gone looking for it.
GM: “I guess so. I’ve heard of those things. They honestly sound a little creepy.”
Meg continues to hold up the photo, but spares another quick glance at Caroline’s face.
Caroline: “You have no idea,” Caroline answers, sparing the picture another glance. “Put that thing back in her purse,” she snaps at Meg. “God, why would she carry something like that around.”
GM: “You had me wondering the same thing,” Jocelyn says. She frowns. “Roxanne’s last name isn’t Flores, though. It’s Gerlette.”
Meg actually drops the picture with an audible squeak at Caroline’s tone, stammers another, “I’m sorry…” and scrambles to stick it back in the purse.
Caroline: Caroline rolls her eyes when Meg drops the photo, but has an idea. “Is there anything on the back?” she asks as the ghoul fumbles to pick it up.
GM: The ghoul ventures a quick peek at it. “Y-yes there is, ma’am,” she nods falteringly while still putting it away.
There’s a few more motions and muffled vibrations from the restrained Roxanne.
Caroline: The blonde heiress twists a little harder on Roxanne’s wrist, tightening the joint lock. Until she stops struggling, Caroline can’t be sure she’s done. “What is on the back,” she patiently asks. If she were living the words might have been preceded by a tremendous sigh.
GM: “W-writing, ma’am,” Meg answers with another furtive peak as she tries to scoop more things back into the purse as quickly as she can.
“I-I don’t remember what it said, says, I’m sorry…”
Caroline: The heiress is silent for a moment, biting back the response she wants to give. “Pull out the picture and read what the back says,” she directs, like she’s giving instructions to a child.
GM: The ghoul does so and reads in a squeaky voice,
“‘Girls are like apples on trees. Their fathers are the farmers, whose job is to care for them. He must protect his apples from pests and disease. He must guard them against thieves who may pick his apples prematurely. Neither those at the top nor those at the bottom can help their location. But, when each reaches peak ripeness, it is the farmer’s job to harvest that fruit and give it to whom he will, to those in need. So there is nothing wrong with the apples still on the tree and nothing wrong with the boys who seek them. But it is the farmer’s duty to provide for both, in due season.’”
“It’s in… green and red letters, and some brown… it doesn’t look like handwriting… but there’s another part that is…” Meg ventures.
Caroline: “Then read the other part,” Caroline answers, with exaggerated patience, shifting her elbow in Roxanne’s upper back.
I feel so blessed every day to have you in my life. Stay pure.
Dad,’” the ghoul recites.
Caroline: Caroline nods and looks to Jocelyn. “Isabel Flores. That’s her real name. You didn’t know?” she asks.
GM: “Um… no,” Jocelyn admits with a frown.
“So did you know her family or something?”
Caroline: The heiress nods. “Yeah, I’ve met her dad a bunch of times. He used to work with mine all the time. Ended up succeeding him as majority leader in the state legislature. He was weirdly intense, but I never got the ‘I go home and beat my wife’ vibe off him. I think he was the one that turned my dad onto the Purity Ball thing.”
GM: “I guess you never know what someone’s like behind closed doors, unless you’re closed in with them.”
Caroline: “Yeah,” Caroline agrees. “Guess we all have our secrets.” She looks back to Meg. “You can put it away now.” She shifts again for a better grip on Roxanne. “Jesus, you can stop struggling anytime!” she hisses with annoyance at the helpless vampire.
GM: More softly muffled hisses go up from the still-impotent creature.
Meg scurries to follow Caroline’s order and stuffs the photo away.
“That’s almost weird to think Roxanne has this whole family,” Jocelyn frowns. “I mean, I’m pretty distant from mine, and they’re all the way across the country.”
Caroline: The heiress bites her lip. “We all have our secrets,” she repeats. “Let’s hope that’s the only real one here. Tempted to say though based on her reaction that she was a little shocked to hear that he was shacking up with the Crone while he was playing house with her.”
GM: “God, I don’t even know. Her family looks, is, so screwed up.”
Caroline: “They all are,” Caroline confesses quietly.
GM: “All of her family, or all families period?” Jocelyn poses only semi-facetiously.
Caroline: “Show me a family that doesn’t have dirty secrets and I’ll show you their magic underwear and copies of the Book of Mormon,” Caroline grins.
GM: Jocelyn shakes her head. “You know, I bet she has a bunch of brothers and sisters. Dads like hers always want big families. It’s still weird to think she has all these relatives we, her krewe that is, never knew about.”
Caroline: “Yeah, you can ask her all about it as soon as she’s done eating your sofa if you want.”
GM: “The Evan news must’ve really gotten to her if she’s still apeshit…” Jocelyn frowns.
“Funny to think, but there’s probably a bunch more licks just like her. Younger ones especially. Who have these breather families and lives they don’t talk about.”
Caroline: “Can’t blame her, not really. For either. Lot of licks would just try to use the family against her, and the Sanctified teach you to keep away, right? Work to severe ties? And I can’t say that I’d react especially well if you went missing then someone told me you were screwing around with some nasty lick on the side.” She grins. “And I don’t have half as many control issues.” She takes her elbow off Roxanne’s upper back for a moment, letting her raise up her head. “You done yet?”
GM: Louder hisses go up.
“So, maybe this is premature, and maybe exactly the thing Roxanne, or I guess… Isabel, wanted to avoid, but I think I’d really like to hunt her dad. He sounds like a huge cock. And exactly the sort of sinner we’re supposed to punish.”
Caroline: “Good luck with that one. Pretty sure District 9 is Riverbend. The sheriff isn’t great at sharing in my experience. Especially with VIPs like that. But then you all are the golden children of the Sanctified, so maybe.”
GM: “Ehhhh, no thanks. Sheriff probably knows about him anyway. And glad you knew that.”
Caroline: “Electoral politics. It’s one of the only red seats in New Orleans,” Caroline answers, shoving the hissing Ventrue back into the pillow. “I’m really glad she doesn’t have to breathe.”
GM: “G-f f-f me!” comes a muffled voice from under Caroline.
Caroline: Something calls to Caroline, tells her to assert her dominance more fully, to punish this impotent lick that tried to attack her, but Caroline grins through it and climbs off Roxanne’s back, incrementally removing her elbow, then her knee, then finally releasing the joint lock on her shoulder and wrist. She takes a couple steps back, away from Roxanne. Giving her space—or maybe creating space if she tries to lash out again.
GM: Jocelyn gets off her too. Roxanne glares daggers, but then simply continues as if nothing has happened, “Do you have anything to support those accusations, Ms. Malveaux?”
Jocelyn gives her a krewemate an initially weirded out look that then gives way to one of almost piteous understanding.
Caroline: There’s a cat-like swagger as Caroline takes Roxanne’s previous seat, leaving her the sofa. Whatever the social dynamic, all three Beasts in the room know who’s at the top of the food chain now, and she carries that confidence like a mantle.
She pulls out a small electronic recorder. “Are you good, or do you need a minute? None of this is easy to talk about, I know.” She asks quietly.
GM: “Play it,” Roxanne replies tersely.
Caroline: The heiress cues up the first short clip she made from the original tape. It’s perhaps a minute of Mabel monologuing, in her sad, tear-filled voice, about Evan’s relationship with Amandine, and his relationship with Roxanne. She’s purposefully left in the notionally unrelated line about how he ‘had something’ with Roxanne. She lets the short clip finish.
GM: Roxanne listens to the tape with hard eyes, then pulls out a phone and taps it several times. “Greg? I want Mabel naked and tied to the bottom of the stairs by the time I’m back.” She ends the call perfunctorily.
Jocelyn stares at her in bewilderment. “Roxanne, what the fuck!”
“She’s hiding things, after all I’ve done for her,” the Ventrue replies acidly.
Caroline: “She’s a wreck, and terrified of you,” Caroline interjects quietly.
GM: “She’ll learn to be terrified now. I’ve been too gentle. And this is how she rep-”
“Are you fucking nuts?!” Jocelyn interrupts. “This is Mabel, don’t you remember how she used to be? She got us-”
“That’s not imp-”
“She didn’t even feel like a ghoul, half the time! You’d have really thought she was Evan’s mom!”
Caroline: “More to the point,” Caroline interject again, more loudly and pointedly, “if you hurt her or kill her—even accidentally—you’re going to make this look even worse for you than it does already.”
GM: Roxanne’s eyes are chips of flint. “Explain. Jocelyn, do not interrupt m-”
“Oh just fuck off, Roxanne, we beat you up like a bunch of fat kids whaling on a candy pinata.”
The Ventrue’s lips pull back, revealing once-more protruding canines as she snarls-
Caroline: “Knock it off,” Caroline interjects loudly, her voice icy and commanding as she flashes her own toothy grin. “If,” she stress the word, “if Evan was fooling around with Amandine, it gives you a pretty significant motive to have harmed him, either maliciously or in a fury, and with Mabel in your custody since his disappearance very few licks are going to believe that you had no idea until now that was happening. And if you kill Mabel, that’s just going to look like you cleaning up evidence. Is that clear enough?”
GM: “You make it sound like other Kindred are following what’s happening here, Ms. Malveaux,” Roxanne replies with a too-tight yet studiously controlled voice.
Caroline: “Fortunately for you, Ms. Gerlette,” Caroline replies slowly, “the list of people that know about Evan and Amandine’s potential relationship is short indeed. Because I lied to Hound Agnello about it and kept Mabel out of his hands. But it’s not likely to stay that way, with him and Regent Sundown both digging into the disappearance again, and Hound Agnello specifically chasing the link to Amandine like it’s a porterhouse steak on a line.”
GM: “Thank you for the warning, Ms. Malveaux, even if I’m still curious what would make Mabel hide so much from her domitor but not an outsider-”
“Call your ghoul, Roxanne. Call him off,” Jocelyn glares.
“Mabel won’t be perma-”
“I don’t care if it’s not! Do you even hear yourself? Fucking Mabel!” Jocelyn yells.
Caroline: The heiress gives Roxanne a very serious look. “How fine of a point would you like me to put on the answer to that question, Ms. Gerlette?” she asks. Her gaze sweeps to the ruffled pillow that is the sole testament left to the Ventrue’s ‘frenzy’. “I can think of at least one fairly good reason she might have been less than forthcoming to you, and an array of less excellent but understandable ones. Especially if she’s still collared to him.”
GM: “God knows that’s true,” the Toreador says disgustedly. “You know, when it was just Bliss… fine. But let’s go ahead and call Gwen and Wyatt, see how much they’re fans of this latest shit. I bet-”
“Jocelyn, we do not discuss internal matters with outsiders-” Roxanne reproaches severely, and only to be cut off as Jocelyn yells back,
“Oh, just cut that shit! Just cut it! You’re shit without Evan, you know that? You know he just let you go around saying you were the boss and giving him permission, because you’re such a control freak you’d explode if you didn’t get to? No wonder he didn’t tell you about Amandine! And you haven’t done shit to find him! Every step, it’s been Caroline!”
Roxanne stares daggers at the Toreador, but her voice is tight and controlled again as she hisses, “Keep this up, Jocelyn, and you’re out of the krewe.”
“Yeah, right! You don’t even get to decide that! Lucky thing, ‘cuz if Caroline was in, she’d have probably taken over by now-”
“Shut UP!” Roxanne snarls, her gray eyes flashing.
Jocelyn rocks back dumbly, a too-familiar glazed look to her eyes.
Caroline: Caroline is on her feet so fast it looks as though she didn’t move at all. She snarls in anger, her Beast rising up around her like the hair on a cat’s back, its intensity suddenly an overbearing presence in the room and utterly directed at her fellow Ventrue.
“Let her go. Now,” she demands, her voice low, controlled, and commanding as she matches gazes with the older Ventrue, fangs bared.
GM: Roxanne’s fangs jut in an answering hiss that’s as abruptly cut off as the force of the younger Ventrue’s Beast hits her. She looks away as Jocelyn blinks confusedly.
Caroline: The heiress sweeps her gaze between the two, standing over them. “I’d be a damn ungrateful bitch if I was trying to hurt you, Ms. Gerlette, after you and your krewe bailed me out of some very tough spots with René. I sure as hell wouldn’t have lied to my landlord if I was trying to set you up to the nth degree.”
She gestures to Jocelyn. “And just to put you at ease, her first reaction was to snap at me and defend you when I brought this up last night. I thought she was going to bite a hole in her lip her fangs got so big at the idea that you’d hurt him. And the ghoul,” she doesn’t address Mabel by name, “she was so damn loyal to him and you that she was terrified of saying anything that might hurt your relationship when he came back that I had to lay it on awful thick to get her to chat. To say nothing of being afraid that you’d throw her out in a rage, stop paying for his place, or hurt her.”
She leans forward. “Hopefully that’s enough that no one here means you any actual ill will, Ms. Gerlette, and we can turn our attention to the people that might very shortly? And maybe we can hold off on waterboarding the ghoul until we’ve talked through some things here? I’ve met her, she isn’t going to run off anywhere.”
“But it’s your call,” Caroline continues. “Your ghoul, your krewe, your investigation really. I’m just trying to return a favor.”
GM: Roxanne does not look pleased as she raises her gaze to meet Caroline’s again, but finally replies, “We’ll discuss that first, Ms. Malveaux, before any of the other relevant issues. What ‘people’ do you think might mean me ill will?”
Jocelyn looks between the two Ventrue, frowns, and even moves to open her mouth with an outraged expression, then finally holds her tongue.
Caroline: “Honestly, anyone who has reason to think you are responsible for his disappearance. Hound Agnello jumps immediately to mind, once he learns of Evan’s indiscretions. Perhaps Regent Sundown for the same. You will be the prime suspect,” Caroline replies plainly. “If it goes up, maybe even the sheriff.”
“Beyond that, since I don’t think you actually did make him disappear, whoever was actually responsible, depending on their motive for attacking him.”
GM: “There’s us, Mabel, and Amandine. Who else knows about her and Evan?” Roxanne asks.
Caroline: “I guess that depends on who he told, and who she told,” Caroline answers. “That’s the list I have, but he may have also discussed it with Primogen Poincaré.”
“And of course whoever was spying on him. They almost certainly know.”
GM: Roxanne scowls. “If Amandine and Mabel were the only loose ends we could have silenced both. But that’s too many other possible ones. We need to find the actual culprit. Jocelyn, we need to interview Primogen Poincaré. Set up a meeting with him.”
“Uh, he’s not exactly-”
“Figure it out,” Roxanne snaps. “You’re clanmates, if nothing else. Go through Garcia if you can’t manage on your own. He likes you, and he’s the primogen’s grandchilde. Ms. Malveaux, where did you hear that Primogen Poincaré was one of the last Kindred to speak with Evan?”
Caroline: “Your friendly ghoul, Ms. Gerlette,” Caroline supplies patiently. “Hound Agnello is scheduling a meeting for himself with the primogen. I don’t expect you’ll be able to get in earlier,” she continues. “I was invited to join him, however, in that meeting.”
GM: “That could be an in,” Jocelyn says, seemingly more hopeful at the prospect of getting something on Evan than pissed at Roxanne. “Though why does he want you coming? I mean, since that would actually involve being helpful, and not a giant cock.”
Roxanne doesn’t disagree.
Caroline: The heiress shrugs. “Lots of upside for him. He gets to appear powerful and influential to me. Benevolent and commanding to the primogen. Gets an extra set of eyes and years at the meeting that he already knows are fairly sharp,” she recites and ticks off on her fingers as she does. “And that’s just assuming that he is pursuing entirely material and social clout.”
“If you need more than that, I’d point you to his intense interest in taking me on as a tenant, in me joining the Sanctified, and in my landing with the Storyvilles as a group of upright Sanctified to keep me on the ‘right track,’” Caroline continues. “If I had to guess, based on how he’s acted, I might even speculate that he’s doing it out some sense of allegiance to the old sheriff. Or to René. They go way back, right? Maybe he thinks he’s doing right by them ensuring I don’t fall in with the wrong crowd. Maybe it also ties into his own relationships. It didn’t exactly seem like his childe was a big fan of him at the party.” She crosses her arms. “Or maybe your boss put him up to do it, and I’m completely wrong. Hard to say.”
She looks to Roxanne. “Either way, lucky for you, Ms. Gerlette, since it means not only are you likely to get answers you want from a meeting with the primogen, but I can clue you into which direction his own investigation goes.”
GM: “No kidding his childe isn’t a fan,” Jocelyn scoffs. “I can’t even imagine what it would be like to have that asshole as a sire. Give 50/50 odds he asks you to be his whore around the primogen, though. I don’t think he’s even capable of doing anything that isn’t awful.”
“That’s enough, Jocelyn,” reproaches Roxanne.
“Oh, don’t give me-”
“This is a lead to finding Evan, unless you’d prefer Ms. Malveaux said no. Would you?”
Jocelyn looks at Caroline, but doesn’t say anything.
“That sounds acceptable, Ms. Malveaux. Jocelyn will stay in touch with you,” Roxanne finishes.
