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Blood & Bourbon

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Caroline V, Chapter XI

Desirae Wells

“Good or bad, truth is truth and worth knowing.”
Desirae Wells

Wednesday night, 7 October 2015, PM

Caroline: Among the great many projects Caroline undertakes, perhaps the closest to her dead heart is setting up of ‘her’ firm. It isn’t in her name, of course, and few will ever know the truth of her influence, but it is her brainchild nonetheless.

The processes is not without its stumbles. Caroline cannot finance the firm out of pocket and several of the individuals she would have dearly liked to bring into the process are unavailable: hidden behind the aegis of their own jealous but opaque Kindred masters.

Nor does she want to rely entirely on Matheson’s loan to make the firm possible. She’s forced to compromise. Change. Carve and cut away. Gone is the image she once saw of a perfect glass and steel empire, gone with the favor of the seneschal and the years she’d hoped to have. Tonight she settles for function. She draws in her once-time ‘boss’ and pairs the sensual brunette with Gerald Bishop, once of Bishop, Pearl, and Park (now Pearl & Park). The ancient attorney is well past his prime and recently bought out of his own firm amid quiet allegations that he’d been conducting himself in an untoward manner. Seething, resentful, and hurt on the surface, he was a tailor-made acquisition. He’d given his life to the firm, three wives, and two estranged children. Most importantly for Caroline’s purposes, ‘bought out’ meant sitting on his own extensive capital with every reason to pursue a ’comeback.

Every reason, including those that Caroline did not knew at first, for she was not the first Kindred to have turned her gaze towards him.

GM: Indeed, between the ghoul’s recollections, Autumn’s reports, and Caroline’s own investigations (which draw heavily on Becky Lynne’s continued tutorship), the Ventrue is able to piece together the following:

Before Hurricane Katrina, Francesca Dumont was Clan Ventrue’s representative on the Cabildo. Dumont was one of the now much-reduced “old guard” Embraced from the city’s French-speaking Creole population. She met final death during Hurricane Katrina (Caroline isn’t certainly exactly how) and left behind two kin, both of whom vied to assume her place on the Cabildo: her nephew-in-blood Pierpont McGinn and her childe Rebecca DeMatthews. Of the Gerousia, Matheson was exiled, Smith had never enjoyed Vidal’s favor, and Guilbeau was brand new to the city. Many assumed the position would go to to McGinn, due to his seat on the Gerousia, the many accolades heaped upon him for his decisive leadership during Hurricane Katrina, his advanced age, and simple right of primogeniture.

But Rebecca put up a surprising show. While McGinn had carved out his own power base, Rebecca stayed by her sire’s side as a lieutenant. She was thus more familiar with the inner workings of Dumont’s (larger) holdings and contacts network, and in a better position to take them over than McGinn. Indeed, while her cousin-in-blood led much of the city’s Invictus to Baton Rouge, Rebecca stayed in New Orleans to consolidate her hold over Dumont’s assets—and to get in on the ground floor of what a post-Katrina New Orleans would look like. Before Katrina, Rebecca was also an attorney with a law firm she claimed as her personal domain, and she used to offer legal counsel (or take care of greater legal matters) to Kindred willing to go to another of their kind for such services. Between this and the perception that Rebecca was a less ardent (or at least less vocal) proponent of Ventrue superiority than McGinn, she was a more popular primogen choice among the other clans. The Ventrue primogen has naturally always sought to advance their own clan’s interests, but it remains a position that deals significantly with non-Ventrue, as opposed to purely internal positions like the Gerousia (which are not even spoken of among outsiders).

However, McGinn was far from unpopular himself. During Hurricane Katrina, he led the Invictus on an arduous journey to Baton Rouge through perils ranging from Strix to Loup-Garoux. He negotiated a favorable “refugee settlement treaty” with the new prince, Lawrence Meeks, who had just overthrown Marcel Guilbeau in a surprise coup d’etat. Pearl and Accou had stayed in New Orleans, Matheson was exiled, and Dumont and Dominique Toutain, the only other two members of the then-Prima Invicta, had both met final death. McGinn provided decisive leadership to the First Estate and many of New Orleans’ Kindred during their hour of need and won much acclaim for his deeds. Vidal appointed him as regent of Uptown (a newly-vacant regency thanks to the storm) and elevated him to the Gerousia in recognition for his valor. McGinn was also his cousin-in-blood’s elder by many years, had more friends among the city’s elders (as opposed to neonates, Rebecca’s primary “clients”), and was without doubt the more personally powerful of the two. Rebecca had a chance at the Cabildo seat, but she was always the underdog candidate.

The contest between Dumont’s two relatives came to an abrupt halt when one of the deceased primogen’s former ghouls, driven mad from a shattered blood bond, sent a letter to a tabloid newspaper. He claimed that he and Rebecca were vampires, and that she had “murdered our maker.” He then went fully rogue and attempted to drain his replacement domitor of her blood. Rebecca dealt with the ghoul and barely halted the letter’s publication, but the damage to her reputation was done. She was perceived as unable to control her own servants, and having shown poor judgment in choosing to retain the ghoul’s services at all.

McGinn ruthlessly capitalized on the scandal and used it as pretext to annex Dumont’s financial holdings, while also citing right of primogeniture. The Gerousia was unanimous in its support. Rebecca was left with nothing except her law firm, which had itself lost employees to Katrina, and been further neglected by its mistress while she attended to her newer acquisitions. Dumont’s youngest childe sold the firm and joined the exodus to Houston, perhaps in search of better opportunities—another soul displaced by Katrina. But unknown to many, the ghoul responsible for Rebecca’s woes yet lives—Gerald Bishop.

While others view the old man as washed-up, Caroline discovers more precisely that the old man is washed-up and dried-up, as well as a cautionary tale against the twisted brand of loyalty the blood bond can inspire. Caroline has no idea why he’s still alive. Bishop doesn’t either. He took to drinking in the days after Dumont’s final death, he says. Hell, he might’ve been drunk when he tried to kill “Miss DeMatthews.” He has a dozen different explanations for how that night went down, why he is still alive, and why he tried to kill her, a topic he recounts either numbly or with bitter tears that can still flow, so many years later. Sometimes he thinks Rebecca deserves it. Sometimes he weeps that it’s the most terrible thing he ever did.

What if is far less uncertain, however, is that without a domitor, Gerald no longer had a steady supply of vitae. The abrupt cut-off did not help the ghoul’s already precarious mental state, and even he admits that he showed astoundingly poor judgment in attempting to contact his former mistress, begging for forgiveness—and another hit. Or at least Gerald might have done that. Maybe he failed to establish contact with Rebecca—Kindred can be very hard to reach. Maybe he succeeded, but she refused to answer him. Or maybe he never tried to contact her at all, and the hazy memory is nothing more than a figment of too much booze and an unhinged pysche. He’s not sure if she still knows whether he’s alive or not.

All he really remembers is those months spent waiting for, then pleading with, Rebecca to return. His vitae ran dry, and every fix he could beg, borrow, or steal soon trickled away like his false youth as he aged years in only month. He did dirty things. “We all did dirty things during Katrina,” he slurs. Few ghouls wanted anything to do with him. Not after failing to save his first mistress, then turning upon his second one. The only bright side to his rapid aging was that it left him physically unrecognizable. The Kindred might have hunted him down. Or maybe they wouldn’t have. To say there other matters occupying their attention during Katrina would be like calling the hurricane “rather wet.” And few Kindred really pay that close attention to ghouls. Masters rarely do to servants.

And so without Rebecca, he withered and aged. He could not even try to help her by transferring assets to help set in Houston. She was out of contact (or refusing contact), and McGinn took over everything left in New Orleans. Yet some part of him desperately believed that she’d be back for him. That she would call him to her. He loved her! But he waited in vain. Months turned into a year, and a year turned into several. The bond did not vanish, but at least ebbed, and he finally at least half-aware of the cruel reality of his abandonment. He was cut off, left out of the cold, just another orphaned or abandoned Katrina ghoul skulking along the margins of the all-night society. Some went on to find new masters and mistresses. He was not one of them. Maybe he judged it too dangerous. Maybe he just didn’t have the heart to try. The most he remembers from those years is the drinking.

To those who knew him, it was as though the storm ripped out his heart. He lost his way with people, that “edge” which made his legal career so successful. His hair thinned and turned white. He added glasses as his eyesight dimmed. He had to leave the firm, of course. Nothing could explain how he rapidly aged so many years. Besides, the firm was barely left after Katrina. He thinks either Rebecca or McGinn cannibalized what was left of its assets. He did too, and embezzled as many funds as he could before becoming another Katrina statistic. It wasn’t as painful as the first mortal life he’d left behind. That one had a wife and three now-adult children.

The next decade was spent in the wine, withering and drying up (well, at least of vitae) like a tree downstream of a dammed river. He ruminated what was and what might have been. He ruminated growing old, and how his best memories were like his best years, now far behind him. It was a decade spent waiting to die.

All until Caroline the levee-breaker comes along, bringing new vitae and new purpose… and taking from him once more. What little he has to give. Many of the ghoul’s memories are fragmented by the shattered bond, washed away by drink, and buried under a decade of regrets, recriminations, and trauma. He knows little of the all-night society: many Kindred choose not to expose prominent mortal pawns to others of their kind. He knows few of his mistresses’ secrets: Rebecca was the younger and more trusting of the two, but she was his domitor for less than a year. Francesca was old and guarded, and told him almost nothing. He abandoned his name over ten years ago. His nest egg has had just as long to run dry. He now supports himself through theft, facilitated by the preternatural charm he developed under his first mistress.

But all he can do is give.

Caroline: And give he does.

Gives counsel.

Gives liasoning in the legal community.

Gives what little he knows about his mistress’ secrets.

Gives Caroline a reason not to drag someone she knows, like Denise, screaming and crying into the all-night society.

Gives what wealth he has left, that together with Caroline’s capital and (most of all) Matheson’s loan, is enough get ’Caroline’s’ firm off the ground. Enough to pay assistants and contractors. Enough to bring in paralegals. Enough to woo away Bowden from her own job.

Enough to begin.

Thursday night, 15 October 2015, PM

Caroline: Caroline’s setup of her business continues unabated amid the tangled web of Ventrue internal politics. Really, the most difficult part is identifying ideal candidates to helm the firm from within the relatively conservative area in which she has to work. Those talented enough to be successful, and to make the firm successful, while also remaining fresh enough that they’ll jump at the opportunity.

Ultimately she settles on Dustin Reffett and her longtime associate Denise Bowden. Reffett is talented and relatively desperate. While his work is well known, so too is his prior stint in a psych ward—enough to blacklist him with nearly everyone in terms of ability to make partner.

Bowden’s own personal matters are well-documented for Caroline. Both are ideal, if not perfect for her needs.

She’s is all but ready to move forward when Autumn all but drops Gerald Bishop in her lap. Though the former Janus ghoul has reservations about the relatively damaged old man, she’s heard stories about him—that he was previously in the service of Rebecca DeMatthews, the last Kindred to dig her fingers into the practice of law in New Orleans. Checking around with other contacts reveals he’s relatively well known among city attorneys, though the conscientious is that his star as faded. Caroline suspects she can polish a bit more shine onto it, and it keeps her from immediately ghouling Denise.

The startup money feeds at first from several sources: her own accounts as they shift away from her legal name into fictional ones, money diverted from victims, and finally, most heavily, the loan provided by Gerousiastis Matheson. It’s the latter that lets her frame the firm as she’s wished, vice as she can afford, bringing in new constructions and casting it in glass and steel.

GM: The next months are busy ones.

Widney has her hands full with her domitor’s financial manipulations. She asks Caroline several times if she can meet with Becky Lynne to coordinate things, or at least a ghoul in service to the other Ventrue, and is disappointed when her domitor tells her no. Matheson’s childe was clear: other Ventrue cannot help Caroline in her agoge. She must navigate Whitney Bank’s red tape on her own, even as Becky Lynne (by her own admission) is studiously monitoring financial records for irregularities that could draw attention from kine authorities and threaten the Masquerade.

It’s an inconvenience, but perhaps also a blessing. The fruits of Caroline’s labors will be hers alone.

Caroline: Caroline spends much, perhaps too much, of her own time reviewing the records as well to assist the ghoul. She lacks the financial background specific to Widney—it was after all a major factor in her decision to ghoul the adviser—but brings her own keen eye for detail and experience with the principles of financial manipulation: god knows the family does enough of it when funding her father’s elections.

At least they had an early start with her own finances.

GM: Indeed, Caroline finds that many of her financial plans with the firm dovetail with her personal life’s. For her family has not forgotten about the $50,000 hole she supposedly burned at Harrah’s. Her uncle Orson summoned her to his Garden District house for a meeting with Matt. The latter reamed her through the ear about “disgusting” and “reckless” financial irresponsibility.

“Oh, you can save the life of a bank CEO’s daughter, but you can’t manage your money—our money—without acting like a backwoods hick who’s won the lottery?!” Orson announced that Caroline would be put under a tight financial leash as a safeguard against further reckless spending.

Yet the Harrah’s incident, Widney explained, was perhaps a blessing, as it explains where her money has been disappearing. Even as the mortal identity of Caroline Malveaux continues to unravel like an old and falling-apart sweater, its same threads are re-spun into a glorious new tapestry. Only one night after she’s chewed out by her uncles, Gerald Bishop presents her with a sleek-looking business card for the new firm of Bishop, Reffet & Bowden.

