“I thought I was punishing some monster, and instead I feel like we’re kicking a dog down the stairs.”
Thursday night, 17 September 2015, PM
Caroline: The first thing Mouse notices is the cold steel around his wrists, a feeling he recognizes all too well. For a moment it feels like this must be some nightmare, but the cuffs feel all-too real on his already bruised skin, and linger even when he snaps open his eyes.
What he sees does little to dispel the surreal nature of it all. He’s not quite sure how he got here—a sure sign of a dream—and two gorgeous women are standing in front of him. The room is a tastefully appointed bedroom with hardwood floors dominated by a large bed that he’s laying on. A desk with a laptop closed on it snaps into focus in one corner, along with an open walk-in closet brimming with clothing in the other, near two doors.
“Wake up, little rat…” The blonde orders him.
GM: The shorter brunette standing close to her laughs lightly.
“I thought he was a mouse, not a rat,” she idly speculates. She looks around Mouse’s age and is wearing a knee-length cyan maxi dress.
She leans closer to his face and grins. There’s a feral quality to it that shows just a few too many of her teeth.
“Either way, rodent, we’re the cats.”
Caroline: “Vermin either way. Terrorizing good souls of the city. Women that just want to go about their daily lives.” There’s a flash of more teeth from the blonde. “You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you, Mouse?” She’s dressed in a form-fitting black dress sheer above the bust that hangs to mid-knee.
Mouse: Mouse dazedly looks around the room and fails to put words together.
“What is happening?” he finally asks, trying to make sense of things. “Where am I? What are you talking about? Who are you?”
He is almost hyperventilating. He tries to wrestle from his bindings, feebly sulking at being held against his will.
It has to be a nightmare. Surely.
Caroline: “That’s cute,” Caroline says with no warmth. “I don’t know what’s going on, why is this happening,” she mocks, then gives a cruel laugh.
GM: “What is happening,” the brunette mimics in a high-pitched, whining tone.
Caroline: “Resisting an officer. Two counts of assault. Oh, and stalking, though I saw that charge was dropped. Surely our legal system functioning as intended.”
Mouse: Mouse frowns. “I don’t know what’s happening!” he reaffirms in a stronger tone.
GM: “You’ve sprung a mouse-trap, Mouse,” the brunette grins.
Mouse: “Did Bud send you? Villars? I paid them! I paid them!”
Caroline: “Don’t raise your voice,” the blonde orders. Mouse finds himself left at a normal speaking tone regardless of his desires.
Mouse: He begins crying.
GM: “Wow. Usually it takes them a little longer than that.”
Caroline: “Pathetic,” Caroline agrees. “I’ll be honest, I didn’t think he looked like much, but this would be sad if I didn’t have his rap sheet.”
Mouse: “Why are you doing this?” he asks.
Caroline: “Because you’ve been a bad boy, little Mouse,” Caroline replies in a condescending voice. “You about scared little Cécilia Devillers to death.”
GM: “It looks like someone beat the shit out of him already, too,” the brunette remarks, running a cool hand over Mouse’s bruises.
Caroline: “Good,” she replies to the shorter brunette. “Gives me some faith in humanity.”
Mouse: At the mention of his rap sheet, Mouse starts mumbling about his innocence—but quiets abruptly at the physical contact.
Caroline: “You and every other thug,” Caroline snaps at his protests.
GM: The brunette giggles, even as a decidedly savage hunger alights her eyes. She moves her hand down Mouse’s face, tracing the contours of his scabbed-over chin.
Caroline: The blonde moves closer, abandoning her standing position to settle down on the bed beside Mouse. She traces a finger down his throat and around his collarbone, then back.
“It’ll be easier if you admit what you did.”
Mouse: “Please!” he gasps. He doesn’t want this. He shivers in fear at being violated. “Please don’t hurt me! I did nothing wrong!”
Caroline: “Confession is the first step in forgiveness before God,” she snaps. There’s something in her eyes though as they dart to the brunette. Uncertainty?
GM: The brunette nods. “You have to admit what you did was wrong if you’re going to atone for it.”
Mouse: “Please don’t hurt me!” he tries to yell. It comes out as a strained whisper.
GM: “Admit what you did and you’ll get hurt less, Mouse.”