Caroline: “Just a few more matters tonight, Ms. Gerlette,” Caroline answers, making no move to leave. “As convincing as you were earlier, I’d like to hear from you directly that you both knew nothing about the possibility of Evan straying, had nothing to do with his disappearance, and aren’t withholding anything that might be salient to his disappearance. And I’d like you to do so while Jocelyn scries you.”
GM: “Excuse me, Ms. Malveaux?” Roxanne repeats sharply. “Are you implying that I’d mislead my own coterie’s investigation?”
Caroline: The heiress doesn’t unfold her arms. “Would you trust me in the same circumstance, Ms. Gerlette?” Caroline asks. “And even if you did, wouldn’t you want some layer of insulation? Besides, there’s probably some irony in Jocelyn poking around your mind a little bit after you casually invaded hers earlier.”
“I’m not asking you to submit to my examination. I’m not even asking you to let me poke around your head. Simply that you offer the bare minimum of guarantee that I’m working to find Evan and keep your good name clear, rather than unknowingly helping you cover up a murder.”
“I respect your privacy, Ms. Gerlette. I respect your desire to maintain the secrecy of your haven, to keep the details of your life secret, and to maintain the privateness of your relationships. But there’s a limit to how far I’m willing to climb out on a limb.”
She arches an eyebrow. “Unless you have a better suggestion, Ms. Gerlette?”
GM: Roxanne’s sharp gaze looks more than critical at Caroline’s mention of the details of her ‘life’, but the other Ventrue does not address that tangent as she continues,
“Let’s get one thing straight, Ms. Malveaux. You are looking into my coterie’s investigation, at Jocelyn’s invitation, with my permission. I am your oversight, not the other way around.”
“You want Jocelyn to scry me? We’ll consider the earlier boon I was maybe too generous offering rescinded, and she’ll scry you too. Otherwise, you’ll continue your investigation without.”
Caroline: Caroline’s expression shifts from detached, to icy, straight to furious. This time she comes over the table, crossing the distance between the two in the blink of an eye. “If you think that’s straight, let me help you. Again. Because you’ve got this as crooked a politician the day after he was elected,” she all but spits in the ‘elder’ Ventrue’s face.
“I came to help you. I came up with the only two leads you have. I shook the hound off what would have been your trail, I volunteered to share his findings with you—at significant risk to myself—and I gently held you down like a struggling child until you were done with your fit instead of staking you like most licks would have. There is no ‘investigation’ without me, and plenty of just as interested and twice as powerful Kindred that would’ve given me, and still will, more of greater value for the information I brought only to you out of respect for our meager history and shared blood.”
She jabs a finger at Roxanne. “I ignored your little outburst and overlooked your mindscrew of Jocelyn in the interest of politeness and respect.”
“But I’m not your dog. You’re not my krewe leader—let me remind you that you don’t want me. And we both sure as hell know that I’m pretty far from your bitch.”
“You want me off ‘your’ investigation. Fine. Have fun. Jocelyn has my number. I’ll quote you my ‘asshole’ rate if you call. I’ve got enough licks that are eager to shit on me already for free, Ms. Flores.” She blurs towards the door and grabs her coat.
GM: There’s a choke-like sound of sputtering rage, but Caroline doesn’t see whatever expression might be darkening, if not twisting, Roxanne’s face as she turns her back on the two Storyvilles.
“No! Caroline, please! We have to find Evan!” Jocelyn calls, her own form blurring to intercept Caroline in front of the door.
Caroline: The Ventrue’s towering thunderhead of a temper rolls around her, but doesn’t lash out at the Toreador.
“I’m not done,” she replies, anger bleeding away from her voice as she directs the words at Jocelyn. “But since I’m off ‘your’ investigation I guess I should go clue in Agnello as to what I’ve got, and jump on board with his.”
She looks back at Roxanne. “You can have your boon back. Take it as an apology for wasting your time tonight.”
GM: Roxanne’s pale face somehow looks even paler with rage, and her gray eyes wide, mad, and livid like she’s been slapped.
“How dare you! You bastard-sired-”
“No! You can’t br-” Jocelyn begins.
Caroline: “Remember those words,” Caroline snaps at Roxanne. “I will.”
GM: “NOT ROC-!” Jocelyn yells, anger matching the raw desperation in her voice, only to just as suddenly interrupt herself. “MINDFUCK ROXANNE! Make her forget this! Make her apologize! Whatever you want, you’re in charge, I’m fine with that! Roxanne’s shit! Just FIND EVAN!”
“WHAT!?” Roxanne screams, whirling to face Jocelyn as her fangs re-distend. “You TRAITOROUS CUNT! I’ll MAKE you loy-!”
Caroline: “Jesus, fucking look at you two!” Caroline shouts in frustration. She looks back and forth between them.
GM: The Ventrue barely has a second.
“She’s fucking crazy! Oh no, you have to save me, Caroline!” Jocelyn manically exclaims, grabbing a lamp off the table and chucking it at Roxanne’s head.
The other Ventrue gives a strangled shout as she awkwardly tries to catch the too-fast lamp while running around the table. Jocelyn blurs behind the couch.
“Huh? Huh?! Daddy’s home, you filthy fucking liar! Why’d you never help your mom, Isabel?!” the Toreador mockingly shouts, flinging cushions at her krewemate as she circles around the couch.
Caroline: Caroline raises her hands. “Goddamn it! STOP!” she shouts at them both, baring her fangs as her Beast roars out to fill the room again.
GM: It’s much too late for that as Jocelyn’s venomous words hit home. That same Beast overtakes Roxanne’s eyes once again as the frenzying Ventrue lunges across the sofa. She smashes into Jocelyn and sending her crashing to the floor as she screams, “CAROL-!”
Caroline: And then Caroline is there again, tearing the frenzing Ventrue off of her paramour.
GM: The fight is over with quickly. Caroline snakes her elbow around Roxanne’s throat as Jocelyn kicks, yanks the frenzying vampire off of the Toreador, pivots, and tackles Roxanne to the floor, holding her down in a lock just like earlier as the other Ventrue thrashes and howls.
Caroline: Almost like earlier. As she drives her clanmate onto the ground Caroline’s hand snakes out for the stake from earlier, forgotten on the ground. She wrestles herself into a mounted position on Roxanne’s back and drives the stake viciously through the dark-haired woman’s back until she stops fighting and goes still, then kicks her over onto her back.
GM: Jocelyn emerges from behind the sofa, her eyes wide with simultaneous fear, smugness, and even arousal as she clutches her bleeding throat, sashays over to Caroline, and drops to her knees, nuzzling her head against the Ventrue’s neck.
“Oh, Caroline, thank God you were here…” she whispers into her ear with a shudder.
Caroline: Caroline stares down at her twice-defeated ‘foe’. Her fangs show fully in her mouth and her eyes are wide with exhilaration and arousal as she physically releases the other Ventrue, only to seize Jocelyn by her pale, bleeding throat.
She shoves the smaller Kindred against the wall. Caroline stares Jocelyn in the eyes with raw animalistic lust, then drops her mouth to lick the slowly oozing blood. In seconds she’s cleaned up all the running blood from Roxanne’s attack, but the lust hasn’t faded from her eyes.
She tears open Jocelyn’s top, her eyes fixated on the Toreador’s pale and already torn throat. The smell of the Toreador’s blood fills her nose.
GM: “I’m yours, Caroline, you can do whatever you want with me…” Jocelyn purrs over the sound of tearing cloth, then eyes Roxanne’s prone body and smiles wickedly.
“Let’s just do it on top of her…”
Caroline: The heiress looks back to the lifeless woman, then whirls Jocelyn around and drives her down, face first, on top of her krewe-mate, landing in a straddling position on top of Jocelyn’s lower back.
“Why,” she growls throatily as she drops her mouth again to the fresh little trails of vitae at her lover’s throat, turning her head back and forth to expose each side of her throat from behind. “Why did you do that,” she hisses, between eager, starving, licks across her lover’s skin. Jocelyn’s face is buried in Roxanne’s breast, not far from where the tip of the stake peaks out.
GM: “So you could do this,” Jocelyn giggles darkly. She doesn’t fight back as Caroline drives her face into the stake and still-enraged-looking Roxanne’s breasts, but runs her hand across her bloody throat, and then runs that along the stake’s tip. She wraps her lips around the red-streaked piece of wood and begins to suck it back and forth, casting a sly look over her shoulder at the Ventrue’s reaction.
Caroline: “I can’t… fucking believe… you did that,” Caroline gasps out between furious laps at what blood she can find on her lover. When she sees what Jocelyn’s doing with the tip of the stake she digs her fingers viciously into her shoulders. She tears away the back of Jocelyn’s shirt and snaps open the back of her bra.
“I should punish you,” she whispers in the Toreador’s ear. Her canine drags along one side of Jocelyn’s cheek.
GM: “Mmmf… chouldn’ fop you… even’f… I wan’ed ’oo…” the Toreador gasps out, still fellating the blood-lathered stake as twists her head so that her mischievously glinting eyes can take in Caroline’s answering look.
Caroline: “I didn’t realize you were so eager to suck her off,” she hisses, straddling Joceyln and raking her nails down the Toreador’s back.
GM: “Prehy shore… ish yours… ‘oo plan’ed i’ there…” Jocelyn starts to say, then moans as Caroline’s nails leave bloody red streaks along her flesh.
Caroline: As the blood flows Caroline lewdly runs her tongue up and down her lover’s back. It’s still not enough. She jerks Jocelyn’s head to the side, thrusting out the side of her neck for herself. Her teeth run against the thin skin separating her from the Toreador’s so sweet vitae.
“You want a bite, don’t you?” the Ventrue growls huskily in her lover’s ear, but it’s all too plain who desires what in her voice.
GM: The lovers consummate their sanguine union atop Roxanne’s staked corpse. One more sip would spell total ensarement to Jocelyn, and a further loss of control to Caroline. But as the two writhe, hiss, and scratch, lapping up the too-cool streams of blood running down one another’s pale skin, it’s hard to feel like that would be such a bad thing—either in and of itself, or to just take, directly from the source, to consume one’s lover completely and utterly, to take all of what animates them into one’s self.
Roxanne’s gray eyes seem to stab out at the two with blistering fury as they copulate, and that third party’s hateful attentions only seem to further stoke Jocelyn’s lusts. There’s not even a pretense this time of who’s ‘on top’. Jocelyn surrenders utterly. She has Caroline furiously drag her by her hair to throw against the wall. She moans for the Ventrue to hit her, to beat her, with a rolled-up belt like Caroline can vividly remember McGinn’s ghouls doing to her with a whip. “Bet your daddy… did this to you… all the time!” she yells, though whether her words are meant for Roxanne or her lover is unclear. She has Caroline wrap the belt around her neck like a too-literal collar and choke her, forcing her to her knees as she laps at the drying streams of blood around the standing Ventrue’s sex. She moans for Caroline to make a fist in her hair and pull until she rips it out. To make her suck off the stake again. To put her over her knee and spank her like a disobedient child until her ass is raw and bleeding too. Their bloody copulation finally culminates with Jocelyn lying back-first on the floor, her sex pressed into Roxanne’s paralyzed face as a seated Caroline’s feet drive down into both of their throats, literally grinding them under heel. Jocelyn moans as her tongue worshipfully laps the taller vampire’s bleeding soles:
“You’re in charge… you decide… you call the shots… you own us… you’re in control… you’re in control…”
It’s hard to say whether her lover’s words or blood are a greater aphrodisiac to the power-ravenous Ventrue.
Caroline: The Ventrue is insatiable, fully wrapped up in the darker impulses of both the Beast and her own soul as she savagely and joyously dominates Jocelyn. The implications of what they’ve just done fade away amid the sanguine-soaked romp atop the other Ventrue. It’s only when she falls onto the sofa at the conclusion, her Beast purring like a contented lion after a kill, that consideration for what they’ve done creeps back into her mind.
She looks down at Roxanne’s staked and blood-splattered corpse, as if to remind herself that it’s there. She growls in frustration when she finds it still present. An unwelcome intrusion in her bliss.
“When she wakes up, you realize that she’s still going to want to kill you, right? She’s not going to forgive what you said,” she languidly asks her oh-so-wicked lover.
GM: “No she won’t, not if you erase her memory,” Jocelyn smiles, running a fang over Caroline’s cheek.
Caroline: The heiress gives a short laugh. “That’s what you wanted from the beginning, wasn’t it? You evil little thing. Save me, save me,” she mocks.
GM: “That was so fucking hot how you did,” Jocelyn answers huskily, tracing Caroline’s cheek some more.
Caroline: Caroline laughs again, but it’s a satisfied and triumphant laugh. “I should still make you deal with it all,” she half-teases. “Force you two to kiss and make up.”
GM: “Sounds good to me,” Jocelyn smiles. She saddles off the couch, kneels by Roxanne, and raises her wrist her mouth. There’s a flash of fangs, and then she presses her bleeding limb to the other Ventrue’s slack lips. Her gray eyes seem to blaze with anger that suddenly sputters like water poured onto a fire.
“You should do her too, now. She’ll be less of a bitch to us both.”
The Toreador’s smile widens. “She doesn’t need to remember this part either.”
Caroline: The heiress shakes her head uncomfortably at the suggestion. “Suspicious, waking up from getting staked and going all doe-eyed. You should take a sip from her though. It sounded like you’ve got a lot of bad blood on your end too, and as long as you’re going to be part of the same krewe, it’d be better to have at least some positive feelings going both ways.”
GM: Jocelyn looks irritated for a moment, but then flashes her lover and starts running a fang over the staked Roxanne’s cheek. She picks up the Ventrue’s dumbly slack hand and starts running it along her breasts.
“You want to share me, Caroline? You suuuure? See me collared to someone else? Roxanne already likes Toreador, and I guess she is getting… lonely…”
She leans in and starts kissing the motionless Ventrue’s equally slack mouth.
Caroline: The low and dangerous growl that escapes Caroline makes it clear just how she feels about that. “Just take a sip,” she answers tersely, her face twisted with jealousy. “You don’t have to look like you’re enjoying it so much.”
GM: “But I am enjoying it so much already, Caroline… I mean, you’re in charge… if you don’t want to just make her forget this happened, I guess I’ll have no choice but to enjoy it even more…”
Jocelyn works down from Roxanne’s slack mouth, pulls open her blouse, and starts kissing, nipping, and slowly running her tongue along the other Ventrue’s pale breasts.
Caroline: Caroline stalks over the Toreador, grabbing her off the floor by the back of her hair with one hand and drawing her close with her other hand across her lower back. She drives her again into a wall before seizing both of Jocelyn’s wrists and pinning them out to either side and running her all-too-visible once again fangs across the Toreador’s throat.
“You’re mine,” she snarls. “Mine.” As if to stake her claim she crushes her smaller paramour into the wall, grinding her body against her own. “You can joke around, but we both know that’s all it is. Because she’s a joke compared to me.” It’s hard to tell where her voice starts and the thoughts of the Beast end.
GM: Jocelyn doesn’t, and likely couldn’t, resist as Caroline all but throws her around. She smiles impudently up at the Ventrue from between her pinned wrists and laughs,
“Oh, yeah, this is a joke! It’s not anything outside bed! You just torped her ass twice and fucked me on top of it, and you’re too scared! Wow, I bet Roxanne’s thinking! Pretty nice way to make out with Caroline giving her a free collar and sharing, to make up for winning! We could stuff her to the gills with juice, snoop out her secrets, and fill her head with bot switches, and you’re too big a pussy! I thought your dad was supposed to be some crazy never-compromise extremist who pal-d around with wife-beating psychos to get ahead, but guess that’s only you during sex! Like any of that was actually real! You’re too scared to finish the job! Guess Roxanne’s right, I know what she really thinks of you!”
Jocelyn laughs harder. “Caroline the joke! Caroline the butt monkey!”
Caroline: Sanity and madness battle for control as Jocelyn rants and mocks her, but sanity seems to narrowly win out. It almost visible takes something out of her to do so as she swallows rage, pride, and arrogance.
She lets the Toreador go and whirls away in disgust, almost shaking with rage, before looking back, “Is that what you really want? Me to break open Roxanne’s already fragile mind like an egg? To make her our broken little slave? She’s already barely holding it together behind the illusion of control,” she spits. “I thought she was your krewemate. Someone you gave a damn about. I thought the Storyvilles were something you gave a damn about. Because if I do that, your gang is done. And even if you don’t give a damn about that anymore, how do you think your benefactor is going to react?”
Anger blends with disgust as she continues, “I thought you had some standards. That maybe there was something human left inside, the same thing that drove you to churches to pray. But if that’s how you treat licks you called your friends last night, I obviously don’t know you at all. And I don’t think I want to.”
GM: “EVERYTHING’S GONE TO SHIT WITHOUT EVAN!” Jocelyn screams, her eyes wide and mad as her chest heaves with needless breaths. “You’re our best, only shot of finding him, and seeing Roxanne piss all over you because it offends her ego… just fuck her!” she rages, fangs flashing in a snarl.