“We could also do Bishop, Bowden, & Reffet, ma’am. Which do you think sounds better?” the elderly-looking ghoul asks.

Reffet, he reports in the coming weeks, is a workaholic who’s still on anti-anxiety medications and has a habit (therapy technique?) of sometimes closing his eyes to recite the names of inanimate objects in his immediate vicinity, but Bishop believes that the firm’s new partner is a valuable asset who does good work. He just needs someone else to “mind him” for particularly high-pressure stuff.

Caroline: “Is that you?” Caroline asks.

GM: “Doesn’t have to be. Denise or even an associate could do that too,” the stringy-haired, prematurely graying man answers. He doesn’t sound like’s asking asking Caroline for permission. She’s since picked up that Bishop already assumes he’s in charge of the firm. After all, he’s the oldest partner (by far), and the only ghoul as well.

Caroline: And the public face of the start-up. Caroline largely agrees with his conclusions and encourages him to keep the others on a short leash: they’re both flawed.

At the same time she does the same with him. While she does not run the firm’s day to day routine, she demands regular reports on both the start up progress, on clients, and on others, as well as his own health—mental and otherwise.

GM: As for Caroline’s former boss, the Ventrue has already interned underneath her and knows about the quality of the work she does. Bishop has no complaints there either.

But Caroline’s assessment proves apt when Bishop reports that Denise has slept with her first intern.

Caroline: Caroline instructs him to observe and document. Make sure no interns are getting ideas. Ultimately it sets up for Caroline to sweep in and use some of them for her own purposes in the same way (her herd is coming along, but could use a manager), so it’s an expected result. So long as it doesn’t affect work product, Caroline isn’t particularly concerned.

GM: It’s not much longer that Bishop reports Denise is getting bolder. She’s slept with two paralegals. People are telling stories about her around the water cooler.

At Caroline’s instruction, Bishop steps in with Reffet and tells Denise that there is a limit to her fucking the help. She is who they thought she is, and they knew that, but she needs to show the bare minimum of discretion.

Caroline: If necessary, Caroline steps in for a conversation of a different tone with her former “boss”, offering the carrot to the stick offered by the partners, taking a gentler tack.

GM: Denise makes various promises to Caroline and the other partners. Bishop’s worst fears that she will sleep with a client don’t (yet) come to pass, and Denise apparently restrains herself from screwing (more) people with permanent positions at the firm.

Water cooler stories are still being told, and Bishop reports that lower-level employees don’t take Denise as seriously as they do him and Dustin (and Dustin less so than him). Bishop doesn’t consider this a necessarily bad outcome, though… it cements his position, and Caroline’s by proxy, without the need to obtain more direct forms of leverage over the other two partners. Caroline’s old boss ultimately remains an addict, and does not consider the consequences of her addiction in logical terms.

Caroline: They’re all addicts in the end, Caroline can’t help but think.

At least Denise’s addiction never killed anyone.

GM: Bishop, in response to his domitor’s earlier instructions, insists he’s the “picture of health” now that he’s “back on the good stuff.” He says he doesn’t need to drink as much, either, with Caroline’s vitae to “take the edge off.” He uses her vitae being “good for his health” as an excuse to wheedle the Ventrue for more frequent hits. He insists they keep him on the straight and narrow, good at his job, and that Caroline can view it as a direct investment.

Meanwhile, her and Widney’s behind-the-scenes financial manipulations bear fruit as the firm’s doors open and Bishop, Reffet, & Bowden takes its first clients. While Bishop admits the three’s reputations may cause things to be “slow” for the firm at first, greater success should come as a result of Caroline’s extralegal manipulations, and cut the ground out from beneath the firm’s skeptics and critics. The lack of Kindred competitors in the area of law practices will also help in this regard—that’s one thing Caroline can thank Katrina for.

Caroline: The Ventrue is, true to form, willing to provide vitae as a reward for particular achievements, though she’s less willing to give out hits that are ‘extorted’ for simple good behavior.
Though her tastes run towards college students, most of her victims of late, given Rocco’s territory, are older, typically professionals pursuing continuing education. It’s a harder crowd for her, but it has certain advantages, like the positions of influence and wealth that many old… and the skeletons Caroline is uniquely suited to drag out of their closets in her role as a wolf of god.

Several find their fortunes imperiled by newfound legal troubles, while others find themselves possessed by a desire to lay to rest old troubles. Many find their way to the newly found firm as they go seeking representation. Child support payments unpaid, adulteries uncovered by jealous spouses, delinquent taxes, and contracts poorly written are all fertile ground for problems, and Caroline finds them easily enough.

Caroline shares almost none of this of course with Bishop—better to let the attorney build his confidence—and calibrate his expectations.

GM: The ghoul tells Caroline that he’s “stunned” by the rapid influx of business the firm is getting. He’d been confident in the work that its newly-assembled staff could do, of course, but he’d figured the reputations of the three partners would make business “slow at first.” That they’d need to prove they could do good work before many clients came. It’s perhaps a credit to the subtlety of Caroline’s manipulations that the experienced ghoul even asks her about “nudging” clients in the same conversation as he remarks on the firm’s success.

Caroline: Caroline is pleased by the firm’s success, but is relatively firm that its successes should be just that, its successes. She is not interested in having to babysit and drum up business, and makes clear that Bishop would have to provide a compelling case for her to do so.

GM: Bishop is quick to assure Caroline that the firm can stand on its own feet and be successful on its own. He merely means to state that her assistance will make it even more so. The more money it brings it in, the more satisfied clients it leaves behind, and the more professional contacts it makes, the more useful a resource it will be. Widney does agree with Bishop that it will be a useful place to launder money through.

Slowly but surely, the Ventrue’s dream is coming together.

Monday night, 2 November 2015, PM

Caroline: As the firm’s resources come online Caroline is quick to begin their tasking. There will be no idle hands as mortal clients trickle in. Her investigators have their marching orders almost as soon as they are hired. Her researchers much the same. Paralegals pour over court and property records under the “Wells” name, looking for any hit then tracking it down, running it to ground. Investigators dig into missing persons cases and follow leads uncovered by paralegals that are not on paper, including necessary interviews and follow-ups. Caroline also leans on Autumn, and in turn on Autumn’s own contacts in the ghoul community. Turnover may be relatively common among them, but certainly some may know something—a Kindred with no memory must have sparked some Krewe interest.

Beyond the name, which Caroline trusts little of—a too convenient awakening with no memory sounds too much like a setup of some kind—Caroline bounces the photo she received off missing persons databases independent of the name.

GM: Caroline’s ever-increasing numbers of agents begin their search. No matter what they come back with, simply having so many people all working towards enacting her will may be a salve upon the Ventrue’s battered pride.

The fastest results come from Autumn. Even as shrouded in secrecy as Kindred affairs may be, the fact remains that there are far fewer Kindred than kine. Kindred-centric investigations are not uniformly faster, but they can be.

Autumn says that Desirae Wells is a Caitiff, first of all, though she’s one of the few to earn some modicum of acceptance among the Camarilla. In fact, though Autumn doesn’t say so outright, she actually sounds more respected than Caroline at this point. Wells is one of the Night Axles, an Anarch krewe that’s taken up with Savoy, though Wells herself remains on cordial enough terms with Coco’s Anarchs. Most Kindred see the amnesiac Caitiff as a harmless and moderately interesting curiosity. She gets along well with people. The Anarchs have actually made her their official representative to the other covenants, for business which Coco or Opal don’t personally handle. Still, Wells’ clanless blood means she will only rise so high.

More relevantly to Wells’ origins, however, Autumn picks up that there was another amnesiac Caitiff active in New Orleans not too many years back. His name was Raymond. He seems to be gone from the city now. A few rumors hold that he is actually a Ventrue or Tremere. One even says he is Giovannini, one of the strange and exotic non-Camarilla clans Caroline has only recently heard of.

Caroline: Another call back to him. Caroline smiles as she gets the report from Autumn.

GM: Tracking the name Desirae Wells is both easy and tedious. There are numerous Desirae Wellses across the country, and probably even more beyond. But Caroline has provided a picture to go with the name. “All” that her investigators need to do is run down names and plug them against the picture. And plug and plug and plug away.

They have nothing for her after the first few days. That’s to be expected. There are a lot of names to run down.

They have nothing for her after a week. That’s not unreasonable.

They have nothing after several weeks. The search starts to seem unfruitful.

It’s after a month that Autumn, long since reassigned from Kindred-focused investigative work, tells Caroline that she doesn’t think Desirae Wells is the real name of Desirae Wells. They’ve thrown countless hours and bodies looking for a Wells that matches the photo. Autumn can keep throwing more, but it’s been a month.

Caroline: Caroline doesn’t disagree: she has new matching orders for them. Split the name and the picture apart. Attack them independently. If a Desirae Wells visited New Orleans, or one is missing, she wants to know. With the existing resources they’ve poured into the name, this half of the investigation needs little more horsepower. People re-read the names they’ve covered attacking simple missing persons or visitors to the city.

The bulk of their efforts attack the photo. Whatever her name might have been previously, her appearance is unlikely to have shifted dramatically. Work backward. Investigate missing persons in the proper age range and demographic. Run it through various programs and databases. Caroline dearly misses her old police contacts, but dares not make more. Instead she leans on a new one at the DMV. If ‘Wells’ was a New Orleans resident she had a photo ID somewhere. Paging through all IDs issued would be a tedious chore to end all others, but breaking down by gender, age, race, height… the list of names grows short. Names that, helpfully, all come with a picture.

GM: Narrowing down the many Desirae Wellses to ones in or formerly in New Orleans proves a simpler matter. The investigators already started by checking out the closest local ones, just in case. They re-do their earlier efforts with follow-up interviews to the Wellses themselves or people who knew them. Most detective work is really just talking to people.

The most promising lead finally comes from a Desirae Wells who checked into the Empress Hotel (far cheaper than its name) during Mardi Gras and complained to the manager of having lost a shirt. He’d snorted that, “People can lose a lot of things during Mardi Gras. You’re lucky that’s all it was, girl.”

Caroline: That hotel and the area around it becomes an place of interest, especially as it ties in with what she knows of ‘Wells’ and her story.

GM: Caroline follows up with “her” Desirae Wells and asks if she still has the shirt with her name, which she does. Autumn tries to compare the handwriting sample on the shirt with any from the Empress Hotel, but the manager doesn’t have anything this many years later. The ghoul and two PIs catch a flight to Scottsdale, Arizona, the last known address they have for the “other” Desirae Wells.

Caroline: In the meantime, Caroline pulls police reports from the time and area, looking for points of interest. Mardi Gras is chaos in the city, but Caroline isn’t going to overlook an easy layup if it’s there. Knowing anything obviously Kindred related will be covered up actually gives her something to go off of: anything too neatly wrapped up—missing persons, assaults, murders—gets flags for special attention. That such ‘closed’ cases tend to have records as public record aids her, especially in the absence of her once friends on the force. The entire thing, every time she sees the NOPD logo, dredges up bitter and uncomfortable memories.

GM: Autumn calls Caroline the night after landing, and confirms that there was not a handwriting match. The other Wells (a 27-year-old Olive Garden waitress who went to New Orleans for Mardi Gras) didn’t know anything about their Wells. She got hammered pretty hard during the festivities. She must have been one of the many women to bare their breasts from a balcony (gallery in New Orleans), but unlike most of them, she never got to put her shirt back on. She scoffs at the notion she’d label her clothes (“what kind of dweeb do I look like?”), but she is adamant that the shirt Autumn brought along is hers. She also wants it back. “Look, I don’t make a lot of money. Clothes cost.”

Caroline: Caroline authorizes Autumn to compensate the waitress, especially if she’ll relate more about her trip. In particular, any people that may stick out in her blurry memories.

The shirt is still coming back.

GM: Autumn already has letters of authorization to withdraw funds from the Ventrue’s accounts, but at her domitor’s instruction, she does so to compensate Wells-the-waitress. For enough money, she could care less about the shirt, which isn’t even in the best condition anyway. Autumn records a video interview over her phone and arranges to compensate Wells-the-waitress for any follow-up questions she may ask later.

The waitress’ trip proves no more notable than any other visitor’s to New Orleans, but Caroline seems to have conclusively established that Desirae Wells is not Wells-the-Caitiff’s real name. The handwriting on the shirt does not match with hers. Wells mentioned she’d already tried that.

Digging into 2013’s Mardi Gras proves its own proverbial needle-filled haystack. Emergency services receive thousands of calls during Carnival, with the largest volume of all on Fat Tuesday.

Additionally, police reports are not public information. Almost none are posted online. To obtain them, request forms must be filled out, and mailed or delivered to the appropriate police department. In typical Louisiana efficiency, these forms are almost invariably lost or never followed through on unless accompanied by a bribe. No one at the NOPD seems to give a fuck about a citizen’s curiosity, about doing their job, or about much of anything except lining their own pockets.

It’s like everything else in this city. Nothing is difficult, unless it has to be. But nothing is ever free.