Mouse: “I am sorry for playing music too loud!” he offers desperately.
Caroline: Mouse feels something prick his neck, like a sharp sting, while his attention is on the brunette.
GM: Jocelyn gives a half-flat, half-incredulous look at his declaration. “Seriously, he’s got a rap sheet that long, and the first thing he says is ‘playing music too loud’?”
Caroline: His jerk turns him back to face the blonde, who licks her lips and runs her tongue over teeth that suddenly look far too long and sharp.
“There was a noise ordinance there, so I guess it’s a start.”
The blonde’s comment sounds distracted though. Mouse feels something running down his neck slowly.
Mouse: “What’s happening?” he sulks. “What’s, what’s that on my neck?”
GM: “Yeah. And we’re only just starting ourselves,” the brunette offers with a sinister grin. Mouse can make them out on the brunette, too. Two long, wickedly sharp teeth more accurately described as fangs.
Caroline: The blonde leans in close to Mouse. He feels what can only be her wet and too-cold tongue run across the drip. She shudders with pleasure.
Mouse: Mouse tries to scream. It gets caught in his throat and more silent tears well up.
Caroline: The blonde snorts and drives a fist into his stomach.
“Typical. A coward at the end of the day.”
GM: “Pretty sure he’s one at the start too. Even Meg doesn’t cry this fast.”
Caroline: Caroline snorts. “I wish I could say that Aimee didn’t.”
Mouse: “I am sorry!” he chokes out. “I only wanted to thank Cécilia for helping me raise money for my friend! I didn’t mean to scare her!”
GM: The fanged brunette traces a finger down Mouse’s wet cheek, collecting his tears. “Wish we could drink these too. Would be a great image for him.”
Caroline: “We could bottle them. Save them. A little keepsake.”
GM: “Good idea. God knows he’s making enough to fill a milk carton.”
Caroline: The blonde’s tongue runs over a fresh flow of what can only be blood.
“I could just make you tell me everything,” she whispers in his ear. “But that would defeat the purpose.”
A sharp fingernail pulls at the scab on his chin and peels it back, releasing another fresh flow of blood.
GM: The brunette traces a finger over the spot of blood. That finger she does lick, visibly shuddering with pleasure as her eyes close.
Caroline: “You know I was almost a doctor? I can hurt you in so many ways, little rat. I can make you feel it for so long…”
GM: “He’s so scared, Caroline. I can taste it.”
Caroline: “Don’t wet the bed.” It’s an order.
GM: The brunette snickers. “Good thinking.”
Mouse: The young man stops sobbing and stares at the two women with dead eyes. The threat of torture, the strangeness of the situation: it all hurts. The world is an unfair place.
Caroline: The blonde grips his jaw and licks at the wound on his chin, then looks into his eyes.
“Just admit it, Mouse. You know what you are. You’re a stalker.”
GM: “A sinner,” the brunette echoes.
Mouse: “I am not a stalker!” Mouse seethes, defiantly.
Caroline: “And a criminal. And a want-to-be thug. Though… apparently not a very good one. Just like your brother. I could have laid him here next to you, but he’s not really my type,” the blonde whispers in Mouse’s ear.
GM: “Gangbangers are a dime a dozen. I’ve fed on enough of them to know.”
Mouse: Mouse’s eyes widen at the threat to his brother. “Fuck you! You’re not hurting him!”
GM: The brunette frowns at his denial and looks towards ‘Caroline’. She looks back at his profanity.
Caroline: Caroline laughs at his little outburst. “Oh, someone’s angry.”
GM: “I’d say he just grew a pair, but I’d still need a microscope to be sure.”
Caroline: “We could cut those off. It might curtail his urges,” Caroline muses. “Would you like that, Mouse?” She runs a hand down to his groin and grasps his manhood. “Some help with your self-control?”
“I don’t personally subscribe to that antique racist bullshit about black men not being able to control themselves around white women, but you’re not really a man, are you? You’re the vermin gnawing at the underbelly of the city.”
Mouse: “I didn’t do anything wrong!” he barks.
GM: “He keeps saying he’s not a stalker. He can’t atone if he doesn’t admit his sins,” the brunette sighs.