“I’m tired of always getting shit on by everything! I’m tired of no one giving a damn! I’m tired of Rocco making Gwen a fucking whore! I’m tired of Skyman saying we’re so special and doing shit! I’m tired of the sewer rats, of Monty, of Marcel, of everyone else, all saying how great Evan was, and doing shit! I’m tired of Sally being gone, I’m tired of everyone shitting on you, of Skyman saying you couldn’t join, I’m tired of Roxanne being so horrible to us all, and saying we don’t care about Evan, and I’m not putting on the collar because we stood up for once, and I’m not, I’m not, I’m n-”
“GET OUT, MEG!!!!!” she shrieks, her eyes swelling to practically the size of dinner plates. Caroline only has a second to see the ghoul literally lapping up the floor’s drying blood like a dog going after spilled scraps. The haphazardly chucked lamp smashes against the wall several feet off and sends her terrifiedly scampering away.
Jocelyn stares after her retreating servant for a second, as if about to grab another object, and then her lip quivers. She abruptly slumps to the floor like a string-cut marionette, fat and bloody red tears leaking from her eyes. Her voice is small and trembling when she sniffs out,
“I just… I just want… everything to go back… to how it was…”
Caroline: The Ventrue stands above her, looking down. She doesn’t get down and hold Jocelyn—neither one of their Beasts would tolerate such a thing enough for either of them to ever draw real comfort from such a human act, but after a moment she quietly extends her hand to the weeping Toreador and lays it on her shoulder.
“I can’t turn back time,” she quietly tells her paramour. “I can’t make it how it was. But I’m working to make it better than it used to be. To find Evan. To take my place in the city.” She moves her hand and cups Jocelyn’s face. “I wasn’t trying to punish you, but the Storyvilles can’t exist if you hate her. And I don’t exactly get the impression that membership is entirely optional.”
GM: “It’s… it’s not,” she glumly admits as she looks up at Caroline, “but I… I wouldn’t wanna leave. I just want you to find Evan, so that things…”
She trails off. A few stray droplets of blood trickle over the Ventrue’s cupped hands. She rubs her nose against Caroline’s palm and manages,
“Just make her forget all this, and I can deal. Turn back that.”
Caroline: Caroline nods and takes Jocelyn’s hand, helping her to her feet. “You can even help build a proper narrative for her to remember instead. It seems to work way better if it’s something plausible to begin with, something she’d actually do, things she’d actually say.”
The two set about ‘fixing things, but first, they get what Caroline wanted out of her: a look inside her head. Restrained and helpless, the two invade her mind capriciously to ’verify’ she isn’t hiding anything further about the investigation and had nothing to do with Evan’s disappearance. If Jocelyn pushes that they could take more Caroline arches an eyebrow disapprovingly and points out that they’ve come away with a great deal from her as is. The Ventrue is mindful of the time they’ve already spent.
When they’re done that memory is wiped away in all of its indignation, along with the entire argument from before her staking. The ‘new’ events differ in character, though the outcome (Roxanne’s frenzy) remains the same. Caroline leans heavily on Jocelyn while writing these new memories in capturing likely reactions from Roxanne and her pattern of speech. She also pays attention to the details, especially the time difference created by their romp across her lifeless body and the blood that’s stained the clothing of all three. Their conversation is extended, and Roxanne’s second frenzy is lionized into a less one-sided confrontation that includes her getting a mouth full of Jocelyn before Caroline stakes her.
She also has Jocelyn double check Roxanne’s back to make sure she didn’t have a recording going of their meeting on her phone or elsewhere, and brings in Meg to alter her own memory as well to match Roxanne’s (though in far less detail). She doesn’t actually expect most would think to check on the pathetic ghoul, of whom she remarks to Jocelyn (while the ghoul is dazed under her control), “What was it you said, suicides need a reason to live, Jocelyn? Honestly, I need a new reason to live every time she opens her mouth.”
It’s not really that different than cleaning up a Masquerade breach. A different masquerade of sorts: that monsters can get along.
GM: Roxanne is mad with rage when Caroline and Jocelyn first remove the stake, but Caroline’s Beast has overcome her only marginally elder clanmate’s so many times already. Winning yet another contest for dominance is an all but a forgone conclusion. Her face goes slack as the younger but stronger-blooded Ventrue meets her gaze and tells her what to remember.
Jocelyn, meanwhile, is still more than happy to scry her krewemate and reports that Roxanne did not have any part in Evan’s disappearance—at least so far as she can detect. The Toreador appears relieved by that news. At Caroline’s suggestion, she snoops through Roxanne’s head for further secrets and reports, with some surprise, that the Ventrue knows who Evan’s sire and grandsire are. She’s not sure who they are themselves—Roxanne doesn’t seem to know that. But she does get an image of their faces. “So, she’s seen them somewhere? Weird. Evan… never talked about who his sire was, with any of the rest of us. It was kinda a big mystery. Still not sure why he’d have been hiding it.”
Caroline: When that mess is ‘cleaned up’ she returns her attention to their investigation—a rare point of consensus. She carries on as though nothing has happened. What do Roxanne and Jocelyn know about the Toreador primogen? His temperament and mood, and importantly, his preferences? Making a good impression may cause him to be far more open…
Saturday night, 17 October 2015, AM
GM: Accou receives Rocco and Caroline at 1216 Camp Street in the Lower Garden District, one of the primogen’s and his sire’s public havens. It’s a Greek Revival mansion with the iron galleries so typical to the city’s architecture and a slim front profile, with several trees growing in the front of the house and another larger one from the fenced-off courtyard.
The pair are received by a ghoul in her seemingly mid-teenage years with unblemished, milk-pale skin, and a too-still gaze that strangely contrasts her heart-breakingly beautiful face. She’s garbed in a flowing white gown made from a gauzy material that strikingly highlights her waist-length red hair and gives her an almost ethereal appearance. She dips into a low curtsy as she receives the two, but otherwise remains utterly silent as she leads them into the parlor.
The home’s tall-ceilinged interior feels more spacious than its outside. It’s decorated with a variety of traditional African and and jazz-themed art pieces, as well as a few Cuban ones. An array of house plants make it feel like some of the greenery from outside has been transported within. The fireplace goes typically unused.
The house’s master appears shortly after the pair are seated. Accou Poincaré is a lighter-skinned man with handsome, clearly African features who wears an old-fashioned, tailed suit with gold cufflinks and a bowtie. He appears younger than Caroline and only a few years older than Rocco at a casual glance, but there is a subtle, marble-like pallor to his too-still features and an indelible weight behind his brown eyes that gives immediate lie to any impression of youth. Even the shadows around the lines of his face look deeper. They’ve grown darker too in recent decades, Rocco has observed, though the primogen’s pearly-teethed smile is still quite bewitching when he chooses to show it.
His handsome looks, however, do not extend towards his hands. The joints are misaligned and splayed in obviously wrong, out-of-sync directions, as if messily crushed and improperly healed, or as the result of some equally unsightly birth defect. Caroline can only think back to her and Jocelyn’s torment of Mouse, and imagine how much uglier the Toreador’s fingers must look outside of his wine-colored kidskin gloves.
The silent ghoul finally speaks as Accou enters the room to announce in a high, clear voice,
“Rise in the presence of the Good Alder Accou Poincaré, Primogen of the Cabildo, Steward and Viscount of the Lower Garden District, Councilor of the Prima Invicta, Librettist, Player, Secretary, Speaker, and Master of the Guild of Apollo.”
Rocco: “Thank you for seeing us and may I say I hope you’re doing well, Primogen Poincaré,” Rocco says with a polite nod, smiling broadly. The hound carries a gilded birdcage with two tweeting Cuban todies.
He adds, “I brought a gift.”
Rocco holds up the cage and presents the birds for Accou’s inspection. “I understand Cuban todies are native to your homeland of Cuba, Primogen Poincaré.”
The hound’s herald Annabelle stands behind Rocco with a gloomy smile etched on her face, having accompanied the hound and carried the caged birds until now.
GM: Accou surveys the birds with a clearly pleased eye and silently looks towards the youth-faced ghoul, who moves to retrieve the cage.
“One of my homelands, Hound Agnello, and an adoptive one. But a place I am no less proud to consider home all of the same—or any less pleased by this charming reminder of it. Your taste in gifts is as impeccable as ever.”
The Toreador elder turns a pearly white smile towards Caroline. “Havana was one of our city’s most vital trading partners for hundreds of years, young one, if you were not already aware. The loss of that partnership was never recovered from—though the present thaw in Cubo-American relations gives me much hope.”
Caroline’s father fiercely criticized it and did everything he could to block its implementation with his Senate colleagues.
Rocco: Rocco nods at Accou’s words. “I don’t know if you have been properly introduced to Miss Caroline Malveaux as of yet, Primogen Poincaré,” the hound remarks as the room’s attention moves to the youngest Kindred in the room.
GM: “I have not, Hound Angello. Perhaps some genteel soul will see fit to rectify that state of affairs,” the Toreador smiles between the two as he takes his seat on an overstuffed chair.
The tranquil-faced ghoul remains standing.
Rocco: “Perhaps so,” Rocco answers, taking a seat as he introduces the statuesque Ventrue. “Then it is my pleasure to introduce Miss Malveaux to you, Primogen Poincaré.”
Caroline: Caroline, towering over Rocco even before he finds his seat, and in her trademark black curtsies with a deft grave that belies her long frame and heel-clad feet.
“It is my great pleasure and privilege to meet such a distinguished personage, Primogen Poincare,” Caroline continues when Rocco has finished speaking.
The heiress has dressed up for the meeting and wears an elegant sleeveless black dress that leaves her pale arms and chest bare and accentuates the the area around her collarbones and neck before pulling tight above her waist and flaring again at her hips.
GM: Accou makes pleasant small talk for a few minutes concerning the Gangrel’s gift and the behaviors, life cycle, and colorful plumage of the Cuban tody. The primogen asks if Rocco would exercise his “powers of bestiae sermo” so that his fille à la cassette might release the ghouled bird from its cage. He remarks appreciatively on the tody’s tiny size: it can literally fit into the palm of his gloved hand.
“I have always wondered if you were of Wotan’s line, Hound Angello, for you both come bearing gifts,” Accou smiles.
Rocco: “Who am I to disagree with such a flattering comparison, Primogen Poincaré? It’s certainly possible given how many outlanders claim descent from the All-High,” Rocco remarks knowingly, pleased with Accou’s kind words. In the meantime, he is only too happy to use his gifts on the already blood bound birds to ask them to sing and entertain the small gathering.
Caroline: Caroline spoke to Jocelyn at length regarding Accou. Her lover’s ‘advice’ so far as the primogen was that he was a pianist, likes Cuba, likes classical as well as jazz music, is very devoted to his sire, is ancestor to much of the local clan, likes beautiful things (though what Toreador doesn’t?), cn be in a lady’s man when he’s in one of his better moods, but the stress/hassle of looking after Pearl and doing her jobs for her while carrying dead weight would turn his hair prematurely gray if he were still alive. Jocelyn shit-talked Pearl a lot. Caroline was amused to discover that Toreador don’t adhere to anywhere close to the same degree of solidarity as Ventrue.
Caroline offers several witty remarks, trying to get a feel for Accou, including one about a “bird in the hand” to his taking of Rocco’s gift literally in hand. If and when she has his attention, she offers him her own gift in an oversized sleek black folder much like one would find a diploma or other important document in.
Hearing Accou is a pianist and fan of jazz, Caroline digs out the original sheet music for Sophisticated Lady, written by Duke Ellington back in ‘33, complete with his own hand-written notes on the margins. She’d been holding onto as a gift for her father’s birthday, but it seems so petty a concern tonight. She presents it to Accou as something that she hopes someone that treasures the past and the genre might appreciate.
She’s happy to make small talk—including how she acquired the sheet music—for as long as Accou desires. When he indicates he’s done with such talk, she explains that she (and Rocco) were separately looking into Evan’s disappearance and tells him about the birds and the Crone Evan was spending time with prior to his disappearance. She politely inquires if he might be willing to share any details from the last time the two talked that could give insight into Evan’s mental state and concerns or interests.
She does not disclose having heard of the Crone and Evan fucking on the side.
Rocco: Rocco frowns and interjects, “Is that the full story, Miss Malveaux?”
GM: Accou chuckles that at such a friendly gathering he’s inclined to take Rocco’s lovely and thoughtful young tenant at her word. He’s certain that what’s come up here is nothing but a simple miscommunication, or something Caroline had intended to say anyway.
Caroline: Caroline clarifies with a grateful smile to Accou that the Storyvilles were aware of Evan’s ongoing efforts to lure Amandine into the fold of the Sanctified, and that she’s glossed over several details—for instance Evan’s visits to Yellow Sidra and his growing sense of fatalism—in the interest of not boring the distinguished primogen with minutia.
Rocco: Rocco nods at this and indicates for Caroline to proceed all the same.
Caroline: Caroline brings up Accou’s meeting with Evan and inquires what the (esteemed) elder’s read on Evan was, since he was one of the last people to chat with Evan—and certainly the last entirely beyond suspicion.
“Another question, Primogen,” Caroline adds. “Did you happen to notice any birds watching yourself or Mr. Bourelle that night?”
The Toreador elder, she’s certain, is a master of soul scrying.
GM: “There were birds in the area,” Accou confirms, “though that is not an uncommon occurrence. They may or may not have been under the thrall of bestiae sermo. There is, alas, no easy way to tell—another reason why sensitive conversations are best held indoors.”
As to the pair’s topics of conversation, they discussed his (Accou’s) sire, and how Evan thought it had to say a lot about her character that she could inspire such devotion from her childe. Accou was pleasantly surprised to find a neonate with so favorable an opinion of Pearl. The two had a prior if casual association first, of course, as is relatively well-known. Evan always liked ‘older women’.
As Accou speaks with Rocco, his voice sounds in Caroline’s head, though his lips do not move.
:: And now, my dear, I would hear what you have uncovered that was important enough to lie to your landlord over. ::
Caroline: The heiress keeps her expression steady as the elder’s voice fills her mind, locked in an interested smile. If there’s a moment of hesitation from her, it is ever so slight.
:: Mr. Bourelle was intimate with Amandine. A fact he kept closely from his krewe, and specifically his lover within it, Primogen Poincaré. I don’t think she had anything to do with his disappearance despite that, but I don’t expect that most will take me at my word—or her at hers—in that. ::
Unfamiliar with the manner of conversation, the thoughts are mostly formed in her mind alongside memories conjured up of her interview with Evan’s ghoul and of Roxanne frenzying at Caroline’s question.
GM: :: Continue, Miss Malveaux. ::
It soon becomes plain the elder expects the details of Evan’s relationship with Amandine (including how Caroline found out when Evan’s own krewe didn’t) in return for what he knows.
Caroline: The heiress willingly comes clean with him and thanks him for covering for her earlier with Rocco. She reports that she enthralled Evan’s ghoul, who had hidden the matter from Roxanne out of fear of the Ventrue and to protect Evan’s memory and relationship.
GM: “Mr. Bourelle also inquired as to my sire’s herald Cloe,” Accou continues. “He seemed interested by her dollmaking and origami-crafting hobbies, and complimented the novelty of her leaving the latter as calling cards.”
“He also inquired if Cloe was more ‘modern’ than Kindred elders of equivalent age. I answered they could be, though I have seen my share of ghouls who adapted to the modern world as poorly as their domitors.”
The primogen smiles faintly. “He also expressed that she was ‘very pretty’ and inquired where he could meet her to commission a doll or figurine. I told him Cloe can often be found attending my sire, and that Elysium is as good a place as any to find either.”
There were birds present, but that’s not atypical. The (Lower) Garden District is absolutely full of birds with how green and leafy it is, especially during the summer months. Accou clarifies that he and Evan met one another outdoors, on the historic district’s streets. It’s actually quite common for Toreador to take evening strolls through the area and to simply bask in the sight of its lovely historic architecture and equally lovely gardens. “One may even perchance to meet a tourist and combine pleasure with… further pleasure.” His meeting with Evan was (seemingly) a spontaneous rather than prearranged one.
Caroline: Caroline asks if he didn’t notice if a number (likely not many are active at night) followed Evan when he left? She understands otherwise since it was a while back, but she’s asking just to be sure. Birdsongs can start as early as 4 AM (a fact that all Kindred know well), and it was around that hour that Accou met with Evan.
Rocco: Rocco also asks more about the birds.
GM: “Hmm, yes. I suppose some birds did take off when Evan left,” the Toreador considers, now that he thinks on it.
Caroline: Caroline chats with him a while further, feeling out his interests if he’s willing. Does he often take strolls through the Garden District? Is there anything he would point out in particular? She seems content (if not thrilled) that this lead has been followed up on and is mostly interested in furthering a good impression on the elder.
GM: Accou answers that he often takes strolls through the district. So do many other Toreador, not just ones who live in the area. Plenty of kine tourists do that too. The neighborhood is gorgeous and taking walks through it is a very popular activity. Accou is especially partial to St. Alphonus Church and Coliseum Square, but anyone native to the city knows that you can just wander around the area and see a lot of pretty things.
Caroline: Caroline also mentions, if Accou maintains the telepathic contact, that she does intend on sharing the matter of Evan and his infidelity with Agnello—she’d just rather do so with all the evidence (especially any that might help exonerate Roxanne) rather than early.