While her PIs feed more money into NOPD’s ever-hungry gullet, Caroline sends others after hospitals. Autumn is adamant that she should send only mortal agents into Tulane Medical Center, in particular, lest a ghoul’s presence be spotted and taken for yet another intrusion into the Krewe’s domain. More bribes are furnished to jog three-year-old memories.

Several hundred dollars and several days on Autumn’s and the other PIs’ parts later, local hospitals have nothing to show for a Desirae Wells. If anyone by her description checked in, it’s been buried beneath the tide of injured persons that floods them every Mardi Gras.

However, something eventually comes of the police reports. Desirae Wells may now seem useless as a name, but the cops do turn over what missing persons cases they had for young African-American women. Autumn and the other investigators run down each name back to a home city and call public records offices. When this meets with few results, they try registered addresses, and look into the owners of the buildings in question. They call landlords and send emails of the picture, asking if there’s a match. More moneys are furnished. Almost three years after Wells’ disappearance, some landlords and property managers have changed, and Autumn needs to track them down too. After enough man hours, however, the ghoul produces a match between the picture and one of NOPD’s names. Hannah Forbes is a community college student from Lafayette, Louisiana, whose friends reported her missing during 2013’s Mardi Gras.

Not long afterwards, Caroline gets a report from Lance Pertkin, one of the better PIs she’s hired. He has an exact match for Desirae Wells’ photo with Megan Frate, a Home Depot employee from Salt Lake City, Nevada. Her former landlord says she broke lease in 2011.

A day after that, Autumn confusedly reports a third match. Madison Hamer works, or at least used to work, at a call center in Baltimore, Maryland. Her former landlady says she broke lease in 2008.

Widney interjects at this point to say that the identity of Desirae Wells, or whatever her real name is, is irrelevant to her. The ghoul points out they spent thousands of dollars and man hours on this months-long goose chase only to get “results” that would seem to point more towards Autumn’s ineptitude than anything else. Does Caroline believe this investment, because that’s what it now is, will yield any meaningful returns if she continues to supply it with funds?

Caroline: Caroline is far from receptive to Widney’s concerns. The reports coming in have almost entirely captured her interest. In her haven-based office an entire board has now taken over a wall, with the modern picture of Wells at the center. Threads tie her to each of the reported sightings, below which are tacked reports, accounts, documents, and most importantly any pictures investigators are able to turn up about each of those identities. The accountant has severely miscalculated in this chosen battle.

“Three names matching one face across five years and three states… and perhaps more to come… and you think this is a waste of time or incompetence? On the contrary, I’d say she—and the investigators—have done quite well.” She laughs, somewhat cruelly. “There’s something here, Widney. Something… interesting. I don’t know what it is yet, or even where it’s going, but it’s somewhere we need to go. Or did you think friends, favors, or secrets among Kindred were easily, or cheaply bought?”

She stares at the board. “No. We go ahead, and from now on this is to be conducted with the utmost discretion. I fear we may have stumbled into the briar patch.”

GM: “As you say, ma’am,” the ghoul relents at her explanation. Perhaps a little skeptically, but she chooses not to fight this battle any further. “Not all investments pay monetary dividends.”

Caroline: Details of the investigation move to her haven and nowhere else. Reports are made independently of one another. Investigators running down each name work them with no knowledge of their fellows. Caroline also has Fuller bring in his own surveillance on Autumn during the day.

“In the past, others have thought to use her without her knowledge—or my permission—as a spy. It’s no fault of hers, but I’ll suffer no other to do so again.” Descriptions of other known Krewe ghouls that dominated Autumn previously are given to security as points of particular attention. Those that seek to repeat such an action are in for a rude surprise.

The investigation proceeds, with a particular focus on gathering information on each past identity. Any next of kin listed for them, friends or landlords or neighbors that remember them. School or work records are pursued, credit histories checked. In particular Caroline is focused on answering one, most important question: was ‘Wells’ Kindred or a ghoul prior to her fateful visit to New Orleans.

Are there any pictures under those other names on social media, perhaps posted by an old friend and never taken down? Are there any in the daylight? Has she visibly aged? And… are there other names that share her likeness further into the past?

Caroline keeps her own theories to herself, but she has twice before seen how deeply games are played by the powers that be. This time she has little interest in stumbling in blindly. Absolute silence on the details of the investigation is to be observed outside of the inner circle.

GM: The Ventrue elects against sending any of her ghouls abroad and has Autumn make phone calls, look up records, and coordinate efforts with hired PIs from New Orleans. Mortal investigators are left to do the groundwork, which is where many of Caroline’s answers will probably lie: simple interviews with people who knew Wells under her various identities.

Madison Hamer of Baltimore, Maryland, has no credit history or next of kin. She began working for a call center in June 2007 and disappeared in November 2008. There was no break-in or signs of violence in her apartment. Her boss was sleazy and either never the checked the information on, or never even used, a W-2 form. He effectively paid her under the table with prepaid debit cards used by disreputable employers together with greedy banks, which charge the user’s account to make purchases, withdraw cash, or even view balance. Her former boss, who now works as the manager of a phone store in a Philadelphia shopping mall, confirms that she was active during the day. He’s stunned anyone cares about her after this long, though he supposes he liked her enough while she was around. Her co-workers liked her too, he said. She was fairly popular. There are no photos of Wells during this time period.

Megan Frate of Salt Lake City, Utah, has no credit history or next of kin. She worked at a Home Depot from August 2010 until February 2011, when she disappeared from her apartment. There was no break-in or signs of violence. Her boss seems to have also paid her under the table, but with cash that time. She had a boyfriend named Mitchell Jones, who was also her co-worker. He cared about her enough, certainly everyone at work did. He wondered what happened to her for a while, but he eventually moved on and more or less forgot about her. He has a new girlfriend now, who’s pregnant and he’s thinking of proposing to. He confirms that Wells was active during the day, and has a number of leftover (daylit) Facebook pictures handy, in which Wells looks slightly younger. He admits to missing her more now that he’s thinking about her again.

Hannah Forbes of Lafayette, Louisiana, has no credit history or next of kin. She attended South Louisiana Community College for two semesters, Fall 2012 and Winter 2013. She never declared a major, though she got good grades and her professors and classmates liked her. She attended only night classes. None of her friends can report seeing her during the day. It doesn’t seem like it bothered them. They say she was just a night owl. Hannah Forbes apparently did not rent an apartment, instead couch-surfing with her various pals. She never talked about holding any job and they didn’t ask. In fact, she was usually the one to pay for tabs at bars and restaurants.

Further efforts by Autumn and the other investigators pulls up another visual match in Sante Fe, New Mexico, 2009 named Janice Brown, and a second visual in Tacoma, Washington, fall 2011, under Paula Weaver. The investigators have not yet dug into those.

Lafayette is pretty close by, Autumn notes… she wonders if any Kindred there might know more about Wells, who sounds like she had been Embraced by then. Autumn doesn’t know anything about the Cajun city’s vampires, though. “The Krewe only cares about New Orleans. Anything outside isn’t their problem.”

Autumn clearly isn’t expecting any surveillance to come from Caroline. Fuller and his men may not have physical descriptions of any Krewe ghouls who’ve dominated Autumn previously, but they do uncover proof that she is using her disciplines (both ones learned from Caroline and already known to the ghoul) to skim cash from a variety of sources, and slowly building up a nest egg.

Caroline: That news is not met gladly by the Ventrue, and she coldly orders that surveillance continue on Autumn. She doesn’t like secrets—at least those she is not privy to. The new names for Wells go on the board, the timeline growing, but Caroline’s next direction of investigation is less overt. Few are the Kindred that travel between cities frequently, but she’s heard tale of one group, and so fortunate is she that she knows the childe of one. She turns the topic—innocently—towards Jocelyn. Archons travel frequently, presumably with their own ghouls and such. She digs—as gently as she can—into what her paramour knows about their methods.

GM: Jocelyn doesn’t seem to pick up Caroline’s casual mid-conversation references to her sire’s occupation. She has no idea how often most archons travel, just how often her sire does. Sally seems like she moves around pretty frequently. At least once a year is probably fair. She’s often out of contact for long stretches of time.

Jocelyn is positive that Sally travels with ghouls. “I mean, she’s as helpless during the day as the rest of us, right?” She’s not sure whether her sire generally leaves any behind or not—“I guess, if she wanted someone to keep an eye on things”—though she did loan Jocelyn one of her servants once, as the Toreador described earlier. Her sire was not happy over how that turned out, and has not loaned her any further ghouls.

Caroline: The Ventrue thoughtfully logs that information away. Not definitive, but it certainly seems to support a theory she’s working—and makes this entire investigation a fair bit more dangerous than it otherwise would be. For now it remains a secret she is unwilling to share, and she lets the line of questioning die.

GM: Fuller’s reports of Autumn sightings turn up nothing else of relevance. It is not much longer before Autumn herself reports to Caroline that Fuller ordered one of his men to follow her. She mesmerized the information out of him, then wiped his memory. He doesn’t know that she knows, and she’s been going about her routine as normal.

Caroline: “Yes, I asked him to keep an eye on you,” Caroline replies casually, comfortably.

GM: “Mind if I ask why?”

Caroline: “Others have previously used you as a means of digging out knowledge as to my activities—for instance, approaching and dominating you during the day. It seemed prudent to take steps to ensure it was…. marginally more difficult to do so in the future.”

GM: “The Krewe isn’t doing that anymore. Not that I know, anyways, but it’s harder with me living here, and they don’t have much reason with you no longer breaking the Masquerade all the time. They’re pretty easy to get along with if you aren’t doing that.”

Caroline: “You’ll understand that while I’m happy to get along, I’ve grown fond of verifying instead of trusting.”

GM: “About that. No offense, but Fuller’s guys suck at tailing people. Not as badly as I sucked missing them the first time, but these ex-Army meatheads are amateurs next to the Krewe’s spies.”

Caroline: “Of course they are,” Caroline agrees. “They weren’t exactly making a business of hiding.”

GM: “Sorry?”

Caroline: “More valuable to me than catching someone trying to mind-rape you is preventing someone from trying to mind rape you.”

GM: “I’ll echo that. Thanks for the bodyguards, then.”

Caroline: Caroline’s next avenue of attack is delving deeply into Wells’ last identity, the one that brought her to New Orleans and saw her ‘Embraced’. She backtracks financial records on her friends that reported her missing, mapping their journey to the city, their hotel, where they went. She sends interviewers for them, seeking the exact night that Wells went ‘missing’ and what might have occurred along the way,

As that information comes in she sets a meeting with Coco: this is going a layer deeper than she’d like.

GM: Jennifer Haley answers the number Caroline calls and asks the basic nature of the business she wishes to discuss with her mistress.

Caroline: Caroline is vague about specifics, mentioning an interest in both repairing damage done with Coco’s bloc—or at least among it—and in learning more about the Anarch Movement as a whole.

GM: Desirae Wells’ friends were three women by the names of Felicity Gonzalez, Isabel LaCroix, and Stephanie Rawls, ages generally mid-20s. Digging into their finances reveals that all three were fellow students at South Louisiana Community College. Isabel lived with her parents and was on food stamps, while Stephanie and Felicity shared an apartment subsidized through public housing and had significant credit card debt. Purchasing histories reveal tight budgets spent on rent, utilities, groceries, tuition, and little else. The four traveled to the city together in a car registered under the names of Isabel’s parents and made several stops for gas. They stayed at the Empress Hotel, where they all shared the same room—except Wells, who rented her own, a fact the budget-minded other three did not appear to find unusual. The hotel manager, already interviewed over a month ago, only shrugs and said it never occurred to him they were part of the same group. He doesn’t remember their names. The remainder of their purchase histories include a few toiletries and meals from inexpensive dining establishments like Lil’ Dizzy’s. The four appear to have been as budget-minded in New Orleans as they were in Lafayette. At least until Mardi Gras, when its infectious spirit tempted them out for a night of drinking. That’s when Wells disappeared. Fat Tuesday.

Between the parades, crowds, dancing and drink, it was hard to keep track of one another. They were all just having fun, and had their phones in case they needed to get ahold of one another. The last hard sight they had of Wells was around 11:30 at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. They tried calling her, after they realized she was missing, but no one answered. They asked around at Lafitte’s and went to the police. They filed the missing persons reports and tried to talk with a detective. But one missing girl on Mardi Gras was a needle in a haystack. They stayed in New Orleans for a while longer and did their best to find her. They even located her phone outside The Lamp Light, but weren’t able to get anything else. Eentually their funds ran out, school was soon to start back up, and they admitted defeat. They haven’t heard from Wells ever since. They’re grateful to see someone finally taking an interest and wish they could be of more help. Wells was a “good friend.” Isabel kept the phone in the back of her closet for close to three years now and turns it over. She’s not been able to do anything with it in all that time.

However, it is other sources that finally yield the most substantive information.

It takes weeks, and Widney never fails to remind how much money it’s costing, but Autumn and the PIs (who now include Pinkerton) finally turn up a birth certificate for Desirae Wells. More than one. And around a dozen different identities, scattered over just as many cities. Missoula, Montana. Jacksonville, Florida. Austin, Texas. Chicago, Illinois. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Mobile, Alabama. Wells has been everywhere over the country. None of the identities have much in the way of solid documentation. The last one to actually have a birth certificate was a then-18-year-old Ursula Stanfield, who enlisted in the Air Force upon graduating high school. She disappeared before completing basic training. Before she did, she lived in a foster home and was fully in the system, with everything from dental records to SAT scores. She generally did well as a student, but had no next of kin, and upon being expelled from the foster system, would have had no home. Her chosen career was likely one of the few real futures still open to her.