Caroline: “We’re not trying hard enough, clearly.” Caroline looks back at Mouse. “You are a stalker, and if I wanted to cut your brother’s throat there’s nothing you could do about it. There’s nothing you can do about it, except own up to what you did. I have nothing but time. Don’t give me a reason to go find him.”
Mouse: “I am not a stalker! I spoke to Cécilia one time! Fuck! You’re all racist assholes!”
Caroline: “And then you followed her home. And had to be removed by security, but not before resisting. While you stood in front of her door, screaming at her and singing a song you’d written just for her. Totally not a stalker.”
GM: “I had a cousin who said that’s what all black people do,” Jocelyn nods knowingly. “Yell ‘racist’ when they get caught doing anything bad.”
Caroline: Caroline turns to Jocelyn. “Not all, but this is why my uncle still calls them niggers behind closed doors,” she sighs.
GM: “I wonder if he’s insane,” Jocelyn muses. “He seriously doesn’t seem to think following a girl home is at all creepy. And then, you know, love songs.”
Caroline: “He had a song written using her name and everything. She gave a full statement. Poor girl was terrified. Actually hired a full-time bodyguard.”
GM: “Yeah, isn’t she filing a restraining order too?”
Caroline: “For all the good it’ll do. We’re threatening to cut his brother’s throat and all he cares about is that he did nothing wrong. I don’t think an imaginary line he can’t cross is going to make a difference.”
GM: Jocelyn nods. “Yeah, he’s pretty clearly insane. The fangs bit usually gets more reaction too.” She tilts her head thoughtfully.
Caroline: “He’s not a ghoul,” Caroline offers.
GM: “Yeah, I can’t smell it on him. And, honestly. Who the hell would waste juice on him?”
Caroline: “Meg and Aimee would like a word with you,” Caroline snipes back.
GM: “Meg’s not an insane stalker,” Jocelyn retorts. “Also, she’d probably be upset if someone were threatening to kill me. Can’t say the same for this creep.”
Caroline: “Mouse, let me make this easier on you. We’ll see if you can be trained, like a dog,” Caroline murmurs. “Every time from now on that you give me some bullshit denial about doing nothing wrong, I’m going to break one of your bones.”
Mouse: “Fuck you!”
GM: Jocelyn cocks her head. “I think that counts, Caroline.”
Caroline: “Now, contrary to popular belief, the number of bones you have isn’t set. It changes, starting higher when you’re an newborn, and getting smaller as you get older. In your case, being such a child…” She casually seizes his pinky finger and bends it backwards until it cracks. “I’m guessing you have more than most. That said, we could run through even three hundred pretty quickly at this rate. On the other hand, every time you admit to something and own up to your sins, I’ll do something you’ll enjoy.”
GM: “Could bring over his brother and break his too, but not sure if he’d care,” Jocelyn muses.
Caroline: “We’ve got plenty of non-vital bones we can break before we have to worry about that,” Caroline replies. "Now Mouse, let me hear you say, “I’m a stalker.”
Mouse: Mouse sobs at the broken finger; he shakes his head furiously. “Why won’t you believe me?” he asks, desperately. “I didn’t do anything wrong!”
Caroline: ‘Snap’ goes his ring finger on the same hand.
Mouse: Mouse screams.
Caroline: “I think you’re right. I think he might actually be insane.”
GM: “Doesn’t seem too good at learning from mistakes,” Jocelyn remarks in agreement.
Mouse: “I am a musician! Stop! Please!”
GM: “Yeah, we know.”
Caroline: “Is that an admission?” Caroline asks Jocelyn. “I’ve already told you the condition on which this will end, Rat, just own your actions. Admit to your sins and all the pain stops. Hell, Jocelyn will make this the best night of your life.”
GM: “Eh, he already admitted playing his music too loud. Not gonna cut it. Also, dibs on his next finger.”
Caroline: “Let’s try this again. I’m a stalker,” she repeats.
GM: “Three words. Shouldn’t be too hard even with a mouse’s brain.”
Caroline: “You’ve already pled out to most of the charges. Now you’re just confessing it. Come on, I’m a stalker.”
GM: “You say those words back to us,” Jocelyn helpfully clarifies in an ‘in case you’re too stupid’ tone. “You say ’I’m a stalker’, and your next finger doesn’t get broken. Really, though, my bet is that it’s gonna.”
