“Welcome t’ bein’ a vampire.”
Wednesday night, 9 September 2015, AM
Caroline: Caroline’s sports car pulls up to the gate house at Audubon Place.
GM: Attack dogs snarl on their leashes. The masked, armed, and black-garbed Blackwatch mercenaries remain ever vigilant for intruders, even if standing watch is probably a boring job.
Caroline: Caroline searches their faces for the familiar. Johnson? Perhaps.
GM: Caroline came make out Johnson, whose first name she does not know, standing vigil alongside several other mercs. She also recognizes Amanda Turner and Stephanie Hall, two of the few women to wear the security company’s black pawprint logo.
Caroline: Caroline rolls over to a stop. “Sergeant Johnson. Do you remember me?”
GM: The mercenary looks Caroline over and grunts, “Sure.”
“You better have ID this time,” he growls.
Caroline: Caroline pours on the presence. Do the lights actually turn to point in her direction? Does the world actually shrink around her, constricting, trapping them in with her? Who can say?
“I had actually hoped we might have a talk about that night, if you had a moment away from your duties, sergeant. I know the night is dark and full of terrors, but perhaps Audubon Place can survive a moment of your inattention?”
GM: The guards’ grips slacken on their weapons as their eyes widen, like a famous movie star had just strolled up to the guard post and asked if they wanted to chill. To his credit, Johnson keeps his face mostly together, though the irritation entirely vanishes from his expression.
“Yeah. Sure. Hall. Take over.”
The female merc nods, still staring at Caroline.
Caroline: Caroline turns the car off into a holding area and climbs out, all long legs, dark fabric rustling against pale skin. It helps when you’re piling vampiric majesty atop a firm foundation. She moves off with Johnson, eyes sweeping the other mercenaries and settling for a moment on the two females.
Once they’re off and aside, she feigns a bit of nervousness behind a veneer of power. “You remember the other night, I’m sure. The condition I was in. You have no idea my gratitude that you didn’t press on the matter then.”
GM: “Wasn’t anything, ma’am,” the sergeant denies agreeably. “What were we gonna do, just leave you out there?”
Caroline: “You could have turned me away. You could have asked questions. Could have invaded my privacy. You didn’t. Discretion is valuable, sergeant.” She pauses, smiles shyly, and continues in a lighter tone, “Do you have a first name, or should I call you John Johnson?”
GM: “Thomas,” the merc answers. “It’s my middle name.”
“Mom named me Andrew Johnson, of all stupid things. Every drill sergeant on Parris Island got a kick out of calling me ‘President Johnson’ or ‘Mr. President.’”
Caroline: Caroline laughs lightly. “No doubt they felt they were clever. ‘Teachable’ moments and all that.”
GM: “I’m not a history buff, but let me tell you, I know everything there is to know about that damn president.”
Caroline: “At least something good came of it, then. As I hope something good might come of… well. The other.”
“I don’t think I need to tell you what happened that night, or at least I suspect you have your own guesses that aren’t far off. It’s not the type of thing I’m comfortable talking about.”
She waits for the nod, or the reply.
GM: The merc growls, “You want, I can pump his guts full of lead.”
He taps his automatic. “This thing’s an FN Scar. Can take down a rhino even before the tweaks I’ve had made to it.”
Caroline: She gives a sad, almost shamed look. “I may well take you up on that, Thomas, when the time comes. First, though… I… Blackwatch provides private security to individuals as well, right?”
GM: “Sure do. Best in the business.”
Caroline: “Is there someone you might recommend, specifically, if I needed someone? Wanted someone?” She looks back to him. “Someone you trust?”
“Obviously I’d have to go through official channels, but I don’t simply want a stranger…”
GM: The mercenary pulls down his half-mask. He’s a clean-shaven man, with a rectangular face, hard features, and the intense stare she’s seen on a number of veteran soldiers. His grin offsets it, though. He’s no supermodel, but he’s not a bad looker either.
“Well, ma’am, not to be modest, ‘cause I sure as fuck ain’t, but there’s no merc I’d recommend before yours truly.”
“I do a job, I do it well, and I do it quiet.”
Caroline: “I have little doubt of that, sergeant.”
Caroline studies the face. Would she have gone for that in another life? She’d always appreciated a softer man.
“You’re a professional. Marine, right?”
GM: “That’s right. Three tours in Iraq.”
“I’m also not a sergeant anymore in Blackwatch. Just the other guys’ supervisor.”
Caroline: Caroline knows better than to start with ‘thank you for your service’ crap.
“Just Thomas, then. Proud’s in the job description.” Another smile. “I’m sure there’s no one I’d rather have in a shootout, or as a shot caller. I have to find him first, though. Anyone with a police background? Someone that might be willing to help dig something up when he’s not doing force protection?”
GM: “Couple, but we’re not exactly P.I.‘s. It’s one of those guys you want. Ex-cops who sign up with us do it because they want to shoot things, not do detective work.”
Caroline: “Too unreliable.”
GM: “Drop enough money and anyone’s reliable.”
Caroline: “Point. Do you have a number for customer service?” she asks.
GM: “Check our website.”
Caroline is able to pull one up in short order on her phone.
Caroline: She tucks the phone away.
“Hopefully they’ll be in touch. Otherwise I will. I’ll hold you to ‘full of lead,’ Thomas.”
GM: Thomas grins and cocks a salute. “You bet, ma’am.”
Caroline: “Thank you, Thomas.” She lays a hand on his arm.
GM: Thomas abruptly cups a hand around the back of Caroline’s head and pulls her in for a kiss. It’s rough, forceful, and hungry.
Caroline: She lets it go on for a moment… but only a moment. She pulls back, hand out.
“I can’t. I can’t.” Her voice is pained. “Not now.”
GM: The merc rolls his eyes. “Then don’t be all touchy, lady.”
Caroline: “I’m sorry.”
She lays on her supernal presence. How can she do wrong?
The Beast lashes out. Caroline ignores it. Not here, not now.
GM: “Yeah, you and every cocktease.” Thomas’ eyes briefly swim, as if fighting against the glamour, but then he shakes his head and jabs a thumb against his chest.
“Remember. When you want the best.”
Caroline: “I’ll remember.”
She goes back to her car. Not quite shaken, but… annoyed perhaps? Men.
Her eyes sweep the assembled mercs again.
Or maybe not.
Wednesday night, 9 September 2015, AM
Caroline: Caroline pulls to a stop outside her home. Aimee no doubt sleeps inside. It seems her car will continue to serve as her office for now. Something else to remedy.
She calls the Blackwatch hour number for Force Protection. At least someone is professional.
GM: The Blackwatch service rep takes care of the initial details. There’ll be some forms for Caroline to sign, and they’ll want to do a basic background check, but her family’s name and prior relationship with the security company should mean it’s largely a formality. The service rep is only too happy to say they’ll “take care of everything” and spare Caroline from any hoop jumping.
The Ventrue would be able to breathe easier, if she still breathed at all, knowing she’ll have a bodyguard soon.
Caroline: A discussion follows. Caroline outlines needs and availability. She lays out one condition before arriving at a conclusion: women only. A male bodyguard would make her uncomfortable.
GM: That does cut down on her options, the service rep informs her, but they’ll see what they can do. Would gay men also be acceptable?
Caroline: Caroline is of course no bigot. Gay men are fine.
As long as they stop humping my leg.
GM: After giving the usual corporate pleasantries about the excellent choice Caroline’s made with Blackwatch and how pleased they are to do business with her, the service rep wishes the Ventrue a pleasant evening.
Caroline: She ends the call and quietly heads inside, slipping towards her room with unnatural grace. Much of the rest of the evening is to be spent on research.
GM: Finding information about René online proves frustratingly difficult. His name isn’t in any records or databases she can access. Or maybe Caroline is just too close to the “case.”
Just when she’s given up, however, her computer’s webcam abruptly snaps white as it takes her picture.
She didn’t choose to turn the cam on.
Caroline: Caroline blinks for a moment at first, but her face rapidly moves from surprise, to rage, to calm seething. “Enjoying the show?”
Her fingers tap across the keyboard.
GM: The laptop’s screen is unresponsive.
Caroline isn’t a computer whiz, but she’s familiar with the basics. She knows that hacking another person’s webcam, as unnerving as it might be to the victim, actually isn’t a terribly difficult feat. You don’t even have to be a programmer to pull it off. Just get the target to accept a file with the RAT, sit back and enjoy the fun. There are forums where script kiddie ‘hackers’ buy, sell, and swap access to the computers whose cams they’ve taken over. They call the victims ‘slaves.’
Caroline scours her system… but finds no RAT. She hasn’t downloaded any recent files from sketchy or fraudulent sources that she can tel.
Caroline: “You don’t want to chat?” she asks the webcam quietly.
GM: No response is forthcoming.
Caroline: “Fine. Be that way.”
She reaches down and ejects the computer’s wireless card.
GM: The computer immediately disconnects from her home’s wi-fi. Where the picture has ended up, however, she can only begin to guess.
Caroline: “But I bet you left a trail. And I know where to follow it. Even if I can’t myself.”
GM: The network-less computer stares at her silently.
Caroline: She closes down the computer in frustration.
If there’s some silver lining, it’s that the night is moving towards an end. Perhaps the dusk will bring a new lead.
