“It suits me.”
GM: Courtney and Ginger spend a little talking with Em, though mostly ‘Em’ talks. He’s a glib conversationalist. Really funny and entertaining. He conjures more illusions and has the women alternately laughing and smiling at his stores and anecdotes.
They’re with him. He can tell. He was always good at turning on the charm with girls.
Or, he supposes, they.
This is getting old.
Emmett: Oh, is it?
GM: What’ll you do if you get the reins back?
Emmett: Hmm. You know, let’s try something. I bet that if you could drive forever, you wouldn’t be asking. Have fun. I know you fought real hard for it.
GM: You know what we do when we get bored, Em?
We get juvenile. Think we told that to someone once.
I’m leaning between ‘harrowing’ and ‘play eeny meeny miney moe to decide which of these losers to have some fun with.’ Unless you have a better idea.
Emmett: There’s nothing for it. He’s still seething at the obstructiveness of his own Shadow, the way his own soul has fouled his prospects once again. So, so close, yet so far…
There’s nothing to be done, is there?
We’ll wait for Hannah. Thanks to you, it’ll look awkward if we don’t. But to pass the time we’ll see what they can do, spook-wise, and then… He considers what will sound good to Gasper. Then we start back to the city. If we can find it. We put Courtney on Cash Money, and then we go to Sami. Use her as a bank. Maybe teach her a little lesson about how she still needs us. You down?
GM: This must be how other people felt dealing with him.
Emmett: Yeah. How poignant.
GM: I like the second part.
I don’t see ghost hauntings Q & A lasting until the girl with a dick gets back.
You think he had an operation? You know, got it chopped off?
Emmett: Dunno. Doesn’t matter now that she’s dead. Are you saying leave her? They’re gonna take some convincing.
GM: They can stay or leave. I’m through being bored here.
How like him.
To burn another bridge if it means his amusement.
Emmett: How like him indeed.
Time to try something.
All right. I’ll invent a reason for us to get going, maybe some spooky lights in the distance. Then, we find our way to New Orleans.
It’s not the first time he’s lied to himself.
But it is the first since dying.
GM: I’m you, fuckface.
I know everything you know.
Emmett: Ah, well, worth a try.
Emmett: You gonna give me back the reins so I can do that? For real this time?
Emmett: Yikes, I gave you a suggestion. I’m willing to do it. If you’re set on fucking things up even more, go for it. But I’m down to salvage it if you are.
Emmett: I told you. We scare the losers off with a light show in the distance, lets us play the voice of reason by getting us away. Then we get to New Orleans, get them to rendezvous nearby while we pay Sami a visit. That sounds fun, doesn’t it? Maybe we’ll give her some chills. Plus, then we can start practicing on chumps in the Quarter. It’ll be like old times.
GM: The colorless ground screams as a black void rips open, then snaps shut. Hannah falls out.
He instinctively reaches out to try and catch her.
GM: She staggers into his arms. The dead woman doesn’t shake, breathe faster, or look paler, though. She just looks numb.
Ginger lays a hand on shoulder. “Hun, you okay?”
“Y… yeah,” Hannah answers slowly. “Fine.”
Emmett: He hugs her briefly. “We’ve got you. Can you walk?”
Guess that’s a yes, then, huh?
GM: There’s no warmth. No sense of vitality. Just cool ashen corpus against his own. He barely feels her clothes.
“Y-eah,” Hannah says.
“So, what now?” asks Courtney.
Hannah looks around. “Where’s the others?”
“They left,” answers Ginger.
“Good,” Hannah glares. “I want to find my mom. I also want to find Melody.”
“Maybe we should split up?” asks Courtney.
“Seems dangerous.” Ginger.
“I dunno how we’d find each other again, either.” Hannah. “Is there any way of telling time?”
The dead women look up at the almost pitch-black sky.
“Maybe we should just go where we wanna go together.” Courtney. “Safety in numbers and all.”