GM: :: Very good, Miss Malveaux. No doubt your clanmate will appreciate the merits of this course of action. ::
Rocco: “What do you know of Amandine, Primogen?” Rocco inquires.
GM: “I know her to be one of the Crones, Hound Agnello. I am to understand she is considered a promising blood sorcerer and a subject matter expert, or would-be expert, on the Birds of Dis.”
Rocco: Rocco asks if Accou knows of any plans Evan had after their meeting, specifically ones that could have included meeting up with someone or going somewhere? Not immediately afterwards, more in the instance about Evan mentioning his plans potentially in the following nights, assuming he’s been commissioned to create some artwork or whatever else might occupy his time.
GM: Accou answers that Evan didn’t go into much depth there—though Accou does add that Evan was a member of the Guild of Nemesis, and so was unlikely to take any artistic commissions. The boy had little talent for producing art himself.
Rocco: Rocco muses that since Evan was a critic, maybe it’s possible he offended someone in the past or created enemies of people. “Do you know of any potential enemies or anybody recently offended by Mr. Bourelle, Primogen?” Rocco inquires.
GM: Accou clarifies that Evan was simply a poseur. He was not a dedicated critic and was relegated to the Guild of Nemesis by default, like all poseurs are. Evan in fact generally preferred to praise and compliment rather than criticize.
“This makes little name for oneself among a guild of critics,” Accou smiles knowingly.
Rocco: Well, at least it’s unlikely that whoever’s responsible has an ‘artistic motive’ as far as Rocco knows now. They haven’t been killed.
GM: Accou does agree that seems unlikely as a motive. The clan has plenty of scathing critics already.
“Such as my sister-in-blood,” he chuckles.
Rocco: Rocco smiles back. “Has anyone else asked after Bourelle, Primogen?”
GM: “You and Miss Malveaux are the first Kindred to make inquiries of me, Hound Agnello. Not even the Storyvilles did so.”
Rocco: Rocco asks what Accou knows about Yellow Sidra. He fills Accou in on the particulars of that, telling him that Yellow Sidra is the last person to be seen with and that it was in Jackson Square.
GM: Sidra’s clan is an open question to many, ranging from Malkavian to Caitiff to Tremere, but Accou has heard that she’s actually a Ravnos. He doesn’t know if that’ll grant any further insight into the investigation, but it may into Sidra, and perhaps the former as a result.
“I have heard she is a Ravnos.”
Rocco: Rocco bristles. The deceivers lie as easily as they smile. And they smile all the time.
GM: The group exchanges final pleasantries. Accou seems interested in being kept in the loop on Evan. He speaks favorably of the missing neonate, though Caroline can’t help but recall Jocelyn’s words.
Everyone all saying how great Evan is and doing shit.
Tuesday night, 20 October 2015, AM
Rocco: In the nights that follow, Rocco decides to look into the whereabouts of Evan Bourelle. His initial investigations take him to Marcel Guilbeau.
GM: The pair’s heralds work out scheduling. The prince-in-exile receives the hound several nights later aboard the Alystra. Rocco has heard that the riverboat is the same vessel on which Guilbeau fled Baton Rouge in the wake of Lawrence Meeks’ coup. In the ten years since, he’s had it converted into a fabulous casino.
The office room in which Rocco is received practically oozes money. Warm woods are accented by soft yellow lights from torch-like metal holders. Luxurious red and gold-patterned carpets accent the floors. Crystal gleams from the room’s chandelier and (needless) ashtray on the teakwood desk. Tastefully arranged white, purple, and blue magnolias peak from hand-painted china vases.
Paintings, too, adorn the walls. The one that occupies the place of greatest prominence behind the manager’s desk, however, is of a Neo-Gothic, castle-like turreted building surrounded by a grove of trees and cast iron fence. A young couple wearing a dark 19th century suit and pink dress survey the building from beyond the fence, arms linked.
A wide window on the room’s right side overlooks the Mississippi. Bright lights, lively music, and sounds of laughing, carousing patrons spill out from the boat’s lower decks, but are comfortably muffled into low murmurs and soft glows. The office seems to almost bask in the afterglow of it all, as if to say, “this is where the money all flows.”
It’s a saying that the casino-owning Gangrel is well familiar with.
Marcel Guilbeau rises from his high-backed leather chair as staff escort Rocco into the room. The exiled prince is a tall and deeply handsome man with rectangular features, a strong nose, dark caramel-brown hair sculpted into a neat mustache and goatee, and deep blue eyes. Two pale gold crucifix earrings hang from his ears. He is garbed in a dark suit, white silk dress shirt, and necktie of the same color. A matching folded handkerchiefgh rests in the jacket’s front pocket.
Rocco: “Thank you for taking the time to see me, Prince Guilbeau,” the hound says affably. He waits for Marcel to sit back down before taking his own seat opposite the taller vampire. “I hope you’re doing well these nights.”
GM: “Hound Agnello,” Marcel smiles as he shakes the Gangrel’s hand, then seats himself. “Better for your company. We should see each other more often, if only to exchange tips on managing pit bosses. What can I do for you?”
Rocco: Hound Agnello is obviously pleased by Marcel’s compliment. An easy smile appears on Rocco’s face as he casually crosses his legs. “You’re right. We don’t see each other nearly enough, Prince Guilbeau,” the hound replies agreeably.
“It’s a shame. You always seem like the life of the party in Elysium.” Rocco’s eyes move away from Marcel as he casually takes in the office’s opulent decor. His eyes, looking past the exiled prince, finally settle on the room’s most prominent painting situated right behind Marcel. “It’s quite a beautiful painting you have there, Your Majesty,” Rocco remarks, wistfully. “I recall seeing a similar piece.”
Rocco adds, “It’s the Old State Capitol,” as his eyes turn back to Marcel. A benign smile rests on his face.
GM: “How good of you to recognize it, Hound Agnello,” the prince-in-exile smiles back, clearly pleased. “You should see it in person. It makes for a striking sight today—it’s an almost medieval castle plopped right in the center of downtown. There are weddings, dances, art exhibits, and a museum hosted there. I had it declared Elysium years ago.”
Rocco: “I plan to see it in person one of these nights,” Rocco replies, clasping his hands together just beneath his chin. The angelic mafioso pauses for a brief moment, looking pensive. “Do you mind if we get down to business now, Prince Guilbeau?”
GM: The Ventrue languidly motions for him to proceed.
Rocco: “Excellent.” Rocco then continues, “My main concern is the disappearance of a neonate named Evan Bourelle.”
GM: “Ah yes, I’m familiar with Bourelle,” Marcel answers with a slight drop in his smile. “I hope nothing has become of him, but it’s been some time. What brings you to me over this, Hound Agnello?”
Rocco: “I understand you and Evan were lovers, Prince Guilbeau,” Rocco freely admits. “I thought it respectful to keep you apprised of a lover’s disappearance and allay any worries you have.”
A small, unassuming smile remains on Rocco’s face. “I also hoped you could share with me anything noteworthy that may help me find or at least find out what happened to Evan Bourelle.”
GM: Marcel initially looks somewhat amused, but answers, “Yes, he lived aboard the Alystra for some time as well. We called things off after he got together with a neonate from my clan, Roxanne Gerlette. She didn’t like to share.”
“The poor boy went out of his way to placate me, but he needn’t have bothered. Lovers are like chips in a casino. They come and go. If all you do is hoard them, you’ll never get to play.”
Just outside the office’s windows, scintillating lights reflect down on the Mississippi. There are distant sounds of laughter, clinking glasses, and dice rolling against hard surfaces. It’s a familiar overture to the casino-owning Gangrel.
“But I wouldn’t presume to know what the sheriff and his hounds have already uncovered in their investigations,” Marcel continues, leaning back in his chair. “What questions can I answer for you?”
Rocco: Rocco nods his head, seemingly happy with Marcel’s answer. Nonetheless, the amicable demeanor belies a discerning gaze.
“You say Evan tried to placate you, Prince Guilbeau. What do you mean exactly?”
GM: “He took pains to explain the situation and apologize over it to me. He offered me a boon, though I told him he needn’t bother.”
Rocco: Rocco taps his chin thoughtfully, seemingly pleased. “I have to applaud Evan’s propriety, though,” the Gangrel answers. “Do you know of any enemies that he had that could’ve led to his disappearance?”
GM: “Naturally. There’s the Baron’s followers, for one. I suppose Mr. Savoy’s could’ve had the motive too,” Marcel speculates, “but the boy was always telling me about the hell he and his krewe were raising in the poorer parts of town. Showing the ‘voodoo heathens’ the price for straying from Christ’s path. I imagine they could’ve twinked some Crone’s nose if they weren’t careful.”
Rocco: “I have it on good authority that Evan was last spotted in the French Quarter with Yellow Sidra,” Rocco states rather plainly.
GM: “The officers of the prince’s justice would seem to have done their homework,” the Ventrue smiles. “You probably have a better idea than I do what he’d have wanted with her, though. Bourelle never mentioned Sidra to me.”
Rocco: “Evan had an interest in getting his fortune told by her,” Rocco says, filling in the holes. “It’s certainly odd that Evan never mentioned her, though. I understand that he used to get his fortune told quite frequently.”
The Gangrel would sigh, but the impulse is as long-dead as his lungs.
“It must’ve been a recent interest.”
GM: “Perhaps it was. Or he simply didn’t think it was worth bringing up.” The prince-in-exile smiles knowingly. “Lovers harbor secrets too.”
Rocco: Rocco’s gaze lingers on Marcel’s smile.
“I take it you’re being forthright with me, though,” he mentions offhandedly, innocently.
GM: That smile subsides as Marcel makes a tsk-tsk noise at Rocco’s tone.
“You may speak how you please of the young whelps, Hound Agnello, but that will not do here.”
Rocco: Rocco bows his head slightly. “I hope you can forgive me, Prince Guilbeau,” the Gangrel says, calmly. “I meant no disrespect. You’ve been so kind to lend me your time tonight and I would hate for your impression of me to sour.”
GM: Marcel motions with his right hand. It bears a diamond-set gold signet ring not so unlike the ones Rocco has observed on Vidal and Maldonato.
“To receive the Guard de Ville aboard the Alystra is itself a sign of respect. No harm done, Hound Agnello.”
Rocco: “Thank you, Prince Guilbeau. In any case, I really should take my leave now,” Rocco says, awaiting the Ventrue’s own leave with a parting smile.
GM: The exiled prince rises as Rocco does. “I’ll say this much else about Bourelle, there was a Crone girl he was hoping to convert to the Sanctified. Adrienne, Adele, something with an A. I told him it was a silly idea, but he didn’t seem to think so. Perhaps it’s nothing. Perhaps it’s not.”
The Ventrue smiles again and extends a hand. “Stop by sometime if you fancy a game of baccarat in a change of surroundings.”
Thursday night, 22 October 2015, AM
Rocco: After meeting with Marcel Guilbeau aboard the Alystra, Rocco makes further plans to look into Evan Bourelle’s disappearance. His next lead is the fortuneteller Yellow Sidra. Rocco understands that she is the last one to see Evan Bourelle. He also understands she makes her home in the French Quarter. In his pursuit for more information, the hound decides to visit the Carnival Club in Sundown’s domain.
GM: Rocco finds the party in full swing as he enters the Carnival Club—not that it ever isn’t at this hour. Sweating bodies writhe and undulate to pounding music. Conversation without shouting is close to impossible. The scents of alcohol and cigarette smoke further lace the air. Scintillating lights play over every surface, shifting from red to purple to blue and back again. The sounds of the kines’ thumping heartbeats are almost as audible to Rocco as the hammering music. In such an environment, even the dead can feel alive again—if only for a few moments.
For most of them, that’s enough.
Dead men and women weave through the teeming throngs like sharks, scenting blood, going through all the motions of seduction, and stealing away with the choicest vessels. The Afterhours King and patron of New Orleans revelry distantly surveys them from his seat on the second-floor lounge.
He has some company, too.
Rosa Bale is biracial woman in her early middle years with a bush of straw-like salt-and-pepper hair tied up in a brown scarf. Her garb consists of a plain maroon cotton dress, and a dark shawl with swirling yellow, black, and white patterns. Beaded necklaces with a crucifix and tiny leather pouch dangle from her neck. A featureless, milky-white glass eye stares blankly from her right socket.
Rocco, looking from afar, studies the pair with interest.
The two appear engaged in conversation with one another, although their exact words are impossible to make out between the distance and blaring music. Sundown’s body language is relaxed. Rosa’s is more reserved, though neither does the Ventrue mambo appear hostile.
Rocco: The hound, sifting through the crowd, makes his way to the crowded bar to order a drink.
His peripherals remain on Sundown and Rosa Bale, although his focus is split between them and any other vampire that may catch the hound’s eye.
GM: The bartender, a dark-haired and slightly harried-looking Latina woman, promptly mixes up whatever he asks for. Not that it makes any difference to the century-dead man.
Rocco: A polite smile appears on Rocco’s face as he proffers cash over the bar, exchanging it for a couple tequila sunrises. His expression doesn’t change as he then deftly moves through the crowd toward Sundown to announce his presence.
GM: At least several other Damned stand out like beacons to the Gangrel’s watchful eye as he does do. They could be competitors here, his Beast growls. Pietro Silvestri, whose handsome looks and curly black hair seem to have won him some female attention. A plainer but still pretty-looking young woman with shoulder-length brown hair. And a green-haired, discordantly giggling young woman whose skeleton-pale makeup and spiked leather collar stands out next to her more unobtrusively-dressed fellows.
Rocco: Rocco turns his focus away from the gang of monsters and makes his way through the crowds and up the stairs to the club’s second level. He approaches Sundown with an easy smile.
“Good evening, Sundown,” he says loud enough to be heard over the music’s blare.
GM: Rocco finds that he does not need to raise his voice overly much. The club’s second level is actually behind a wall of glass, with a single ‘cut out’ section that allows easy egress up or down the staircase. A well-stocked bar with several overhead television screens sits in the corner. Tables are positioned to overlook the dancing throngs on the first floor. The lighting might be an unchanging blue here, and the music might be softer, but this place is more intermission than respite from the revelry below.
Rosa Bale stares at the Gangrel, her voice as cool as the glass surface of her false eye.
“Regent Sundown is engaged, Hound Agnello. Your presence is unwelcome.”
Rocco: The hound gives Rosa Bale a cool, unaffected smile in return.
“You wound me, Rosa. I even bought you a tequila sunrise.”
He makes a slight show of looking at Rosa’s empty-handedness. The hound tries to disarm the Acolyte with a boyish smile.
GM: Rocco’s glass slips from his fingers. Cat-quick, the Gangrel catches it before it can strike the floor. The surface of the alcohol ripples. It catches Rocco’s eye. An echo rings against the edge of the glass. The liquid has gone still. The sound still reverberates. He strains his ears. There’s something…
The noise of shattering glass unravels it all. Orage liquid seeps past his shoes.
A few heads from the nearby tables turn and look.
Rocco: Rocco, careful not to cut himself on any broken glass or let any alcohol spill on his clothes, gives Sundown an apologetic look, excusing himself from the two vampires as he makes his way to the nearby bar.
He can’t help feeling suspicious of Rosa Bale, although admittedly he didn’t spot any wrongdoing.
Staff from that same bar show up with paper towels and a hand broom to sweep up the glass.
Rocco places his remaining drink down and looks for a toilet to wash his hands. He apologizes to the staff when given the chance, trying his best to look the part of a polite 21-year-old. He doesn’t like the extra attention.
GM: The staff assure him that it’s fine, and he finds his way to the restroom without incident. The attendant hands him towels and offers a stick of mint-flavored gum.
Rocco: “No thank you,” Rocco replies in regard to the stick of gum, cleaning his hands and looking over his clothes to make sure they’re unsullied.
Once happy, Rocco exits the bathroom and scopes the place, deciding to socialize with some unknown kindred while he waits for Rosa Bale to finish speaking with Sundown. Rocco makes his way toward the green-haired woman with cat-like poise.
GM: Lights play over Rocco’s face and music thumps in his ears as he approaches the other Kindred.
Eris seems to vary her appearance nightly. He’s seen her wearing tie-dyed skirts one night and red leather the next. Her green hair is frizzy as if from too many dye jobs, though even that element hasn’t been consistent—on other nights it’s been perfectly straight, or even shaved off. A smirk plays over her black-painted lips as she spots the approaching Gangrel among the dancing throngs.
“WHAT DO YOU CALL A HOUND WITH A SURROUND SYSTEM?” she shouts over the music.
GM: “A SUB-WOOF SYSTEM!” she giggles, or at least looks like she does. Rocco can’t make out the sound.
Rocco: The hound gives the green-haired woman an affable smile, saddling up beside her as he finally frees himself from the sea of club-goers.
“Nice joke,” he says over the music, closing in on Eris to be more easily heard as he tries to rope her in to a conversation. “Here’s one for you: how many anarchists does it take to change a light-bulb?”
“The answer: it doesn’t matter, they’ll never be able to change it, or anything else for that matter.”
