“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, alive or dead, it’s that sex causes more problems than it solves.”
Saturday night, 19 March 2016, PM
Celia: Celia checks the time after their conversation wraps up and says she needs to get going. She hugs her mom a final time and wishes her a good evening, uses her bathroom to change her face and dress, and heads out for the night. She’s tempted to stop for a drink on the way… but there will be plenty to do at the party, and the bars don’t close for some time yet even if not. She can always pop out for a bit if she gets peckish.
It’s a quick trip to the Evergreen after that.
Saturday night, 19 March 2016, PM
Celia: The Cat’s Meow. World famous, if you believe the sign on the door. Jade hasn’t been around the world (though she’s done some traveling) so she can’t say for sure whether or not it’s actually world famous, but she supposes, so far as domains go, that maybe it’s a good thing. The Quarter already sees its share of interlopers and poachers during Mardi Gras—she doesn’t need them eyeing her club in particular.
Tonight it’s crowded. More than crowded, really. Saturday evening is prime party time, and this evening is no exception. Even the multiple bars that line the walls are no match for the press of bodies streaming in off the streets, and people wait three or four deep for their 32oz Hurricanes in plastic cups or Jello tooter shots (which Jade thinks are inherently messy considering the small opening and long body, and she’s seen plenty of drunk people attempt to stick their tongues into the little plastic tubes to get at the jello still clinging to the bottom—why don’t they just do normal shots?), while music blares from the speakers near the stage. The two drink minimum means there’s plenty of unaware vessels that don’t notice the predator in their midst.
Short. Young. Comely. No, perhaps not comely. Perhaps comely is too ordinary or too soft a word to describe the predator that stalks the night. Striking, maybe. Luscious. Bewitching. Desirable.
Desirable. That’s the one. Every inch of her is painted, sculpted perfection, from the shade of her shadow to the wing of her liner to the fresh coat of polish on her nails. Her dark hair is loosely curled and pulled back from her face, highlighting the dark lashes that frame her large eyes, the delicate hollow of neck and collarbone, the high cheekbones and sharp chin. Her tan skin is offset by the scarlet dress—if the strips of fabric that cling to her hips and bust but bare her sides with open cutouts could be called a dress—and a pair of nude stilettos add another few inches to her height.
Standing room only by now. Or it would be for a mortal, but a dip of her head and a promise in her smile means that the boys who had occupied the table she’d wanted, the one upstairs that overlooks the stage, had freely offered it to her and gone off to find another place to enjoy their evening.
Two drink minimum, but there’s six in front of the predator now, and the empty plastic cups on the table are nearest the girl. A large black man with a smattering of tattoos peeking out from beneath a tight black tee occupies a seat at the table, and the other is taken by another black man. Not quite as muscular as the first, with a little more facial hair and padding around the middle. Not fat. But large. Probably more of a football player than a baseball player, that kind of look. His attention alternates between the two at the table, though the girl—the pretty one, remember?—has her eyes on the stage where a gaggle of women in sky-high heels and cat ears, one of whom wears a white tank top with the saying “Buy me a shot I’m tying the knot”, butcher that popular Journey song about a small town girl and a city boy.
Jade doesn’t mask her presence this evening. Her contact will no doubt be able to sniff her out as soon as he steps inside. A glance at her phone’s clock tells her that they have a solid three-quarters of an hour before Savoy’s court starts. Long enough for this little meeting if they don’t dawdle.
Julius: And her guest doesn’t dawdle. After all, the jazz musician knows how to stay on tempo.
Jules wades into the Cat’s Meow, an odd old whale amongst young, sleek sardines. Tonight, the knock-off king is dressed in what appears to be a a dark magenta velour tracksuit made by Gucci, a pre-release pair of Yeezy 700 V3 Dark Glow sneakers, Dior black-mask sunglasses, a Versace Palazzo empire bracelet watch, and a David Yurman dog-tag necklace with Pavé black diamonds, cognac diamonds, and color-change garnets.
Beyond such accoutrements, the Caitiff is unaccompanied, as he has left Tyzee and Dashonte to wait outside, idling in the latter’s supped-up T-bird.
Approaching the table, the undead jazzman considers that call doubly wise as he notes not only his host seated at the front-stage table, but that all three of that table’s seats are occupied. The black Caitiff, however, is used to metaphorically carving out his own seat at table of the All-Night Society. And tonight, he does so quite literally, as he makes his way to Jade’s table, only pausing long enough to snatch his own chair from a nearby table. That said chair was occupied doesn’t seem to bother Julius in the least bit, as if the chair and its former occupant weighed no more than a red solo cup. Moreover, when the seat’s prior occupant, a bridesmaids-hunting frat boy, spills onto the floor alongside his shattering Hurricane, Julius cuts off his flustered shout of shock and anger with a smooth dip of his sunglasses, flash of a hard smile, and his bullfrog-bass voice:
“You wuz jus’ ‘bout to offer me yo chair, bid deese dawls uh gud nite, an git yoself home now, ain’t dat rite?”