Caroline: “Or don’t, and I can go get a hammer. We can work our way up. There are a lot of bones in the hand. I don’t actually remember them all by name, but I’m sure I can find them. After what you did I’m not going to lose sleep over turning that hand into hamburger they have to cut off. Especially if that’s what it takes to make you understand what you did was wrong.”
GM: “You’re the doctor. How many of his bones do we have to break before his hand gets amputated? Well, almost-doctor.”
Caroline: “Like this? I mean, these are pretty clean. But once I break out the hammer? Maybe if you had a world-class surgeon you could save it with enough pins and needles, though whether it would be of much use is another story. More likely they’re going to look at all the splinters and bone shards and decide the risk of infection is too great. I figure past three, maybe four inside the structure of the hand. But hey, I’m sure you can play guitar with a hook hand. I saw someone do amazing things with one just this week.”
GM: “Oh huh, I figured a broken bone was just a broken bone,” Jocelyn remarks thoughtfully. “Never really thought they could be impossible to heal like that. Bad luck for you, Rat, I probably woulda just kept snapping.”
Caroline: “I mean… maybe with the Blood.”
Mouse: “I didn’t stalk her!” Mouse protests. “I called her once and went to her place to thank her for helping me! I thought she was helping me! I was raising money for a friend after he lost his legs!” he chokes, trying his best to contain his tears. “Em told me she was his friend! I felt sorry for him and just wanted to help! I am telling the truth!”
Mouse eyes his broken fingers with a defeated look; his bruised features are marred with distress. “You only want to hear what you want to hear. You don’t want the truth.” His face crumples after a few more seconds looking at his hands, weighing up the threat. “My hands are my life. You’re killing me.” He looks back and forth from the blonde and the brunette.
“I’m a stalker. There.” His words don’t sound sincere at all. “Happy!? Does admitting something like that while you’re torturing me actually mean anything!?” he complains.
Caroline: Caroline gives a heavy sigh. “Well, this is a fucking buzzkill. I think he actually is mentally ill,” she complains to Jocelyn.
Mouse: “Good!” he says defiantly. “I’m glad my mental illness is a buzzkill for you, you fucking psycho!”
Caroline: Caroline scrutinizes Mouse for another moment, seemingly seeing him in a new light. Then anger contorts across her face. “The fucking piano player!”
Mouse: Mouse looks confused. He wasn’t expecting that outburst.
Caroline: “You lying little shit. I knew you looked familiar.”
Mouse: “What are you talking about?” As he looks, he struggles to free himself from his bindings.
Caroline: As it turns out, the 5’8" scrawny musician is unable to force the steel handcuffs.
GM: Jocelyn looks unimpressed through Mouse’s rant. She stares incredulously upon his attempt to wriggle free. “Wow. This guy’s got the survival instinct of a lemming.”
There’s another crack as his middle finger snaps.
Mouse: Mouse whimpers at yet another broken digit and shuts his eyes tightly.
Caroline: “You’ve been trolling around the edge of high society for years, haven’t you?”
GM: “Also, that confession sucked. You were found guilty in a court.”
Mouse: “I wasn’t found guilty of stalking!” he retorts.
Caroline: “Yeah, your shitbag attorney cut a pretty sweet deal for you.”
GM: Jocelyn glances at Caroline. “You know this weirdo?”
Caroline: “I’ve seen him at various social functions. Hiding in plain sight. He’s… actually a pretty talented pianist. I wonder if he’s some kind of idiot savant.”
GM: “Really? Could make him a ghoul, but…” The rest goes unsaid.
Mouse: “I am not an idiot! You’re idiots!”
GM: Jocelyn scoffs.
Mouse: “I don’t even know what you guys are talking about!”
Caroline: “Shut up,” Caroline orders.
Mouse: He shuts up. He can’t even cry. Or whimper. Or make a sound. It’s frightening. His eyes widen in terror. Mouse can only feel the thudding of his racing heart, the heat from his flushed face, and a cool, wet feeling around his neck.
Caroline: And of course the throbbing agony of his snapped fingers.
Mouse: It hurts so, so much. Everywhere.