“Yeah. I reckon why not.” Ginger.
A glowing, luminescent figure with blurred features walks straight through Hannah. Her corpus parts and reforms like water.
“Oh my god, that’s weird.”
Emmett: Em stares at the figure. “Is that… Hannah, are you doing that?” he waves a hand in front of it
GM: The figure walks straight through him.
It feels even stranger than it looked.
“I think those are people,” says Courtney. “Living people. I’ve seen them around.”
Hannah shakes her head. “I’m not. That I know, anyways.”
Emmett: He remembers the glowing figures from the Quarter. “I think you’re right. And you, Hannah, about safety in numbers.” He tries to examine the glowing figure’s features.
“I have an idea about where we can go. I have an ex who hit it rich a little while back. Could be useful to have that kind of money around, for taking care of our interests on the other side and all.”
GM: They’re hazy, like he’s viewing them through a thick current of water, but they look more rectangular than round. Maybe male.
“Money sounds fine to me,” says Courtney.
“Couldn’t hurt,” says Ginger.
“I dunno how much it’ll help,” frowns Hannah, “but okay, I guess we could go there first.”
Emmett: “Well, you want to look after your mom, right? Money’s not a bad way to do that,” Em reassures her. “It’ll also give us a place to stay. Use as our hideout, that kind of thing. So we don’t lose touch.”
GM: “Well, okay. Your ex is gonna help us like that?”
Emmett: “She might take some convincing,” Em admits. “And, you know. Some spookiness. But I figure it’s a place to start.”
GM: It’s a harrowing, nerve-wracking journey through the blasted city. Ghastly shrieks echo discordantly in the distance. Shadows to flicker in Em’s peripheral vision, their inky depths concealing horrors untold. Miserable rain pours from overhead. Everything is dark, wet, and bleak as the grave, but Em doesn’t feel chilled or discomfited. There’s just a hollow emptiness where he feels like he should.
The glowing white figures are everywhere, walking obliviously past the ashen-hued ghosts. They do all of those things that living people do. Walk. Talk. Answer phones. Yell. Embrace. Em sees a tall one stooping to wipe the face of a small one that’s shaking their head.
Emmett: He makes up voices for them to amuse his companions.
GM: Em sees another one, buying a penis-shaped glob of animal fat from a vandalized pirate-themed hot dog stand that might’ve been the one where he worked. Em can see the fat man’s arteries swelling through his veins. He’ll die, after eating enough of those.
They’ll all die, one day.
Maybe they’ll wind up here.
There are some chuckles at Em’s antics. The mood is maybe a little less bleak.
But there are still no moon and stars in the void-like sky.
The Ritz-Carlton where Em last heard Sami was staying (hey, that’s the same building as Talal al-Saud) is, or at least was, an elegant 14-story five-star hotel located just off Canal Street, the historic divide between the French Quarter and Central Business District. Em remembers the website boasting hundreds of rooms, thousands of feet of meeting space, spa and fitness, a restaurant, and whatever the fuck else.
It doesn’t matter.
It’s a blasted, bombed-out husk of the glass and steel palace he remembers. The cracked chandeliers are missing their crystals and pitted with rust. The furniture is rotting and thick with dust and cobwebs. The statues look eroded by thousands of years of wind and rain. Wetness drips through holes in the room. The portraits are unrecognizable smudges. The large windows are smashed in and caked with crud. The plants in the garden are black and withered husks.
There are the same luminous figures, though. Sitting on rotted furniture, reading moldering newspapers and scrolling through broken phones. Talking across gutted-out reception desks. Carting around decayed luggage bags.
Em and his companions walk through the translucent front doors like they’re made of smoke. Doormen don’t stop them. Doormen don’t notice them. Doormen don’t squint at him suspiciously and ask whether he belongs here.