Julius doesn’t wait for the young man’s reply to his question. After all, it wasn’t really a question. Just like it’s no question whether the kine can resist his supernatural command. So undisturbed, the vampire finishes sauntering towards Jade’s table, plopping down his chair and himself to join his hostess, if not her hospitality.
“Lookin gud as always, Ms. Kalani. Scarlet suits you’s like uh pearl in uh ersta.”
Celia: Julius is a hard sight to miss in a club like this. Particularly with that… getup. Her eyes follow him once she notices his appearance in the door, tracking him up the stairs to the second floor where her table juts up against the railing. Room enough for three, but leave it to Julius to bring his own chair over, even timing it perfectly while the singers belt out the chorus—joined by everyone watching who knows the lyrics—so that not a single stray glance cuts his way.
“Evenin’, Papa Juj.” L…“oo” sound in the center there, like jew, then a soft J at the end. A nickname on top of a nickname. And why not? The lick has enough of them, what’s another. She flashes a smile his way at the compliment, then moves her seat to the side to give him room at the table. It’s crowded with the four of them. The poor boys across from them look positively cramped.
“Mm. I was going to offer you mine and find another place to perch.” On a lap, perhaps. She’s seen on them often enough. Court starts soon. She’d missed it last week and doesn’t intend to repeat the behavior this week; she cuts to the heart of things.
“I’ve been thinking about your offer, Jules.”
Julius: ‘Papa Juj’ smiles at the nickname, as if hearing a hot, innovative trumpet note. Her mention of his offer sustains that smile like a piano’s foot pedal.
Notwithstanding, he lets the silence linger till she fills it.
Celia: There’s nothing obvious in the way she does what she does. No snapping fingers. No flashing eyes. Not even a head tilt and smile. But as soon as Jade rises, moving her chair aside to free up some of that cramped space for the boys, and settles on Julius’ lap both black boys that accompanied her turn their eyes toward the stage, as if they can’t quite get enough of the bride-to-be and her entourage. The stools nearby hold plenty of bodies, but they, too, seem fixated on the music rather than the cute girl on the old man’s lap.
Even when the performers change, swapping to a young couple singing about summer love from that late 70’s musical, their attention stays on the stage. They ignore whatever it is that goes on between the two licks.
“I’d like to know who’s going to be coming and going from my space. So I don’t pick them up as a trespasser, you understand.” She flashes a casual smile over her shoulder at him.
Julius: Julius bristles at the unexpected contact. Not like a frat pledge having his first lap dance, but more like a tiger suddenly put in a tight cage with another. For all the Camarilla’s social pretenses, the Beast is ultimately a solitary predator. But as the Sindaco of Slidell might suggest, that predator is also cannibalistic.
Up close, Julius cannot help but smell the Toreador’s vitae as it courses through her arteries, veins, and sanguine-plump organs. Those are the ‘curves’ that sing to him, that arouse his lust—or more precisely bloodlust—and make it hard to concentrate. Which is probably why the social-savvy vampiress is saddling him. Unlike the full table, it’s a power move that catches him off-guard. It also impresses the hell out of him. None of which makes the subsequent negotiations any easier—for the Caitiff.
“Yeah, you… rite,” the clanless vampire lamely responds as he tries to force his thoughts away from how delicious the tantalizingly wrapped blood bag atop his lap would taste.
“Cain’t fault you’s fo’ axin.”
It takes some effort to keep his hands from squeezing her like a cherry snow cone, to crush her so he could suck out every. Last. Drop.
There’s some small measure of self-pride that he doesn’t next cough to clear an unbreathing throat.
“If you dink da trade is gud, I’ll introduce y’all rite an propuh as podnas. Tonite if we git da time, or after us skeetas are done makin dodo. F’sure ya gotta be knowin whoose a’comin into an outta yo part of da Quartuh. Dey’ll jus’ be wantin you’s to udderwise keep it mums. I dink I said ‘fo dat dis cat is uh public fren of Lawd Savoy, but der blood-daddy is uh tad… controllin. Tight lease an all dat jass. Cain’t fault a cap fo’ wantin der own stoop an zink to wrench off der hands widdout daddy-dearest watchin yo every step.”
Celia: She’s a pretty enough package on his lap. Warm, too, with a heart that beats regularly and continues to pump that deliciously scented vitae through every inch of her body. Tiny. No doubt his hands would go right around her waist or neck or wherever it is he wants to squeeze.
“The yacht, the paperwork, the membership… I’ll send my boy here to check it out when we’re done, but I’m interested. I’ll meet your friend and play mum.”
She knows all about controlling blood daddies.
“And how,” she asks id…“did you come across his boat?”