She checks the collection of phones on her desk. The virgin whose number only Lou has. Her main with her mortal contacts, the third separate one she’s given to Kindred, and that provided by Wright.
GM: Jocelyn and Lou have not called yet, and Wright seems to expect her to call him, rather than the other way around. Her new main doesn’t have a voice message, but she has received an email from the Louisiana Supreme Court. The email informs her that she is fired. She supposes that’s what you get after missing days of work without notice.
It’s just as well. Job hours were during the day.
Caroline: Just as well.
She fires back an email that is suitably apologetic, while also accepting. She cites personal matters and wishes them well.
GM: She has another email from Aimee, who’s sent her a list of coursework she’s fallen behind on.
School seems almost laughably mundane next to what she’s faced over the last few nights.
Caroline: Another headache. But still not one she’s willing to give up on.
GM: Aimee adds that beyond doing the work, she should also touch base with her professors. It just isn’t the same with another person covering. Wellington seemed particularly disapproving.
Aimee finally adds that she’s not seen her all day and hopes she’s all right.
Caroline: Caroline works on the schoolwork until sunrise. Fortunately, most of it is easier by hand. Lots of reading and analysis without too much writing.
Eventually, she feels the sun rising overhead. The darkness recedes, and with it her.
Once more, she climbs into the dark, cramped crawl space that is her bed. Not exactly the accommodations she wants. Another matter to see to. Eventually. The only real difficulty is finding a place to plug in her collection of phones before she does so. Old homes aren’t built with outlets in mind.
GM: Caroline’s lodging are not comfortable, but nor are they uncomfortable. She doesn’t feel soreness. She doesn’t feel pain. It’s just a space to store her corpse when it’s being a proper corpse.
Her eyes close. Then they open. Her phones are full of messages and say it’s over eight hours later.
Caroline: Those messages get her attention.
GM: An email from Denise reports there are no assets or properties attached to the name René Baristheaut, as that man has been dead for 117 years. Caroline is ironically correct in her guess that René was a soldier, for he fought in the 1898 Spanish-American War as a Marine Corps officer and was reported killed in action. He was excommunicated from the Catholic Church before he left for war, though records from that far back are spotty and Denise’s investigators have not been able to determine why. (Nor do they seem inclined to, unless the matter is particular interest to Caroline.)
Denise’s people have determined the Baristheauts were a well-to-do Creole family that prospered during the Antebellum era. Like many of their peers, the Baristheauts’ fortunes were hit hard by the Civil War and steadily declined throughout the Gilded Age. René’s death might have even been a mercy: the family was spared the humiliating generational erosion of their wealth and status that many other Creoles suffered. The Baristheaut name died with Caroline’s sire, for he was his bloodline’s only male heir. He had sisters who married into other families, but his father never recovered from René’s loss, and died only a year later. Father and son are both interred in St. Louis Cemetery.
Caroline: Another reason to visit St. Louis. It’s calling to her.
GM: Gabriel Hurst, too, owns no assets or properties, for he died in 1957 and received a full funeral and burial. Records surrounding his life and death are a good deal more complete than René’s. He died at the relatively young age of 26 and was an entrepreneur from a working-class family who’d started his own chain of grocery stores. His business did well and his relatives lived in greater comfort when he died than when he was born. Money, though, isn’t what obituaries seem to remember him for. Hurst’s neighbors, employees, and many, many friends all speak of him in glowing terms and describe the young man as a pillar of his community. René’s death seemingly only impacted his immediate family, but Hurst’s life seems to have touched many people, and his death been mourned by equally many.
Caroline: “Young,” Caroline murmurs, and not at his age of death. Fifty years in the Blood, but that doesn’t seem so long to hold any title of note given what little she’s seen. And the trend. Faked deaths, lack of property. To a certain extent it makes sense as an ‘easy’ way out, but surely that can’t be with all Kindred what. There are easier solutions than starting over, though granted, most Kindred probably aren’t as aware of them. The thoughts roll over in her mind like marbles racing towards the end of the table, towards the drop.
GM: Donovan’s home, finally, is owned (in full, not mortgaged) by a 52-year-old man named Paul Simmons. He has two divorced wives, though no current spouse or children. He works a numbers job in the CBD for Fidelity Bank. He doesn’t appear to have any noteworthy hobbies or social networks outside of his co-workers and the bar he sometimes goes to after work. The man’s criminal record is squeaky-clean, save for a fewer traffic tickets, and one count of drunk driving during his first divorce. He was arrested for it but never charged. The man’s record is clean enough to arouse no suspicion, but just dirty enough not to look too suspicious either. He is as banal and uninteresting as his soulless McMansion home.
Caroline: Now that’s interesting. A patsy? A ghoul? Her fake Donovan? She plugs the man’s name into social networking looking for a picture.
GM: Not the same man, or his mimic, by any stretch.
Caroline: Pitifully mundane. In fact, so mundane that it makes her question. Wonder. Another mystery perhaps to be unraveled, though not particularly meaningful tonight.
She sets those messages aside and punches Wright’s number into the burner he provided. Her early evening check-in with her favorite ghetto vampire. She’s so come to look forward to these conversations in the short time she’s known him.
GM: “What?” the hound asks without preamble.
Caroline: Caroline can picture his smug face. The chains around his neck. The very image is infuriating behind his response. She instead pictures him in a black slacks, white button-down, tie, apron. Just another servant. The image is so ludicrous that her anger fades.
“Checking in, as required,” she replies. “I wasn’t able to check on the medical examiner’s office, but I’m going to have a police contact see if there’s a lead I can dig up there. Otherwise I haven’t skipped town.” She delivers the report dispassionately.
GM: “Uh huh. What you been doin’ this past night?”
Caroline: “Putting out fires with my police contacts regarding the event two nights ago. Meeting with Sheriff Donovan’s representative. Trying to arrange assistance for when I do manage to find René. Waiting on other leads to pan out.”
Prick, she resists adding onto the end. Narrowly.
GM: “You gonna be doin’ more than sittin’ ’round on your ass tonight.”
Caroline: “Is that a question or an order?” she asks, biting her lip as it slips out.
GM: “An order, girl. The only question is how.”
Caroline: Girl. It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard. She stuffs her pride.
“I’ve reached a roadblock,” she admits. “I can dig up everything there is to know about a 117-year-dead man, but it tells me nothing about him as a Kindred.”
GM: “Uh huh. Well, girl, that what I’m gonna be passin’ on to Sheriff Donovan? ‘Whoops, I ain’t sure what to do next, I’m gonna jus’ sit back an’ diddle myself?’”
Caroline: Fingernails dig into flesh.
“I somehow doubt that’s the vernacular you’d use with him.”
GM: “An’ here’s a pointer, pro bono, in case that’s what you were thinkin’ of doin’. What’s ’tween your legs does about as much good now as a welfare check to a dope fiend.”
Caroline: “You didn’t accept welfare checks?”
GM: “Oh, girl,” Wright remarks quietly. She can picture the hound shaking his head. “Wrong thing t’ say.”
The line clicks off.
Caroline: “Fuck,” Caroline swears loudly. She needed something out of him. Several somethings, in fact. With the French Quarter barred to her by his decree, her ability to make connections to other Kindred is sharply limited. The nature of Kindred society appears to be, much like upper class society, that such connections are where all real business is done.
Stupid, she berates herself, even as she gets moving. She slings a duffel bag over her shoulder on the way out of her home. She slips out the back door and slides it into her car’s backseat as she pulls out of the driveway.
GM: Caroline’s burner phone rings.
Caroline: She digs it out of her bag, separating it from its siblings, and snaps it open.
GM: “Remain where you are,” sounds an unfamiliar man’s voice.
The line immediately clicks off.
Caroline: That’s not unnerving.
She guides the car towards the curb and checks her bag while she waits. Firearm, money, ‘hacked’ computer, charges, knife… sword dug out of her closet from her high school days. All of it likely useless.
GM: Caroline waits for several minutes. Several cars pull up to her house’s driveway, headed by a black 2015 Escalade. Wright gets out of the luxury vehicle, clad in the same black clothes, jacket, gold jewelry, and upturned baseball cap she saw him in last.
New-rich African-American in an Escalade. Like she’s never seen that before. Even the cap and gold jewelry fit into the stereotype. He drives like, dresses like, and acts like a drug dealer.
GM: He’s accompanied by several further African-American men, dressed similarly to him, but in lighter colors. They also look like they could be drug dealers.
Caroline: Caroline narrowly resists rolling her eyes.
GM: Wright walks up to the front door and bangs once.
Caroline: Caroline climbs out of her car from the street.
“Here,” she calls.
GM: Wright doesn’t glance away from the door.
“Get over here, girl.”
Caroline: A flicker of concern races across her face even as a cold shiver runs down her spine. Heels click on the sidewalk as she strides through the array of thugs towards him.
GM: Wright holds out his hand.
Caroline: She hands them over to him silently.
GM: “Anyone else in there?”
Caroline: Caroline glances at the driveway for Aimee’s car.
GM: Wright still doesn’t look away from the door.
“Where her bedroom?”
Caroline: “What the hell are you doing?” Caroline asks finally, dread and fury warring.
GM: Wright finally turns and stares at Caroline.
“Sheriff’s orders. Now. Where her bedroom?”
Caroline: She stares daggers at him. Old words come back. Resist when it matters. This is hardly a secret she can keep.