Ursula Stanfield’s lived as opposed to documented identity, however, only goes back two or so years. She was found wandering the streets of Greensboro, North Carolina, at 16 years old by social services without any memory of her past. Doctors looked her over, declared a case of retrograde amnesia, and sent her off to the foster care system.

Wells has half a dozen more identities as an adolescent and even child. Every time, it’s the same story. She shows up somewhere, be it Florida, Oklahoma, California, Massachusetts, or wherever else. She claims no memories of her past, doctors and social workers look her over, shuffle her off to the foster system, and she stays for a while before disappearing again. Sometimes she lived in group homes, sometimes with a foster family. She was even adopted once. She was generally liked by peers and considered well-behaved by adults, but otherwise unremarkable.

However, some of the people to get closest to Wells’ various identities appear to have come down with amnesia too. Friends and foster parents suffered only partial lapses of memory. Her adoptive family, a pastor and his wife in Oklahoma City, do not even remember adopting her. Caroline’s investigators only find that connection by looking into records and talking with social workers.

Their search finally seems to come to an end with a girl named Mary Coleman. She was born in Camden, Pennsylvania, on March 5th, 1989. Her father was an automotive mechanic and her mother was an office secretary. Mary Coleman disappeared when she was 7 years old. As with all of “Wells’” other disappearances, there were no signs of violence or abduction. One day, she simply vanished—and the family does not recall losing or even having a daughter. Both parents appear to have come down with early-onset Alzheimer’s and have been placed in a nursing home.

Caroline’s wall of pictures and notes has now grown quite expansive—and coherent. She has dozens of pictures lined up in chronological order, starting with 7-year-old Mary Coleman who grows into 8-year-old Evelyn Turner, 10-year-old Raleigh Young, and a dozen more names spread over equally many cities and towns. Her potentially final destination as a mortal woman was Jasmine Reed of Shreveport, Louisiana in early 2012. There is a several-month gap before she re-emerges in Lafayette as Hannah Forbes—and, Autumn believes, one of the Damned.

After all these months of toil, Autumn thinks they have dug up everything they can about Desirae Wells, Mary Coleman, or whatever the hell her name really is. The narrative of her mortal past stretches all the way across the wall in Caroline’s office, telling its bizarre tale through pictures, maps, and neat little dated labels of an amnesiac who flitted from place to place and identity to identity as she grew up. The only witnesses left to canvas are other vampires. Wells’ krewe and fellow Anarchs. The Kindred of Lafayette. The unknown sire who cursed her with a clanless Embrace, whoever he or she was—and Desirae Wells herself. Whoever she is.

“I don’t know what the hell to make of this,” Autumn finishes with her last report.

Caroline: Caroline nods. “It’s certainly interesting. Let’s look at a couple other matters.”

Caroline runs background checks on each of her foster families, seeking out evidence of criminal activity or abuse in their records. She doesn’t expect to find any. She has interviews scheduled with several other children in the same foster family backgrounds.

She also runs down every contact in the phone recovered, running names and numbers against databases to see which numbers are still in use, and who they are registered to. It’s straightforward work with the resources the firm brings to the table. Mostly Caroline is searching for any numbers that stand out, and any disconnected: in the age of cell phone numbers migrating across carriers few people cancel outright.

GM: True to her expectations, Caroline finds no evidence of abuse or criminal activity. Just a few counts of shoplifting. Three years after Wells’ disappearance, some of the numbers in her phone are disconnected. The majority are still there, include the three friends she went to Mardi Gras with, a few less close neighbors and acquaintances, and a few work contact numbers for her job as a waitress.

Caroline: Caroline’s next stop with the unusual case is her mother—one of the only supernaturally aware beings she nominally ‘trusts.’ She lays out what she’s found, and more importantly, her going theory.

“The nearest thing I can figure is a city hopping Kindred wanted to keep her relatively close for some reason. At first I’d thought she was simply a ghoul, some servant, but that doesn’t quite add up.”

GM: Claire frowns as she considers Caroline’s findings.

“I suppose that’s possible. A nomadic leech taking her from place to place and setting her up with new identities. But if they were capable of manipulating memories to that extent, I’m not sure why they’d set her up with such frankly undesirable identities. There are worse ones a leech could engineer if they wanted to be punitive.”

Claire shrugs.

“Then again, perhaps whatever happened to her had nothing to do with your kind. At first, at least.”

Caroline: Caroline tilts her head and bids her mother continue.

GM: Her mother looks as if she could shrug again. “It’s a vast and dark world out there. Leeches aren’t the only things that go bump in the night. I don’t know enough about this Wells, or whatever her name is, to say anything definite about what happened to her.”

“Or enough about whatever has been happening to her, I should say. You’ve certainly uncovered a thorough enough profile of her life. I wonder if the parents on her first birth certificate are really hers or not, though. A DNA test would establish that.”

Caroline: Leeches. The word gets under her skin mostly because it also refers to her. Mostly. She pushes it aside.

“I’d thought about it, some kind of curse or outside power, but the falsified documentation looked too deliberate.”

GM: “Was it false? If an amnesiac child winds up in the foster care system, a new birth certificate would eventually get issued if no one could find anything. There’d need to be some kind of legal documentation that they were alive.”

Caroline: “And the travel distances?” Caroline asks.

GM: “I don’t have any explanation for you there.”

Caroline: The Ventrue smiles, showing too much teeth.


Monday night, 16 November 2015, PM

GM: It’s another three nights before Coco receives Caroline at her usual corner table at Blaze. In the several months since their last meeting, the Brujah has become a platinum blonde, and now has curly instead of straight hair. She’s dressed in a black wool turtleneck, dark brown leather jacket, low-rise blue jeans, and knee-high boots. Her ghoul Haley is also present, conferring with her mistress over the screen of an Solaris. Coco dismisses her with a gesture and motions for Caroline to take a seat.

The past months have been eventful ones in Mid-City, Caroline is at least dimly aware. She socializes with few of her kind, but Jocelyn said something in passing about lots of licks moving out of the Anarchs’ parish—and back into it. More fallout from the split over Matheson.

Caroline: Caroline slides into the seat opposite the Brujah matriarch. Time has given her a better appreciation of Coco’s efforts at keeping her appearance fresh and dynamic—though she’s not tempted anything so reckless as outright dyeing her hair, she’s experimented with smaller cosmetic changes with limited success.

GM: “Speak. You don’t need my leave,” Coco bids over a nauseous-smelling pink drink. It’s the one element of her appearance that incongruently stands out in the rough-and-tumble punk bar. Almost a flaunt. Caroline has yet to see any patrons bother her for it.

Caroline: “Of course.” After all the time she’s spent in stuffy Ventrue etiquette lessons and the generous but eggshell-like meetings with Savoy, the Brujah’s direct mannerisms are a welcome change. Ten different lines jump to mind, pleasantries and indirect ways at getting at the topic, but something bids her to be more direct.

“I’m certain you’re quite busy, but I wanted to give you an advanced look on something I was working on, and perhaps ask an opinion, Primogen Duquette. Do you know much of Desirae Wells?”

GM: “I’d hope so, lest I be a poor spokeswoman for the Movement’s licks.” She then adds, “And it’s Coco. You can take the Ventrue out of the boardroom, but you can’t take the boardroom out of the Ventrue.”

Caroline: The familiar term is a trap, but not one Caroline can resist.

“I suspect you could,” she offers, “but also that much like a fish out of water, they’d not survive long outside of it.”

GM: “That which cannot adapt to the world is doomed to pass from it.” Coco motions. “But we’ve strayed from the subject you’re here over, Desirae Wells.”

Caroline: “I suppose that depends, Coco, the world is 71% water, but you’re quite right. Ms. Wells has… an interesting history.”

GM: “All of us do, if you look deep enough.” Coco motions again as if for her to expound.

Caroline: “More than a dozen names, a dozen cities…” Caroline offers.

GM: “And what sparked your interest in her past?”

Caroline: “She asked,” Caroline replies easily. “And it seemed something I could do. Something manageable. I’ve caused many troubles, I thought I might try mending some.”

GM: “That’s not a poor idea. Yet it’s clearly more than a simple mending of troubles if you’re coming to me with your findings.”

Caroline: “Call it a courtesy, lest I kick over any rocks in your field.”

GM: “Wells wants to find answers to her past. I’m sure she’d appreciate hearing your findings, if you haven’t passed them along already. The courtesy call’s appreciated too. Those are usually smart to make.”

Caroline: It takes Caroline a moment to recognize the feeling in the pit of her stomach. That ache if defeat, of disappointment, of hollowness. It’s loneliness. Loneliness, not born of the absence of others—that’s not a problem Caroline has ever experienced. This is something else, something deeper. It’s the loneliness of realizing that once again someone she’d thought would care simply doesn’t. The feeling of searching a crowd after a triumph to find your father on the phone, or your mother’s back turned. Or no one at all.

GM: “Oh, don’t look so glum. Wells wants to know who she is. And why shouldn’t she? Do we not have a right to know where we come from? I’m sure you’re glad for the chance to win another Kindred’s goodwill.”

Caroline: “Lafayette. I think she was Embraced in Lafayette originally.”

GM: “The dream of every Caitiff to know their sire. Perhaps she’ll brave the wilds and the Loup-Garoux to find their face, if you don’t already have one to pass her. Perhaps she won’t come back. But some truths are worth dying for.”

Caroline: “Are they?”

GM: “The individual with no cause to die for has nothing worth living for.” Coco flicks a hand. “But go on. Dispel the darkness of Wells’ ignorance with your truth’s light. And if she doesn’t mind you sharing the full details with me, I’d be similarly intrigued to finally know the origins of New Orleans’ mysterious amnesiac.”

Caroline: Caroline frowns, then nods. “As you’d prefer,” she agrees.

GM: “Now Jen said you were here for something else too. Learning about the Movement, was it?”

Caroline: “Something they teach painfully little of in Ventrue finishing school,” Caroline agrees.

GM: “All right. Ask.”

Caroline: Caroline folds her hands. “Why does the Movement exist as a stand-alone, outside of established institutions?”

GM: “What makes you describe us as a stand-alone?” Coco asks in turn.

Caroline: “Outside descriptions, I suppose. The appearance of standing apart from, for instance, the Lancea et Sanctum.”

GM: “Yet this to a greater extent than the other covenants?”

Caroline: Caroline thinks. “To a greater extent than some.”

GM: Coco gestures for her to expound.

Caroline: “I suppose I don’t understand what in the Lancea et Sanctum and and Anarch Movement is irreconcilable, as an example. Though perhaps that’s in a misunderstanding, or simple lack of, of the Movement as a whole.”

GM: “The Movement believes in the inherent equality of all Kindred and their right to self-government,” Coco explains. “The Sanctified believe we are wolves chosen by God to cull sinful mortals from the flock. These are gross simplifications of both ideologies, but to my mind, they aren’t inherently incompatible. There is no prescription against Kindred belonging to both covenants.”

Caroline: “But it’s uncommon.”

GM: “I can name a fair few Kindred who do. But they are a minority. Few Kindred can long serve two masters. Or the cause of personal liberty and a master concurrently.”

Caroline: “And how does personal liberty reconcile among us, and the slavery that is in our blood, or our ability to control the hearts, minds, and even memories of each other and the kine alike?”

GM: “It is due to these qualities and abilities that the need to exercise and respect personal liberty is all the more important. Abuse of such powers upon one’s fellow Kindred can, have, and does ferment discontent and revolution. Within New Orleans’ local Movement, we have outlawed all nonconsensual bonds of blood and impositions upon the wills of other Anarchs. Violators can be subject to temporary or permanent banishment, or other punishments decided by a jury of their peers.”

“As Kindred we are inherently bloodthirsty and self-centered beings, but through the application of higher reason and due process of law, we may attempt to rise above our base nature. Just as man must.”

Caroline: Caroline cannot help but notice that ‘jury of their peers’ leaves open the same room that any trial does. She doesn’t comment upon it. No system is perfect.

“How then are disputes decided?”

GM: “In New Orleans’ Movement, if a dispute cannot be resolved between individuals, or a third party mediator—often me—it is brought before the community and decided by majority vote.”

Caroline: “Presumably that’s in poor taste.” She leans back. “What’s the vision, the dream?”

GM: “On the contrary. Sometimes the blood runs too hot, or the matter disputed is too large, for it to be resolved privately. There is no shame in our democratic institutions being exercised as intended.”

“The dream is the same I have always pursued. Liberté. Egalité. Fraternité. Within New Orleans at large, we are Prince Vidal’s subjects. Within Mid-City, we have the right to self-government. All decisions that Miss Opal and I would normally make as regents are put up for popular vote. One Anarch, one voice, one vote, equal to that of his or her brethren.”

Caroline: Meaning he or she who controls the mob, controls Mid-City, Caroline’s political mind translates. The very idea cuts into her from both sides. On one, it’s the model of American democracy, the very one her family has exploited for generations. Political power through controlling the mob, and the Malveaux family is, for everything else, thoroughly Americanized.