Towers. Twice in a week the name has been brought up to her. Fortuitous timing, perhaps, or things are simply more connected than she’d assumed.
Julius: It takes Julius half-a-heartbeat (though clearly not his own) to process the lapcat’s words. Looking away from Jade to ‘her boy’ reminds Julius of being a little boy trying to swim against the Tchefuncte’s current. He’s not entirely sure he looked at the right ‘boy’ before her riptide voice pulls him back to her.
Another half-heartbeat passes before Julius replies. Not with words, not at first, but rather with a hand shuffling into his pants. Perhaps the undead nymphomaniac is disappointed when Julius’ jostling only produces a business card.
The card is jet-black with equally dark but glossy lettering. To a kine, those letters would be nigh-impossible to read in the dim-lit Cat’s Meow, but Julius holds the card for Jade to clearly see an embossed image of stylized smoke in the shape of a serpent, next to which letters read:
Black Vyper Vaping, LLC.
302 Decatur Street | Office 420B
“Git yo bra to ax fo’ De’Lanice Gaines. She’s uh lawyer of mine who can git yo cap all da deets.”
“As fo’ how I done come by dat boat, da shoit answer is dollahs. Uh lotta dollahs. But da long answer, dawl, wud cost ya somedin.”
He doesn’t lick his lips at that last statement, but his tone might as well have drooled.
Celia: Not even an absent fondle. Veronica’s childe certainly seems suited to the bloodline when she all but huffs at the produced card.
Snakes, though. Now there’s a thought.
“Reg,” she says to one of the boys, ending whatever charm she’d placed on them to turn their attention to the stage. She plucks the card from Julius’ hand to slide into the large black palm waiting for it. “De’Lanice. Take your friend. Find me after.”
He knows where.
The men leave without a word, and it’s just Jade and her new friend at the table without them. She makes no motion to remove herself from his lap.
“Something like a favor,” she purrs, “or can I offer you a drink while we’re here?”
Julius: Papa Juj’s reply is as swift as it’s greedy:
“Some wud say uh drink is uh favor—at least if it’s da gawddamn rite kinda drink, f’true?”
Celia: “Then it’s settled.” She lifts her hand in a lazy wave to encompass the club. “Who catches your eye, Jules?”
Julius: It’s no question of who’s caught his eye. She’s been reeling him this entire time: hook, line, and sinker. And she’s done it so skillfully, he can’t even complain. Instead, the hoary jazzman laughs lecherously:
“As if dat contest wusn’t rigged from da git-go.”
Celia: Roderick is going to be so mad. Her smile sharpens.
“Here and now, Papa Juj, or do you prefer the… anticipation?” She shifts to look at him, trailing her fingertips down the Gucci velour.
Julius: Those fingertips elicit another dark, husky laugh.
“As a dimeback in college,” he says, slipping a cement-thick hand beneath one of her dress straps, “I told ma bras dat you’s don’t git no mo’ points fo’ savin uh touchdown till da fourth quartuh.”
He tenses then as if about to violently rip off her dress. She can tell that it would be easy for him, too. Like pulling apart cobweb.
“But being uh musician has learned me a ding or two ‘bout tempo. Timin an tension. Da slow-berlin heat. Make ’em beg fo’ da climax, an it makes da cool-down all da sweeter, no?”
As if punctuating that point, his one hands stops, then retreats from beneath the scarlet thread, only to snatch her own wandering hand. Rising suddenly, he allows her voluptuous body to slide down his much larger, velour-clad frame. Maintaining his vice-like grip, he raises her capillary-rich fingers to his lips.
“But dat jus ma opinion,” he adds, his lips parting into a fanged smile, “an ma mawmaw done learned me to always ax uh dawl fo’ hers.”
Celia: She doesn’t need to let her dead body respond to his touch. She doesn’t have to let her heart stutter inside its cage, or let her unnecessary breath hitch in her throat, or pull the color from the rest of her to stain her cheeks.
But she enjoys the game, and he seems the sort to appreciate a show. That’s where she draws the line, though; she keeps her other perversions tightly under wraps.
Wide eyes gaze up at him from beneath long lashes—a head taller than her, even in heels—and there’s an answering flash of fang behind her slightly parted lips.
“Your momma was right, Jules. I’d hate to make you rush through things so we aren’t late. Let’s call it a celebratory sip after our deal goes through.”
Julius: Julius nods, but doesn’t let go. Not before kissing the tip of Jade’s index finger, the digit with the greatest bloodflow, courtesy of the radialis indicis artery and its thick spiderweb of sensitive capillaries. Julius’ kiss upon that digit’s tip doesn’t last long, but it’s forceful: a hurricane-strong sucking motion that threatens—or perhaps teases—to burst the finger’s capillaries and drain its artery straight through her pores.
But he doesn’t. Not here. Not now. And not for a lack of want.
Making that ample desire perfectly clear, he slowly releases her hand.