GM: Wright unlocks the house’s front door and strides in. His fellows troop in after him.
Caroline: “You don’t want to…” Caroline begins as he opens the door and barges in.
The furious growl is the only warning he has as two hundred pounds of teeth, muscle, and flabby skin rushes the intruder.
GM: The other gangsters shout in alarm. Even Wright can’t hide his surprise as the massive canine barrels into him like a sack of bricks. “MothaFUCKER-!”
Caroline: “Caesar, down!” Caroline tries to call.
GM: Caesar completely ignores Caroline as he knocks Wright flat on his back. Flesh and cloth alike tear as the dog savagely mauls the intruder. Several of the gangsters rush up to help. One closes the door. One, the youngest-looking, pulls a gun. Wright just rolls his eyes and growls from under Caesar’s bulk, “No fuckin’ guns, shithead!”
Suddenly, the vampire is standing upright. A vicious red gash mars his chest. Caesar isn’t there anymore.
Caroline: Caroline blinks.
GM: A resounding crash sounds from the far end of the hall, followed by a lighter shatterong. A vase lies in broken pieces. A portrait is knocked over. Caesar lies on his back, bleeding profusely from his muzzle as he makes a high-pitched whining noise. Red is also smeared over Wright’s fist.
Caroline: Caroline shakes with fury as the scene comes together. She pushes through the thugs towards the dog.
GM: “Cute, girl. Real fuckin’ cute,” says Wright.
Caesar snarls and weakly snaps at Caroline’s hand as another undead corpse approaches him.
Caroline: She pauses between the two, unable to comfort her dog. Caesar, who slept on her bed for years.
“I didn’t know you were going to barge in,” she replies, short of snapping, as she surveys the wreckage. “If I was trying to set you up I can think of a dozen better ways.”
GM: Wright does not answer Caroline as he stomps up the stairs, followed by two gangsters. She catches a glimpse of his torn stomach repairing itself, as if she were watching the healing process on a fast forwarded video. After a moment, his torn shirt is the only sign to mark the wound’s existence.
Caroline: She stares hatred at the remaining thugs. Burning their faces into her mind. Glances back at Caesar. Bleeding. Dying. Still fighting her.
She follows Wright, fingernails digging into her palms.
GM: One of the gangsters kicks open the door to Aimee’s room without so much as trying the handle. Light from the hallway cuts through the room’s gloom, framing the young woman’s sleeping form. Aimee jolts up, sees the three strangers superimposed against the doorway, and screams.
Caroline: Caroline stares at Wright, but doesn’t look into the room. She hides in the hall. Hides from Aimee. Hides from herself.
GM: The two men pull out guns and click the safeties off.
Caroline: “No!” Caroline howls as she hears the weapons moving. She dives at the thugs.
GM: Caroline slams shoulder-first into the left gangster and tackles against him to the floor. His head loudly cracks against the door’s wooden frame, sending his gun tumbling from his fingers. He yells and tries to throw Caroline off.
The right gangster takes aim with his weapon and lines up a shot at Aimee’s forehead. Wright lays a hand on the gun and pushes it down to point at the floor. “You ain’t seen shit,” the vampire states, his voice heavy.
Aimee’s terrified face relaxes.
“You had a nightmare,” continues Wright. “Some big bad black men broke into your room. So you can’t sleep. You’re gonna go for a nice long drive, forget everythin’ you saw in this house, then come back an’ go to bed.” His voice grows less thick. “What happens next is ‘tween me an’ your roomie. Girlfriend. Whatever.” He pauses. “An’ if I was you, I’d find some new digs. This place is bad news. Even if your roomie’s too dumb t’ see.”
“Oh yeah.” His voice thickens again. “Change into somethin’ else.”
Aimee strips and changes into a tank top and pair of jeans while the three men watch. She walks out of the room with a glazed expression, as if sleepwalking, then disappears down the stairs.
Caroline: Relief floods Caroline as they let Aimee go. She climbs off the downed man.
GM: The gangster to his feet and dusts himself off with an angry glare, but doesn’t move against her.
Wright turns to Caroline and jabs a finger against her unbeating heart.
“No more lip.”
“No more games.”
“No more bullshit.”
Caroline: She nods slowly. Soberly.
GM: Wright turns his back on Caroline and tromps down the stairs, followed by the two men.
Caroline: “Wright,” she calls, as he turns. She waits to see if he pauses or turns.
GM: The other vampire pauses. He does not look back.
Caroline: “No games. No bullshit. But… you’re the only contact I have. If I can’t investigate, and I can’t socialize, I’m dead already. Might as well kiss the sunrise. Not pity. Not sympathy. Not even like. If I’m forbidden Vieux Carré, I need a contact. Someone who can at least give me something on his Requiem. Can you tell Sheriff Donovan that? A boon, favor, whatever. I’ll pay.”
GM: “Welcome t’ bein’ a vampire,” Wright states, his voice heavy. Even tired.
The hound’s heavy footsteps resume down the stairs. Caroline hears glass breaking.
Caroline: Caroline repeats the number to herself, then snatches a pen off Aimee’s desk to write it down.
GM: Heavy thuds are audible from downstairs. More glass breaks.
Caroline: Caroline pockets the scrap of paper with the number and heads down to investigate.
GM: Wright’s gangsters are simultaneously trashing and looting the house. Their arms bulge with widescreen TVs, tablet computers, stereo sets, video game consoles, and bags of wine. What they can’t take, two of the youngest gangsters destroy, whooping as they smash the house’s windows and furniture with baseball bats. Wright does not carry any looted goods, but nor does he make any move to stop his people as he strides out the door. They fall in line after him, straining under the weight of their hauls, and troop into their cars.
Caroline: Caroline watches them go. Their antics seem almost childish after the threat to Aimee. This is why she has insurance, after all.
GM: The cars pull out of the driveway and disappear into the night.
Caroline: She watches them go. She only sinks down after they round the bend, back against the wall, knees pulled tight.
She stares at wrecked first floor. Shattered furniture. Broken windows. Looted fixtures. Caesar, wheezing his last breaths. She rests her forehead against her palm. Relief, anger, sadness, helplessness.
She finally looks up.
She needs to get her house in order.
Wednesday night, 9 September 2015, PM
Caroline: An hour later a patrol car is pulling out of the driveway, as is a car with big ugly blue GEICO letters across the side. It’s slightly unusual for a claims adjuster to show up at night, but not that unusual. The itemized items stolen or destroyed are drawn against the items on file. A report is filed with the police, which they take apathetically. The only thing interesting about this case is the neighborhood, and even that won’t save it from obscurity in a pile of paperwork somewhere. Most of this stuff runs by bureaucratic fiat once the claim is filed anyway.
Within 90 minutes, destruction aside, the home is quiet once more. Perhaps more quiet, given the lack of buzzing electronics. Caroline knows she has at least an hour of peace before Aimee returns. The maid service won’t come by until the morning. Good help is so hard to find. Caesar, thankfully, seems to be less harmed than Caroline initially thought. The hurt dog stares at her behind lidded eyes from the corner of the room, ten feet away. He won’t let her get any closer. It stings, but less than losing him might have. Caroline takes the small mercies where she can get them.
Trivialities seen to, Caroline sits in one of the few non-shattered chairs at a table covered in broken glass, its rich mahogany finish scarred with the imprint of a baseball bat. Not a total loss, the insurance adjuster assured her. The paper is on the table in front of her, phone in hand, as she debates hitting the send key. Wright isn’t her biggest fan. Understatement. But there had been something in his voice when he’d rattled off the number. And if he’d really wanted to fuck with her, it would have been a small matter to let his men shoot Aimee. Or worse. Tired. She can sympathize. The nature of vampiric ‘sleep’ leaves much to be desired.
She finally punches in the number and hits send.
GM: “Hello, Caroline Malveaux,” rasps a simultaneously scratchy and phlegmy voice. A hack-spitting noise sounds in the background, like a smoker rudely expelling their built-up mucus onto the ground.
Caroline: “Uh, hello,” she replies, off-balance.
Graceful, she chides herself.
GM: Caroline hears dull, phlegmy laughter on the other end of the line.
Caroline: “So not the best first impression,” she agrees with a weak chuckle.
GM: The Ventrue hears what sounds like flatulent gas being expelled from an orifice.
Caroline: “I might have started with introductions, but you seem to know me already.”
GM: “We know everything in this city, fledgling. Everything that matters, at least.”
“So perhaps you’d like to start?”
GM: “You can call me…” There’s another sound of gas being expelled. “Prince Charming.”
More phlegmy guffaws. Caroline can hear something wet dripping.
Caroline: The sounds are strangely disaffecting. Maybe it’s because she no longer eats or drinks.
“Prince Charming, then. Presumably you already know why I’m calling as well?”
GM: “Caroline Malveaux, unreleased Ventrue fledgling, calling over the hound’s burner phone, on the hunt for her sire René Baristheaut after her slut lawyer friend didn’t come through.”
Caroline: “It was you, on the computer last night.”
GM: “Moi?” the voice rasps.
Caroline: “Impressive trick.”
GM: “Nothing’s free with us, fledgling. It’ll be a boon to confirm or deny that.”
Caroline: “Let’s stick to business, then. You know what I want.”
GM: “Of course, if it wasn’t us, we could maybe point you to who…”
Caroline: “Curiosity can wait until there’s less red in the ledger.”