On the other, the idea of rabble having an equal voice, of claiming parity with the most vulgar Kindred cuts against their upper-class upbringing. Against her upbringing. To say nothing of the Ventrue lessons she’s slid into. The Clan of Kings. The blue bloods. There’s a degree of not only truth, but also appeal in such titles. Everyone wants to think they’re better. Everyone wants to be better. And some, especially in a society of immortals that grow only stronger with age, truly are.

And yet… across from her sits a queen of the Damned in this city, centuries old and skilled enough, intelligent enough, strong enough. Enough to crush others if she so desired. Instead she plays that game. It’s difficult to judge it, to scorn it.

GM: “Our political system is not without flaws,” Coco continues. “Democracy is not without flaws. It is vulnerable to internal and external dangers that we must maintain constant vigilance against. But we strive to realize libertas within our corner New Orleans as best we can, and I believe Anarchs residents within our parish possess greater personal freedoms than any of their neighbors do.”

Caroline: “Such as?” Caroline inquires curiously.

GM: “The freedom to establish and maintain domain by one’s own blood and toil, the right not to surrender the fruits of one’s labors to distant elders through corvée, the right to treat and be treated by one’s fellows as a social equal, the right to raise and resolve disputes without recourse to violence, the rights to freedom of assembly, religion, and speech—including the rights to debate, criticize, satirize, mock, and insult perceived leaders such as myself without fear of violent retribution, to name a few.”

Caroline: Caroline tilts her head. “Carve out their own domain? How does that interact with the lack of violence and the limited area?”

GM: “Public hunting grounds are allotted to ensure that no Anarch wants for vitae. Many krewes and individual Kindred claim further territory of their own, granted by popular vote in recognition of past services and contributions to the Movement, or the simple smooth-talking and demagoguery to which any democratic assembly is susceptible, and revocable by a two-thirds supermajority vote. Spheres of mortal influence extend as far as it takes for other Anarchs to cry foul, and if need be, bring the matter before public assembly. Trespass within another Anarch’s domain is punished by fines, the loss of one’s own domain, or banishment from Mid-City, as arbitration or community-wide judgment and established precedent finds appropriate. Most Anarchs do not infringe upon the domains of their fellows. Non-Anarch trespassers or poachers may be expelled by means of violence without stigma.”

Caroline: May be expelled. Caroline has the good sense to keep the savage grin off her face at that thought, but she doesn’t try to dance around it. “I do regret what happened between us.”

GM: “I’m sure.”

Caroline: A wolfish smile. “Deeds more than words. With that in mind, by your leave, I’ll not keep Ms. Wells waiting longer than necessary. Perhaps in the future we could speak more of the Movement and its history.”

GM: “You’ll find that it’s indelibly soaked into every street, corner, and execution chamber where Kindred blood was spilled by elders’ hands. But perhaps we shall.” Coco lifts her pink-hued drink in a motion of seeming toast and farewell.

Wednesday night, 18 November 2015, AM

Caroline: The Ventrue spends a fair bit of time debating where to hold her meeting with Wells—debating between the incomplete office and her more established position in the Giani Building. Ultimately, the latter wins out. She makes the call herself rather than pawning it off, informing Wells that she has uncovered some information about her past, and is available to discuss it the following evening at any time after 10pm at the Giani Building’s deck.

GM: Wells agrees to the meeting at 1 AM and enters the building on foot.

Caroline: Waiting for her in the lobby are two Autumn and Fuller, who politely chaperon her up the roof. Caroline has taken over the now ‘closed’ upper deck and sits with another ghoul, Widney, going over financial reports when the Anarch is led out onto the deck. The night air is cool without being cold, and on the cloudless night the moon shines brightly upon them.

GM: Wells sits down at the table across from Caroline. She’s dressed in a simple button-up white shirt and pair of dark pants.

“Good evening, Ms. Malveaux. You said you’d found something regarding my past.”

Caroline: Caroline is dressed in a short sleeved black top and matching black pencil skirt cinched at the waist with a glossily leather belt. “We’ll finish later,” she tells Widney as Wells approaches. While the ghoul closes the binder they were working on and withdraws, Caroline turns her attention across the table.

“I’m happy to report that I have, Ms. Wells, with some difficulty.”

GM: “I’d imagine so. Our first talk was some time ago,” the Caitiff replies.

Caroline: “A wise man one said, ‘good things come to those who wait’.” The Ventrue heiress smiles with evident amusement. “I confess there are some hole in what I’ve discovered, but I can say with some certainty that you are not Desirae Wells. That name—and the shirt you woke up with—belongs to a 27-year-old Olive Garden waitress who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona. She visited New Orleans in 2013 for Mardi Gras, around the time you reported coming to with no memory.”

Caroline extends a hand, and Autumn slides a thin folder into it, which Caroline extends to the Caitiff.

“She is, sadly, unremarkable in almost every way.”

GM: “I see. Well, I have to admit I half-expected something like that,” Wells admits. “Do you have another name for me, or will it continue to be Desirae Wells?”

Caroline: Caroline’s grin is positively wolfish. “I do, but first, a note. Ms Wells was unremarkable in almost every say, save one: she did not write her name on the shirt, and her handwriting—you’ll see the sample on page three—does not match the writing. Some third party wrote her name on it before it passed into your hands—why, I cannot tell you.”

“What I can tell you is that you came to New Orleans in 2013 under the name Hannah Forbes. She was a college student from Lafayette attending Southern Louisiana Community College from 2012 into 2013. She was well liked, received good grades, and came to New Orleans with three friends,” Caroline holds out another hand, and another folder passes into it, which she once more passes to Wells.

GM: Wells opens it up and thoughtfully pages through it.

Caroline: “It’s all in the file, including short names and profiles for those three. They were quite disturbed when you vanished, and even spent time searching for you. They last saw you around 11:30, and their search turned up your phone but little else. They were, even now, rather gladdened to hear that someone was interested in Hannah’s disappearance, relating that you were a ‘good friend’.” Caroline pauses to let the other Kindred page through what was, for a time, her life. “Their numbers are also in the file, if you want to contact them.”

GM: “I’d thought that might have been the case too. I suppose it’s like that quote says, the person without friends is either a beast or a god.” Wells looks up from the folder. “That’s who I am, then? Hannah Forbes?”

Caroline: “That,” Caroline replies, “is a very good question. One I don’t have a firm answer on. What I can tell you is that you were not Embraced in New Orleans, or in 2013.”

GM: Wells frowns. “You’re sure? Do you have another date and place? I’d always supposed I was one of the Carnival Embraces.”

Caroline: “There is neither a single picture, nor account, nor record of Hannah Forbes ever appearing during the day. She never held a job of record, but always had money available. She took all night classes.” Caroline grins. “I’m fairly certain.”

GM: “That’s a fairly compelling case,” Wells grants, then frowns thoughtfully. “But why would I lose my memory as a Kindred?”

Caroline: Caroline bites her tongue for a moment, before continuing in a less certain voice, “The most obvious answer would be that someone broke into your mind and removed those memories.”

GM: “My entire life? That’s a rather scary thought to swallow, Ms. Malveaux,” Wells offers with a humorless smile.

Caroline: “And yet, far from an impossible answer. I can think of few crueler—or perhaps kinder—things to do to someone, and I’m told that Kindred passions run hot during Mardi Gras.”

Caroline does not sound as though she is trying to convince her.

GM: “If you say so. I’m not altogether sure what someone might’ve hoped to gain by erasing a newcomer’s past life, but that’s an equally frightening thought to think of it as a ‘kindness’.”

Caroline: “Knowledge can be a dangerous thing, I’ve learned, Ms. Wells—forgive me, I don’t know if you still prefer that name. There are plenty of secrets worth killing for, and just as many worth dying for.”

GM: “This is all a little much to digest,” Wells says slowly. “I’m not sure of much, but one thing I am is that I’ll stay Desirae Wells at least until I’ve read all of these files.”

Caroline: Caroline nods. “I understand. This must be quite a shock.”

GM: “I suppose I hadn’t expected you to turn up much of anything, truth be told. Lord knows I’ve tried to. Where did you dig up all of this, or is that in the files?”

Caroline: “It was… not easy. There are thousands of man hours in this investigation already. Beginning with the name and face, then just the name, then just the face. The picture you provided was really the biggest piece—without it it’d have been a much more difficult investigation.”

GM: “I suppose it’s as you’ve said. You can change a name without much trouble, but a face is another matter.”

Caroline: “We fed them through databases, combed through missing persons reports, investigated every lead. Autumn,” she gestures to the auburn-haired ghoul, “did much of the leg work.”

GM: Wells looks down at the files, then back up at Caroline. “And all of this is about my mortal life in Lafayette as… Hannah Forbes? There’s nothing for who I might have been Embraced by, or why they did it?” The Caitiff’s calm voice finally starts to show some strain.

“Not to sound ungrateful, of course. This is all… far more than I imagined anyone would ever dig up. It’s the name I never thought I’d find.”

Caroline: Caroline’s expression tightens. “Hopefully it’ll bring you some peace, Ms. Wells. I know well enough how… uncomfortable it is not knowing. How many questions often surround our Embraces, and how painful those can be without answers. These are not answers, but they might be… the beginning of them. I suspect more lie in Lafayette. Perhaps most, but I’m also told that is a dangerous journey.”

GM: Wells nods at Caroline’s statement. “Yes, there’s certainly visiting Lafayette’s Kindred to see if they know anything. I suppose I made the trip once already too, Loup-Garoux or no. But I’m getting ahead of myself.” The Caitiff neatly stacks the files over one another. “I’ll need some time to read these over and digest them. I’m sure I’ll have more questions when I’m done. And then we can discuss what I owe you, of course.”

Caroline: “A few more moments of your time, and perhaps an honest word to others,” Caroline offers in response to the last.

GM: “Is that so? Well, I suppose we can get the first of those out of the way right now,” Wells remarks, looking towards Caroline.

Caroline: Caroline interlaces her fingers. “There’s more.” She gently holds up a hand to forestall an interruption. “Nothing complete. Nothing that makes sense. Pieces mostly.”

GM: “I’m certainly still ears.”

Caroline: “I don’t want to lie to you, nor would I presume to make the decision for you, Ms. Wells… but,” she extends her free hand again, and this time Autumn produces a larger brown fold over folder.
Caroline sets it on the table, but does not slide it over.

“I don’t know that any good will come of what is in here. It does not, seemingly, concern your Kindred life, but it does concern you. If you want it, it’s yours, but I’d ask you wait, look at what you have already and whether it brings you any peace, and decide in a night, or a week, or a month if you want to dig further back in truth. I suspect what is in here is… dangerous.”

GM: Wells frowns a little, but doesn’t take long before she replies, “Well, that’s fair enough. I’ve waited a long while for answers as it is, and I’m sure there’s enough in these folders to keep me busy over the next night or two.” She rises from her seat. “I’ll be in touch. Thank you, and Autumn, for all you’ve uncovered so far.”

Caroline: Caroline rises with her. “Hopefully I’ve been of some help, Ms. Wells. You know how to reach me… and if you should decide you wish to journey to Lafayette, you might reach out as well.” She smiles. “I’d like to think I could provide more than simply folders.”

Caroline watches her go with mixed emotions. She wasn’t lying about her own feelings on her own past—the feelings of confusion and lack of belonging. The anger and frustration that of not knowing why. But nor was she lying in her caution: her own delve into her own past brought only dangerous secrets, not satisfying truths.

Wednesday night, 18 November 2015, PM

GM: Wells calls and returns to the Giani Building to meet with Caroline the next night. She’s read all the files, she says. What the Ventrue uncovered of her life as Hannah Forbes is very thorough. That’s what makes it all the more puzzling how everything stops at 2012.

“Is that what this other file has? The rest of my life before then?” the Caitiff asks.

Caroline: When she arrives Wells is met in the lobby and escorted once more to the roof, this time by an unfamiliar ghoul that bears a striking resemblance to Caroline. She informs Wells that Caroline is on her way, and apologies for the tardiness: the Ventrue was out in the city when security reported Wells’ arrival. She asks if there are any ‘refreshments’ they can provide while she waits. Whether she declines or accepts, she is not kept waiting.

Once more Caroline greets her guest on the roof. Tonight the Ventrue is dressed more casually, a pencil skirt and a tucked spotted gray and white blouse. She arrives several minutes after the Caitiff, carrying a small hand bag, evidently not expecting Wells to drop in so quickly and with little notice. “I apologize, Ms. Wells, hopefully they were accommodating in my absence?”

To the fellow Kindred’s question Caroline nods, “Yes, and no. I have bits and pieces of your life before your Embrace. If it were so simple as a name, face, and home town I’d, of course, have given it to you. This is… something else.”

GM: Wells appears in another button-up light blue shirt and tan khakis. She says she’s already fed, but thanks the ghoul for the offer, and pages through her phone during the few moments it takes for Caroline to arrive.

“Oh yes, everything I’d expect from a blue blood,” she responds to Caroline’s question with some humor. It fades as the two address the next subject.

Caroline: “Ah, you have no idea how reassuring that is to hear.”