“Cain’t say I won’t be countin da clock til den. But I guess dat’s da point.”
He then glances down at matte black steel and gold-accented Versace timepiece, “An speakin of clocks an not wantin to be late to da party, I got one last thing I binlookin to run by you, boo.”
His bloodlust is far from cooled, but it’s no longer threatening to boil over with the lapdance over (for now). As such, the mogul returns to his more typical businessman mien.
“Last sec scoop I done heard from a lil’ birdie bout da party. Wuz one of dose boys yo street-racin cap?”
Celia: He’s not the only one. Not after that.
The mention of racing doesn’t make her do more than lift one expertly shaped brow at the Caitiff. It doesn’t give away anything going on inside of her—the screaming, the broken smile, the crack of parting ribs, a cold hand bursting through a chest cavity to seize a still heart and squeeze it for every last drop.
“D’you need a little racer boy for somethin’, Papi?”
Julius: “Something like dat, shug.” He pauses to scan the crowd as if checking for familiar faces or too-eager eavesdroppers. Spotting none—which doesn’t mean there aren’t any—he drapes a long arm over her in what might be a grandfatherly or conspiratorial gesture. The latter seems more likely when he begins to whisper:
“Don’t know if you’s evah dealt wid da Envoy Boggs. White as Uncle Rastus’ instant rice, but rich as da US Mint, dey say. He don’t always come to Lawd Savoy’s parties, but he’s comin to dis one. Wot’s mo’ portant is dat it’s bin 10 years past since he came an hosted uh game, giftin da winner wid uh vintage Maserati, uh ’60 Maserati 3500GT Vignale Spyder clean as uh whistle an worth half uh mil, easy.”
“Ma inside scoop just learned me dat he’s gonna do it gain tonite. Not a Maserati, but a racing car from da 20s. Winna gits da antique car. Dat’s a lotta dolluhs, dawl. Catch is, you only win it if yo driver can beat Ms. Larieux in uh street race at tonite’s party. Dat’s uh tall order, especially as not many caps got skillz drivin a century-old racin relic.”
“I ain’t got one of dem on ma tab rite now, an e’en if I did, I wudn’t be wantin to win. Don’t look gud for uh clanless to beat da lawd’s herald, no?”
Celia: “Instead you’re tippin’ off your new boo. Well ain’t that somethin’.”
Her sire couldn’t have timed his murder any better. It’s like he knew. He couldn’t have. Coincidence, right?
As if there’s such a thing.
For half a heartbeat her lips flatten into a thin line. How fitting that her useless ghoul would have finally served a purpose. If only he hadn’t been cut to pieces. If only she hadn’t severed his head from his body with one clean stroke of a blade.
“I s’pose I’ll have to bring someone who’s been around long enough to know how to handle something that old. Appreciate the heads up, Jules.”
She smiles at him in a way that suggests she’ll show him just how much she appreciates him later.
Julius: Julius’ smile returns like a golden sunrise. “Awrite, you did strike me like an appreciative soul, dawlin. Also, I’d rather you’s git da car an’ da glory dan uh lotta udder so-called frenz of our lawd. Bettah fo’ it to be uh Bourbon is all I’m sayin.”
He checks his likely knockoff watch again before adding, “Da party’s gonna start soon, so you give ol’ Papa Juj uh call if you be needin anything bout dis. Dolluhs, car, parts, specs, brain-juju, wotevah you need.”
Celia: How about a driver?
Ruby’s no doubt sitting at the spa. Or down the block from her haven. Or the home he shares with his brothers. It’s not the car she’s worried about, just the body inside of it.
Convenient, isn’t it, that this comes along the next night.
Jade scatters the first of the crumbs.
She hesitates a moment, then reaches out to touch Julius’ sleeve before he can turn to go. Her eyes search his face and she lets her mask slip for just an instant, showing the portrait of a young domitor concerned for her charges.
“He didn’t come home last night. Thought he was off with his lady friend, but it ain’t like him, Papa Juj. You think ’lotta people knew prior?” Hers is the only one that could give Mel a run for her money and everyone knows it. Who else wastes their blood on a racer?
Julius: The jazzman frowns at that confession. In fact, if he had two mouths, he’d be frowning with both. He thought his inside edge was exclusive, but does he really know? How would he know? He doesn’t, and that doubt causes his thoughts to play like an out-of-tune piano.
“Lady fren? Gawddamn, Jade, wot’s he doin wid uh lady fren sides you’s?”
He shakes his head and clenches a sousaphone-heavy fist.
“An no, I didn’t think udders knew, but I don’t rite know, not no mo’.”
He releases his arm, scanning the crowd again. “But if I knew you’s had a racing cap, den udders wud’ve too. So who’s da biggest comp, you dink? I don’t figure nobody’d off ya blood-boo jus’ to make damn sure Mél smokes da race. Dat squeeze don’t seem worth da juice.”