Emmett: He whistles. “I may have been thinking too small. Lots of ways we could use a place this big. Lots of important people coming and going. Plus, who doesn’t want to live in a hotel. Or, you know. Reside. Whatever.”
“Haunt a hotel, I guess.”
GM: There’s another one those low, ghastly cries from the distance.
Em isn’t sure whether it’s human.
Emmett: “Gonna want to keep a low profile, though,” he says, more quietly.
GM: “I heard about something called haunts…” Ginger starts, but that’s when Em notices her.
She’s duller than the other figures. Muted. But her features are clearer to his sight. Sami Watts always knew how to stand out in a crowd.
She’s dressed differently than Em remembers. The dress she’s got on is more suggestive than revealing. Form-hugging, but respectable. It’s what someone who doesn’t need to chase money anymore would wear.
She seems to be chasing something else, though. She’s got her arm linked around the waist of a male-shaped figure.
His arm is linked around her waist, too.
She’s smirking up at him as they say flirtatious-sounding things. They both seem a little tipsy as they make their way towards an elevator.
Emmett: He points and says, “That’s her. You three want to tag along or wait in the lobby?”
“Ah, who am I kidding. Her place, our place. Let’s go.”
GM: The three follow after him.
Emmett: He follows the couple into the elevator. “So, I wanted to bring this up earlier, but now’s a good time to ask. Any of you guys know what cool ghost tricks you know? Possessing people, sprouting wings, poltergeist shit, any of that?”
GM: The door closes in Em’s face. Nobody says to hold it.
He walks through like it’s made of smoke. The others materialize through after a moment.
Emmett: He could get used to this. Actually, he already is.
GM: It goes up. Em doesn’t feel it move. He just goes up. He can see the yawning shaft through the half-translucent floor. It seems to go on for miles. The pitch-black depths are impenetrable.
Something about them calls to him.
The other three stare down.
Emmett: “Don’t look down,” he says cheerfully. “Nothing good down there.” He leads by example.
GM: “Not much good up here, either,” remarks Hannah.
Emmett: “We’re up here. That’s good enough for me.”
He leans forward, so his mouth is against Sami’s ear, and though he doesn’t use his throat to talk, he tries to make a sound she can hear. Just a simple, faint sound. His voice, from seven years ago. “Sixty seconds,” he tries to make his voice hiss in her ear.
Then, in his head, he starts counting.
GM: The other mention their “tricks” on the way up. Courtney and Ginger can both twist around people’s feelings. Ginger can twist around her corpus. Make herself look different. Courtney can also “drain people. Ghosts. Whatever we are.” Hannah can “turn solid. Make things happen in the, I guess real world.”
Sami ignores him completely. She flirts some more with the man she’s with.
Emmett: Oh well. Other tricks, then.
He’s curious what Ginger means by twisting her corpus. As for feelings… he wonders if they think that between the two of them, they could scare her friend off. But he doesn’t ask them too, yet.
GM: Ginger takes hold of her nose, then twists it to the side like it’s made of soft clay.
She then pulls it until it’s about a foot longer. It gets thinner when she does that.
Emmett: He whistles. “That is a party trick and a half. Not sure what you could use it for, but that’s damn unsettling.”
GM: “Jesus,” Hannah mutters.
“Huh. You could give a boob job with that,” remarks Courtney.
Ginger puts her nose ‘back.’
“I can make myself look different, like I said. Turn myself into something scary, maybe, or just a different face.”
Emmett: Em nods thoughtfully. “I bet you could. Might be handy.”
When the elevator door opens, he follows the pair to their room. “Do you think you two could stir up some drama between them, once we get inside? Probably better if she’s alone.”
GM: The three say they can try.
The pair make their way upstairs to a hotel suite that might be the lap of luxury in the real world. Here it looks like the kind of place homeless drug addicts might go to sleep. More rot, dust, and decay. Sami pours the man a stale-looking drink from a grimy bottle, flirts some more, and pushes him onto a rotted and threadbare couch. They kiss. They fondle.