GM: “You, you, you. Let’s talk about me.”
Caroline: “Presumably there’s a price,” Caroline agrees. “So what does Prince Charming want?”
GM: “God, that slutty laywer chick’s sex on legs. Makes me remember what it’s like to have sweaty palms and a pile of crusty yellow socks. I could never hold the ol’ bladder in when I was whacking it off.”
Caroline: Caroline crinkles her nose in disgust at last. She’s careful to keep her tone neutral. “Fond memories, then.”
GM: “I’ve changed my mind, too,” the voice hacks. “I want you to call me Daddy. And that slut lawyer, I bet she buys birth control pills by the bucketful, doesn’t she?”
Caroline: “What happened to nothing for free?” Caroline asks, a hint of amusement in her voice. “Daddy.”
GM: The voice initially sounds like it’s cackling, but that soon gives away to something that sounds like a cat hacking up a half-digested rat or other small animal.
“Oh, this is part of your mystery rewards package.”
Then, “I want a picture of your tits.”
Caroline: If looks could kill, Caroline would be on the hook for another murder.
GM: “Don’t be shy, we all whore ourselves around on a nightly basis. We’re all sluts here. I won’t judge your morals.” The rasping, hacking laughter sounds again. “Just your girls.”
Caroline: “I never cared for the mystery door number one,” Caroline replies. “Still don’t.”
GM: “Less talk, more tits on my phone screen.”
Caroline: “If I’m going to be your phone sex line, we’re going to bill by the minute.”
GM: “You’ll be paid fair and square, don’t you worry. Now what’s my name?”
Caroline: “Daddy, proof first. Evidence you know more than what you get out of three dozen witnesses to my near execution could recite.”
GM: “Oh god, we’re poppin’ a cherry,” the voice guffaws. “What clan is your daddy?”
Caroline: “Something for you to know, and me to find out presumably.”
Caroline begins to wonder if this isn’t an elaborate joke by Wright.
GM: There’s more guffaws. “This one’s a freebie, like the cumstains I’d have left on your gym shorts if we went to the same high school. I’m Nosferatu.”
Caroline: “And so you prove your diligence and aptitude, but not that our desires align.”
GM: “Let’s not pretend you hold any cards here, fledgling.”
Caroline: “I never hold any cards. But while I’m happy to hand over my chips, I’m not doing it before I know we’re playing the same game. They said you know everything. I’m not asking you to hand over the family jewels.”
GM: Another hacking rasp. “Your tits and Dolores, or Malo’s limp monkey dick and the introductory service package.” Caroline hears the screeching ooh-ooh-ooh! of what sounds like an actual chimpanzee. “Don’t worry, boy, there’s plenty other sluts.”
Caroline: “Dolores?” she asks.
GM: “Slut’s getting greedy now,” the voice admonishes with a rasp-hack-chortle. “Knowing who she is, and a few other questions… boon.”
Caroline: “No, I mean I don’t understand what you’re talking about,” Caroline replies.
What’s the harm? the practical part of her asks. A picture of her breasts for possible info seems like a small price.
But another part of her, the part that still has pride, asks where it stops, and what is left of her when it does. Cross one line with this troll and who knows what his next demand will be. Strung out on demands is not appealing.
GM: “I’m charging you extra to give you something more. If that doesn’t make any sense, you’re more likely to leave cumjuice in your sweet scented panties than you are to catch René.”
Caroline: No pictures. That was a pretty simple rule in the family. Sexting always seemed like a stupid idea anyway. Still… she looks around the wrecked home. That might be the least of her concerns.
She digs out a burner. All the money in the world, and she’s selling her dignity and self-respect. She trudges to the downstairs bathroom, phones in hand to take the damn picture, careful to crop her face out. Her finger burns over the send button, but she finally hits it.
“On its way. Daddy.”
She saves gritting her teeth for after she’s done talking. Self-respect for not even a promise. Amazing how little it sells for.
GM: Fits of hacking, shrieking laughter sound. So do wilder, louder, ooh-ooh-oohs! from the chimp. But something sounds off about them. Something sounds…
“Yeah, that’s right, Malo! That’s right!”
The chimp screeches and howls.
Caroline: Caroline’s face twists in disgust as she holds the phone away from her head. Listening, but not piping the obscenity into her ear.
GM: An ear-splitting howl. Something wet hitting what sounds like paper.
“Good boy, Malo! Good boy!” the voice distantly cheers.
Louder guffaws sounds into the phone. “If your daddy could see this.”
“Your kine daddy,” the voice clarifies, “not me.”
Caroline: “I’m sure he’d be less amused than you.”
Still, the words cut. Blood flows from her already bruised pride.
GM: “And your uncle, he’s the friggin’ archbishop! This is like tabloid scandal stuff.”
Caroline: It staggers to its feet, swaying like a drunken boxer.
GM: Caroline hears something scribbling in the background. A new text pops up on her phone.
Caroline: She glances at it. Half-expecting a dick pic.
GM: It contains a picture of the picture of her breasts. Along with a dark, erect, and extremely small penis over an extremely large pair of testicles that look mammalian but far from sapien. Caroline can read another phone number scribbled in black sharpie over her breasts. That section of the picture is damp and stained.
Caroline: She scrawls down the number on the same piece as she used earlier for this one.
GM: “Tell Dolores that you paid Gerald for the VIP access package,” the Nosferatu hack-guffaws.
Caroline: Her eyes are hard set, cold, vicious. Wounded pride, a wounded animal, savage. Darkness closing in.
“The longest game of telephone of all time.”
GM: “Pretty short when Malo got down to it,” sounds another phlegmy guffaw.
Caroline: “Is there anything else?”
GM: “Nope. Pleasure doing business, fledgling.”
Caroline: The line clicks on her end. She digs out the memory card for the burner and bites it in half, chewing the plastic pieces for a moment before spitting them out. For what it’s worth.
GM: Her face is absent, and Gerald may have been correct that Kindred whore themselves out a nightly business, but it’s remarkable to reflect what she’s come to in only a few nights.
Caroline: She dials the next number in the chain dispassionately. Tired. She can sympathize with Wright.
GM: “Dolores Campbell,” sounds a prim, maybe middle-aged female voice.
Caroline: “Good evening, Dolores. I’m supposed to tell you I paid Gerald for the ‘VIP’ access package.”
GM: “I see,” the woman declares. Caroline can’t picture her face, but she can picture a set of pursed lips. “May I ask who is calling?”
Caroline: “Is it necessary?” Caroline asks.
GM: “Yes, young lady, it is,” the woman answers with a touch of reprobation.
Caroline: “Caroline.” The heiress lets the name out like a miser lets a coin leave his fingers.
GM: “You are fortunate that the lord almoner is already aware of your surname, Miss Caroline,” Dolores states primly. “He has an opening in his schedule at 4:30.”
The woman gives her an address in Uptown. It’s a well-to-do section of town just east of Caroline’s neighborhood.
Caroline: “Anything in the evening, rather than afternoon?” she asks.
GM: “The lord almoner keeps a nocturnal schedule, Miss Caroline. The 4:30 is this morning.”
Caroline: Caroline checks the front of her phone. Still hours away.
GM: “He will expect you promptly then, Miss Caroline. Good night,” the woman bids her in the same prim tone.
Caroline: “Thank you.” Caroline ends the call wondering what fresh hell she has invited.
Once that happens she can start making her own path. Until then… she’s on the hook to Wright, stuck selling off the few assets she has: self-respect and pride.
She leaves a note on the door for Aimee and some cash on the table for a hotel room tonight, until the mess can be cleaned up. Then she heads out, leaving her broken home behind in search of something more satisfying.
Wednesday night, 9 September 2015, PM
Caroline: Caroline can’t say exactly why her tastes have aligned the way they have, but she knows what is appealing to her. College students. How fortunate that she lives near a university. And she has a date tonight, though her partner doesn’t know it yet. Summer has been a bad girl. More importantly, her sister has the Ventrue’s eye. Time to pay her a visit.
GM: Josephine Louise House, better known as JLH, is a three-story red-bricked building that serves as one of Tulane’s girls’ dorms. Built in 1887, the 128-year-old building is one of the four buildings still remaining from the college’s original campus. As Caroline makes her way down the winding, bush-lined trail to the dorm house, she can see a few lights on in the windows, but no significant sounds are audible. It’s a late weekday night and most girls are probably either bedding down or studying late. The desk service coordinator on the first floor, a college-age girl wearing a fedora and Solaris earplugs, glances up at Caroline with mild surprise and asks who she’s here to see this late.
Caroline: Late? Caroline smiles broadly and makes a joke about needlepoint being next on the agenda. Charisma bleeds out. She’s right, isn’t she? It isn’t that late…
“I was going to stop in and see Summer.”
GM: The desk coordinator laughs and doesn’t bother to ask too many questions from someone who fits a college girl’s profile, even if she looks maybe a little old and well-dressed for JLH. She gives Caroline a room number on the third floor.
Caroline: Caroline bids her adieu and heads off in that direction. It’s not her time in the hall, though it has been a while.