He scratches his sugar-white beard. “But maybe it ain’t bout Mél winnin, as much as makin f’sure you’s don’t. Anybody might ring dat kind of bell fo’ ya?”
Celia: Who would be out to get Jade that might plausibly know about this race ahead of time?
“Coulda been…” One of the harpies. Beaumont. She doesn’t quite fit the bill, though. Literally. Too fat to fit into a car. Benson. But that’s a secret friendship, and Jade doesn’t spill her role in the events of last week here. The debt has been settled.
“The Axles, maybe?” But she runs with them on occasion, and their leader and Jade’s sire are thick as thieves right now.
“The Baron’s girl, that witchy one.” Witchy, bitchy, same difference. Melton, but Jade doesn’t put the name forth to her krewemate.
“One of the Quarter rats… oh! The rats. We had a run in, I thought they’d gotten over it.” Maybe that stupid monkey had died.
A longer pause. Then, grudgingly, as if she doesn’t think her “little sister” has the balls—but it would be fitting, wouldn’t it, for her sister to retaliate after the events of last night? Hatred had burned so brightly in her eyes.
Julius: Julius nods. “Mmhmm, dat wud make mo’ sense den uh bucket o’ dollahs. Axles too. Da Anarchs got uh wonky ‘ship wid da Boggs. Yo sire an Mr. Boggs seem to git along fine, maybe gud. But Shep? Yo sis? Snaggin da car cud be dem givin da finger to dem. Or maybe da prince’s Anarchs or dat Baron mambo tryin’ to cause trouble tween Lawd Savoy’s allies, meanin’ turnin da Anarchs an da niggamancers.”
He scratches his jaw again, his eyes narrowing. “But you said a rat? Which rat?”
Celia: She’s not quite sure she wants to send Reggie up against Shep. Seems like a bad idea waiting to happen.
“The one with the ape. Greasy.”
Julius: “Da nossie? He ain’t no rat him, no.”
Celia: “Oh. That rat. The one with the kids.”
Julius: “Gerald an’ Geraldine,” Jules huffs, as if finding the names’ similarity an idle joke not worth telling. “But dat kid an’ her marrain, I jus’ don’t see it. Doubt dey got da stones.”
“But you said yo boy had a lady fren?”
But he waves away the question.
“Ain’t none of us got time fo’ 20 questions now. So whatcha gonna do?”
Celia: “Find a replacement. Win. Then find my boy.”
Julius: Julius’ highbeam smile returns. “Dat’s da jass I like to lissen to. How can I help?”
Celia: “I’ve got the car. I just need a body to put in it.” She spares a glance at his watch, though its face is upside down to her. “But you said you ain’t got a driver on speed dial, Jules.”
Finally, she smiles.
“Luckily, I know a guy. I’m gonna take off. I’ll let you know if I need somethin’, Papi.”
Jade rises to the very tips of her toes to plant a kiss on his cheek. She winks. Then she’s gone, slipping through the crowd with a swagger in her step that suggests she’s not worried about the race. Not at all.
Julius: Getting to watch the voluptuous morsel swagger away dims some of the sting of her leaving.
“Gawd,” Julius exclaims to nobody in particular,
“Uh cap could git mighty used to binlookin at dat one.”
Saturday night, 19 March 2016, PM
GM: Peter Lebeaux catches Celia when she arrives at the Evergreen. Other Kindred are already filing in.
“Change of plans. Now’s a better time than after court,” says the Tremere detective, leading the way up to his office.
Celia: Change of plans. Those are never words she wants to hear. She wonders if she’s in trouble. Celia trails after him until they reach his office and closes the door behind the pair of them, settling into one of his chairs. She crosses one leg over the other. The hem of her rather short dress stays firmly in place.
“What’s up, Pete?”
GM: “Just more convenient,” says Lebeaux as he sits down.
“So what’s on your mind?”
Celia: “Meeting with your sire went well. Thanks for setting it up. Pretty sure he owns me forever now, though.” A slight grimace. “Actually, I have a question about that. Those statues in the garden—guardians, yeah?”
GM: Pete gives her a flat look.
Celia: “I’m not prying, I’m wondering if I’d be able to do something similar. I was working on a project.”
GM: “You might have noticed from the multiple scans and pat-downs that my clan takes security somewhat seriously, Celia. I’m not confirming or denying anything about the chantry’s defenses.”
Celia: “Mm, that burly one got pretty friendly with me,” Celia confirms with a grin.
“I won’t push, anyway. I’ll figure out the project on my own.”
GM: Pete gives a droll look at the description of his clanmate.
“That’s Doyle. Can’t keep his hands to himself.”
Celia: Celia heaves a sigh at him.
“Here I thought he found me cute, Pete. Breakin’ my heart.”
GM: “Somehow it mends itself, even though it seems to break every other time it’s in here.”