Then she sinks fangs into his neck.
The man shudders with pleasure. He moans and tells her she’s incredible.
Sami just drinks.
Red smears her lips. Em can make out that color.
She doesn’t let so much as a drop go to waste.
He doesn’t think he’s ever seen a more perfect illustration of what either of them is.
Emmett: “Oh,” he says. “That’s interesting.”
He should be surprised. But somehow, it just makes sense.
If anything, he’s jealous.
Of course. Of course she gets to be sexy and beautiful and a vampire. Dammit.
GM: “They’re… everywhere,” Ginger mutters.
Emmett: He sighs and claps. Slowly.
He tries again. Maybe the voice is too obvious.
But somehow he thinks the sound of a slow, slow clap might work better, bleeding across the gulf that separates them.
GM: Sami ignores the sound completely.
Emmett: “Ah, guess my party tricks don’t work in the real world,” he pouts. “Let’s see if I can try something else.”
He glances at the large-looking TV in her room. It’s shattered, here, but probably not in the real world. He’s always liked TVs. He tries to make it talk.
Sami, he tries to make it say. I missed you.
And boy, does it.
The television bursts alive. It’s not the usual hotel channel, the usual scenic overlooks of New Orleans and snapshots of Mardi Gras festivities. Instead, it opens on the news. Isaiah White.
“Great weather today, but not so much in the Shadowlands. Emmett Delacroix says he misses you, Sami. He misses you very, very much, even if you are a vampire now. Next, is the new Action Bill and the Danger Squad movie the hottest show in town: or liberal propaganda?”
Static flickers. Eyes the color of coal stare out at her. Then Isaiah White keeps talking about the movie, and how ‘blackwashing’ is just the latest Hollywood trend among left-leaning producers.
GM: Sami pauses in mid-drink. A low growl goes up from her throat, like a cat’s.
The man underneath her moans.
“C’mon, don’t stop!”
There’s a second growl, then Sami buries her face in the man’s neck. The slurping noises are faster, ruder, and there’s discomfort now to the man’s cries. Sami pulls open some of his clothes, licks the wound, then pulls back and perfunctorily says, “Get out.”
“What—just like that?” the man scoffs.
“Just like that,” says Sami.
“Hey, baby, don’t be-”
“Out,” Sami snarls, and there’s a feral cast to her eyes that seems to give the man pause.
He gets out.
Sami looks back at the TV.
Her fangs protrude.
“Come out, now. We’re alone.”
Emmett: He tries to, the way he did in front of his mother. Tries to squeeze himself into being, like he’s wringing a tube of toothpaste where he’s the blue stuff.
He wafts out of the TV like it’s about to start shooting sparks. He floats slightly above the floor, almost on tiptoe. His arm is probably the first thing she notices. It’s hard to miss.
But then, so is his smile. It’s sharper than it was in life.
Maybe not quite as sharp as hers, though.
He waves softly with his dead hand.
‘Hi,’ he mouths.
GM: The vampire looks at him.
“Heard in the news how you died.”
Emmett: He shrugs.
GM: “Figures this would happen.”
Emmett: He gestures at her. Raises an eyebrow.
GM: “Yeah,” she says.
“It suits me.”
Emmett: He nods.
GM: “Could’ve suited you, I think.”
Emmett: He looks pained. Crosses his heart. Then waves a hand over himself and shrugs.
GM: “What it is, I guess.”
“You popping in just to say hi?”
Emmett: He shakes his head. Points to himself. Then to her. Links his hands together.
He tries to conjure a white flag. If he succeeds, he waves it around a little.
GM: The room’s colors suddenly fade. Everything is black, white, and rotting again. Em no longer feels like he’s slogging through molasses.
Sami looks around.
“Your reception’s breaking up,” she says dryly.
Emmett: He sighs and conjures the flag again. Sees if she can see it.
GM: She stares ahead blankly.