GM: Caroline makes her way up several flights of stairs to the dorm house’s fourth floor. Many of the old building’s rooms are unique in character and not built with standard dimensions. Movable Shaker-style wood furniture, old-fashioned casement windows, high ceilings and mounted bookshelves are all common sights. A quiet study room is sparsely appointed with several desks, chairs, and tables, though no one is out at the present hour. As Caroline makes her way to Summer’s dorm room, she can overhear voices just past the door.
“Damn it…” sighs a tired-sounding one. “You know Dad’s rules.”
“I’m not some DOLL for you to look after,” retorts a second voice. “I can go to a party by myself. Besides, you’re still sick.”
“Look…” A sneeze sounds with a loud AH-choo. “I believe you, but it’s not my call. Dad said you have to go with me or not at all.”
“Well you don’t HAVE to tell him. It can be our secret.”
“Summer… I’m not gonna lie to him.”
“Then you DON’T believe me. You’re on his side.”
“Look. I’m…” ah-CHOO! “not dealing with this right now, okay?” There’s a tired sigh. “I’m still feeling like crap, and this paper’s due in two days. Just ask Mom-”
“No. Lisa gave birth to YOU, not me. She’s not MY mom. She alw-”
“NOT dealing with that right now, Summer.”
An angry pause. “Just STAY HOME tomorrow, okay? You’re really sick, and I don’t-”
“It’s not a try! I’ll stay home too, you shouldn’t be going-”
Another sneeze. “No. You wanna go so bad, Summer, we’ll go. That’s what I told Dad we were doing.”
“I don’t WANT to go!”
“Well I already cleared out my schedule and told Dad we were going, so it’s a little late to change your mind!”
Something heavy thumps against the wall, followed by half a dozen tiny clatters. “I HATE YOU!”
Caroline hears angry footsteps approaching the door.
Caroline: Caroline scans the empty hall. A burst of unnatural speed carries her to its end in no time at all, and hopefully out of sight before the door opens.
GM: The young woman who storms out doesn’t so much as glance at Caroline. She has somewhat messy dark brown hair, a button nose, and plump cheeks still holding on to some baby fat. She doesn’t look much older than 18 and a simple t-shirt and pair of sweats for pajamas.
Caroline: Caroline’s eyebrows knit. Curious. And just the girl she was looking for. Almost served up. She quietly follows Summer.
GM: The girl storms off to the study hall, plops down on a chair, and starts fiddling on her phone with an angry expression.
Caroline: Caroline settles down not far from her. “You’re having a rough night,” she observes.
The lights seem to dim around the room, except the one beside Caroline. Her smiling is dazzling to the younger girl.
GM: Summer’s eyes widen as Caroline approaches. She quickly sets down the phone.
“Y-yeah, I’ve had better…”
Caroline: “Haven’t we all?” she asks. “Something you’d like to talk to someone about, perhaps?”
She directs her will more fully at Summer. This is as much a test of her powers as anything. How far can she push? Or how subtly?
“I’m quite a good listener.”
GM: Summer’s face twitches as Caroline’s Beast short-circuits her brain’s emotional centers. This isn’t what she wants to be feeling, not now, not so fast, but the Beast snarls at her reticence and tells it to sit down and shut up. A relieved smile spreads across her face.
“Well, it’s like this with my sister…”
She repeats the conversation Caroline overheard.
Caroline: “You have different mothers?” Caroline asks curiously. That’s something she hadn’t turned up. Adoption? Affair?
GM: “It’s kind of a long story, and it’d be pretty boring for you…”
Caroline: “You’re not boring me, dear,” Caroline replies. “I imagine it must be something you’d like to get off your chest.”
GM: Summer sighs. “My dad and Angela’s mom got divorced when she was really young, but I guess they changed their minds or never really went through with it, ’cuz they got back together. In between, my dad fooled around with his housekeeper and the condom broke. Story of my birth.”
The girl’s smile looks like she’s trying to find humor in it. Trying and failing.
“My mom didn’t want to have an abortion but she didn’t want to keep me either. She was gonna put me up for adoption, but Dad didn’t want that. So I got to go live with him, his wife, and their real daughter.”
Summer blinks for a moment, as if she didn’t want all of that to come out, before Caroline’s Beast gives another inaudible growl for her to relax.
Caroline: Amateurish is the first word that comes to mind. Petty. First rule of fooling around, don’t make a mess. Still, Caroline keeps her face clear, sympathetic. It isn’t that difficult.
“The disfavored daughter. It’s tough to live in a shadow, especially when your sister does ’everything right,” she muses. “On the other hand, I bet she doesn’t see it that way, does she?”
GM: Summer shakes her head. “No, she doesn’t! She thinks I have it out for her mom and that’s not even it, her mom’s always been nice me, I just hate how she wants to pretend like MY mom isn’t even real.”
Caroline: “It’s hard to see when you’re in the spotlight,” Caroline agrees. “Especially since every mistake just stands out all the more to her. So what’s this party you were fighting about tonight?”
GM: “Just some party. It’s in a couple days. Dad says I can’t go to any parties without Angela, just like I couldn’t get a dorm room with any other girl.”
Caroline: “You have to room with your older sister?” Caroline asks incredulously. “They thought that was a good idea?”
GM: “Dad did. Angela didn’t.”
Caroline: “She’s as frustrated as you are, then.”
GM: “No. Her life’s perfect apart from having to bunk with me.”
Caroline: “Perfect’s a strong word,” Caroline observes.
GM: “Next to MINE.”
Caroline: “Tell me about her,” Caroline continues.
GM: “What’s there to say?” Summer huffs. “She’s older than me, she gets better grades, she’s part of more stupid clubs, she’s my chaperon, she’s boss of the dorm house I live in even before being my roommate. Oh and she’s bi, so she’s persecuted and goes through all sorts of stuff that I don’t, except when she’s kissing boys.”
Caroline: Caroline smiles. “That sounds like a particularly sore spot.”
GM: Summer waves a hand exasperatedly. “It’s bad enough she’s perfect, but does she also have to act like she has it worse than me and goes through shit that I don’t?”
Caroline: “While not actually going through it,” Caroline agrees. “And I’m sure it’s easy to keep a boyfriend around, what with her all over your life.”
GM: “I haven’t had a boyfriend since high school. It’s just… not with her in the same room.”
Caroline: “Not the way you imagined your college experience playing out,” Caroline sympathetically continues. “She’ll graduate soon though, right?”
GM: “At the end of the YEAR, sure.”
Caroline: She shakes her head. “Why are they swaddling you so much?”
GM: “‘Cuz they’re unfair,” Summer states flatly.
Caroline: Caroline presses with her will and a single arched eyebrow.
GM: Summer’s face spasmodically twitches again. She isn’t friends with this strange girl. She doesn’t want to open up to her, but the Beast keeps growling that she should.
Caroline: You could tell her anything. Couldn’t you? You can trust her.
GM: “N-no,” Summer blinks, her face scrunching as she fights Caroline’s influence. “That isn’t any of your business.”
Caroline: She has to give the girl some credit. Some limited measure.
“Fair enough. I don’t mean to pry, and if I’m making you uncomfortable…”
GM: Summer blinks slowly, as if on the verge of saying, “Yeah, you really are.”
“N… no, it’s fine,” she gets out.
Caroline: “So where’s the party at?”
GM: “Frat Row, after we meet up at The Boot,” Summer answers.
Caroline knows The Boot is a casual sports bar near Tulane that attracts many younger college students. She’s been there herself a few times. Apart from the occasional date rape it’s fairly tame: the sort of place that fretting parents prefer their kids to go drinking. Young adults who want to experience what New Orleans’ famous party scene really has to offer should head elsewhere.
“There’s better ones in the Quarter,” Summer continues, “they don’t even check girls for ID in half the places, but Dad won’t even talk about letting me go to those…”
Caroline: “Well, at least it’s better than another dreary night of chaste studying?”
GM: “Yeah, it is. It could just be better, somewhere else and without Angela. Story of my life. And I don’t even wanna go anymore, she’s still sick from that bug.”
Caroline: “Influenza or something right? I think I heard about that.”
GM: “Yeah, influenza. A bunch of people got sick at this dorm party we had a little while ago.”
Caroline: “Bizarre,” Caroline observes. “You managed to dodge it though, even bunking with the Typhoid Mary sister?”
GM: “Well, I wasn’t bunking with her after that. I got to live with my dad and stepmom again for a week.” Summer’s voice is flat. “Lucky me, huh?”
Caroline: “Moving up in the world.”
Caroline is suddenly unsettled by this innocent-looking freckled girl under her sway.
“I imagine you were able to have some fun though, without her hovering,” she says, slow and calculated.
GM: “If you mean getting picked up by my dad after class and living with him again, sure,” Summer hmphs. “But yeah, she wasn’t around as much.”
Caroline: Dance around or go after?
“All the same, you must be glad you avoided the plague,” Caroline jokes. “I’d heard half the dorm got sick. And if they are all still recovering…”
GM: “Well, I think most of them are better now. Angela was kinda in the thick of it, arranging for everyone to get home, calling the medical people, and all that stuff.”
Caroline: A dark suspicion is starting to form in Caroline’s mind about this. Ridiculous, perhaps… but she’s seen some ridiculous things of late.
GM: “She had me go home to Dad as soon as the bug hit. So I guess I wasn’t really exposed to it.”
Caroline: “Any idea what caused it?” The question is casually posed.
GM: Summer shrugs. “We had a lot of boys and people from other dorms over, I guess one of them must’ve brought it.”