GM: “Ohhh, I was going to guess one, because two couldn’t agree on anything…” Eris’ eyes run over Rocco as she licks her black-painted lips, saddling up behind him. “Shows what I know!”
Rocco: An amused, half-smile appears on Rocco’s face as he tries to make heads or tails out of her. She’s a strange one. “I don’t think we’ve ever formally met,” Rocco says, deciding to get introductions out of the way.
GM: “Reaaallly? And why not?” the woman asks, pumping her limbs to the music as she circles around Rocco again. “Maybe we met in Hades, or the Pre-Illusion… what were you before you existed?”
Rocco: “I was nothing,” Rocco replies, looking uncharacteristically humble for a moment. “As the Council of Alexandria once said, I reject the idea of preexisting souls.” He gives Eris a cheeky, boyish grin after his explanation.
GM: “Oh, that’s too bad. Personally, I like the idea—but then I’m a proponent of other types of recycling, also. I think we could reduce a lot of spiritual waste by reusing old souls, so hopefully that’s what we’re doing.”
Rocco: “I suppose in a sense we are recycled people,” Rocco says, thoughtfully. He looks amused by the idea.
“I am Rocco,” he finally says, giving Eris a familiar look.
GM: “I’M ERIS, AND THE MUSIC HERE IS LOUD!” she shouts back as the DJ starts up a new mix.
Rocco: “Do you want to find somewhere more quiet?” he asks, flirtatiously.
GM: Eris’ face turns red and then blue under the scintillating lights as she tilts her head. “YOU SHOULD SPEAK UP, BUT I’M GAME!”
Rocco: Rocco offers his hand, signaling for Eris to let him take the lead. He looks for a quieter, more private nook for the two to talk.
GM: A quick scan of the teeming dance floor leads the Gangrel to conclude that is what the club’s second level, where he spoke with Rosa Bale, is for.
Rocco: Rocco heads there, taking Eris by the hand.
GM: Eris giggles at the Hound’s show of seeming affection, but plays along. The two make their way back up the club’s second level. It’s much as it was when Rocco left, though the broken glass and spilled sunrise have been mopped up. Sundown and Rosa Bale are still conversing at their table.
Rocco: He leads them to an empty table to speak privately. Rocco, looking down at Eris’s hand as they finally settle, gives her a cheeky smile.
“Have you ever gotten your palm read?” he asks, conversationally.
GM: “Oh lots of times, in at least this life,” Eris nods. “The different methods can give such different results, it’s interesting to compare them with each other.”
Rocco: “I never knew there were different methods,” Rocco admits. “I’ve only recently become interested.”
GM: “Oh huh, why’s that?”
Rocco: “Do you know of someone named Yellow Sidra?” he asks. “I heard she might be able to read my palm and tell my fortune.”
GM: “Question for a question, huh?” Eris asks, looking amused. “Yes, she reads palms in Jackson Square, because where else.”
Rocco: Rocco looks amused, giving Eris a devilish laugh at her answer. “Would you be able to introduce me to her, Eris?” he asks, charmingly.
GM: “Shy?” the woman smirks.
Rocco: “I always am when talking to beautiful women,” he replies, toothily.
GM: Eris laughs at Rocco’s initial remark. “All right, sure. You have a sense of humor, for a hound. Although you know what Harlequin says about masks…”
She tilts her head as she regards the Gangrel, something dancing in her eyes, and then produces a card.
Rocco: The hound’s eyes light up, impressed.
GM: “It’s for you,” Eris clarifies. “I’d say you’re a pope now too, but the power was really yours all along.”
“There’s a number on the back you can call me at when you want to meet her. I should mention I’m not always that reliable, so you might have to try a couple times.”
“You can pay me back by printing some more of those cards, I’m always giving them away.”
Rocco: “In contrast I am quite reliable,” Rocco answers, happily taking the card. "Thank you, Eris. It’s been a lot of fun getting to know you tonight.
Saturday night, 24 October 2015, PM
Rocco: It is a simple affair.
The hound organizes the meeting to take place in Faubourg Marigny. He asks for Yellow Sidra and Sundown to meet within the latter’s domain to discuss Evan Bourelle’s seeming disappearance. He understands that Evan used to go to Yellow Sidra to get his palm read and that Sundown was his regent, and the hound hopes to glean clues from the pair as to the neonate’s fate. Ostensibly, he is on official business for the Guard de Ville.
GM: The Midnight Bayou is a typical Sundown club. Crowds of dancers writhe and undulate under pulsing red lights to pounding music that’s almost loud enough to split one’s head. Here, the dead feed with impunity among the teeming throngs, and can feel ever-so-briefly alive.
The upstairs VIP lounge is a more subdued affair. It’s done in a similar color scheme to the downstairs floor, with dark walls and low red lighting. Patrons lounge about in leather booths and chairs, talking quietly, admiring the art on the walls, and sipping expensive drinks. Soft background music replaces the headsplitting blare downstairs. Smiling waitresses glide across the floor, relaying orders between customers while a bartender expertly mixes drinks in the back.
Rocco finds Sundown sitting at the rear-most booth, dressed in a “stylishly minimalist” maroon button-up shirt and dark slacks. His conversational partner stands out somewhat more. She’s dusky of skin and could be either Latina, Roma, or some typically New Orleans mix of races. She looks somewhere in her 20s, much younger than most fortune-tellers, but is dressed similarly to them in a multicolored gypsy skirt, a low-cut black and white-striped shirt, and a top hat threaded with red and purple scarves in place of a band. Gold glints from her ears and fingers. Her inky black hair is a wild and untamed forest that plays home to a monkey wearing a purple vest and miniature top hat of its own. The tiny animal sits on her shoulder and occasionally tugs at one of her earrings, but is otherwise still—even attentive-looking. It’s an uncommon gathering of three Kindred who may all be able to converse with the creature.
A meeting between one of the sheriff’s hounds and a Jackson Square fortune-teller would be uncommon too—anywhere outside of Faubourg Marigny.
Vidals’ and his rivals’ supporters may bare their fangs at one another, but for now, the parish remains neutral ground.
“Hound Agnello. Glad you could drop by,” Sundown smiles casually.
Rocco: “Thank you for having me, Regent Sundown,” the hound replies, returning the smile. His smile doesn’t leave his face as he studies the gypsy and her monkey.
GM: “Hound,” Sidra states.
A waitress comes by to get the three’s drink orders. “No need to actually force those down,” the Nosferatu remarks after she leaves.
“Some perks to owning the club, Regent?” Sidra remarks.
“A few,” Sundown smiles faintly, before shifting his posture towards Rocco. “Now then, Hound Agnello, why don’t you tell us what we’re here for tonight?”
Rocco: The hound looks up as Sundown addresses him with a relaxed expression. “Evan Bourelle,” the hound answers in a swift tone. “I understand that Mr Bourelle was your vassal. As such, I assume his disappearance holds some importance to you, Regent.”
His focus suddenly shifts to Yellow Sidra. The hound’s boyish smile grows. “It’s good to finally make your acquaintance, Yellow Sidra. I understand that Mr. Bourelle enjoyed getting his fortune told and saw you frequently.”
GM: “He might have. He might not have,” the fortune-teller answers noncommittally. “What’s in it for me if he did?”
“A night of hunting in my territory. Perhaps more, and perhaps something from the hound, depending on what you have for us,” Sundown answers.
Rocco: “I plan to thank you properly for your trouble, Yellow Sidra,” the hound follows, nodding his head at Sundown’s answer. “I also plan to thank Eris D. properly for helping make this meeting possible.”
GM: Sidra looks between the two ancillae. “Okay. Sure. I read his palm a few times.”
The monkey nods its tiny head along.
Rocco: “When was the last time you saw Evan?” he asks, trying his best to ease Yellow Sidra’s reservations. His body language is calm, casual, and friendly. He keeps eyes contact. His smile never wavers.
GM: The fortuneteller looks back. “August 16th. Never saw him again after that. Sounds like not too many other licks did either.”
Rocco: The hound sits back and looks prayerful for a moment. “What did the pair of you talk about?” he asks, trying to calculate Evan’s time missing. “I would greatly appreciate as many details and oddities that you can recall as possible. I am particularly interested in any conversations you had with him leading up to his disappearance.”
GM: “I read his palm, twice. The first time maybe a week before that. We spent a little while talking, after his first reading. About life and love and shit. He was pretty in the dumps. Wasn’t he, Cayce?” she asks the monkey.
The tiny primate bobs its head several times.
“We didn’t talk too long after the second reading. He seemed in a hurry to get the hell away,” Sidra goes on. “Customers don’t always like what they hear.”
Rocco: An understanding look crosses Rocco’s face as he listens.
GM: Several things occur to Rocco over the course of the trio’s conversation.
First, Sidra isn’t uncomfortable in the pair’s presence, nor is she fishing for sympathy. She slowly doles out information through sensational descriptions of Evan’s reactions without stating the cause behind them. It’s almost a story, the kind that leaves her audience wanting to lean in and ask, “Why?”
And the why behind Sidra’s tactics is plain and simple. Like most fortunetellers, she’s a saleswoman… and Rocco gets the distinct sense from the shrewd cast to her eye that she is jacking up her prices.
It’s a confident cast, too… there’s a reason she thinks that’s a safe bet.
The first substantive piece of information Sidra agrees to part with is the results of Evan’s second palm reading—the one that sent him fleeing Jackson Square, deeply rattled, after which no one saw him again. Sidra claims to have divined Evan’s final fate, for she is of the line of Tryphosa, the great seeress of Rome, and the Sight runs true in her blood.
Rocco: Rocco isn’t sure who “Tryphosa” is, but he’s pretty sure that’s bullshit.
An amused glint appears in his eyes. Nonetheless, the Gangrel hound discusses the price of this information with sincere interest. “I am happy to owe you a boon for both readings, Yellow Sidra,” he says, even if he doesn’t fully trust her word.
GM: “Okay. Evan Bourelle is dead.”
Sidra goes on to explain that Evan’s “fate line” indicated doom. His lines were also very dark—literally dark, which meant they were “danger points.” Those indicate accidental or sudden deaths.
The ghouled chimp on Sidra’s shoulder hoots and tugs her earrings in emphasis.
“He wasn’t killed by another lick, though. My reading also said that a powerful force may avenge his death… or maybe not. Bourelle broke off and bolted at that point.”
Rocco: The hound looks very interested at that last revelation, and doesn’t even try to hide it, smiling broadly at Sundown for a moment before turning back to Yellow Sidra. “You have been a great help, Yellow Sidra,” he states, “but unless you have anything more of value to share, I would like to discuss things with Regent Sundown in private now.”
GM: “Suit yourselves,” says Sidra. “Thanks for the hunting.”
“Enjoy yourself,” smiles the Nosferatu.
The fortuneteller disappears, no doubt to avail herself of her feeding rights.
Rocco: “I don’t entirely trust everything Yellow Sidra had to say, but I believe some of what was said is worth following up,” the hound says without much preamble. “What are your thoughts, Sundown?”
GM: “Follow-up usually is worth it,” the Nosferatu agrees. “The question is usually ‘where’ rather than ‘if.’”
Rocco: “I am hoping to secure your permission to investigate Evan’s old haven in that case, Sundown,” the hound says, “and if you have the whereabouts of which, that would be an incredible help. I also plan to track down and speak to any of his ghouls.”
GM: “All possibly fruitful leads,” the regent remarks. “What’s your interest in finding Bourelle, Rocco?”
Rocco: “I have a vested interest in those whose allegiance belongs to His Majesty, of course,” the hound explains, cheerfully. “It’s always been my intention that those who are loyal to His Majesty will be rewarded with loyalty in return.”
GM: “How thoughtful of the Guard de Ville,” Sundown smiles. “I think the other Storyvilles have taken in his ghouls. If you want to find Bourelle’s haven, I’d recommend talking with one of them. The permission’s yours if you want to poke around the area.”
Rocco: “Thank you, Regent Sundown,” he replies, “but if you’re already aware of Evan’s haven’s location and willing to part with this information, I’d be willing to part with a nexum munus.” He eyes the Nosferatu carefully.
GM: Sundown waves him off. “You already footed the prestation with Sidra, Hound Agnello. I don’t make it a habit to spy on my vassals, of course,” the Nosferatu remarks, “but I suppose desperate times have called for desperate measures. Better to find Bourelle by finding his haven, than both to stay unknown.”
He provides an address.
“I’ll still be obliged if you informed the Storyvilles before looking around. The others aren’t my vassals, but I can understand them feeling protective towards the space.”
Rocco: “I will do such. Your kindness and understanding in this matter is commendable, Sundown, so I thank you once again,” he says, preparing to take his leave and tend to other business.
GM: “Stop by anytime, Rocco,” Sundown says, rising with the hound as he moves to leave.
“Bring guests, friendly or otherwise. Everyone will always be welcome at my clubs.”
Late October—early December, 2015
GM: Jocelyn’s eager anticipation for news of Evan gives way to nights of waiting with bated breath.
A week passes.
Then another week. Jocelyn mentions the Storyvilles have been in touch with Sundown, and that they’re antsy for news. At the advice of Roxanne’s sire, they aren’t pushing things. The Nosferatu do things at their own pace. You can’t really rush them.
Another week goes by.
Then another. The Storyvilles grow increasingly impatient over the Hidden Clan’s efforts. Jocelyn admits to approaching Sundown on her own. He told her that his clan was “‘more information brokers than investigators’—what the hell is that even supposed to mean? Don’t brokers need to dig up their information from somewhere?” the Toreador remarks crossly.
More weeks go by. There is no news on Evan Bourelle.
Sundown finally invites Caroline up to one of his clubs’ offices in early November. “Thanks for being patient, Miss Malveaux. Not much luck finding Evan Bourelle, I’m sad to say. Finding a few specific birds is finding a needle in a haystack, and there’s always other things.” The ‘handsome’ Nosferatu smiles. “Never enough hours in the night even when you’re immortal, are there?”
The Afterhours King is polite about it, but the gist of his statements essentially seem to come down to: Evan isn’t important enough to spend this much effort on. Sorry.
“Still,” the Nosferatu continues, “you wanted credit for your part in things, and you did bring us actionable information. What would you say to repayment in kind? As any of my clan can well tell you, there’s few currencies of greater value.”
Caroline: Caroline’s own frustrations mount as her investigations come for naught. They multiply like gremlins when she settles on a prime suspect that everyone seems to know about but no one seems to want to mention, much less follow up on. By the time the Afterhours King invites her for a meeting she’s all but resigned to the answer: even if people care, they don’t care that much. Not enough to tangle with her.
So she sits quietly through Sundown’s pitch, and smiles knowingly when he’s done. “I understand, Regent Sundown. There are other tenants,, and an entire domain to consider. I would, of course, be grateful for whatever you might share in turn.”
GM: The handsome-appearing Nosferatu motions. “Then ask away, Miss Malveaux. Customer’s choice, within reason.”
Caroline: The heiress’s smile is razor sharp. “If it pleases you, Regent Sundown, I’d know of Caitlin Meadows.”
GM: The sewer rat raises an eyebrow, but nevertheless continues, “What about her?”
Caroline: Caroline is interested in Meadows’ past and present in the city. She relates that she’s heard a fair number of whispered tales about her, but suspect that many have been exaggerated—she doesn’t think Meadows has three heads and two hearts for instance. If he can shed light into who she was, perhaps it would shed light into why she’s been so aggressive and violent of late.
GM: Sundown relates what is relatively well-known of the savage scourge to Caroline and seems willing to entertain a few follow-up questions concerning that information.
Caroline: Caroline is very interested to learn that the monster terrorizing much of the city is the sire of her current landlord. She asks a few more pointed questions about exactly when she went off the rails, so far as anyone can tell, and what disciplines she’s previously shown proficiency with. It becomes quite apparent (if it wasn’t already) that she regards Meadows as the primary suspect in Evan’s disappearance.
GM: “You wouldn’t think so at a glance, would you? He’s certainly prettier than she is,” the Nosferatu chuckles at Caroline’s initial reaction.
Sundown reiterates that Meadows seemed to go rogue after she reappeared from a several-months absence. It’s also relatively well-known that she can sprout horrific, knife-like claws that she prefers to do her fighting (or perhaps more aptly, killing) with.
It will be a separate transaction with the Hidden Clan if Caroline desires more specific detail regarding which Cainite gifts Meadows is proficient at.
“Though you’re right to imagine we do keep track of those, Miss Malveaux,” the Nosferatu smiles faintly. “We keep track of everything.”
Caroline: Caroline laughs lightly at the last admission and replies amusedly, “I shudder to think what you might have to say about me, Regent Sundown.”
Thursday night, 3 December 2015, PM
GM: In the aftermath Caroline’s Sundown meeting, Jocelyn wants to hear all about how it went and really wants some kind of actionable lead to follow. The Storyvilles aren’t taking things well, especially Roxanne. She’s frenzying more, and worse, getting snappish and irritable. Jocelyn’s not sure how long this can last.
Caroline: Caroline relates that the primogen didn’t have much to offer. Caroline has a few plans and ideas. Among them are contacting Evan’s sire (he may have felt if Evan was actually killed) and reaching out to the Crone he was trying to convert to find out if she knows anything.