GM: Jocelyn looks at Mouse. “When she releases you, I want you tell us how what you did to Cécilia Devillers was wrong, in your own words. I think that’s better than just having you say ’I’m a stalker.’”
Mouse: Mouse frowns at those words, although there’s some consideration taking place.
Caroline: “Let me help you out, since you’re apparently some brand of autistic,” Caroline offers. “You terrified her. You placed her in fear for her life. You created a persistent fear that she could be assaulted, you made her feel unsafe in her own home.” She frowns. “We’ll start with that. Find some way to include that.”
GM: “Also, the bit where she’s filing a restraining order, too.”
Caroline: “Nod if you understand.”
Mouse: He nods.
GM: “Doesn’t she have to see him again, at the court hearing where it’s filed? That’ll sure be fun for her.”
Mouse: Mouse looks a lot calmer now and appears to listen intently.
GM: Jocelyn pulls out her phone and snaps Mouse’s picture. “Gonna add a caption: ‘this is the face of autism.’”
Caroline: “You may speak,” Caroline orders.
Mouse: Mouse sighs in relief. Whatever is happening is certainly strange. Adrenaline pumps. He’s tired of being afraid, though. He looks up at the blonde, statuesque woman before him, and then to the pretty, disparaging brunette.
“I understand I scared Cécilia and am very sorry for that,” he says, “and it was never my intention. I fucked up and thought she was happy to help me with my friend, and I thought showing up with flowers, playing a song for her—it wasn’t written for her, it was a Tom Jones song—to say thanks for helping me was the right way to go about things. I fucked up, what more can I say?”
GM: Jocelyn frowns. “I’m not gonna break your thumb for that, but I’m hearing too much ‘I meant this’ and ‘I meant that’. That’s a thing about people with autism, though, they don’t have any empathy for other people. So try again, Rat, and tell us all about how what you did hurt her. Not what you ‘meant to do.’”
Caroline: “I could really care less about your feelings,” Caroline chimes in.
Mouse: “I didn’t mention my feelings.”
Caroline: “You just don’t know when to shut up, do you?” Caroline asks, almost incredulous.
GM: A new spurt of agony shoots through Mouse as his thumb snaps.
“Autism. No social awareness,” Jocelyn says.
Mouse: He cries in pain. “You kidnapped me!”
Caroline: “Oh god, shut up.”
Mouse: He can’t wrap his mind around these two inhuman, human-shaped things hurting him.
GM: Jocelyn stares incredulously. “What’s the next part of autism, rigidity of thought?”
There’s yet another spike of agony as the pinky of his other hand breaks.
“Seriously. You know we’re just gonna keep breaking these if you don’t tell us how you hurt Cécilia.” She looks to Caroline. “I seriously haven’t seen anything like this before.”
Caroline: “It’s honestly making me feel uncomfortable,” Caroline offers.
Mouse: Mouse barely registers their words: he simply cries silently. He looks at his broken fingers with wet, brown eyes.
GM: Jocelyn looks back to Mouse, and then patiently explains in the tone of somewhat talking to a mentally deficient child, “Tell us why, and how, Cécilia would have felt scared and hurt by what you did. Leave out anything to do with your feelings. Caroline, can you un-gag him?”
Caroline: She sighs. “You can talk.”
Mouse: Mouse looks ragged and takes a moment to muster the courage to speak.
“I… I… I am sorry. I should’ve called her first and checked if it was all right for me to come over. I shouldn’t have kept singing so loudly in front of her apartment. Is that what you want me to say?”
He looks confused. Frightened. Hurt.
Caroline: Caroline cringes.
GM: Jocelyn sighs. “That’s better, so I’m not gonna break your next finger. Still not good enough though.”
Caroline: “It’s like watching an Adam Sandler movie.”
GM: “He has autism, Caroline, we gotta be patient with him.” She looks back to Mouse. “Tell us HOW you scared and hurt her. Don’t use the word ‘I’ anywhere, or I’ll break your next finger.”
Mouse: “She was afraid for her safety. Her well-being. She’s afraid enough she wants to put a restraining order against me.”
GM: Jocelyn looks at Caroline.
Caroline: “Do you actually understand that, or are you just parroting?”
Mouse: He nods.