Caroline: “The Spanish influenza?” Caroline laughs. “Exchange students from 1918?”
GM: Summer blinks. “Sorry?”
Caroline: “Interesting characters, I’m sure.” She laughs off the semi-obscure medical reference.
GM: “Yeah, I was able to ditch Angela for a few minutes and talk to some of them. Not forever, though.”
Caroline: “Taking what… or who you can get?”
GM: “Well, more like looking than taking,” Summer hmphs. “And she was STILL able to hit on some girl even with me to ‘look after.’”
Caroline: “Talented,” Caroline whistles. “But I imagine awkward.”
GM: “That’s my sis, perfect at everything.” Summer rolls her eyes.
Caroline: “She has to have some flaws,” Caroline counters.
GM: “Well, YEAH. Try thinking she has it rough when she doesn’t.”
Caroline: “No dirty laundry at all?” Caroline is skeptical.
GM: “Well… she’s part of the Kappas,” Summer thinks. “I mean, they’re a sorority that sponsors soup kitchens and womens’ shelters, but there’s stories about them. She thinks I don’t notice, but she disappears all the time really late at night. And she looks rough the next morning. Bags under her eyes and everything. She gets snippy, or she’s just… really tired.”
Caroline: “Partying all night?” Caroline asks.
GM: Summer frowns and shakes her head. “No… she seems, well, almost spooked. No, not almost. She really does.”
Caroline: “Weird.” Caroline tries to stay casual. “How often does it happen? Some pattern?”
GM: Summer thinks. “I haven’t really kept track. Probably more often on weekends, though.”
Caroline: “You’ve never wondered what she’s up to?”
GM: “I’ve ASKED, sure. I can’t get anything out of her. She just… shuts down.”
Caroline: “What do you mean ‘shuts down’?” Odd turn of phrase…
GM: Summer throws up her hands. “I mean, she just won’t talk to me. Doesn’t say a word. It’s like talking to a brick wall.”
Caroline: “Sounds infuriating.”
GM: “She keeps trying to play Supergirl, being in all her dumb clubs, getting straight A’s, being dorm supervisor, being my chaperon, and being that doctor’s perfect girlfriend, but she can’t keep it up. Not with whatever the Kappas have her doing.” Summer’s tone is an odd melange of smugness and worry.
Caroline: An opening, perhaps? Sometimes it is hard to tell the bear traps from the bank vaults. Caroline’s tried to keep the conversation casual thus far. Nothing out of the ordinary in their little chat. Nothing to tie her to this girl.
But the cookie jar is sitting right there. It’s begging to be opened despite how the girl unsettles her so.
“I could, perhaps, find out. If you wanted.”
GM: Summer bites her lip thoughtfully. The Beast purrs in her ears. Yes. The dead woman is a friend. Such a sympathetic friend. Summer should invite her in.
“Oh, yeah? That’d be really nice of you,” she smiles.
Caroline: A wry smile. “Not that nice,” she admits. “My mother was a Kappa, and I’ve always been curious as to what all the buzz was about.”
GM: “Beats me. It’s not like I’d get to join.” A beat. “Or want to.”
Caroline: “From the sounds of it, we might have gotten the better end of the deal.”
GM: “I’ll say.”
Caroline: “Anyway, you want to know what your sister is up to—for a number of reasons. I’m curious about the Kappas. So let’s figure this out. Next time she sneaks out.” Caroline digs a note card out of her bag along with a sharpie and starts writing. “Give me a call. I’ll see if I can’t tag along and see what she’s up to. Sound good?”
GM: Summer nods and tucks the card away. “Okay.”
Caroline: This is an experiment as much as anything else. How strongly does the Beast’s influence reign over the girl? How long? How will she remember this conversation?
“In the meantime, you should probably go make up with her. It doesn’t sound like she was trying to be a bitch to you tonight. At least not so much that it’s worth letting it ruin your night.”
GM: Summer glares. “Yeah, well, she sure didn’t succeed. I’m not gonna go crawling back. I’ll just sleep out here.”
Caroline: Caroline scans the sparse furniture. “It’s your room. Whether you go back tonight or in the morning doesn’t make that much of a difference, does it?”
GM: “I’ll go back after she’s gone to class,” Summer states stubbornly.
Caroline: The vampire shrugs. “Far be it for me to tell you what to do.” No doubt she views it as some kind of moral victory, denying her sister the knowledge that she’ll sleep in a comfortable bed rather than a chair.
Caroline smiles and rises. “I’ll leave you to it, though.”
GM: Summer gives another smile. “Thanks. Night.”
Caroline: Caroline does as she said and leaves the girl to her business. They’d never be friends even without the parallels to her brother, but something about Summer is unsettling beyond that. The resistance to her will that bent the minds of hardened killers. The opaque answers to questions. The thought of having somehow had some part in her sister’s illness. She’d thought perhaps to feed on the girl. A not-so-subtle warning. The thought makes her more than uncomfortable now.
This merits investigation.
Thursday night, 10 September 2015, AM
Caroline: Instead of feeding Summer, Caroline goes on the prowl. Tulane is a big place—13,000+ students. She’s sure she can find a victim that doesn’t make her skin crawl. Someone walking home alone. Someone looking for company. Someone up to no good. Be careful, o sinners, for it is not saints that walk beside you.
GM: Caroline cruises through the sleepy campus for some twenty minutes before her phone rings.
Caroline: She answers after determining which phone it is from among the pile.
GM: It’s the burner from Wright. A woman with a clipped voice informs Caroline which areas of the parish she is permitted to feed and which ones she is barred from. Many sections of Tulane’s campus and the choicest student bars are off limits. Caroline is allowed enough lassitude in her options not to starve, but the best, easiest feeding is clearly reserved for the sheriff and those Kindred to whom he’s granted greater hunting privileges.
Caroline: Caroline listens as location after location is stricken from her options. She says nothing. What is there to say? Clearly this is not a debate or discussion. It’s worse than she’d feared it would be. Ample selection, my ass, she growls internally. Still, anything on the campus, or near it, is better than the sleazy bars she’s hunted at for the last two nights.
She flashes back to men in cheap suits pawing at her. Grinding. Whispering the things they wanted to do. Their watery blood in her mouth. Empty. Tasteless. Like an alcoholic drinking rubbing alcohol. And just as caustic to the spirit. She thanks the woman when she’s finished and ends the call, adjusting her pattern as appropriate.
GM: The woman informs Caroline that “faithful and obedient service to your regent” will bring “commensurate rewards” before hanging up.
Caroline: “Yeah, in about fifty years.”
The words are said into empty space. One advantage of flip phones is you can be fairly certain you aren’t unknowingly chatting into the line. She puts the phone away and goes about her business, determined to make the most of a night that has already kicked her to her knees twice.
Frustration, humiliation, and anger aside, it makes a certain amount of sense. Mortal laws would find it almost impossible to contain her—or any other Kindred. If there weren’t someone enforcing order, there would be anarchy. It’s an argument she made well in political science classes in favor of the many U.S. foreign military interventions. It’s a shock of ice-cold water, though, to be at the bottom of the pyramid. It’s one thing to talk about a few eggs getting broken along the way, but it’s another matter entirely to be the one getting their desires crushed under jackbooted feet.
GM: “Bottom” seems all too apt a descriptor as Caroline prowls what fringes and scraps of Carrollton she is permitted to feed. Weekday nights don’t see as many drunken coeds cutting loose as on weekends (or at least not the areas Caroline is permitted to hunt), and she eventually settles on Cooter Brown’s, a sports bar named for the eponymous Confederate soldier who was too drunk to fight the Yankees. The reviews on Google call it a “classy dive bar.”
Caroline: It’s not the kind of environment she’d ever go to willingly in life. Cheap plastic paneling outside. Tacky brightly colored tables out front. Wood paneling covered in logos, flags, and other knickknacks. TVs blaring everywhere. The entire scene makes her want to vomit some taste all over the place.
GM: Almost a score off TVs blare football down at working-class patrons sipping on beers and chowing raw oysters and pub grub. By some small mercy, she’s able to hook up with a stubble-faced, late 20-something man attending community college in addition to his main job as a truck driver. His hands move like snap dragons, repeatedly pinching and twisting her ass on their way to the bathroom.
Caroline: And look, over four hundred beers on tap. Caroline wants to gag. People with class drink liquor. The mighty have not only fallen—that would be too much a mercy. Instead they lie bleeding to death while the peasants drool and slobber over them.
Caroline can hardly wait to sink her fangs into the savage she’s with now. There’s a whisper as she draws im close. A fierce hunger he completely mistakes. At least the bathroom isn’t filthy this time. A small mercy. For him.
GM: The stubbly-faced man grunts and pants as he roughly half-kisses, half-drags her into a dingy bathroom with only one working lightbulb. Shadows loom large against the cracked tile walls. It’s more neglected than filthy.
“I’m gonna fuck your ass ’til you shit,” he grunts, all but tearing off her panties as he reaches under the hem of her black dress.
Caroline: A little closer… her height works for her here as he only bends down slightly to expose her, and so exposes himself to her. Rough fingers in intimate places. Sharper fangs find a more delicate place, perhaps more violently than is necessary. An inversion of roles. Penetration, pain, and yes some pleasure. But it’s she who is seeking a heady climax, ignoring his desires.