“Must be the rejuvenative effects of my scintillating personality.”
The Tremere’s voice is as dry as before.
Celia: “Well, sure, I knew I’d get to see you again.”
GM: “Should we have me say no after you try to set me up with your mother again, just to make this visit complete?”
Celia: “Is it because of what happened? ‘Cause listen, if you’re not into her anymore, I heard she’s got a cute daughter lookin’ for something a little more serious.”
GM: “I thought Emily had a boyfriend. Did they break things off?” Pete asks innocuously.
Celia: “Oh, sweetheart, I meant the little one. Lucy. Figured if I start asking now you’ll be ready by the time she’s eighteen.”
Celia beams at him.
GM: “Oh, of course. I’ll wait for her. I suppose we’ll just have to put a pause to all this talk for the next twelve years?”
Celia: “No, the plan is to wear you down. Or break you in.” Celia tilts her head, considering. Her eyes roam up and down his body—or at least what she can see above the desk. “Make sure you know how to treat her right when she’s of age and all.”
GM: “Absolutely. I’d say to find her a real man too.”
“Rightest way I can treat any lady.”
There’s less dryness in the Tremere’s response there.
Celia: “Even me, Pete?”
GM: “You’re serious,” Pete half-asks, half-remarks, eyebrows slightly raised.
“Especially you. That wouldn’t be at all wise.”
Celia: “No? Why not?”
GM: “You’re not my type. I like what we have. It’s categorically unwise to think with your pants around other licks. Particularly Toreador.”
Celia: Not his type.
There might be a flicker of something across her face, but it could just be a trick of the light. Whatever it is it’s gone in a flash. Celia smiles prettily. That’s what she’s good at.
GM: Perhaps Pete sees it. Perhaps he doesn’t. Either way, he frowns faintly as he asks,
“Why are you bringing this up now, anyway? For seven years you were set on setting me up with your mother.”
“And I’ve yet to meet a Toreador who considered anything off-limits.”
Celia: Probably because she doesn’t think Pete is the kind of lick to get mad at her and put her in the microwave.
She starts to open her mouth. Hesitates. Closes it again and shrugs. She doesn’t quite meet his eye, though. The pattern on the wall behind him is just so interesting.
GM: Roderick didn’t used to be that kind of lick either.
How did things get to that point?
Celia: She didn’t lie to him about his brother.
GM: “If there’s one thing I’ve learned, alive or dead, it’s that sex causes more problems than it solves,” says Pete.
Celia: “He saw me with Reynaldo. He got mad. I lied to him. He got more mad.” Another shrug, like it doesn’t matter. “Brujah, right?”
GM: “Brujah makes it worse, but there has to be some bad to begin with.”
Celia: “Sure. Like with Maxen.”
GM: “Lot more bad to your old man than ‘some.’”
Celia: “Mm. Lucky me.” She flashes him a humorless smile. “Anyway, hunters.”
“Followed up on that, uh, vision? Rite? The thing you did with the blood. ‘Glinko.’ Glynco. Glynn County. It’s up in Georgia. Law enforcement training center. Federal law enforcement.”
She’s surprised he hadn’t known considering his work in the field. But he’s not a fed, so she doesn’t ask about it. Maybe he had known and this whole situation was another one of those need-to-know things.
Which means she’s wasted time on it, if so. The thought irritates her.
“Apparently they’re recruiting. People bring ’em three licks and they get to go off to the fancy training center to join the team.”
“Reg said they seem like assholes. Which, y’know, is a lot coming from him.”
GM: Pete slaps his head.
“I’ve fucking been there.”
“Stupid not to have thought of that.”
“I’ll blame it on funny pronunciation.”
Celia: “And misspelling. I thought there was a K. No wonder I didn’t find anything.”
“Got it now, though. But you’ve been there?”
GM: “Yeah. It’s primarily for feds, but state and local agencies still send people there for training sometimes.”
“I went with some other NOPD folks. While ago.”
Celia: “They all secretly hunters now?”
GM: “Not to my knowledge.”
Celia: “And I assume nothing tipped you off while you were there or you’d have mentioned it to the right people by now. Could be new? Probably just super secret. Not like they’re telling every cop who walks a beat about it.”
“Kind of begs the question how much they know, though.”
GM: “Too much.”
Celia: “There’s a whole agency, Reg said. They were vague about it.”
“But they’re feds, Pete.”
“But, uh, there’s something else.”
GM: “Wouldn’t expect them to share more than they absolutely have to. But what?”
Celia: “Getting rid of licks isn’t their main objective. Or it is, but only in a roundabout way. I mentioned they’re recruiting. That’s why they were dismissive of the pair when we sent Tantal, since there’s always more of ‘em. Testing competence and dedication but going after ’small fries,’ like they’re basically just looking for the best ones to join them.”
“Reg didn’t ask about the other supes, but I figure maybe they’d know about them too.”