Emmett: Isaiah White stares out of the screen again. “It’s expensive to make long-distance calls. Do you want a friendly ghost of your very own?”
Static makes his voice jump. It sort of seems to smile in the middle of the screen.
GM: Sami looks back at the screen, then walks away. She walks back with a pen and piece of printer paper. She sets it on the table and writes out all the letters of the alphabet, then finally the words ‘yes’ and ‘no.’
Emmett: “Clever girl,” Em says aloud. “Hannah, you want to—“
GM: “You’re doing the same tricks as me, honestly,” says Hannah.
Emmett: “Hmm. Not sure I can play Ouiji.”
GM: “Lets you spell out things you can’t say, right?” says Hannah.
Sami leaves the pen on the impromptu board and looks around.
Emmett: He tries rolling it over to the ‘yes.’
GM: “Yes, what?” Sami asks expectantly at the pen’s movement.
Emmett: Pinching his nose, Em starts spelling.
W-a-n-t-r-v-n-g-e, he writes.
GM: Sami rolls her eyes.
“He refuse to keep selling you coke after you couldn’t pay?”
He pauses a moment and writes, c-u-t-o-f-f-m-y-l-e-g-s
GM: Sami looks at the improvised board’s message.
He doesn’t see a whole lot of sympathy.
“Boo hoo. I’ve wanted to kill him since 2007.”
GM: She rolls her eyes again.
“You think I wouldn’t have by now if it were that easy?”
GM: There’s a black look on the vampire’s face as her lips pull back from her fangs.
“Uh, wrong button?” says Courtney.
GM: “What the fuck can you do that’s useful?” she snaps. “You can’t even send a message from beyond without my help.”
He looks at Hannah and says, “A demonstration?”
GM: She looks unsure. “Okay, what are you thinking?”
Emmett: “Move something. Break a lamp, or something.”
Meanwhile he writes, i-c-a-n-w-a-t-c-h
GM: “I can’t really break things,” Hannah admits. “Just… what you did. Let them see me for a bit.”
Emmett: “What else can you do? Try something.”
Aren’t you glad you got rid of Turner for us?
GM: Yep. It was funny.
Funny how bunched up your panties are.
Emmett: Em chuckles. “My Shadow’s trying to be cute, guys. He thinks we need to scare her to make a point.”
GM: “I dunno how much we can scare a vampire,” Ginger frowns.
“Yeah. She’s… not doing what other people did,” says Hannah. “I tried to appear, in front of someone. She just lost her mind.”
Emmett: Em bites his lip. “Well, any kind of theatrics can help make a point.” He rubs his nose.
GM: “Scaring people is easy. Maybe you missed what’s in my mouth,” says Sami with another eye roll. “But spying. That could be useful, if you don’t fuck it up. There’s some other licks who’ve made that work with ghosts.”
“Giovannini?” frowns Hannah.
GM: “Don’t really do that anymore,” Sami says. “Fucking is just going through the motions. Eating is sex now.”
GM: “Wonder how many ghosts she’s made,” says Hannah.
“She’s on our side. Ish,” shrugs Courtney.
“I’ve made ghosts,” Em says quietly. “Way I see it, on this side of the grave we take what we can get.”
“And like she said. She has reason to hate Cash Money. She can be talked into helping, I think.”
He looks over at Hannah. “Or helping your mom. If you want her involved with that.”
GM: “It feels like there’s some touchy history there,” says Ginger.
“Maybe…” Hannah responds to Em’s question. She stares at Sami a bit longer.
“I feel like she’s better at fucking people than helping them,” observes Courtney.
“Yeah,” agrees Hannah. “But at least we’ve got lots of people we want to fuck, right?”
“His name’s Henri Astride,” says Sami thoughtfully.
Emmett: “Any bullies you want to get back?” Em asks, half-jokingly.
GM: “He’s always getting into trouble.”
Emmett: Then he turns back to Sami, his attention rapt.