She draws deeply on him. So deeply. Sweet bliss rolls across her tongue and down her throat. The domination gets her off more than any physical pleasure. t’s taking out her frustrations. It’s reveling in the sudden power she has over him. It was degrading to get here. She rolled with pigs. But who’s on top now? She swallows another mouthful of precious blood.
You’re going to fuck me?
Her eyes roll and she takes more life from him. Brute. Savage. Peasant. Kine. Full expression of her darker impulses now. Is it the poison in her unholy blood, or the poison in every person’s soul that runs wild?
As his heart slows, the Beast urges her on. It’s close now. She need only lose herself in this moment. Finish off the kine. He means nothing, it shouts. It’s the silent roars within her that draw her away, that break the contact with a sloppy lick across the evidence. Euphoria fades with a moment of sobriety.
Her victim’s heavy breathing has his body laboring against what his mind knows not. She examines him with a critical would-have-been surgeon’s eye. Weakness setting in. Blood loss. The heart beating harder to maintain blood pressure as it tries to supply enough oxygen to the brain to keep him conscious. Muscles weaken from that same chemical element’s deprivation. The body prioritizes its resources. The man’s erection, clearly outlined against his jeans, fades with the blood that gave it life. The lightheaded man’s vision is probably blurring already.
GM: The part-time trucker, part-time student’s ass hits the tile floor with a flat thump as Caroline lets go of him. He blinks a few times, blurredly staring at the bathroom’s chipped wall. His mouth weakly moves. A whimper sounds. His pupils are dilated. It would be an exaggeration to say his face is white as a sheet, but not that great an exaggeration.
He slumps over sideways, his head dully konking against the bathroom’s trash bin. Drool leaks from his mouth.
Caroline: Caroline understands what is happening mechanically. The fascinating marvel of life fighting to stay alive. But that’s all this man is to her. A construct that fills a need. A cut-out in the shape she desires. Part of it makes her feel sick, but a rational part of her fights that. Better he than Aimee, or Gabriel, or even Westley. This is the life she has, and if this is the extent to which she may choose terms, so be it. That hard practical Malveaux streak that led them to power. She’d feel more guilty if she knew him, perhaps.
Which is why she doesn’t know him.
She collects her bag and underwear. The Kindred call these beings kine, but it’s simpler than that. It’s the same reason the tale of the Good Samaritan holds such awe. Because strangers are expendable to both Kindred and kine.
She doesn’t even speak as she leaves him dazed on the floor. She idly relieves him of his wallet to give him a pretext for the apparent attack. Short its cash, it goes into the trash on the way out.
As disposable as its owner.
Thursday night, 10 September 2015, AM
GM: The Sixth District Police Station is located several blocks away from the hustle and bustle of downtown. Perdido House and its surrounding skyscrapers still looms from the corner of Caroline’s vision, grim sentinels refusing to be ignored. The surrounding apartment buildings and fire station are at most three stories tall. The streets are wide, flat concrete expanses, providing ample space for the police cruisers and fire trucks to race downtown.
Little greenery is visible despite the wide space. Armored black police vehicles squat protectively around a prison-like brick building with a double glass door. A blue poster over the adjacent wall proclaims in yellow letters, We’re Hiring—joinNOPD.org.
No homeless people or street musicians wander these well-lit streets. But their calmness seems to stem more from cowed silence real tranquility. Hardly so much as a sound escapes the nearby apartments huddled together like battered wives. Two armored, masked police officers half-shove, half-drag a handcuffed black man up the police station’s steps. He’s bleeding profusely from his nose.
“What says black lives matter?” one guffaws, voice muffled beneath his visor.
“I dunno, what?”
“A six-pack of paper towels.”
The two cops laugh as they shove the groaning, half-conscious man towards the station doors.
Caroline: Caroline holds the door for them, a cruel smile on her face. Brutality, power, inequity… but not directed at her. Schadenfreude at its ugliest.
GM: “Thanks, miss,” one of the visored cops cheerfully grunts.
Caroline: Caroline lets them go forth before venturing into the office. She’s visited before on several occasions, including once for her father to receive an endorsement. She’s texted ahead and knows where to find Jessica.
GM: The police office remains busy well into the night. Phones ring, footsteps thump, and voices yammer. Caroline hears the name “Gettis” multiple times. It sounds as if everyone is talking about him. The receptionist asks Caroline her business and tells her to sign in. She finds Officer White typing into a computer at her desk. She may or may not be filing reports, but she’s no longer filing any of Richard Gettis’.
Caroline: Caroline slips into the worn and stained, but not actually dirty plastic and cheap cloth chair across from Jessica.
“That looks exciting,” she murmurs, having caught the woman deeply in her work.
GM: The cubicles are low enough that Caroline can tell who’s working where at a glance and simply walk in. Jessica’s desk has two pictures of what look like parents and a boyfriend. She looks over at the Ventrue’s approach.
“Oh, hi, Caroline! What brings you here so late?”
Caroline: “It’s the funniest thing, I found myself wandering around the police station by complete chance and thought to visit you.”
The smile gives away the obvious lie, even if her tone doesn’t.
GM: “What a coincidence,” the young officer remarks in feigned surprise. “I’d offer you some coffee, but the stuff here is crap. I’ve been so busy lately they won’t even let me leave my desk long enough to get it.”
Caroline: Caroline shrugs. “I suspect I’ll survive without it. I, uh… was actually hoping you could help me out with something.”
GM: “What’s that?”
Caroline: “I need a medical examiner’s report.”
The words are casual, as though she’s asking for a glass of water.
GM: Her face falls. “For it that lawyer who didn’t make it? Caroline, you don’t… wanna put yourself through that. There’s nothing you could have done.”
Caroline remembers. Gettis swinging the man in front of him by his necktie. A human shied left to scream and flail and die as cops riddled his guts full of lead.
Caroline: The lawyer who didn’t make it. She’d almost forgotten about him, next to Sarah and Yvonne.
After all, he was the one death she wasn’t responsible for.
“No, it’s not his. I don’t actually know whose.” Caroline outlines what Neil told her about the girl.
GM: Jessica blinks at the description of the graphic murder.
“Caroline… why in God’s name do you want to follow up on this?”
Caroline: Caroline frowns as everyone continues to ask her that question at inopportune times.
“It’s for a project I’m working on, looking at the history of graphic violence during major events in the city,” she lies.
GM: Jessica pauses. “Well, uh, I can look into this. If you aren’t next-of-kin, you need to get permission from them and submit a request to the coroner’s office. I can take care of that second half, and look into who the girl is, but without consent from the parents you won’t be able to get your hands on anything.”
Unless she bribes the coroner, probably.
Caroline: “That would help, Jess,” Caroline nods.
She glances across the papers on the younger woman’s desk.
“Working on anything interesting?”
GM: “God,” she says. “Half of being a cop is just busywork. They say to treat every report like it could end up on the desk of the Supreme Court.”
“Ever since the shooting… it feels like that could actually happen.”
Caroline: “Miranda,” Caroline observes. There’s some truth to it. “Any news on the dinosaur?”
GM: “They’re hunting him like a dog,” says Jessica, shaking her head. “It’s all people are talking about these days. It’s all brass cares about these days. Bring in Richard Gettis. It’s all over the news what he did.”
“Drouillard normally leaves the commanders and deputy superintendents to run their own shows, but… it’s his head if the department doesn’t bring in Gettis, and everyone knows it. And if his head has to roll, he’s all but said going to make sure even more heads follow it.”
Caroline: “Unsurprising. He has those girls’ blood on his hands. If their families can’t get it from him, they’ll get it from somewhere.”
GM: “There’s been a lot of talk about them filing suit against the department.”
Caroline: Caroline nods. “The department will be lucky to avoid that even if they quickly apprehend Gettis.”
A pause. “They still have no idea why he did it?”
GM: Jessica shakes her head. “None for sure. Lot of people are saying he was unstable. That he’d cracked years ago. He had no wife, no kids, no friends, literally nothing in his life besides his job.”
“I think there might be something to it. A lot of police work can be very ugly, especially homicide. It shows you the worst of humanity. If that’s the only thing in your life, day in and day out… I still can’t understand why he’d shoot two teenage girls, but I guess I can understand why it might have been easier for him to get… unmoored.”
Caroline: “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster,” Caroline quotes soberly.
“But not you,” she says with a faint smile. “Officer White, here to protect and serve. You’re on the night shift now, right?”
GM: Jessica nods. “Third shift. 10 PM to 6 AM.”
Caroline: “Fun times.” She picks up the more foreign picture of the young man, off Jess’ desk. “This is new.”
GM: The man is of average height but powerful build, with brown hair, large glasses covering his hazel eyes, and a mustache and short beard. He wears casual black clothing.
“Oh, yeah. He’s a private investigator. Forbidden love.”
Caroline: “Look at you. Give me a ring when you get something?” she asks.
GM: “Get me some donuts. I’m supposed to like those now that I’m a cop.”
Caroline: Caroline laughs. “I’ll send you a care package with some coffee as well.”
GM: Jessica proclaims it an equitable exchange and wishes Caroline well.
Caroline: Caroline leaves the young officer to her work and exits through the front again. Talking to Jessia, like Neil, was… nice. Normal-feeling. All of that still on the heels of the shooting.
At least someone’s life hasn’t been ruined lately.