GM: “Uh, it’s an ‘or’ question. Not a ‘yes or no’ question. This is what autism looks like, Caroline. Totally friggin’ clueless.”
Mouse: “Sorry. I mean. I am not parroting. I understand that I scared Cécilia and that was wrong. I didn’t meant to, but that’s not important. That doesn’t stop that I still scared her.”
Caroline: “Do we have a breakthrough?”
GM: “Hmm. The part about intentions not mattering is pretty big,” Jocelyn nods. “I still don’t think he gets how creepy following her home and singing to her is. But this is way better than when we started out. I mean, I think it normally takes them lots of therapy to wise up?”
Mouse: “Can I clarify something?” he asks, fear in his voice.
GM: “Sure, though I’ll break a finger if you backslide.”
Mouse: “You’re not going to rape me, right? I’m a virgin and I want my first time to be with someone I love.”
GM: Jocelyn just stares at first. Then she bursts out laughing.
Caroline: Caroline just stares at him. “What the hell is wrong with you?”
Mouse: Mouse feels like crying.
GM: “This isn’t just autism, Caroline. I don’t know what the hell this is.”
Caroline: “I feel dirty.” And she does.
GM: “Not sure if even the Malks would take him as a ghoul.”
Caroline: None of this went the way she’d expected. From the effeminate artist to the autism, to this latest question. She looks away from the pitiful college student.
Mouse: “Sorry. You were licking my neck before… and I got scared… did I misunderstand again?”
GM: “No, we’re vampires.”
Mouse: Mouse looks up, noncomprehending. “What?”
Caroline: Caroline still isn’t looking at him.
GM: Jocelyn rests a hand on her shoulder. “Caroline?”
Caroline: “I’m sorry,” she whispers to the Toreador. “I thought this would be different.”
GM: “Yeah, so did I,” Jocelyn admits. She smiles and places a hand under the taller Kindred’s chin, not lifting it so much as directing Caroline’s gaze to hers. “It’s okay, though. We can do it tomorrow, or another night. We have forever.”
Mouse: Mouse simply continues to watch in a noncomprehending stupor.
GM: “Hey,” the Toreador continues, “we can even do another shopping trip before next time too.”
Caroline: “It’s not about us… we can still make that work. It’s just about… this. I thought I was punishing some monster, and instead I feel like we’re kicking a dog down the stairs. What he did was wrong, but he’s too stupid to understand why.”
GM: “The Testament says if they don’t learn their lesson, we’re supposed to kill them. But this feels…”
Caroline: “If this is going to be what it’s like, Jocelyn…”
GM: “No, no. It’s not like this,” Jocelyn assures her. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen anything like this. Normally they understand, or they offer some BS excuse, like ‘she was asking for it.’ There are a ton of real rapists, murderers, and other bad guys out there who deserve what we do.”
Caroline: “So what do we do with him?”
GM: Jocelyn sighs. “I need to ask a priest. The Testament doesn’t say anything about… cases like this. You can wipe his memory and we can drop him back off at his dorms, I guess.”
Caroline: She looks back at Mouse’s swelling hands.
GM: “It sounded like he owed some people money. Make him think they did it.”
Caroline: “Yeah… I just… feel bad. About leaving him like this.”
GM: “We could have someone call 911?” Jocelyn considers.
Caroline: “I can bandage up his hands,” Caroline muses. She looks back at Mouse. “Tell me about whoever it was that beat you up.”
Mouse: Mouse robotically recites his encounter with Bud and Sue in its entirety.
GM: “…huh. That bit with the little girl is pretty weird,” Jocelyn remarks when he’s finished.
Caroline: “Sounds like a ghoul,” Caroline comments.
GM: “You think? I guess he could be. Or they.”
Caroline: “They also sound like some terrible people either way. Anyway though, let’s get this over with.” She looks back to Mouse. “We’ve got better things to spend our night on.”
Her eyes meet Mouse’s, and the maimed musician knows no more.
Previous, by Narrative: Story Six, Mouse IV
Next, by Narrative: Story Six, Mouse VI
Previous, by Caroline: Story Six, Caroline III
Next, by Caroline: Story Six, Caroline V
Previous, by Mouse: Story Six, Mouse IV
Next, by Mouse: Story Six, Mouse VI