GM: “Fucking things up. Kinda like you.”
“Sorry. Lot like you.”
GM: “A lick.” She clarifies after a moment, “Vampire.”
Emmett: “Ooh, I like that word,” Em says.
GM: “They had nicknames,” nods Ginger.
GM: “Complicated,” Sami just says. “Spy on him. Get me some dirt on him, without stirring up more shit. And I’ll scratch your back.”
“I’ve heard of this guy,” Em mutters. “Haitian. Organized crime connection. Murderer. Psycho. Actually, makes sense he’s a vamp.”
He looks over his shoulder, abashed. “I had an interesting life.”
GM: “Sounds like a real charmer,” says Hannah.
“Sounds like another guy,” says Courtney.
Sami eyes the seemingly empty room.
Emmett: “He’s both,” Em says simply.
GM: “Your backs, then,” she says.
Emmett: The pen lies still on the table. “Okay,” Em says, cracking his knuckles, taking pleasure in being able to make a noise he never could in life. “I can go vamp-watching for the rest of the night. Do you three want to stay here? Maybe on her?”
GM: “How you figure that?” asks Courtney. “Doesn’t seem like we can enjoy room service. Or that staff’d much care if we camped out in a room.”
“Going out on our own seems dangerous,” says Ginger.
“We can tell time, though.” Hannah. “I can ask her when it is.”
Emmett: “I’m fine with company or not, just want to know where everybody is, or at least where we’re going to be.”
“Why don’t you?” he asks Hannah.
GM: Hannah stares a moment, then the pencil asks,
“Little after 10,” says Sami. “You miss the clock?”
The room has a clock. The face is smashed and the hands are still.
Emmett: “I think I can find Astride by midnight, especially if he’s less bright than a human, like her,” Em says. “I don’t think we should all go. And besides. Might be good for one of us to stay with her. Dirt goes both ways.”
GM: Courtney nods at that thought. “How dumb is she?”
Emmett: “I mean her aura. Or whatever. That glow.”
He chuckles, amused. “You think she’s dumb?”
GM: Courtney shakes her head. “Was wondering why you did, actually. The ouija board was quick thinking.”
“What if she leaves?” asks Hannah.
Emmett: “She wasn’t smart enough to cut me out of her life,” Em says seriously. “But other than that, Sami always had a brain.”
“I imagine you would follow her,” Em says a little dryly. “But I also get wanting to stay here, if it’s safer. Presumably, she’ll come back here before the sun comes out, unless TV lies. We can meet here at sunup and decide how we want to spend the day, then.”
GM: “Yeah, that occurred to me,” the other ghost counters. “I’m just wondering if she’ll come back here. You and me are the only ones who can talk with her. So if you’re spying on the vampire, we’d all have to follow her. And in Dracula the count isn’t burned by sunlight. He just loses his powers.”
“Didn’t know that,” remarks Ginger.
“It’s a good book,” replies Hannah.
“Have confab on your own time,” says Sami. “I’ve got places to be.”
Emmett: Em shrugs. “We can meet back here, regardless. Fourteen stories of hard-to-miss. I’m really fine with whatever. But she’s about to scram, so let’s decide.”
GM: Hannah moves the pen.
Ginger looks out through the half-translucent, smoke-like walls. “Honestly, I wouldn’t mind staying here. Just doing nothing for a while. I’m… beat.”
“Okay, then I’ll stay too so we can tell time,” says Hannah.
Emmett: “There’s sense in that, then,” Em agrees. “I’ve got some energy, though. Courtney, do you want to come with me, stay, or follow our long-toothed friend?”
GM: “I think someone should follow her,” Courtney nods. “I’ll do it. Not like we need to talk with her when we’re spying.”
Emmett: “Okay, ladies,” Em says, doffing a hat he didn’t have a moment ago. “Good luck and fair weather, and all that. I’ll see you with the sun.”