Thursday night, 10 September 2015, AM
Caroline: Caroline returns once more to her ‘home.’ The shattered furnishings and looted belongings are a cruel reminder of this life’s nature.
She briefly checks to see if Aimee has returned, then settles down. She has hours until the meeting, and little else to pursue, so she continues trying to salvage her old life.
GM: Aimee has not returned yet, but has sent a text.
Haven’t seen you all day. Or night. Everything ok?
Caroline: She fires back a text to Aimee, rather than calling so late, even as she wonders where she’s gone off to.
Long night. Will tell you tomorrow. Dinner somewhere close to home?
GM: Sure. How’s Sara’s? Aimee texts back.
The moderately-priced restaurant’s eclectic offerings include everything from French to Pho. Caroline has a sneaking suspicion that Aimee wants her to feel like she has control in her life again, even over something as minor as their choice of food.
Caroline: There’ll be more questions there that she has no good answers for. It reminds her of her promise to Marco, and how she has no idea how to deal with that matter either.
I can see why many Kindred… all of them that I’ve seen…. fake their deaths.
She texts back her agreement and sets a time not long after sundown.
GM: Caroline has also received a voice message from her father’s chief of staff, Caleb Gallagher. The mean old man says Senator Malveaux (not “your father”) wants to know how she got herself fired from the LSC, and what she’s going to do to rectify the situation. There are no inquiries as to her disappearance several nights ago.
At least Orson cared.
Caroline: She doesn’t bother trying to text her father’s decrepit bogeyman, and decides that although he’s likely still awake—the old man never seems to sleep—she doesn’t really want to call him either.
Well you see, Mr. Gallagher, I went and got myself turned into an unholy monster, and the work hours didn’t work for me anymore.
GM: Caroline also receives a call on her burner from a man with a rough-sounding voice who informs her that she owes a “boon” to Alexander Wright for the provided phone number. That sounds like a favor.
Caroline: The email to her father sits half-finished. She acknowledges the call stoically, almost emotionlessly. More problems to deal with later. It seems her dance card will be quite full even if she manages to survive long enough to pay off these favors.
She wants to chuck the burner, a source of nothing but frustration, into a fish tank. She settles for setting it down again on the marred table and goes back to the email. It’s full of the sort of general apologies and vague explanations designed entirely to put off an issue, complete with ‘discuss it in person next time you’re in town’ and all of that jazz. There just aren’t enough hours in the night for her.
She knows the old man will see the email. Knows it’ll piss him off that she went around him. Can’t bring herself to care.
GM: Hours in the day. Hours in the night, now.
Caroline: The thought of hours in the day stirs a thought for her going forward. But like many things, it’ll have to wait.
She resigns herself trying to dig her way out of the remains of her schoolwork. She sends off emails to her teachers, and another to Dean Abel citing severe emotional distress (the Gettis shooting provides a ready excuse) and asking that they “work with her” among other buzzwords.
She knows she can’t pull this off forever. Law school has attendance requirements, no matter how much slack her professors cut her.
Then again, with her powers, there may be other avenues available…
Thursday night, 10 September 2015, AM
GM: Uptown is an short drive away from Audubon Place. It’s a well-to-do part of town. Blocks of glorious 19th-century homes stand as symbols of the industriousness which made New Orleans one of the wealthiest cities in the nation during the Antebellum.
Neighboring Broadmoor is another story. It’s just west of Central City, one of the poorest and highest-crime areas in the city, and some of the urban blight has rubbed off. Broadmoor is unfortunate enough to be stuck between rich and poor and was badly flooded during Katrina. There have been efforts to convert the old land into city parks, all of it over the protests of lower-income residents who will be displaced to Central City. The grind and crunch of construction machines are inaudible at this hour of night.
Caroline: It’s not exactly her neighborhood, but what about the last four days has echoed her life before all of this happened? She takes cool comfort in the fact that any would-be thug or mugger will get far more than he bargains for. It’s tempered only by the knowledge of the other monsters going bump in the night out there.
GM: “Monsters” is an apt term for the individuals Caroline spots.
The four large, well-muscled men have bald heads, swastika tattoos, and hard faces that look accustomed to cruelty. She’s not sure what they’re doing in a neighborhood like this. They strategically park their cars around Caroline’s vehicle and stride towards it. Moonlight gleams off metal studs and piercings.
One of them leans against the window of Caroline’s car. Two swastikas are tattooed on each side of his neck. SS lightning bolts decorate his knuckles. He looks like he could be in the Aryan Brotherhood.
“Tell me somethin’, girl,” he drawls, “you here at Regent McGinn’s invite?”
Caroline: Caroline looks between them. Too coincidental. Too how that they were waiting and happened to stop her. Warning bells sound in her head. Setup. A chill creeps down her spine.
“I rather imagine you’d know, if that were the case.” Her perfect Aryan features stare back at them. The talking one is probably a ghoul. “Something I can help you with?” she asks, rolling down the window.
GM: The skinhead leers, showing silver-filed teeth.
“Then you ain’t got no business bein’ here.”
Caroline: Caroline stares him in the eye. “Being here, as in, stopped in the center of the road, while going about my business, by you fine gentlemen.”
She abruptly notices she’s all but stopped breathing, settling perfectly still.
GM: Two more tattooed skinheads lean against Caroline’s other door. The first offers a nasty smile.
“Who’s your landlord, girl?”
Caroline: “Do you often find Kindred in the habit of playing twenty questions with you?” the young Ventrue asks.
GM: The skinheads pulls open Caroline’s car door.
Caroline: Caroline puts force behind her words. The world seems to fade away beyond her. “Are you boys sure you want to ride this train?” There’s a Beretta pointed at his nuts.
GM: The first skinhead blinks, as if clearing his head from a spell, and grabs at Caroline’s gun. She smashes the butt over his hand. He curses, withdraws it, and pulls a knife. The others draw knives too, though Caroline spots guns on all of them.
“Lil’ girl shouldn’t be playin’ with toys,” the first skinhead admonishes with a grimace, flexing his injured hand.
Caroline: “And ghouls shouldn’t be intruding where they aren’t needed,” Caroline replies coolly. “I’m not invading Regent McGinn’s domain or poaching in it, though I’d be happy to pay call to him later to explain the specifics to him.”
She looks from one skinhead to the next. “Is that satisfactory, or should I shoot the next one of you to try something foolish? You’ve made your master’s point. Now let the adults talk.”
GM: The first skinhead grins, displaying his silver teeth. Then steel stabs into the car in four hungry flashes. The Ventrue twists and thrashes in her seat like an eel. Attacking through a car is awkward, and provides few opportunities for the skinheads’ knives to find purchase. They shatter windows and shred seats, but Caroline herself remains unscathed.
Caroline: Caroline is a blur as the gun roars in her hand. Inside the car, the sharp crack of the 9mm would cause permanent hearing loss to a mortal. The hollowpoint rounds it spits out have the potential to cause much more harm.
GM: The bullet takes one of the skinheads in the shoulder, and he drops his knife with an agonized howl as the same bullets that killed John Lennon expand inside his wounds. His fellows barely pause in their assault. Knives hungrily rend at the fledgling Kindred’s flesh.
Caroline: The Beast roars in its cage as the blades cut vicious lines across her flesh. Blood runs freely. And yet… it cuts her focus razor sharp. The kine are so slow beside her. So careless. It’s as simple as lining up the gun’s barrel with their center mass and depressing the trigger. They may be rabid dogs… but she’s a wolf.
GM: Caroline squeezes off three shots at the skinhead coming at the adjacent passenger door. The first shot takes him in the hip. He falls to one knee, screaming, luscious red spurting from the wound. The second shot takes him in the chest. He topples over like a bowling pin. The third shot takes him square in the jugular. With the hollow point rounds, there isn’t much left of him after that, but there is enough for one of the other skinhead to slip over his fallen companion’s spattered gray matter. Two more shots to the head and down he goes too, his head reduced to an equally unrecognizable ruin.
Caroline: It’s easier than it ever was at the range. Point and shoot. Ride the recoil. She moves faster and faster. They’re standing still. More shots ring out. The two remaining enter her sights. Their knives rise. She depresses the trigger. Not pulls. Squeezes.
GM: Cause and effect. That’s all the Beast sees. Squeeze. Boom. Gore showers the ground. The last remaining skinhead turns and flees. He pulls out a phone and yells into it. The Beast cares not what he says. Cause and effect. Squeeze. Boom.
The man’s corpse tumbles to the ground head-first, his back riddled with bullets, his tattoos ruined beyond recognition.
Caroline: Caroline breathes for the first time since the knives came out. Her clothing is in ruins. Her car is brutally wrecked. She’s surrounded by corpses… and she doesn’t feel bad about it.
Poison, Lou’s voice whispers, even as a rational part of her mind argues back that it was self-defense. But is that the Beast talking, or the girl?
Thursday night, 10 September 2015, AM
GM: “Well, well, well,” sounds a man’s lazy Southern drawl. He casually flips off the phone emitting garbled shrieks. He sets it down and lights a fat cigar. The flame does not seem to bother him as he takes a puff.
“Seems we found ourselves a new project, darlin’.”
Adelais: The harpy gently places the wine glass down, a faint smile forming on her ruby lips.
“I hope they realize what they have gotten themselves into; it makes it all the more fun watching them try to beg themselves out.”
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