GM: “Really? My pleasure then. In any case,” Wells continues more seriously, “That sounds better than nothing, Ms. Malveaux. I’ve thought about what you said. Perhaps you’re right that I won’t like whatever’s in there. Perhaps I’ve done some bad things in my earlier life. Maybe worse than I can imagine if they happened after I was Embraced. But good or bad, somebody already knows them. And good or bad, truth is truth and worth knowing. I suppose I’ve hung out with too many Brujah.” There’s another mostly humorless smile. “Whatever it is, I’m prepared to accept it.”

Caroline: Caroline nods knowingly. “Far be it for me to tell you what your path should be Ms. Wells.” She gestures to the ghouls standing some distance away, and a moment or two later the blond look-alike returns with the brown folder from the night before. Caroline first digs out a sheet and slides it across to her guest. On it are a list of names, cities, and date ranges. “Those are all names you lived under before your Embrace. The earliest record is under the name Mary Coleman, from 1989 in Pennsylvania. She disappeared at age 7, resurfacing as Evelyn Turner, then two years later as Raleigh Young… it goes on and on.”

The list fills the page in small neat font. “The last mortal identity I was able to pinpoint was as Jasmine Reed, in Shreveport Louisiana, back in 2012. Early 2012.”

GM: Wells looks the list over, frowning. “I’m not sure I understand, Ms. Malveaux. These names couldn’t have all been me.”

Caroline: Caroline begins digging out folders from the larger brown one. On the front of each is as clear a photo of the various Wells identities they could uncover. Evidently the Ventrue put time into the presentation of the folder, whether or not Wells came back for it.

GM: The sight of the photos finally seems to give Wells pause. In more ways than one. These may well be the first pictures of her younger self she can remember seeing.

Caroline: The photos show a regression in age, year by year, all the way back to Mary Coleman, a grinning seven-year-old.

“I don’t know if that’s actually your birth name. Both parents are still alive, even though they’ve suffered some form of ‘early onset memory loss’. If you’d like I could try to arrange a DNA test. That memory loss is a common fixture with many of your various foster families though—many don’t even remember you.”

GM: “I’m sorry, memory loss?” Wells frowns.

Caroline: Caroline nods. “It’s all in each folder, but most of the story of each of these identities was pried loose from records, rather than interviews. I don’t know the how or why of it. If you wanted a best guess I’d offer the meddling of a Kindred in your life, but that’s very thin, and mostly bending facts to meet records. The alternative is that all, or most, of these records were forgeries, but that would be an elaborate ruse indeed, towards a purpose I couldn’t wrap my head around.”

GM: Wells pages through the folders and pictures, her fingers lingering on the final seven-year-old.

“I’m… really not sure what to make of this, Ms. Malveaux.” Her gaze sweeps over the rows of laid-out documents again.

Caroline: “There’s also another matter of some, perhaps in truth unrelated, significance.”

GM: “And that might be?”

Caroline: “You likely already know, Ms. Wells, but there was, and by some unsubstantiated accounts still is, another Caitiff in New Orleans of late that claimed to have no memory of his own past. Given the memory loss present in so much of your past, it is… not implausible that he could have been your sire.”

GM: “You mean Raymond? Yes, I’ve heard of him. Or looked into him, I should say. I thought he turned out to be Tremere.”

Caroline: Caroline smiles and nods. “He returned to the city claiming such a background—though how he came to the conclusion was less clear. My source reported the Tremere had little contact with him, and there were rumors he was a Ventrue, or a Caitiff.”

GM: “Well, I suppose it’s impossible to know for sure without asking him or the warlocks. Not that the latter are likely to be talkative.”

Caroline: Caroline’s smile turns tight. “I suspect the answer, if it exists, lies less with him directly and more with Shreveport or Layfayette. If there is any relation of note to you. As I said, I’m leaning heavily upon the simple unlikelihood of two Caittiff both appearing from outside the city within a short time period, both with memory loss, and one with a past that indicates others in close contact with suffered memory loss.”

GM: “That might well be,” Wells concurs. She looks over the latest of Caroline’s folders. “Well, I’ll probably be at least a few nights looking everything here over and deciding what to do next. I’m sure I’ll have more questions, as before. But you’ve found the answers I asked for, or at least a good lead on them, even if they don’t make too much sense yet. What would you ask in return?”

Caroline: Caroline sits back, then gestures. “Might I ask, what do you know of me, Ms. Wells?”

GM: “To be honest, Ms. Malveaux, not a whole lot that’s good,” Wells answers. “I didn’t recognize you at first. But it wasn’t too long ago the Anarchs were all talking about the grudge you had with Eight-Nine-Six. They say you poached in their turf, dragged in cops after they beat you senseless, then got the sheriff to take away their turf because they’d attacked a blue blood.”

Caroline: Caroline tries, and fails, to keep her expression neutral, and bites her tongue for a moment before replying, “I’ll not try to feed you my version of those events. You either knew, liked, and believed Eight-Nine-Six, or you trusted as always, the truth is a three-edged sword. I will offer this, though. The night I fought with the Eight-Nine-Six was my third into my Requiem, one with neither sire, nor mentor, nor friend. Take of that what you will in how you will.”

GM: “I’m sorry if that’s not the impression you’ve wanted to foster. Good or ill it’s what I’ve heard. Beyond that, licks say you’re the sheriff’s new favorite between how he dealt with Eight-Nine-Six, then caught your sire for you.”

Caroline: The flash of anger that slides across Caroline’s eyes is oh so violent. She buries it, or at least tries to, forces a tight smile back across her face.

“I appreciate your candor, Ms. Wells.”

GM: "Otherwise, they say you’re the Creoles’ new golden girl after getting initiated into the Sanctified by the prince "

Caroline: “It’s so very interesting how differently things look from different sides,” she grinds out, taking a moment thereafter in stillness and silence before continuing. “In any case, your observations speak to a basic truth, the unfortunate circumstances of my Embrace, and subsequent missteps thereafter amid the minefield of Kindred politics I didn’t know was there has created an unfortunate perception. One that I do not think is reflective of my present circumstances. For this,” she gestures to the folders, “I would ask only two things of you.”

GM: Wells’ pleasant expression would seem to indicate that she continue.

Caroline: “First, speak to others you may know that need similar assistance. I’m afraid, as you observed, my social clout is limited, but as you see, my resources are significantly greater—and I’m open for business, to anyone.”

GM: “I’m sorry, Ms. Malveaux, assistance in researching lost pasts?” Wells asks with some confusion. “I can certainly pass that along, but you’ll be lucky to get many licks interested besides me. Or did you simply mean investigative work in a more general sense?”

Caroline: “Investigative assistance. Financial assistance. Research assistance. Legal assistance—especially putting Masquerade related matters such as identification or ownership records in order. Security or simply neutral ground or a neutral arbiter in a matter,” Caroline replies easily.

“I’d not ask you to sell me in the street corner to everyone you meet, merely that you offer a referral if the opportunity presents itself. Such is likely to matter far more coming from someone within the Movement, than it is coming from an outsider with an… unfortunate past history.”

“I’d like an opportunity to show, rather than try to tell, that I’m not quite the character various rumors have made out.”

GM: “I can certainly put the word out in the way you’re asking, Ms. Malveaux.” The Caitiff pauses. “But fair warning that it’s not just… bad rumors you may have to contend with. Eight-Nine-Six were committed Anarchs. Brothers and sisters in the cause, with friends. Everyone admired Bliss for her moxie. They say she had the stones to punch out Micheal Kelly in his own bar, back when everyone believed that nonsense about him fighting in WWII.”

“They were brutalized by the sheriff, at least according to popular view, and were summarily executed for a Masquerade breach no one even saw. We held a wake for them the night after the trial. They were martyrs killed by elder tyranny.”

“Now I suppose you haven’t asked me for advice,” Wells admits, “but you haven’t asked me for a great deal more either, so I guess you can consider this a freebie… if you really want to make inroads with the Anarchs, show that you’re sorry how things turned out with our lost friends.”

Caroline: Caroline is quiet for a moment. “I’m sorry for how things began. I don’t know that we’d have ever been ‘friends’, but I didn’t have any ill will towards them prior to the back alley brawl, or even know I was doing anything wrong.”

GM: “That’s not an unfamiliar story to many neonates,” Wells observes. “Or many Anarchs.”

Caroline: Caroline nods. “It’s funny that you think I’m the sheriff’s new favorite, or that he ‘caught’ my sire for me. But then, I guess he isn’t in the habit of explaining himself, and I haven’t exactly been the most social.”

GM: “That’s never too late to rectify, Ms. Malveaux. Coco likes to say that if we don’t speak up for ourselves we let other people speak for us.”

Caroline: “Isn’t it?” Caroline asks genuinely. “Actions speak louder than words, and however differently I might describe things, the truth is their friends are dead. Your friends. How many Anarchs would look favorably upon an outsider that saw four of their own executed. Nor do I think the truth of that tale is one they wish to hear about their martyrs.”

GM: Wells shrugs. “Personally, I’d simply express sympathies and regrets. It was still the prince who ordered their executions, and if you still consider it fair repayment, I’m willing to put out the good word for your ‘business’.”

Caroline: “I’ll be happy to convey such sentiments to anyone that asks, Ms. Wells, but I’m not exactly a welcome fixture at the Anarch political rallies,” the Ventrue responds. “All the same, thank you for the advice. There is only one more thing I’d ask.”

GM: “What would that be?”

Caroline: “If you should choose to investigate ‘Raymond’, that you involve me in that investigation.”

GM: “Why, certainly. I expect your findings here should keep me busy for a bit, but you know what they say about leaving no stone unturned.”

Wells re-orders all the pictures and documents back into the folder, then rises from her seat. “I believe that’s everything at least for now, then. Thank you once again for looking into this.”

Caroline: “In that case Ms. Wells, I wish you good fortune.” Caroline rises. “If you need anything else, hopefully you shall keep me in mind.”

Monday night, 23 November 2015, PM

GM: It’s about a week before Caroline gets her next ‘client’. Tina Baker is a brown-haired, athletic- and -young-looking woman associated not with the Anarchs, but the Invictus (no relation to Jocelyn Baker is immediately apparent). She wants information on a Brujah non-native to New Orleans named Lucas Gates.

Caroline: Two ghouls greet the young Kindred in the lobby and once more lead an unfamiliar Kindred to the roof. Tonight Caroline is dressed in gray and black. She end her phone call when the door to the elevator opens and gets introductions out of the way politely. She listens to Ms. Baker’s interest and probes gently for a bit more information: does he reside in New Orleans now? Does she have a description for him, any locations or assets he might hold, or any additional starting points? Further, is Baker interested in his mortal dealings, or in his Kindred ones? The questions are asked not with the intention of probing Baker’s actual interests, but simply towards laying out a starting point for the investigation, and towards filtering what she need make record of.

The Ventrue takes notes in neat precise handwriting onto a number of forms, checking boxes in some areas, filling out blocks as needed. She also inquires as to whether there is a timeliness to her need for the information (whether she wants regular updates) or if she’s interested in a more full report when Caroline has one ready for her.

GM: Tina Baker is more casually dressed in a white top, short black coat, blue jeans and boots. She’s about 5’6," with a trim and well-toned frame, and has her straight brown hair cut chin-length. She’s notably pale despite her fit appearance, her Embrace probably having stripped away the healthy complexion she might have once had, but it’s left her with a certain feline appeal.

Pic.jpg The Brujah states that Gates has been to New Orleans before, and even stayed “a little while,” but she isn’t sure if he’s there right now or not. She supposes “it’s possible,” but doesn’t know. Lucas Gates is a Caucasian male in his late teens (visually, at least), short in height (“about as tall as me”), and has a pale to fair complexion. Brown eyes, short hair, no facial hair. He likes to carry knives. Baker does not know anything about Gates’ held locations, though last he was there, he “holed up” at the Rosebush Apartments in the Ninth Ward. Baker says she’s re-checked them and that he’s not staying there. She can’t say for sure about Gates’ assets. “Probably not a lot, but I don’t know for sure.” Baker expects mostly mortal dealings, but Kindred ones would be of interest to her too. “I’ve heard you’re pretty new, but also cheaper than the Nosferatu.”

“I already know some of the highlights of his mortal history, though. He’s a serial killer wanted in Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and a suspect in sixteen murders. He used to be on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, back in the 2000s.”

Caroline: Caroline laughs lightly at the comparison to the Nosferatu. “A very flattering comparison for me, Ms. Baker, but I’m not certain that it’s an accurate reflection: after all, they’re masters of their craft, while I only dabble in research.” When the topic of Gates’ mortal life comes up, Caroline tilts her head. “Not exactly a inconspicuous Embrace.”

GM: “I know some of the killings were after he got turned. Maybe most.”

Caroline: Caroline nods and smiles. “With any luck I’ll be able to give you a full list.” She looks down at her notes. “Those should be all the questions I have for you, Ms. Baker, unless there’s anything else you’d like to add that you think might be relevant?”

GM: Tina rattles off a phone number she can be reached at.

“Not much besides that.”

Caroline: The Ventrue heiress closes her notes and rises to see Baker out, sitting down with her ghouls on the matter only when the other Kindred is safely away. Seated at the table of Autumn, Widney, and Fuller, each of whom has a part to play. First up is anything Autumn has on either their client or her mark, which transitions into Fuller and potential security concerns with a particularly murderous Kindred as their ‘mark’. Finally they move onto resources that can be shifted and directed towards the investigation. Overall Caroline’s mood is quite pleased: she’d not hoped to get another ‘client’ in so short a time, but it’s clear her interest is in providing something of value.