“So… all he has to do is bring ‘em another body and he can join. I’ve been thinking about maybe, ah, maybe getting a man inside.”
GM: Pete chews that over.
“That’s consistent with what the stake has picked up.”
“I don’t like this. They’re not testing and recruiting hunters just to collect them.”
Celia: “We could find out.”
“Send someone in if we don’t want to tip them off. Or grab them, maybe.”
“If they’re bold enough to attack strongholds in other cities… gotta assume it’s something big, Pete, right?”
“Even if they’re not the same group.”
“Did the stake say anything else?”
“Maybe the girl with it knows more? We could pick her up. Doesn’t give us a heads up when she makes a move on someone, though.”
GM: Pete shakes his head. “No. Stake could feed us intelligence for quite a while. That’s more useful than one hunter off the streets.”
“Getting someone to deliver three staked licks wouldn’t be overly hard. Real challenge with an inside man is what comes after. They’ll be far away from any support in Glynco. Flying blind and on their own. Lot of ways that could go wrong.”
“Still, it could yield a lot of intelligence.”
“More than we might be able to get any other way.”
“I’ll run the idea past Lord Savoy.”
“Something that big is his call.”
Celia: “Keep thinking of Reg, but… not sure how well it’d go, considering the renfield thing. Withdrawal would be messy. Could be nearby, I guess, but that’s got its own risks.”
“Didn’t say how long the program is.”
“Could always use the same identities, anyway, if we only want to give them one more body.”
“Reg said the next meeting is about a week out.”
“Not a ton of time, but enough.”
Celia: “Your sire mentioned a chantry in Atlanta, though.” Celia asks if he minds if she pulls it up on her phone; she remembers last time she’d whipped out the device in front of him. She doesn’t type the word “glynco” into the maps function, opting for “Atlanta” instead, and uses her fingers to scroll across the map of Georgia until she finds what she’s looking for.
“Close to the water, port city. Ah, damn, Atlanta is like almost five hours away. Savannah is closer. So is Jacksonville, looks like.”
Two fingertips zoom her in closer, looking at the surrounding area.
“Doesn’t look like there are any big cities nearby… some wildlife areas, parks, islands… Brunswick?” She taps the name. “Census says population of 16,000.”
“Little over sixty miles from the other cities. ‘Bout an hour drive time. Through, uh… probably loop territory? Don’t they like parks? Lotta green around it, anyway.”
She can fly, though. So there’s that.
GM: “Lot of factors to consider,” Pete says at her initial words. “Reggie wouldn’t be my first choice of inside man, though. Need someone with a better police temperament.”
He looks at the phone.
He gives a grunt. “You can turn that back off now.”
Celia: Celia does so.
GM: “We’ll work out the logistics if Savoy gives the operation the thumbs-up. Moot until he does.”
Celia: “Just thought it would be good to tell him everything all at once.”
GM: “It’s far from home, however we slice it. This would be much easier if they were based somewhere local.”
“On the other hand, Savannah’s or Atlanta’s Kindred might already know something.”
Celia: “And if not, they might be grateful.”
“You know anyone up that way? I know one of the Torries up in Atlanta. I think that’s where she’s from. Or, uh, maybe San Fran. Bit of a blur when we met.”
GM: “You don’t say,” Pete says dryly. “But no, I don’t. Lord Savoy probably does.”
Celia: “We danced, Pete.” Celia grins. “She’s very fast.”
“Can get an introduction, anyway. If he doesn’t know someone.”
Celia: “But, uh, yeah. Like you said. Moot to plan until he gives the go ahead.”
GM: “It’s an option to keep in mind.”
Pete glances down at his watch, then gets up from his seat.
“Court’s starting soon.”
Celia: Celia rises with him.
“Hey, Pete? Real quick. Before we go. You think he’s gonna let me help once things get moving?” She shuffles her feet, glancing down at her toes before back up at him. “I just… kinda want to be able to do something other than sleeping with people for him, you know?”
Celia: “And I’m supposed to see him tonight after the party. Should I tell him about this, or do you want to?”
GM: “If he thinks your help will be useful, yes. I’d convince him of that if you’re worried.”
Celia: “Yeah. Guess so.”
It’s not like she’d fought off the hunters, escaped, gotten their identities, helped kill three more, gathered their blood for a ritual, followed the lead, found the base, sent her people undercover with a skill very few licks have, given them the idea for the stake to gather more intel, brought back the phones that gave Pete new information and a hit list, stolen papers from Roderick to give to Savoy about another hunter attack and the Inquisition then replaced it with none the wiser…
GM: “I need to take off soon. You can tell him.”
Celia: “Sounds good. Be safe tonight with whatever you’re up to. I’ll let you go ahead of me so no one thinks we were being overly friendly in your office.”
Celia winks at him and follows him out.