She talks with Rocco about whether he’s had any luck locating Amandine.
GM: The hound has unfortunately been occupied by his duties to the Guard de Ville. He is leaving the matter to Caroline.
Caroline: The Ventrue talks to the Storyvilles about how Evan got in contact with her in the first place, and whether or not they know of a to reach her. If that fails, she seeks her out at Elysium. If that fails, she asks the Nosferatu for info on how she might find her, offering a boon in exchange.
She suggests to the Storyvilles at large (without letting on that she knows Roxxy knows) that if anyone knows Evan’s sire, they should reach out to them and try to find out if they felt anything when he went missing. She understands that it’s a private matter, but it may be the only way they get any closure at this point.
GM: Jocelyn lets Caroline know that no one knew about Evan’s sire—until she scryed on Roxxy. He hadn’t talked about where he was from or how he was Embraced with his other krewemates (or at least her) at all.
Caroline eventually locates Amandine in one of the Friday Elysia hosted in a less formal venue. At first glance, she isn’t much to look at. A bit plain in the face, with tan skin, but good cheekbones and full lips. Her hair is a simple brown and worn away from her face in a ponytail. She wears plain blue jeans, hiking boots, boy’s dress shirts that look like they were bought at a thrift store, and a leather messenger bag.
Caroline: Caroline approaches Amandine and engages her in small talk, trying to feel her out and learn more about her.
GM: Amandine is barely civil to the Sanctified Ventrue and blows her off. Onlookers look amused by Caroline’s attempt at conversation.
Caroline: Caroline is friendly in her acceptance of the brush-off and looks for a better opportunity to engage with the young heathen. She texts Jocelyn and asks if she wants to help her find an in with Amandine. She also texts Rocco—knowing he’d been looking for her. Caroline surreptitiously keeps an eye on those the other vampire interacts with, looking for any common ground (or at least neutral ground).
GM: Jocelyn has no clue who Amandine is beyond a Vodouisant sleeping with Evan and doesn’t know what to do, but is game if Caroline has any ideas.
Caroline observes Amandine speaking with Desirae Wells. Elysium this week is also held at a less formal venue, with fewer Creoles in attendance.
Caroline: Caroline approaches Wells about Amandine, both in the context of their relationship and in the context of Wells working as a midde-woman between some of the different groups in the city and trying to keep conflict down.
She’d like the Caitiff emissary to help set and facilitate a chat with Amandine (with Wells as the third party there). In return, she’ll clue Wells in as to something that Amandine should know, that she’ll probably appreciate, and that she might take better from someone she knows (namely that Rocco is looking into the matter and looking for Amandine specifically).
GM: Wells is amenable to arranging the meeting between Caroline and Amandine, but she doesn’t think Amandine is very likely to want to talk to Caroline. The news about Rocco is likely to make her double down with her own covenant. The hound is known for his bullying ways, but he might well bite off more than he can chew if he expects to make a victim of a lone neonate. The Crones look out for their own people. Rather more than the Sanctified admittedly do. Going after Amandine is likely to pick a fight with Doc Xola, who is infamous for acting as the Crones’ protector.
Caroline: Caroline suggests that if Wells can help her get Amandine to open up—after breaking the news about Rocco—that she might convince Rocco to back off. Even if the Crones look out for one another, it’d be one less headache for Amandine. “We all do too much looking over our shoulder as it is.” She also mentions the entire matter concerns the disappearance of someone Amandine was spending time with—and that it’s possible information she has could point towards an answer about what happened to him. She’s careful not to point a finger at Amandine, and instead alludes to (without outright stating) Meadows.
GM: Wells thinks Amandine could be amenable to this proposition and gets back with the news that she’s arranged a meeting in Mid-City several nights from now.
Caroline: Caroline arrives at the meeting with Jocelyn and a couple ghouls that split off before Amandine arrives. If asked, she simply points out that she’s far from the most popular lick in Mid-City. They’re not here to interfere with the meeting—or even be a part of it—but Caroline would rather not visit alone. She asks Jocelyn to keep her eyes on the three other licks from the other side of the bar. The ghouls will keep their eyes on Jocelyn’s back and the door.
GM: Wells isn’t okay with that when she sees the ghouls and insists that Caroline send them away. The Ventrue isn’t the only Kindred to have friends or ghouls, and Amandine isn’t planning on bringing any to the meet site—and if she does, Wells will request she send them away too. If the two can’t manage that degree of mutual trust and courtesy before the talk begins, there’s no hope at all for the talk itself.
Caroline: Caroline is okay with that and sends her servants to wait a ways off.
GM: Amandine arrives in short enough order. The Crone doesn’t look much happier to see Caroline than last time and clearly isn’t interested in small talk or pleasantries. She tells the Ventrue to get to the point.
Caroline: Caroline starts out pleasantly enough, but when it becomes clear that Amandine isn’t interested cuts straight to it. She knows Amandine and Evan had a relationship. Evan is missing. Has been missing. She wants to know if Amandine knows anything about his disappearance. Barring that, when she last saw him, and whether she saw anything unusual in the nights before he disappeared in their time together.
She makes it plain she isn’t accusing Amandine of anything. She’s just following up with the lick that might have been the last person to see him, while also tipping off the Crone. She knows there are a lot of licks that wouldn’t have looked kindly on the two spending time together, on both sides of the aisle, and at this point just wants to get some closure on the whole thing. She asks that if Amandine had any affection for him at all, she share what she knows. She asks if anyone else knew they were spending time together. She’s all but the last lead in the trail for Caroline.
GM: Amandine tells Caroline not to ever presume to know a thing about ‘her side of the aisle’.
“You don’t know shit about us, lance.”
Caroline: “You’re right,” Caroline admits. “I don’t really. I don’t think I’ve even really talked to someone on the ‘other side’ before I approached you the other night. I don’t know many on this side that have. I guess it’s easy to assume you feel the same way about us that most of us seem to feel about you. That you view all of us as just another ‘lance’, just like we view you all as just another ‘crone’.”
“Hi, I’m Caroline.”
GM: “Hi, I’m Amandine,” the brown-haired Kindred replies.
She just gives a cool look at the statement she and Evan had something, and refuses to confirm or deny it. She bluntly says she doesn’t care whether it’s Caroline’s last lead or not. “Some missing Lance isn’t my problem.” The Ventrue had better do better than that if she expects any help.
Caroline: “What would you like?” she asks in turn. “I don’t exactly have a king’s ransom to offer, but finding out if he’s truly gone, and who did it if so means something. It should mean something, even if no one else seems to care. No one seemed to have anything but nice things to say about him, but the only other lick lifting a finger is doing it more to be vindictive than anything. I thought you might be an exception. He cared enough about you to talk about it with his ghoul. Was worried enough about it to hide it from his krewe.”
GM: “Still don’t know what you’re talking about,” Amandine replies with a completely straight face.
“That’s a good question what I’d like. I’m sure not looking for a handout. And I don’t trust any promises. Every time someone in my club has reached out to yours, your prince has stuck a knife in our backs. Every time.”
Caroline: “And the last person from my club that reached out probably got iced, and definitely got hit by a lick,” Caroline agrees. “Hell, I could end up on some licks’ hit list just for talking to you, and I think you know who.”
She gives what might be a sigh if she were breathing. “Which makes it awfully difficult for us to have a dialogue of any kind.” She bites her lip. “Look, I’m not trying to screw you over. I haven’t even finished the mandatory decade of getting bent over by my own people. Hell, it was only a couple months ago they were ready to take off my head with a quickness. I’m just looking for answers.”
“Maybe there are some I could give you?”
GM: “You could also get ahead by screwing me over,” Amandine retorts. “It’s like you say. Just talking to me is trouble, and scores a few points with your own people. Win-win.”
Desirae looks between the two Kindred. “Perhaps you’d both feel more at ease knowing none of us were recording this conversation.” The Caitiff reaches into her pocket, pulls out a phone she turns off, and then sets down.
Amandine looks towards Caroline, then after the Ventrue does so, similarly pulls out and shuts off her phone. Her expression looks maybe marginally more at ease.
“All right, answers. What do you know that’d be useful to me?”
Caroline: Oh the things I could tell you, Caroline thinks. Mostly things that would get her killed, though Caroline isn’t sure that would be a bad thing for the selfish lick. She shakes her head.
“Too vague,” she replies. “I could go on and on about things you don’t give a damn about. Give me at least a couple topics of interest, and I’ll let you know if I have anything of around them.”
GM: Amandine looks dubious. “No offense, but you got turned basically last night.”
“It’s understandable either of you wouldn’t want to tell a lance or crone about your interests,” Desirae starts.
“Still don’t know why I’m even here,” Amandine states.
“Maybe you could share a few topics that are publicly known or essentially harmless?” Desirae offers.
“Only one I can think of that’s either of those are the Strix.”
Caroline: She files the name away to review later but keeps her face still. “If that’s truly the only matter you would discuss, or have an interest in, then it seems like we’re at an impasse.”
GM: “Seems like it,” Amandine remarks. “I thought the owls were the one thing every lick could agree is worth putting aside the usual bullshit politics and screwing each other over.”
Caroline: “Sorry, must not have gotten that lesson yet, but then, as you said, I basically got turned last night. I’ll reach back when I catch up. Assuming whoever offed Evan hasn’t offed you too by then. Unless there’s something more proximate that you think we could discuss now?”
GM: “You don’t know what they are, do you?” Amandine looks at her. “Then consider this your public service announcement. They’re demons made of smoke that don’t have anything better to do than fuck everyone. If someone has yellow in their eyes, they’ve been possessed. Cure it by burning them."
Caroline: Caroline looks at Amandine curiously, then to Wells to judge her reaction to this ‘advice’. “That sounds… unpleasant. And extreme. Are they a particularly common problem?”
GM: The Caitiff looks grim, but not disagreeing. “It might be extreme, but it’s kinder to the victim.”
“Lone ones are common as any other boojum,” Amandine states. “Two or more together is an ill omen. The more the worse. They showed up in droves for Katrina.”
Caroline: The heiress rolls the information over in her mind several times before she replies. “I thought I was supposed to give you information?” she asks half-seriously. “I don’t have anything I can add to that, but I’ll be straight with you on what I can: the only Kindred interested in Evan’s disappearance are Sundown and Hound Agnello—and neither seem terribly invested in it, though neither exactly clue me into their plans either.”
“I was looking into it for his krewe, and had a lead on someone watching him, using birds to do so. Damn things followed him all the way into the Garden District and to his haven, but no one got a bite on it—if they even went looking.”
GM: “Sounds like Evan wasn’t that important to anyone,” Amandine shrugs. “What’s it to you why he’s gone? Most missing licks don’t ever turn back up.”
Caroline: “A lot of different things,” Caroline replies. “Maybe it’s for his krewe, who helped me out when I was sunk. Maybe in the hope that someone will notice. Maybe more than a little bit because I hate the idea that someone that apparently no one has anything ill to say anything about vanished, with no one giving a damn about it. Especially when everything points to another lick.” She shrugs. “I may not have known him, but a lot of licks I do know match that same profile.”
GM: “Evan’s ash, greenfang. Get a magic man to confirm it if you want to, but he’s ash. I know, because my club did. Baron confirmed it for us weeks ago, when talk about one of us doing it started to float around. As far as I’m concerned, his word’s as good as Bondye’s, God’s, whatever you want to call the Almighty’s.”
“Another Baron of ours, Samedi, says two dirty coppers are all anyone’s worth in the end. I think there’s a discount when they’re your prince’s lances. You—and Evan—signed up for the wrong club if you want someone to give a damn when you disappear. And if you keep digging into this, you probably will too.”
“Either way, Evan’s not coming back. There’s no probably to that.”
Amandine looks at Desirae. “Remind me again what you’re getting out of this?”
“Just knowing how things here with Evan pan out.”
Desirae just nods. “Jonah says hi.”
“Tell him hi back.”
Amandine rises, her business with the two seemingly at an end.
Caroline: The heiress rises, but does not move. “Not that I don’t appreciate you sharing your Baron’s word, but you know something more,” she states, rather than asks. “Someone, some lead, some secret. Did you know about his meetings with Yellow Sidra, now so eager to sell his death at the hands of hunters? Did someone see you two together?”
She taps her fingers on the table. “Maybe I’m just a greenfang, but it seemed to me like you liked Evan enough to at least talk to him, and spend time with him. Now you say he’s ash and you can’t even be bothered to level on it. You came in here and got real defensive about him, about the whole thing.”
Her eyes narrow. “What I can’t figure out is, If it wasn’t your club then you have all the reason in the world to spill it, since it not only takes the heat off you, but also puts it somewhere else. Are you really going to tell me you wouldn’t prefer to not look over your shoulder for an angry hound out to prove himself after the Boggs thing or a krewe of distraught licks that might try something stupid? Maybe I’m just a ‘greenfang’, but honestly, I can’t think of a good reason for you not to set a bunch of Sanctified against each other or some other group, if that’s what really happened.”
She produces a small card with only a phone number on it.
“In case you find your conscience, or get tired of that over the shoulder thing. Or you find yourself being hunted by whoever the hell did him in. I’m sure we both have a couple ideas.”
GM: Amandine’s eyes narrow.
“That’s real sweet you’re worried about me, Lance. Real sweet. Don’t worry, though. The Baron actually gives two fucks about his people. So no thanks, if I’m ever in trouble, I’m going to him. Not you. If Agnello or those misfits or anyone else want to make a run at me, which I’m sure would be a complete coincidence if it happens after this fun little chat, well, that’s their funeral."
Caroline: Caroline gives a short laugh. “It’s flattering that you think a greenfang would be able to influence Hound Agnello—or anyone else like that. I’m just looking down the tracks at where the train’s headed.”
GM: Amandine rolls her eyes.
“Sorry to waste your time, Desirae.”
The Crone turns and leaves.
Caroline: “He was jumping ship, wasn’t he?” Caroline asks pointedly at the Crone’s back. “Or at least thinking about it.”
GM: “Believe what you want, Lance.” Amandine doesn’t look back as she strides through the bar’s chattering crowd.
Caroline: So much for that.
Caroline matter-of-factly relates to Rocco that she thinks Amandine knows more than she let on. She believes that Amandine thinks Evan is dead, but that their side says they had nothing to do with his death.
GM: Rocco receives the news courteously. He idly speculates what makes Amandine so sure. Caroline does not know.
And, at least for now, neither will the Storyvilles.
Evan is just another neonate gone missing in a city that doesn’t care.
Thursday night, 4 December 2015, AM
Caroline: The Ventrue largely drops the investigation into Evan following her last round of meetings. No one seems to have much interest in assisting in locating Evan’s killer, and she’s hit another wall. She gives the news to the Storyvilles without passion, simply with frustration. She’s fairly certain Evan is dead, and suspects that Meadows was behind the hit. She can’t prove it. Even if she could, no one seems interested in bringing her down even after her attacks on far more ‘important’ Kindred. She doesn’t expect Evan’s murder to galvanize anyone to action.
GM: The two are in Jocelyn’s haven when Caroline breaks the news. Her paramour receives it in poor spirits. She can see the way Jocelyn’s face lights up at first, like it always does, when she mentions the news is about Evan. It sinks when the Toreador sees the look on her face, that says this news isn’t good. And then, like a trapdoor pulling out from under someone who’s already been kicked down, then kicked while they’re down, it sinks even lower.
“That’s… that’s IT!?” she exclaims. “THAT’S… all those weeks, all those months for… THAT’S HOW THIS ENDS?!”
Meg, sweeping in the corner, flinches at her domitor’s raised voice.
Jocelyn just stares ahead for a moment, then slowly says, “I guess you did the best you could. Thanks for that. Better than I could’ve done. Better than Roxanne ever did. More than anyone else did for us. Beats not knowing.”
She sits back down. “Guess it makes sense. He broke the rules. He broke the rules, so Meadows killed him. Meadows killed him, and nobody gives a shit.”
Her voice is empty.
“You know… fuck everyone.”
Caroline: The Ventrue bites her tongue, at a loss for words, for anything. It bites at her to see Jocelyn so… empty. She wants to make her happy, wants to comfort her, but this isn’t something she can simply ‘make’ right. She takes a seat beside the Toreador and wraps an arm around her narrow shoulders.
Jocelyn doesn’t push her away, but doesn’t lean in. She stares at a blank spot on the wall.
“We did… we did everything, everything we were supposed to do. And this is what it gets.”
“The one thing we wanted. The one thing that really mattered.”
“This is what it gets.”
Caroline bites her lip, then replies quietly, “the strong take what they want. The weak get what’s left. It’s not really any different among the kine, they just hide it better.”
“Evan wasn’t weak!” Jocelyn flares. “We’re SHIT without him! And Roxanne knows it!”
“You’re weak without him,” Caroline agrees, more mildly. “I’m not blaming you, but why should anyone else care what you want? Because you’ve done what they expected? Do you know how many ‘loyal’ employees my uncle lays off every year that haven’t done anything wrong? People a year or two away from retirement, because he can?”