“Word of mouth is potentially our biggest asset, and right now it’s trending positively. We need to keep it that way.”

GM: Autumn and Widney are in rare concurrent, and Fuller agrees too from his experience running a gym. Autumn, however, knows little of Baker. “Which I guess could be good, if the Krewe wasn’t all talking about her.”

She shakes her head over Gates too. “Before my time, probably. She said this guy got the most notice in the mid-2000s. I can say the Krewe would’ve ashed him if he pulled anything like that here, and not bothered with any warnings. FBI’s Most Wanted is WAY too much attention.”

Caroline: “This feels personal to me. Victim, sire and childe… something. My guess is information on one will lead to another, so we chase both down whenever possible. Let’s start with running down his mortal life. Family, origins, upbringing, along with his victims. Look for ties to New Orleans—and ties to Baker. If he was active in the FBI top ten list, we should have plenty of public information available to start with.”

Caroline’s investigators aggressively pursue decade old cold cases, generating victim profiles and reports on victim family backgrounds. Each murder is plotted on a map, along with all available details on how he identified, encountered, and disposed of them. She’s particularly interested in tracking changes in his methods over time and how each kill was identified to him given the lack of forensic evidence left behind by Kindred. For a time she hopes to generate a regular stomping ground, or path he follows, but she has little luck with it.

She tracks his living family, generating profiles on living relatives, building information on each. The most interesting evidence is the frequency with which he seemingly returns to New Orleans—during Mardi Gras.

GM: Autumn and the firm’s hired PIs put together that Gates was Embraced in the Florida Panhandle during the late 1970s.

He harbored a pathological hatred of women fitting Baker’s demographic profile (young, attractive, white, educated) born from rejection and inherent antisocial personality tendencies. Almost all of his victims fit that profile. There are some even younger girls too.

His killings started in the Florida Pandhandle upon his Embrace. Caroline’s agents can find no killings before then. No pattern to his movements at first, beyond being run out of town by law enforcement, though he gradually seems to have learned greater restraint and discretion (though still not much). The killings stop in 2004,and he fell off the FBI’s Most Wanted. There are several killings by him in New Orleans that same year.

Gates has no mortal associates of any kind, beyond the occasional ghoul used as an accomplice. Usually white male youths from a similar background as him. Gates doesn’t appear to have much interest in playing influence games.

He has an uncle in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a sister in Virginia Beach. His parents are both dead.

Caroline’s rough psychological profile suggests that Gates would have been a serial murderer while alive but simply lacked the requisite upper body strength. He’s a short and fairly scrawny-looking kid. If both were mortal, Tina could probably beat his ass easy. He had a persistent record of getting into trouble at school, being bullied by boys, teased by girls, doing poorly at academia, and generally being a problem child. The Embrace seemed to have allowed an (incredibly) violent outlet for long-harbored feelings, and to have made them that much worse.

The FBI’s recorded murders all end in 2004. He’s either stopped or gotten better at hiding them. Gates always killed his victims with the same kind of knife, which was helpful to the FBI in identifying them.

Last but not least for the ex success, he was last in New Orleans during 2004, where he was violently confronted by a coterie of five neonates that included Baker and Becky Lynne Adler. This is concurrent with when he fell off the FBI’s list. The coterie itself seems to have broken apart too, either on its own or because of Katrina.

Caroline: Caroline puts together her findings into a dossier and reaches out to Baker.

GM: The Invictus Kindred returns to collect them, and like Wells before her, takes some time to look over the information and ask follow-up questions. She’s impressed with what Caroline has found and asks what she wants in return.

Caroline: “I have my people cross-referencing all missing persons that match his victim profile, along with murders of the same, seeming if perhaps he changed his methods… after his meeting with you and Ms. Adler.”

GM: “I suppose information is what I asked you to find,” Baker replies.

Caroline: “That said, what you’re probably the most interested in is these.” She slides over the reports she has of his more recent sightings. “He’s been resurfacing of late. Not up to his old tricks, but there are reports that he’s been seen.”

GM: Baker looks them over. Rather stonily, to the Ventrue’s eye.

Caroline: “You’re concerned he’s going to return,” Caroline offers quietly.

GM: Baker tidily re-orders the dossier. “His mistake if he does.”

Caroline: “Did he send you something?” Caroline asks quietly. She tilts her head. “Ten years is a long time to suddenly develop a renewed interest in something.”

GM: “I’m ready to talk price, Ms. Malveaux,” Baker answers. “Call this at a boon owed?”

Caroline: “Of course Ms. Baker, your secrets are your own. Should I conclude that this concludes your interest in the matter with me?”

GM: “If you uncover more of what his later activities I’d still be interested.”

Caroline: “I’ll leave it open, then,” Caroline offers. “As for the current findings, a boon owed seems equitable. I’ll reach out to you and we can discuss further prestation if I discover anything else of particular interest or get word of another sighting, particularly as they relate to New Orleans.”

GM: Baker nods. “That’s fair. You have my number if you do.”

Caroline: Caroline smiles and rises. “If there’s anything else I can do for you, Ms. Baker, please don’t hesitate to reach out.”

There’s a slight emphasis on the word anything.

Tuesday night, 24 November 2015, PM

Caroline: Caroline is too proud—and too isolated, in truth—to go about begging forgiveness and making apologies. She’s also intelligent enough to realize that without change she’s unlikely to see herself on very many Anarch Christmas card lists or enjoying a great deal of patronage from them—much less fielding many invites to Anarch events or cultivating allies. That’s not something she can, for all her wealth, afford.

Instead she humbles herself by the smallest of margins. She goes out of her way to talk with Anarchs. She (with Coco’s permission) stakes out Blaze on occasion to chat with members of the faction as they come and go, and generally does her best to show face—and in particular not as as an ivory tower Ventrue hidden in the CBD.

GM: Caroline’s first challenge to overcome is finding a place where she can talk to Anarchs when Coco denies her permission to do so at Blaze. The Brujah does not initially state why, although her eyes look faintly amused by Caroline’s request.

Caroline: The Ventrue doesn’t dwell overly long on Coco’s refusal, nor does she take it personally. Having an ill-begotten and ill-regarded Ventrue hanging around is a political liability Caroline well understands. Does she dismiss it because of the bond? Doubtful, she’s been at the center of such games since she was a child, even been a pawn in them before. Certainly her mortal family used her towards that end, and mortal bonds of blood were more than enough there.

Instead she approaches Wells on the topic, inquiring as to whether there are other areas Anarchs frequently meet or gather that are neutral enough that she could put on an appearance. She also makes it a point to put on additional appearances at Elysia, and takes what opportunities present themselves to interact with Anarchs there, limited though they may be.

GM: Wells answers that Blaze is the closest thing the covenant has to neutral ground. Many Anarchs hang out in City Park and Mid-City’s numerous cemeteries (considered notoriously dangerous spots among the kine). Cypress Grove is a popular meet site for the entire covenant, as is (somewhat less often) Delgado Community Colllege. Fairgrounds is also a sometime hangout, even if the horse races are over by the time vampires wake up. Music spots such as the Banks Street Bar & Grill, Chickie Wah Wah, and Rock-n-Bowl (Coco has evidently pulled strings to keep it open, albeit under new ownership after the drug bust) are also popular. So are a couple bars like Finn McCool’s. Beyond these spots, most Anarch krewes have their own private hangouts, where they sometimes meet with other krewes, but principally regard as theirs.

The concept of ‘neutral territory’ in Mid-City is somewhat ambiguous. The aforementioned sites belong to the Anarchs, who do largely as they like there. For the most part, that involves hanging out and enjoying the areas’ inherent attractions and entertainments. Sometimes Anarchs do ‘serious’ business with one another there, and sometimes they just want to have fun. (The cemeteries and Fairgrounds, Wells adds, are where many Anarchs play ‘games’ with each other that would break the Masquerade if witnessed by mortals.) The covenant isn’t big on formalities. If Caroline wants to deal with Anarchs in Mid-City, she can essentially expect to do it in their dens and living rooms while they’re playing Xbox. They don’t really have a dedicated entry hall or office space. Well, except for Blaze. That’s the closest thing because Coco is the Anarch who many outsiders (and most older vampires) deal with, and most licks know better than to start trouble under her roof.

Elysium is another matter, but presents its own obstacle: Caroline does not actually recognize more than a handful of Anarchs by face. There could be dozens of Anarchs at the city’s Elysia for all she might know. Or maybe she’s right it’s not their scene, and there’s only a few.

Caroline: Caroline leans hard upon her bought and paid for guidance from Ms. Adler in identifying Kindred, their clan, and their varied covenants, but really she has few expectations to make great progress at Elysia—the venue provides too many opportunities for misunderstanding and further conflict.

Instead she ventures into Anarch bars, meeting them on their own ground where possible, beginning with those that have not been overtly hostile.

GM: Finn McCool’s is a traditional-feeling Irish pub with the usual soccer-blaring TVs and large assortment of beers on tap. Wood rather than metal predominates the decor. Individual planks are visible on the ceiling and walls, the latter of which are crowded with an assortment of mounted rifles, crucifixes, and plaques, one of which reads ‘BEST IRISH BAR’. The smoke is heavy and the crowds heavy. They also seem notably diverse, from the usual blue-collar Mid-City types to a few rougher-looking gangbangers and more adventurously-inclined preppies and yuppies. Skin colors range from black to white to brown to yellow.

Caroline spots the two Kindred by the pool table in the back of the bar.

The first one is a freckled, button-nosed, Caucasian woman in seemingly her early 20s with blonde hair. She’s dressed in a tie-dye skirt, camo-patterned tank top, and brown cowboy boots. Her slender but scar-nicked arms have their shape further emphasized by the large assortment of beads and bangles dangling from her wrists, while separate necklaces with a silver peace sign and an ankh hang from leather cords around her neck. A flower is tucked into the rim of her cowboy hat. All told, her fashion resembles a distinctive cross of Cajun chic and ’60s flower girl.

The second vampire is a black man who looks maybe half a decade older. He’s taller, wider-shouldered, and wider-faced, with a fully shaved head and neatly-maintained mustache and beard. He’s dressed in blue jeans and a black t-shirt with white lettering that reads Black Lives Matter. A necklace with a tiny quartz heart pierced by a fingerbone rests over his chest.

“Ain’ often we sees many blue bloods ’roun dese ’ere parts,” the woman drawls. She plants both hands on the tip of her pool stick, lays her chin on her hands, and plants the stick on the ground, then leans forward in a motion that should be awkward but seems oddly lazy instead, slowly rocking back and forth on her heels.

The man looks up at Caroline for a moment but says nothing, leaning back down over the pool table as he slowly lines up a shot at one of the balls.

Caroline: Caroline has dressed conservatively down for the event—or perhaps dressed up for the Anarchs—in a black turtleneck, matching pencil skirt, and silver chain belt. It still doesn’t quite fit the bar, but given the diverse crowd she’s less concerned about blending in completely. She laughs lightly at the woman’s remark. “Was it that obvious?” She glances around and smiles. “Well, I guess it is.”

GM: “Ya done guessed raht,” the woman answers, leaning forward again on the pool stick.

There’s that distinctive snapping sound as the man sends several balls rolling across the table’s green-felted surface.

Caroline: “I guess I’ve done something right then?” Again that easy smile. “I’m Caroline, but then you probably knew that too.”

GM: The woman bends over the table, squints with one eye, and takes another tap-shot of her own. There’s a plunk as one of the balls rolls down the hole at the table’s corner.

“Sure do. Eight-Nine-Six had a lot to say about you,” the man answers.

Caroline: The Ventrue’s smile slips away, though not slowly. It’s more a setting sun than a falling star, “I suppose they did. I wish they’d had more to say to me, but from what I’ve heard that was Ms. Jackson’s way—action first, talk later, and I can see how the circumstances didn’t exactly lend themselves to a casual conversation.”

GM: The woman offers a tranquil smile of her own as if to offset Caroline’s fading one. “Poachin’ on somebody’s turf will do dat.”

Caroline: A nod. “Yes, I imagine it will. A lesson I learned painfully, and they more so for it. I wish, after that first night, there’d been an opportunity to change things, or perhaps make them whole, but it’s difficult to blame them for getting their ‘Irish’,” there’s only a whisper of levity in the comment, “up over things, and I don’t know that I’d have known what to do, or even how to reach them, even if I had realized just what I’d done. Back in those first couple of nights after my Embrace I was still arrogant enough to think I was entitled to everything, and they were in the wrong.”

GM: “Coulda tried sayin’ sorry. Ain’ a word in too many blue blood vocabs, dat fo’ sure,” the woman offers with the same tranquil smile.

“We make our own opportunities,” the man agrees, bending back over the pool table.

“But hey now,” the woman continues, her smile widening like a ceshire-cat grin, “ya din’ know.”

Caroline: Caroline shakes her head. “That wasn’t a good excuse then, nor is it one now, and I didn’t come here to wave it in your face tonight. You lost friends, Eight-Nine-Six lost their Reqiuems.” She bites her lip. “So, no, no excuses, I’m sorry for the loss of your friends, for what part I played in driving them into their doom.”