She waits until he’s out of sight to send a text to Reggie to stop at her haven on the way back. There’s a box beneath the bed she’d like him to retrieve.
Then she’s off to join the court, a spring in her step and a smile on her lips.
Saturday night, 19 March 2016, PM
Celia: Jade finds a place to change for court. She could do it between court and the party, she knows, but she’s always liked to be prepared. She’d thought about doing it in Pete’s office, but no doubt he’d have told her that it isn’t the right place for that. Even if he was thinking about how he’d like to sink his teeth in. He definitely thinks she’s cute.
She tries not to take the rejection personally. She likes what they have, too. Most nights.
While she changes she fishes out her phone, sending a handful of texts.
A second to Reggie: Find it okay?
It being the boat.
To Alana: Makeup going well with our friend? Let me know when you arrive, I’ll do the finishing touches before the party. Have his outfit here. Yours too. :) ;) ♡
To a certain black Caitiff rapper who, like all rappers, has a penchant for loud and fast cars: You and Malik still tight? Might find him helpful tonight.
And to Randy, just to keep up the charade that she hadn’t been the one to cut his head off:
Hey. Haven’t heard from you. Still coming tonight? Need you babe.
GM: It’s going wonderful! Will do! Can’t wait to see them, love you! ♡ comes Alana’s near-instantaneous response.
Yep, comes Reggie’s text after a bit.
The rapper doesn’t reply immediately.
The drag racer, she’s pretty sure, is replying never.
Celia: Love you too, Celia texts back to Alana. With a handful of heart-eyes emojis. Too bad she already asked Dani to sleep over; she could use some fawning adoration from Alana after everything else that has been going on lately.
She hadn’t expected much of a reply from the rapper; Malik is his ghoul, no doubt they’re still “tight.”
She stares at the open conversation with Randy for a long moment and finally puts her phone away. He’s gone. He’s gone and he’s not coming back and it’s her fault.
It’s always her fault.
Everyone close to her will end up suffering the same thing. Maybe she should cut her losses with Roderick before either one of them dig the knife any deeper.
Or she could double down instead. Reach out to him about that ‘problem’ she has tonight, see if he wants to help. They’d never gotten around to talking about it even though she’d asked if they could and brought all her research and notes from the meeting with the Tremere.
She breathes a sigh that doesn’t do much to settle her nerves. Does she want to see him tonight? Does she want to invite him here when she’s going to ignore every direction he gave her?
She doesn’t know if she’ll have time to do his face. If she’ll have time to mark him. What’s he going to think when he sees her in the Mafia getup?
Don’t be someone else’s no. She’d told him that once.
So she breathes again, thinking that maybe one of these nights she’ll stop that useless habit, and sends him a text.
Never got to tell you that other thing. Kind of time sensitive. Could maybe use your help tonight but I get it if you’re busy.
GM: The response, which comes after a few moments, is short.
Have you done what I told you?
Celia: Uh which part?
GM: The friend you’re introducing me to.
Celia: Oh lol party hasn’t started yet but he’s def interested in meeting my friends. This is just unrelated but like I said no big if you’re busy.
Figured it was a long shot.
GM: You’ve arranged a time and place for the date?
Celia: No I think I mistyped? It’s happening I just don’t know what day.
GM: Did you somehow think I wouldn’t need to know what day?
Celia: Celia stares at the phone in her hands.
Nvm I’ll just see you tomorrow I guess.
GM: Go back and find out the day, Celia. You can see me early if you do that.
Do you remember what I said would happen if you didn’t arrange this?
Celia: Yeah. I know. Sorry. I’ll do this thing on my own tonight it’s ok.
GM: You’re playing more games, Celia. More manipulation. But as usual, simple reason and bullshit intolerance see right through them.
You will see him at tonight’s party. That party should be about to start. But you implied you saw him between now and our last conversation. You implied this without directly stating so.
So did you not see him, and then attempt to mislead me as to the extent of your progress, in hopes of getting to see me early?
Or did you see him and fail to do as I instructed?
Celia: Idk what you mean, I said the party didn’t start yet which means I haven’t seen him. I’m not trying to mislead you? I said he’ll be happy to meet my friend so it’s no big deal and that I’ll get a date for you. Sorry if I worded it weirdly. I’ll be more clear going forward. I wasn’t trying to intrude on your evening to break the rules or anything I’m sorry if it came off that way.
GM: So you said it was happening. Even though you hadn’t seen him. After I told you to set up a date. We don’t think that’s misleading, do we?
I hope you realize and appreciate just how little I trust you these days, Celia.
Celia: I’m sorry. I’ll do better.
GM: Arrange the date by our meeting tomorrow. If you are successful, I will be very happy and you will be rewarded. If you are unsuccessful, the thing I told you about will happen. Understood?
Celia: Got it.
I love you. I’ll see you tomorrow.
Love, she types, and desperately tries to feel it again.