Jocelyn stares at Caroline, almost incredulously at first, then slowly says, “Then maybe we shouldn’t be loyal, if this is what it gets.”
“Fuck the Sanctified.”
“And fuck your uncle.”
“No.” The faint coppery taste of blood hangs in the air from where Caroline bit her lip. “How far have the Anarchs gotten, quibbling in the streets of their domain about how free they are? Did any of them raise a hand when the 896 bite it? What about all the licks in the French Quarter begging off of Savoy? Do you think their life is better than yours?”
She shakes her head, “Rebellion doesn’t get you anywhere. Power… power is the only thing that matters.”
“Power in faith—like Father Malveaux. Power in ability, like the sheriff. Power socially, like Sundown. There’s no right way there, but as long as you’re happy to just go about your Requiem, anyone, everyone, is going to try to take advantage of you.”
“You think I got the time of day from Sundown or Poincaré because they liked my smile?”
Jocelyn gives an empty laugh.
“So what, you think they’ll let you in the club?”
“Yeah. That’s what we thought too.”
“That’s what Evan thought.”
“Gee, look how that worked out.”
Caroline: “There’s no club to join, Jocelyn, no points to earn. You think you buy your way in doing favors?” Caroline shakes her head.
“They listened because I had something to offer. Not much, but something. Something they couldn’t ignore.” She tilts her head, “who has more influence right now, the Storyville Krewe in its entirety, or me?”
“They’re predators, Jocelyn. Just like you and just like me.”
“But they haven’t seen your teeth yet—none of yours.”
GM: “You’re right,” Jocelyn says slowly. “That’s the only way to make this right.”
She turns away, digs through the small cabinet next to a couch, and pulls out an old-fashioned flip phone. She hits a button. A 2000s-era ringtone goes up. There’s a muted sound, then she hits the speaker function.
“-ocelyn? What’s happened?” sounds a woman’s concerned voice.
Caroline’s lover looks as if she could take a breath. “There’s… there’s a lick who’s killing us, Sally.”
“The Storyvilles. She started with Evan. We need to ash her before she ashes me.”
Caroline: Caroline’s eyes flare in alarm.
GM: “Tell me more,” replies the woman.
Caroline: “We don’t know it was her, or that she’ll come after you,” Caroline growls quietly.
GM: “Jocelyn, what was that?” comes the woman’s voice, suddenly sharper.
Jocelyn looks at the Ventrue. “Caroline, this is my sire. She has, uh, good hearing. Sally, this is Caroline. I’ve told you about her.”
There’s silence from the line. Not even breathing.
Jocelyn quickly interjects, “Don’t hang up! Don’t hang up!”
“You were not to share this line, with anyone,” comes the woman’s half-hissed voice.
“Fine, hang up then, I’m gonna die soon. You said to only use this for an emergency. Well it’s an emergency.”
There’s silence from the line. But not yet a click.
“It’s so stupid how paranoid you are,” Jocelyn snaps. “You always said you were gonna throw out the phone as soon as we talked over it anyway.”
Caroline: Pot, kettle, Caroline thinks, but doesn’t say.
But that’s not it, is it? She’s seen this behavior from Jocelyn before.
GM: “Caroline’s legit, and she knows a lot more about the lick who’s killing the Storyvilles than we do.”
“Caroline, tell her about Meadows.”
Caroline: The Ventrue bites her lip. “The scourge has been on a rampage of late, attacking several licks. No one has the stomach to stand up to her. It seems… likely that she killed Evan for perceived disloyalty. He was not the first, or the last, to die in recent months.”
GM: The voice finally replies.
“It ‘seems likely’? Jocelyn, you said she had killed Evan. How do either of you know this?”
Caroline: “Evan was spied on prior to his death by animals. He had been associating with another lick, one of the Baron’s people, in the weeks leading up to his destruction. When we brought the details to his regent and to the hounds, neither was willing to touch it,” Caroline provides.
GM: “Rocco was willing to lie all about the Baron doing it though, to rope us in on some stupid scheme,” Jocelyn adds.
“I’d need more information than this to want to touch it either,” Sally responds to Caroline. “Any Kindred or ghoul in the city could have potentially sent animals to spy on Evan. How do you know they were Meadows’? What evidence do you have that she killed him?”
Sally still appears in a poor mood, but pointedly questions Caroline as to the details—all of the details, from the primary vantage point of ascertaining whether Jocelyn and her coterie are in danger. She sounds deeply skeptical, suspicious, and irritated over her childe’s actions.
Jocelyn pulls up her phone and shows Caroline a message she’s tapped onto it.
Tell her Meadows did it. She won’t help if you don’t.
She’s tough and smart. She’d help a lot.
Caroline: Caroline types back on her own between Sally’s questioning, Is that what you really want? To send her against Meadows? How does that help you?
GM: We’ll ALL do it. Rocco’s vampire mom won’t stand a chance.
Caroline’s second question is only met with a furiously pained stare.
Caroline: We’re not done talking about this, the Ventrue taps out. She stops short of outright lying to the archon, but she does her best to spin what they know to fit Jocelyn’s narrative. Meadows has been on a rampage and is the most viable suspect in the (nonthreatening and well-liked) Toreador’s death. The stonewalling by others and lack of interest in any further investigation points towards something others don’t want to talk about.
Even if, it wasn’t Meadows, someone took a very deliberate and calculated shot at one of Jocelyn’s closest companions and got away with it completely clean. It could have just as easily been the young Toreador artist. That’s not the sort of thing that’s going to discourage them from doing it again.
GM: Sally’s questioning reminds Caroline of one of her law professors poking through a student’s legal argument—and finding it wanting. At length, she replies,
“You know what kills people, Jocelyn? Not just bad intelligence. Misleading objectives.”
“She killed Evan, Sally! I KNOW she d-”
“You suspect that. You haven’t confirmed it. Either that it was Meadows, or that he’s dead.”
“Oh, REALLY, you think he’s still ALIVE?” Jocelyn all but shouts, red leaking from her eyes. “He’s just OUT THERE, is that it, WAITING FOR US, so where—where the hell—?!”
“No. I think you’re right to assume he’s dead at this point. Maybe in torpor if you’re lucky.”
Sally doesn’t correct her childe’s use of ‘alive’.
Caroline: “What would you advise, then?” Caroline interjects. The Ventrue’s tone suggests a genuine question, rather than a rhetorical one.
GM: “Jocelyn could start by not misleading her sire into a fight that could get her killed too, and roping her lover along into it. I heard those taps.”
“Oh, that’s such BULLSHIT!” Jocelyn cries, red running down her cheeks. “You’re just l… like every other lick, who won’t stand up to her, who doesn’t give a damn-!”
She furiously wipes her eyes, scattering blood over the sofa. “You’ve killed PLENTY of licks, I know you have-!”
“I do give a damn, Jocelyn. About my unlife. You know how long it took me to kill my last target? No, actually, I’m not going to give any dates over this line. I’ll just say a very long time, by your standards. I gathered information on them. I learned their routine. I learned their nightly activities, their associates, their feeding patterns, all the features and details of their haven. I learned more about them than their closest allies. Then I waited for even longer, just in case I’d missed anything. Only then, when there was as little up to chance as possible, and I’d stacked the odds to be as unfair as possible, did I move against the target directly.”
“I’m not your hitwoman. I don’t kill people lightly for the Camarilla, and I’m not killing someone lightly for you. I’m going to assume you misled me out of misplaced admiration than actually being comfortable with the thought I could lose my unlife.”
“Well I guess that makes YOU just as FUCKING USELESS as all the others!” Jocelyn cries, red continuing to stain her face. “I’m SICK OF IT! I’m SICK of, of no one putting ANYTHING on the line, giving ANY kind of shit, all being COWARDS, even wh-”
“Stop that,” Sally’s voice cuts her off. “Grow up, Jocelyn. Your friend isn’t entitled to justice.”
Caroline: Caroline snatches up the phone and turns off speaker.
“I’m sorry, Archon. I’ll have her reach out to you another time.”
GM: “Put me back on, please. I’m getting rid of this phone, like she said, and she won’t be able to call me again for a long time.”
Caroline: “As you wish.” Caroline turns the speaker back on.
GM: Sally’s voice sounds like she could sigh. “Thank you.”
Jocelyn, already furiously trying to snatch the phone back, is somewhat awkwardly left to just glare when Caroline turns the speaker back on.
“WHY’D YOU EVEN TURN ME?!” she shouts. “I’m NEVER gonna be good enough, am I?! You were just… horny, and got carried away! I know! I kn-”
“You had feelings for him, didn’t you?”
That seems to stop Jocelyn in her tracks. Another few trickles of red drop onto her legs.
“How many times did you do it?” asks Sally.
Jocelyn looks at Caroline for a moment.
Caroline: Jocelyn has seen more emotion from a stone.
It makes sense—and makes it all the more painful a slap in the face that she hadn’t seen it before.
The mask cracks, and it’s not anger that shows through.
GM: “Look.” There’s what sounds like a sigh from Sally. “Take some time off. Have a change of scenery. Bring Caroline with you, if she wants to go. Take your mind off things. What’s here for you, anyways, besides her and the Storyvilles?”
Caroline: The Ventrue puts the phone down on the table and stands.
GM: Jocelyn looks up at her uncertainly. “Caroline?”
Caroline: “You should finish your conversation with your sire,” Caroline replies, her voice flat. “As you said, you won’t have another chance for a while.”
GM: “Wait,” the younger Toreador entreats. “I, I want you to be here. I’ve always wanted you to meet her. Even if it’s… gone to shit.”
“Yes, and we are sorry for that,” Sally says with another not-sigh. “Jocelyn’s had a lot to say about you, Caroline. A lot of good things. Our clan doesn’t pay as much attention to… decorum as yours, or keeping our dirty laundry out of sight.”
Caroline: “Just more honest,” Caroline replies flatly. “It’s something I always liked about Jocelyn.”
Is she in New Orleans?
She doesn’t know as much about archons as she would like.
GM: “I… I wasn’t sure how to bring it up,” Jocelyn says falteringly. “It would’ve destroyed the Krewe, if it came out. You’ve seen how Roxanne is. I haven’t left out anything else about Evan, I swear. It just… didn’t seem important.”
“People prefer to decide what facts are important for themselves, Jocelyn. Anything you hold back on might turn out to be important, in someone’s eyes. But maybe Caroline is also hurt from feeling as if you didn’t trust her.”
“I…” Jocelyn’s eyes well again. “If, if Evan came back, I just didn’t wanna ruin things…”
Caroline: Caroline bites back her response. Jocelyn and Sally might be more open, but Caroline isn’t. Hasn’t ever been, even before her Embrace. She hates airing her dirty laundry. She hates even having it.
“We can talk about it another time,” she replies stiffly.
GM: “All right. Look, Jocelyn. Evan did get a raw deal. Staying around that is just going to make you feel worse. Why don’t I take you with me someplace?”
“I thought you said that was a bad idea.”
“Permanently, maybe. But there’s more to unlife than work for the Camarilla.”
“I’d like if Caroline came.”
“That sounds like a conversation for you both to finish. But she’d be welcome.”
“I hate the guilds here.”
“You’ve said. They’re better in other places. You’d get the recognition you deserve.”
“I wouldn’t miss Roxanne, honestly. But I would miss Gwen and Wyatt.”
Caroline: The Ventrue looks away. She takes several steps into the unused apartment’s kitchen to let them talk. And to hide her expression, collect her thoughts.
GM: “That’s not even her name. She’s really Isabel Flores. Her dad used to be, well, I guess is, buds with Caroline’s.”
“Well, everyone lies about their names. But Ventrue can start earlier.”
“Sally isn’t yours, is it?”
“I’ve always liked Sally better.”
Caroline: Jocelyn leaving New Orleans… moving onto another city. She doesn’t know how to feel about that. An hour ago she’d have shouted no, but…. the secrets with Evan sting. If it was just a secret it would be bad enough, but she can’t help but feel as though Jocelyn was using her.
Her paramour’s attempt to manipulate her sire only makes that more acute, reminds her unpleasantly of the night not long past when she manipulated Caroline into staking her clanmate.
GM: The apartment’s kitchen does look used to Caroline’s casual inspection. Not as used as some, but there’s a few dishes in the sink, a box of cereal and condiments out on the table, and a refrigerator still in place.
Caroline: All the more complicated, the truth is getting out of New Orleans might actually be better for Jocelyn. She’s heard her paramour’s complaints about the guilds, about how her art goes completely unappreciated by the elder Toreador of the city.
And New Orleans isn’t getting any safer.
It was not a stretch to suggest Jocelyn could have easily met Evan’s fate to Sally.
GM: Jocelyn and her sire talk, but not for that much longer. Sally recommends she take pictures, and wistfully remarks on how it’s too bad she couldn’t have snapped any during their fight. Jocelyn agrees. They’d have been such intense, personal things, like the ones she took of Lizzy after she died. They’re her finest pieces, if more than a little morbid—“Well, that’s why. There’s so much of you in them,” Sally says.
Caroline: She listens, but their conversation, the normalcy of it also stings. She turns on the sink, drowning out the conversation as best she can with the noise and the mundane task of washing the few dirty dishes. At least it feels productive.
GM: The older Toreador eventually says she has to go. Jocelyn looks reluctant at that thought, but acquiesces. Sally asks her to bring her paramour back into the room, adding,
“Caroline, I was very happy to meet you, even under these circumstances. Jocelyn’s had so many good things to say… about how smart you are, how devoted, how you have so many plans for her and you both.” There’s a faint chuckle. “And how you spoil her rotten with new clothes all the time. I’ll be in the city eventually… we can do this over, and properly.”
Caroline: “I’ll look forward to it,” Caroline replies, putting on a friendly tone.
GM: Jocelyn seems reluctant to end the call, but eventually does after exchanging final goodbyes with her sire. She looks over the kitchen with Caroline curiously.
“Were you washing those, the dishes?”
Caroline: “It was something to do,” Caroline replies, the false life of her goodbyes with Sally gone.
GM: “Kinda figured you’d never have done that yourself before. No offense.”
Caroline: Caroline chuckles. “We only had a maid 9-5.”
GM: “Well, that’s one upshot to being dead. Meg’s one 24/7.”
“The dishes are hers, you probably guessed. Not that she really eats a lot.”
Caroline: “Yeah.” Caroline looks to the drying dishes, then back to her paramour.
“So… you’re leaving New Orleans for a while?”
GM: Jocelyn hesitates, then answers, “It’s a pipe dream. Skyman…”
“Or, well, maybe. I could ask. But I can’t just skip out.”
Caroline: “You should go,” Caroline replies. “If you can. It sounds like you’d enjoy some time with your sire.”
GM: “Yeah, I probably would. But… I don’t know. Who knows.”
“I’m sorry about hiding the Evan thing.”
Caroline: Caroline gives a not-sigh that is reminiscent of Sally’s. “Did you love him? Want to be with him?”
GM: Jocelyn seems to think. “I liked, cared about him a lot. As a friend, and in the sack. Is that love if someone checks both boxes?”
Caroline: “Maybe,” Caroline replies dully. “I’m sorry I couldn’t find him for you.”
GM: “It’s not your fault. Sally said she thought you were right. That he’s… ash.”
“But I’m not sure I’d have wanted to be with him. It was fun. Exciting. But… he and Roxanne were a thing. She was a lot better when he was around.”
Caroline: I should pick a fight.
This would be a great excuse to split with Jocelyn. Caroline’s seen how Evan’s disappearance has affected the Toreador. She doesn’t want to imagine how her own disappearance will. Especially given how dangerous poking around into it would be. That’s the most likely outcome, she has to admit. That she’ll fail, get executed by one side or the other.
Red tears well in the Ventrue’s eyes. She should say something, something cruel, hurtful, something to shove Jocelyn away.
Those words don’t come.
“You made a mess of the couch,” she says instead, looking at where the Toreador’s bloody tears have stained it. “And your shirt… and your jeans.”
GM: Jocelyn walks up to Caroline, standing to her tiptoes to wipe the taller Kindred’s tears away.
“Hey. You can buy me new ones.”
Caroline: “Even if she came, even if she killed Meadows, it wouldn’t make life better,” Caroline says, more soberly.
GM: Jocelyn pauses, the mirth on her face fading.
Caroline: “I want you to be happy,” she continues, taking Jocelyn’s bloody hand in hers. “And safe, but I can’t do what you need to do in order to achieve that.”
GM: “I know. I’m not asking you to take on Meadows without Sally.” Jocelyn closes her eyes. “But I… I can’t do it. I can’t go on like this just hasn’t happened.”
Caroline: “I’m not asking you too,” Caroline replies. “Be angry. Be upset. Let the memory of this matter to you, and do something with it. Something that lets you change things.”
GM: “The Sanctified aren’t what I thought,” Jocelyn says.
“It’s like… waking up from a spell.”
“I wasn’t that religious when I was alive. They said they had all the answers after I got turned.”
Caroline: Caroline bites her lower lip. “I can’t tell you what to do with your faith. I won’t tell you that the Sanctified have provided me with great comfort. You know, I think, better than anyone how tenuous that relationship has always been. Father Elgin has been better than it was, but I know his patience is growing… thin.”