GM: “How old ya peg us for, Miz Caroline?” the woman asks. “Take ya bes’ shot in da dark. Ah won’ min’ if ya peg me older, not like Ah’m e’er gownna wear it.”

Caroline: The Ventrue considers them. “As a shot in the dark? A couple of decades in maybe?”

GM: “Das’ both o’ us, den?” the woman drawls, leaning back forward on her pool stick.

Caroline: Caroline tilts her head. “Old enough that you’d rather talk than fight, young enough that you’re not beating people for using a disagreeable pronoun.” She stops the tilt. “Sure.”

GM: “Your turn,” the man says to the woman. She gives another lazy smile and saunters over, squinting again at the pools as she takes her shot. Click. Clunk. Thump.

She lifts the pool stick back up and balances it against her shoulders. “Desirae been singin’ ya praises, fah diggin’ inta dat gian’ question mark dat’s ‘er past. I asked her why. Why-oh-why, darlin’, ya be usin’ ya singin’ voice on jus’ a nutha’ blue-milk swappin’ o’ boons. Ya jus’ in da mood fa singin’, an’ dat da firs’ thing runnin’ through ya head?”

The woman lays the pool stick back down, leaning forward with her hands resting on the tip. “Mah sire Embraced me ‘roundabouts da tahm Lee Harvey Oswal’ shot Jay-Eff-Kay. Jonah here got turned roun’ da same tahm.”

‘Jonah’ glances at the woman, then takes his own pool shot. Click. Clunk. Thunk.

“An’ in all dose years, Ah learned me a few things, darlin’, an’ one o’ ‘em, which Ah have learned an’ re-learned tahm an’ ‘gain, is dat dere ain’ no such thing as a free lunch.”

“So, Miz Caroline, ya been layin’ outcha honey wi’ Desirae, an’ ya hopin’ ta catch some flies. Now what flies be dey, ta bring ya roun’ dese parts, givin’ Anarchs free ones, sayin’ how sorry ya is o’er our dead pals?”

The woman rocks back on her boot heels, looking towards Caroline expectantly.

Caroline: “I should think my motives are transparent, and I never pretended otherwise with Ms. Wells. We all make mistakes, some of us are fortunate enough to live long enough to regret them, and a rarer few still have the opportunity to try and make some small amends, and perhaps learn from them.”

Caroline moves around to take a look at the current state of the game: she only ever played occasionally as a child among children in a well appointed lounge, but her uncle told stories of playing in his college days. “Or from others.”

“I made a lot of mistakes in those first few weeks. Took and ruined lives. Hurt people and rocked every boat around with all the waves I made. Extensions really of my mortal life.” She pauses and looks up from the table back at the older Kindred. “I’m a Catholic and I’m a pragmatist. Sometimes those two things line up.”

“I did a lot of wrong among the Anarchs of the city. I’d like to make it right where I can, and I don’t want to spend the rest of my Requiem looking back at those first few nights and letting them define me, in my own eyes or those of others. I might very well have been the bitch that Eight-Nine-Six talked about—though I don’t doubt they embellished just a touch—when we crossed paths. But I’d like to think that I could learn from it.”

“So here I am. Telling you about how sorry I am over your dead pals. And Ms. Wells… well, let’s just say that not knowing about your past, or about your sire specifically, I can sympathize a lot with. I know that I’ll never get any closure on my Embrace, but if I can help any other Kindred get some, it makes me feel a bit better. And if it catches me some flies… all the better. God knows I could use them.”

GM: “What were deir names?” the woman drawls in query.

Caroline: Caroline smiles bitterly. “Would you like me to start at the beginning, with the first person I maimed after I woke up alone, or skip to Bliss Jackson and go from there?”

GM: “Dawlin’, most o’ us got bodies ta our names, an’ if Ah spared a tear o’er e’ry one by e’ry lick in dis city, da streets’d run red.”

“She’s not asking about people she doesn’t know,” Jonah cuts in, looking down at Caroline.

The female Kindred just gives that same tranquil smile.

Caroline: The smile gives way more bitterly. “It’s what we do, right?” she replies to the woman. “Cherry Nines, Milagrosa Arencibia, and Trent Ambrose.”

She runs her tongue over her fangs, remembering each. Remembering the last time she saw those three in vigor through the haze of the Beast, all flashes of blood and violence.

“Yes, I do remember them. And I will.”

GM: “Catchin’ you some flies now. Dat do explain it, don’ it Jonah?” the woman asks, glancing back towards her friend.

“Sure does,” the male Kindred answers.

“Oda blue bloods ain’ lettin’ ya join in deir reindeer games, now is dey, afta rockin’ da boat-”

“-and still getting Vidal’s pat on the head,” Jonah remarks.

“-so ya slummin’ it wit’ da unboun’… or ya scared da sheriff won’ cova ya ass if any Anarchs ‘cide dey gonna da for ya what ya done fah Eigh’-Nine-Six?”

The woman smiles again. “Dem’s some pretty words, an’ ya ‘least got da names right. But one thing Ah done learned o’er ma fifty years, when somebody’s talkin’, tune out da words, plug ya ears, look at what dey actually doin’, an’ dat’ll tell ya da real score. An’ pluggin’ ma ears-” and here the 70+-year-old woman smirks faintly as she sticks her fingers into each one, but she doesn’t look like a silly young girl. More like an artist’s impression of one.

“-Ah sees a poachin’, sheriff-tattlin’, Masquerade-breakin’ blue blood who’s taken it upon ’erself ta lay out some honey for da Anarchs, ’cuz sorry as she be, she need her some flies too.”

She removes her fingers and picks back up the pool stick, striding over to the table.

“But hey now, ya here. Ya really sorry, try layin’ out da honey when ya don’ need da flies… or gettin’ dem fine blue blood clothes dirty ta lay out ya honey. An’ maybe den Ah’ll un-plug mah ears.”

Caroline: Caroline gives a low and joyless laugh. “It seems like you’ve only been plugging your ears when it suits you, if you don’t mind me saying so.”

GM: “Ya can say as ya please, darlin’. It be a free parish,” the woman with another cheshire-cat smile.

Caroline: “Is it?” Caroline asks. “What exactly does that mean? What exactly am I free to do here?”

GM: “The freedom to swing your fist ends where another man’s face begins. Your freedom here ends where anything that pisses off another Anarch begins,” Jonah answers.

Caroline: “What a lovely paraphrasing of Zechariah Chafee, Jr., but I confess the back end leaves much room for interpretation. For instance,” she gestures to the table, “if I were to beat you, would that be the end of my freedom here?”

GM: “Perhaps ya’d care ta back up dem words, lil’ greenfang,” the woman drawls in a low voice.

The man sets down his pool stick and stares at Caroline. There’s the expected look of counterchallenge there. And equal parts, oddly enough, disgust.

Caroline: Caroline’s Beast wants to rise to the challenge, it wants to take the offered opportunity presented by the misunderstanding to smash and crush and destroy and establish its own superiority.

Instead, the Ventrue laughs lightly, disarmingly, trying to play off the misunderstanding as she walks over to the rack on the wall and examines the available cues.

“I’ve never actually been a particularly good player, but things can change. What should we play for though, I don’t think drinks have quite the proper meaning between us.”

GM: “‘Pends if we play. Ya gon’ humble dat blue blood pride an’ say ya sorry an’ meant nothin’ first?” the woman posits with another tranquil smile.

Caroline: The Ventrue laughs lightly again. “I don’t usually take requests, but I suppose I can make an exception for distinguished personages such as yourselves.”

She sets her expression more severely and squares up on the two Anarchs. “I meant no offense, and certainly did not mean to give the impression that I wanted a fight with either of you, much less both, on your own ground, over nothing. You have my sincerest apologies if that was the impression I gave.”

GM: “Well now, ya heah dat, Jonah, she done think we be persons o’ distinguishment,” the woman grins.

Jonah’s expression doesn’t fully abate, but does lose its edge.

“Attacking Anarchs in their own territory over nothing isn’t an ‘impression you’ve given’, blue blood. It’s something you’ve done, and it’s something everyone remembers. Don’t think we were the ones being unreasonable.”

“But hey,” the still-grinning woman remarks, “ya din’ mean it.”

“Zilly and I were having a friendly no-stakes game,” the man remarks over Caroline’s interest in joining. “But that does raise an interesting question. What do you have that you think we’d want to play for?”

Caroline: The constant harping on something the two know very little about wears painfully on Caroline’s patience, but she again bites back a response on the topic.

“I imagine the usual. Boons. Blood. Drinks. Information.” She doesn’t so much list them off as identify them.

GM: “Cou’ do dose,” ‘Zilly’ half-shrugs, half-nods. “It be ya idea, darlin’.”

Caroline: The Ventrue smiles. “Did you have something else in mind? It’s your party, after all.”

GM: “Ya idea, darlin’. We don’ play for nothin’ ’cept da game, mosta da time.”

Caroline: “Why don’t we start casual, then? I wouldn’t want to disrupt your routine more than I already have. Call it nothing for the first game, and a boon for the second?”

GM: “Your boons are worth less than ours,” Jonah remarks.

“Eh, whateva, game be dame,” Zilly shrugs. “I’m fine uppin’ dem stakes if ya wantin’ ta end bigger dan we start.”

Caroline: The heiress haggles with some amusement with the two Anarchs over exactly what they’ll play before before agreeing and taking up the pool cue. She’s played before, mostly in her uncle’s den, and casually at that. It’s much less skill that guides her than the raw grace she’s enjoyed since her Embrace, effortless ability that overcomes her lack of experience.

Perhaps not, though, against these fellow monsters.

GM: Caroline finds the two to be seemingly uninterested in further haggling, but she gets a similar impression so far as her opponents’ levels of skill. Both seem like they only do this for idle fun. It’s a notable contrast from the vocations Caroline threw herself into mastering as mortal, to satisfy peoples’ expectations. There simply isn’t any burning desire to be the best.

But they are still her fellow monsters.

What the two Anarchs likewise seem to lack in practice, they make up for with preternatural grace of their own. Pool sticks slide across the table and send balls scattering with all the ease that a child’s fingers would scatter marbles.

Caroline shoots and pockets her object balls, and then finally the 8-ball before Jonah, who is several balls behind her. The Ventrue and Zilly pocket all of their object balls at the same time, but the final shot and pivotal 8-ball go to Caroline.

“Nah bad, greenfang,” the Anarch declares, idly twirling her pool stick.

Caroline: Caroline leans on her own.

“Better lucky than good.”


Pete Feedback Repost

I liked the bit with Wells / Baker as a whole, as a simplified system as a whole, though the return on many of the Wells (and Baker) exceptional successes felt relatively low. This is not the first time I’ve brought up the point that exceptional successes have felt wildly uneven. Sometimes we see a willpower gain, other times some special knowledge, other times a game/narrative changing piece of information or opportunity. I didn’t feel such was every really the case with what were… almost nothing but exceptional successes in both of these encounters. Ultimately Caroline came through both in better positions as a whole for her rolls, without setbacks, but throwing like 4 rolls at the Wells stuff and getting what I got felt… thin. I hesitate to wonder what I’d have gotten without spending the Willpower. Presumably not much. Maybe past experiences have given me too much of an expectation. In particular though, getting “feels intimate” as a response on the Ex Empathy roll felt really thin, given that I thought such was pretty much established as it was.

That concern over dice results aside, I’d like to see more of these types of scenes, especially non-information-related as Caroline’s trying to set up more than just Nosferatu-lite services.

Unrelated, I’ll echo Izzy that each of the neonates that Caroline has interacted with has felt distinct, and like they are characters that a PC could pick up and play. They seemingly have their own problems, concerns, plots, and secrets that make them feel more real and give them an appreciable (and appreciated) depth. In particular I liked how you described Jocelyn’s lifestyle and the bit with Baker’s emotions related to the subject of her investigations.

The bits from Wells about how Caroline is perceived was kind of infuriating, especially as parts of it don’t seem to jive with other bits of the narrative in my mind. Again, I only see pieces, but things like the perception as being the sheriff’s favorite combined with the very public humiliations by the sheriff’s and his ghoul (at events the entire city attended) don’t jive in my mind. While I’d not expected her popular perception to be positive by any means, the specifics of the shit talk about her were pretty much the worst possible way they could have gone in every single circumstance, and even worse than I’d feared.

Caroline V, Chapter XI

Pete Feedback Repost

The scenes with Tina Baker and Wells were great. Both really captured the role I wanted to put Caroline into before the Matheson stuff. I might have preferred a few less dice throws (especially given what were pretty huge successes with Wells thanks to the then rules on willpower), but the overall direction of them both was very much in keeping with what I wanted to achieve in the past, and that throw back was a really pleasant change of pace. Caroline as allowing others to come to her with things they want help with is a role I really enjoy, vice having to actively seek out and create opportunities. I loved the mystery teased with Baker, and I’d really enjoy getting involved if her tormentor / enemy returns. Similarly, the Wells mystery remains interesting to me, and is something I’d be interested in revisiting, even if its only in putting countermeasures in place for her fugue state for her. I don’t know where else I necessarily need to go to create more of these scenes, but they along with what she did for Amelie is the role I really envisioned for Caroline in the past. That may not be fully achievable, but anytime we can wander in that area, I appreciate it.

Caroline V, Chapter XI
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