GM: “Can see why, honestly. You’re a pretty lame Sanctified not trying to keep me on the bandwagon.”
Caroline: “So sue me for not proselytizing, if you can find another lawyer lick.” Caroline gives a wry smile. “But let me finish first.”
“Like the Catholic Church, the Sanctified ultimately seem worried about your soul, and about your purpose in God’s plan. Even if I weren’t a walking corpse I’d believe in God; as one I think you’d have to be a fool not too.”
“They want to save as many as they can, so yes, they tell you they have every answer in the same way a man trying to coax a drowning man into a lifeboat might promise him anything.”
“But while the church might offer spiritual succor, save for the few that make up the clergy—and few enough of them even—it cannot offer you temporal purpose.”
GM: “I’m not sure about that. I mean, the prince, the seneschal, most of the hounds, even Savoy, aren’t all clergy. But you have to be in the club.”
Caroline: “There’s a difference between being in the club, and making the club your purpose unto itself. The prince, seneschal, hounds… their power is not tied to their service to God. Prayer and adherence to the tenants of Longinus does not alone a comfortable Requiem make. Anymore than attendance of mass and regular tithing makes the average parishioner… well, a Malveaux.”
GM: “So you’re saying, what, God and Longinus just aren’t really that important?”
“I think you’re right, anyway, that there’s not really explanation for why we exist without God. But, well, screw the church.”
Caroline: “I’m saying there are a lot of people that go to church every Sunday because they think if they do God will make them rich and solve all their problems, and most of them live out pretty mundane lives.” She bites her lower lip again.
“Look at all the people that follow Ole Josteen and the bullshit prosperity gospel he preaches—and look at how few of them actually go anywhere. And you know who the saddest ones are? The people that buy all his books, that listen to his podcast, that volunteer at his megachurch, that spend all their time trying to mirror him. Because they’re chasing something in faith it’ll never bring.”
“I’m saying take the faith. Even take the church, but don’t make it the center of your Requiem.”
GM: “It sounds to me like you’re saying it’s all a scam. I can buy that. Look where it got Evan.”
Caroline: “Which probably isn’t going to make me popular in any Sanctified circles, but… how many Kindred do you see who are just good Sanctified?”
GM: “Evan was a good Sanctified. Look where that got him.”
Jocelyn pulls out her phone and sits back down in the living room. “God, how to even break this to the others. Wyatt and Gwen will just be sad. Roxanne will fall off a cliff.”
Caroline: “You don’t. Don’t burn bridges for no reason. Don’t make a big show of leaving the Sanctified, just… start taking care of yourself.”
GM: “I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about telling the others Evan’s dead.”
“I dunno. Just have to break it to them like anything else, I guess.”
Caroline: “What do you want out of it?” Caroline asks quietly.
GM: “Well, Roxanne not to completely lose her shit. I’m pretty pissed at her, but… she’s not gonna take it well.”
Caroline: Caroline nods. “What else?”
GM: “Just that, really.”
Caroline: The Ventrue frowns.
Caroline: Caroline shrugs. “Nothing. It’s just…. do you actually want things to change?”
GM: “Uh, right now I’m a little more worried about Roxanne going off the deep end. She’s going to explode over this.”
Caroline: “Maybe,” Caroline replies. “But perhaps not. It’s a question of how you present it.”
GM: “Well if you have some idea how to stop her, I’m all ears.”
Caroline: Caroline shrugs. “She’s smart, Jocelyn, smart enough to know what the odds are now of a happy ending…”
“Just don’t beat her over the head with it. The longer it goes…” She shrugs again.
GM: “I’m not gonna drag it out, no. It’s been awful having it in the air for so long already, and to just keep getting strung along.”
She closes her eyes for a moment.
“I think I always knew. Just kept and kept hoping.”
Caroline: “There’s always hope,” Caroline replies. “We haven’t actually seen his death.”
“But it’s time to move on. I just want to make sure you all do it in a way that keeps this from happening ever again.”
GM: “Like how, besides not screwing any of the Baron’s people on the side?”
Caroline: Caroline gives a sharp laugh. “I guess that’s one way, but I mean more generally, not being in a position where your continued existence is entirely at the whim of whatever mediocre lick or nutjob human takes offense to you.”
She gestures around them. “I worry about you here. Worry about just you and Meg. About how easily what happened to him could happen to you.”
GM: Jocelyn looks at Caroline. “Okay, you’ve been acting kinda weird this whole conversation. Say what you’re getting at?”
Caroline: “Honestly?” the Ventrue sighs. “You got super pissed off about all of this, but you don’t seem to be willing to actually do anything about it except throw a tantrum and ask others to fight for you. Like… any of you. You’ve been in New Orleans for how long? And how much do you have to show for it? I get that you all aren’t trying to be blue bloods, but hell, no wonder other licks fuck with you guys so much.”
“Why wouldn’t Rocco make Gwen suck dick to punish her? Why wouldn’t Meadows—or whoever—just clip Evan without worrying about repercussions? No one looked at it a second time or gave it a second thought because you guys don’t matter, and because any number of possible reasons are plausible for his destruction—from lone hunter to random lick.”
“In my first few nights after the Embrace, I had my haven invaded half a dozen times. Every time I got pissed… but you know what I did? Something fucking about it. And yeah, I’m not invincible, but Wright would sure as hell think twice about storming in with a bunch of ni—gangbangers tonight.”
“Your reaction was to call your sire? There’s four of you!” Caroline almost snarls. “Four!”
GM: “No he wouldn’t,” Jocelyn interrupts. “And four of us are not fucking Meadows! You can’t win against licks like them. You just lose even if you do.”
Caroline: “It’s not about winning.” Caroline replies.
GM: “Well that’s what I want, I want Meadows DEAD! Excuse me for trying to call in the trump card when I really needed it!”
“And she did shit still. You know, I can’t believe I’m not upset at her. Evan’s still dead and her best idea was ‘take a vacation.’”
Caroline: “And what happens next time a lick kills off one of you? Or beats you into torpor? Or when a hunter that isn’t a joke makes a run at one of you and you’re nothing but ash? What’s your plan for when the city falls into chaos and infighting if the prince goes to sleep?”
GM: “I don’t fucking know, Caroline,” Jocelyn says tiredly. “Get out like Sally’s saying. I don’t know.”
“The harpies make fun of you,” she suddenly says. “For how you drag so many ghouls everywhere. Like somehow only you know how to shove juice down a breather’s throat. Rich girl can’t handle not being on top.”
Caroline: Caroline laughs, “Of course they do.”
GM: “I don’t know if you think you’re doing better than us or whatever, but you’re not. Your thing with the ghouls. It’s just stupid. And you can be all ‘whatever, I don’t care what they think’, but you’re not above them. Above any of us. Meadows could ash you like Evan and how many licks would give a damn? How many would actually do jack, huh?”
Caroline: “They want you weak, Jocelyn. They want you doing exactly what you’re doing. They make fun of me?” She laughs again, bitterly. “Of course they do, because if what I’m doing succeeds that’s fucking terrifying to them. You think they’re up at night worrying about Anarchs playing billiards in a bar or stomping around the poor neighborhoods in packs?”
GM: “I can’t believe your ego,” Jocelyn scoffs. “You do realize no other lick does what you’re doing, with the renfields? The whole reason they’re laughing is you’re NOT succeeding. Wake up, fucking ANYONE can make a renfield! You’re not special for having a bunch! And I can tell you this, a whole bunch of Anarchs have a whole lot more respect than you do. It’s not even just Coco. But you can’t even imagine it with your ego. You’re just such hot shit, right?”
Caroline: Caroline feels her blood rising, feels the Beast stirring, but tries to shove it away. It’s like trying to stop an avalanche.
“You’re right. I should take a page out of the Storyvilles’ book,” she spits venomously. “You all seem so happy and well-treated as lapdogs. Just keep doing what you’ve been doing. That seems to be working well.”
GM: “And maybe we should take one out of yours and make a million more ghouls to fellate our egos, since no other licks’ll do it for us,” Jocelyn says with a roll of her eyes. “You keep doing what you’ve been doing, too, since that seems to be working well. At least we aren’t getting laughed at.”
Caroline: Caroline falls silent, staring balefully at Jocelyn.
Finally, she speaks again. “Est via uno modo vitare reprehensionem, nihil dicam nisi quod est nihil.”
She smiles. “It’s from Aristotle. Something my father used to say, back when he was just starting out in politics. When he was running for state office.”
“There is only one way to avoid criticism: Do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”
“I don’t have all the answers, Jocelyn. I don’t even have most of them. But I do have one: doing what all the other young licks are doing—the ones that don’t have some powerful sire propping them up like Becky Lynne—doesn’t seem to get you very far.”
“And if I’m going to fail, it’s going to be going out like Icarus.”
“I’m not better than you. Not in any way but one: I’m not going to be stopped by what someone says, or what someone might do.”
“I don’t know if I would have been willing to do that if I hadn’t been forced to, if I hadn’t been pushed out, had some outside influence. Maybe I would have been comfortable just eking out an existence waiting on my blood to thicken. Waiting on some fortune to fall in my lap. On others to make a mistake. On my ‘loyalty’ to be rewarded a century down the line. But I did get that push. I’d like this to be yours.”
Her smile softens, loses the hard edge it had, “That doesn’t mean I think you should go make a half dozen ghouls each. It doesn’t mean you have to fill every waking hour of every night. But you can’t tell me that with four of you that if you were so inclined, you couldn’t do more. Maybe you didn’t have any reason to until now. Maybe you were comfortable pretending like nothing changed, like you were still just twenty-something kine going about your nights.”
“And hell, you still can. But that’s the price.” She gestures to Jocelyn’s bloody clothes. “And one night the price is going to be someone else crying over you instead.”
GM: Jocelyn gives Caroline a look that’s at once plaintive and tired. “Look, I’m not… I’m not a lot of things. I just don’t want any more of my friends to die, and to have a Requiem where I’m not always getting shat on. So if you have some plan or idea for how to make that happen, I’m all ears. Really. Just…”
She gestures haplessly. “Just be a bit less Ventrue about it to me, okay?”
Caroline: “You’re the only person to ever say that to me,” Caroline replies.
“Look, I’m not saying you all should copy me, but I am saying of each of you took on one more ghoul, someone capable, and dug out a niche, there’s no reason you couldn’t be way more influncial.”
“Using your art skills to help people maintain their Masquerade, and maybe picking up some classes on the side in forensics. Maintaining a little herd that could be loaned out, even if mostly to each other. Identifying marks for other licks…”
Caroline: “Potential victims? I’d much rather go snack on some douchebag, but spare time to find only the bad shitty people isn’t exactly overflowing. I bet you could find a market amoung the Sanctified for identified assholes in need of correction.”
GM: Jocelyn looks dubious. “How does that work?”
“Forensics classes sound boring. But if someone wants to pay me to doctor some photos, sure, I wouldn’t say no.”
Caroline: Caroline shrugs, “the forensics stuff is mostly a mindset. Attention to detail, and knowing how other people might try to take apart your work makes it easier to get around it.”
GM: “Look, this is the most un-Ventrue thing to say ever, but… I’m not an, what would you call it, I guess entrepreneur. A be your own boss and go network and whatever type. I’d rather someone just… tell me what to do. If that means things will turn out okay, I’m happy with that.”
“I just want to do my art and have a non-horrible Requiem. I thought the Storyvilles were a way to that, but…”
* “I just want to do my art, hang out with my friends, have a non-horrible Requiem. I thought the Storyvilles were a way to that, but…”
She pauses for a moment, then says, “But they’re not. Not Skyman, and not Roxanne, not now that Evan’s… dead.”
“So just… just tell me what do, Caroline, so things will stop being horrible.”
Caroline: Caroline isn’t sure if it ever stops being horrible, but she doesn’t say that. Not now.
Just because it hasn’t for Caroline, doesn’t mean it won’t.
“Are you actually ready to change things?” she asks.
GM: “No, I’m indecisive and just completely changed my mind about everything again.”
Caroline: The Ventrue shows fangs in a toothy smile. “Fine, first, anytime one of the Storyvilles need something, point them or nudge them towards me.”
GM: “Okay, sure.”
Caroline: “Second, we’re going to find you a ghoul you can put up with that’s a little more… useful, than Meg, as proof of concept for the others.”
GM: “Meg is useful,” Jocelyn protests. “She’s just… not a Casquette Girl.”
“I haven’t really needed any others though. I’ve got enough juice for Meg, but more’d be pushing it.”
Caroline: Caroline arches a very skeptical eyebrow.
GM: “I’m not kidding. She does what I need and doesn’t take a lot of juice.”
Caroline: “She’s a great servant,” Caroline agrees. “Saying she’s ‘just not a Casquette Girl’ is like observing I’m not the sheriff’s favorite lick in the city. The Pope isn’t a Protestant.”
GM: “Yeah. You’re… kinda lucky he hasn’t offed you.” Jocelyn looks uncomfortable.
Caroline: “If he thought he could, he probably would,” Caroline clarifies. “There’s no luck involved.”
GM: “Uh, no offense, but, if the sheriff wanted to, I think he could.”
Caroline: “Physically, probably,” Caroline agrees. “But it’s pretty far from that simple.”
GM: “Actually, no, you… kinda don’t have any friends.”
Jocelyn’s brow furrows.
“That’s really weird. That he hasn’t.”
Caroline: Caroline’s green eyes are hard, “killing me would be extremely inconvenient for the sheriff,” she says again, firmly.
“For a number of reasons, none of which I advertise, and none of which involve luck or him waking up every night and deciding to be charitable.”
GM: “Well, I hope you feel you can share with me.”
Caroline: “Because you don’t have any secrets from me?” Caroline reproaches.
Her tone softens as she continues, “In broad strokes, like you’ve painted, my entire Requiem is built around not getting executed or casually destroyed like so many other licks have.”
“From the agreements I made after the Matheson fiasco and whom-with, to my induction into the Sanctified, to the ghouls I bring with me everywhere, to the fortification of my haven, to the liasons with other powerful licks, to the secrets I have on a dead-woman switch, to the ways I’ve colored so carefully in the lines over the last six months, I’ve built almost everything around it being too costly, too risky, and too inconvenient to kill me off.”
“You scoffed when I commented on Wright storming the Giani Building, but there’s truth to what I said. It’s probably one of the ten or fifteen most heavily fortified havens in the city. The sheriff could take it, like any castle can be taken, if he really wanted to, but it would be bloody, noisy, and drawn-out, and he’d have to come himself. And I wouldn’t just wait in my penthouse for him to cut through ghouls and steel doors.”
“The harpies can laugh all they want about my entourage of ghouls, but it would make it damn inconvenient to make me disappear without a trace—and probably costly.”
“That’s on the physical side—actually making it happen, especially without a fuss.”
“There’s the other, Masquerade-specific problems too. I didn’t just hold onto my place within the Malveaux family for so long because I was stubborn. Killing off another senator’s child in short order is the type of thing that would invite all sorts of attention, and my kine family is far from the only group of influential and interested kine.”
The Ventrue’s tone is sharp, justifying rather than explaining. “And the politics of it all? You know better than anyone my joining of the Sanctified wasn’t entirely due to my deep faith in the Testament of Longinus, especially at the time. That was as much politics as anything, for everyone involved. It was good optics for the prince to have a new member of the flock in the aftermath of the trial, and that had lingering value as well: executing the person you just propped up as an image of your mercy doesn’t exactly play well with swing voters.”
“The Ventrue stuff? I probably would have played ball anyway, but there was a lot more incentive to bend the knee to everyone involved because it had the right look to powerful people, and continued the narrative, and didn’t give anyone a reason to agree with offing me officially.”
“And so on, and so on. Every move weighed against commitments I’ve made. Every agreement balanced to keep me inoffensive, to leave doors open, as I’ve slowly built something for myself that might become something more.”
“And beyond that, the other factors in play. The doubt that enters the mind of the plenty of Anarchs that’d like to make a run, at the way the previous ones got their fucking heads cut off. The questions people have about how René got delivered to the prince—because the sheriff and his hounds sure as hell know the story about them having anything to do with it is as full of shit as a Christmas turkey.”
The Ventrue scowls. “Lucky? If you think luck is the reason I’m here you’re as happy as a dead pig in the sunshine.”
GM: Jocelyn looks at Caroline with what’s by turns.
“You know… I kind of wish you had an elder like Matheson for your sire. It’d… it’d suit you.”
Caroline: Caroline tries to keep her face impassive. “Yeah, well… how great has that worked out for plenty of them?” she lies.
“I’m sure that for every Becky Lynne there’s plenty of Emmanuel Costas.” She bites her lower lip. “For now, I’m content to be Caroline Malveaux, and whatever comes of it… well, at least it’ll be because of what I’ve done.”
There has to be a reason, she tells herself. Some valid reason, some plan, behind everything she’s gone through. Behind waking up alone in the night, behind being dogged every night of her Requiem by her sire’s servants.
It’s all for the best, she trusts.
She just wishes she felt that way too.
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