“Get out. Right now.”
Tuesday evening, 22 March 2016, PM
Celia: She calls Delta on the way to her mom’s house to speak to the woman who inquired about Emily.
GM: She gets a voicemail saying their corporate office is closed right now and listing their business hours.
Celia: Celia doesn’t bother to leave a voicemail. She’ll have to make it work another way.
Shortly thereafter she arrives at her mother’s house, sending a text when she’s near so Diana has time to put the cats away.
GM: Thanks sweetie, her mom texts back. I’ll be in Emi’s room.
Emily, Diana, and Abigail are all there when she arrives, the (biological) 18-month-old sleeping in a crib and the adults sitting on Emily’s bed. Emily looks mostly okay, if rather subdued. Celia’s mother looks beat. Circles ring her eyes. This is the second night she’s not bothered with makeup or looked like she’s spent any time on her hair, and it makes her look closer to her true age than not. The woman would probably look like a dump if Celia hadn’t given her that “touch-up” after her sire’s visit. She’s wearing an older dress with paint stains that she doesn’t look like she cares if it gets further damaged. Nevertheless, her embrace lingers as she hugs her daughter.
Her voice is a whisper, seemingly so as not to wake the baby.
Celia: The sight draws her up short. Any thought she’d had of taking a nip from her mother vanishes when she sees the circles under her eyes. She should have taken more from Joseph; why had she thought that her mom could feed her like normal?
Diana needs a hit, not the other way around.
“Hi, Momma,” Celia whispers back, moving across the room to hug her.
GM: Her mom releases her after several moments to sit back down with a cautious glance towards Abigail.
Emily hugs her next. “Hey,” she whispers. “I’ll keep this short-”
“-we do not want to wake the baby,” Diana says tiredly.
“-but I remember everything.”
She rubs her head.
“Everything Pete did unraveled when Emi saw Abigail,” whispers Diana.
“I guess no surprise.”
“Didn’t have an explanation for her.”
Celia: Celia can’t even pretend to be surprised. She should have known that Abigail would make it unravel; none of them had mentioned her to Pete.
Celia hugs Emily tightly.
“Thank God. I hated the idea of you not knowing.”
GM: Emily squeezes her back.
Celia: “It’s messy,” she says in a whisper, “but we’ll figure something out.”
Maybe hunt for alchemists tonight instead of rats.
GM: Abigail suddenly starts crying and screaming at the top of her lungs.
Diana sighs wearily.
“Oh my lord-”
She gets up, walks to the crib, and fits the ghouled child into the crook of her arm. She starts to rock her back and forth and lowly starts singing ‘Hush, Little Baby’.
Abigail keeps bawling.
She squirms in Diana’s grip and snaps at her. Celia’s mom awkwardly tries to keep the child away while still singing and holding onto her.
Celia: Celia frowns at the sight. “Is she like this all day?”
GM: “Yes,” her mom answers.
“I’ll take her,” says Emily, holding out her arms. “Go talk with Celia.”
“Mom. You need a break. Go talk with Celia.”
Celia: Celia reaches out with the gifts of her clan on her way out the door, attempting to soothe the child in Emily’s arms to stop the screaming.
GM: The child is still in her mother’s arms, but promptly shuts up. Both women have odd expressions. Simultaneous frowns and looks of relief.
“All right, take her while she’s calm,” starts Diana, foisting off the child to Emily.
“Hey, Abi,” says Emily, fitting the baby into her arms with several pointers from her mom. “There there, who’s a lot nicer now tha-”
“Emi, don’t move your hand so clo-!”
Abigail promptly sinks her teeth into Emily’s nearby hand.
“FUCKING-!” Emily swears, jerking her hand away. The held baby nearly falls. Diana swoops in to stop that, only for Abigail to burst into tears again.
“Just put her on the bed, Emi!”
Celia: “Here,” Celia says, holding out her hands for the child. “Give her here.”
GM: “Celia, she bites. A lot. Emi, let’s get her on the bed.”
The two women carry the crying child over. She kicks and thrashes as they set her down.
Celia: “There are two bottles in my purse, Emi. Can you heat them up in the microwave? And bring the first aid kid over so I can look at your hand.”
GM: “Celia, tell me you don’t want to feed her more vampire heroin,” frowns Emily.
She winces as her mom takes a look at her hand.
Celia: “If it’ll get her to shut up? Yeah. I will.”
GM: “Yes, you need the first aid kit.” Diana rubs her head. “I’ll be back in a moment.” She gets up and walks out of the room.
Celia: “Take the purse!” Celia calls after her.
GM: Celia smells the blood welling from her sister’s hand before their mom says anything, though.
Diana gives it a dull look.
“Celia, we can’t use that every time she cries or bites. Do you want to be here, drugging her up, 24/7? Because that is what it would take.”
Celia: Celia was thinking about pulling her gums down over her teeth to prevent the biting, to be honest.
She rubs the side of her head. Keeping Abigail was a mistake. She should have let Draco drain her.
“No,” she admits, “but until we figure something else out it might help.”
GM: Her mom shakes her head, looking in little mind to argue, and walks out.
Emily swears softly and sucks her hand while Abigail kicks and cries.
Celia: “Let me see, Emi,” Celia says, reaching out.
GM: She turns her hand over.
It smells luscious, that tantalizing flow of red, even short as it is.
“Been like this all day, from what Mom says.”
“I guess no surprise.”
Celia: She hadn’t gotten nearly enough from Joseph. Celia all but licks her lips at the sight of it.
“I can fix this.”
GM: “Oh, how?”
Celia: “Don’t tell Mom,” Celia says seriously. Then her fangs are out. But rather than sinking into her sister she turns them on the screaming, kicking child. By the time they’re five or so, children have almost the same amount of blood in their bodies as adults do. Abigail isn’t yet five, but she certainly has more than a newborn, and she has enough to donate a hit to Celia without risking serious injury.
GM: Emily holds out an arm to forestall her.
“Celia, what the fuck!”
Celia: “It’s just a little, and it’ll make her tired. She’ll fall asleep. It’ll replenish.”
“Do you want a scar or permanent damage?”
GM: “Uhhh. I don’t feel comfortable with you feeding on a baby, sorry.”
Celia: Celia gnashes her teeth in frustration.
GM: “Especially if you don’t want me telling Mom.”
“I’ll be fine.”
Celia: “Then we’ll wait until she gets back and I’ll do it then.”
GM: “I don’t think she’s gonna be a fan either. You’re supposed to weigh 110 lbs before you can safely donate blood.”
Emily rubs her head.
“This was no surprise.”
“Abusive home. Chemical dependency. Change in caregivers.”
Celia: “I don’t know what else to do for her.”
Diana walks back in with a first aid kit. She sits down, opens it up, and takes a look at Emi’s hand again.
Celia: “Mom, I can fix that, that’s why I wanted the blood.”
“I can take a hit from Abi and it’ll probably put her to sleep like it does you.”
GM: Her mom blinks at Celia’s first words, then her gaze sharpens.
“No! Abi is a baby, Celia, she can’t give blood! She cannot consent like I can.”
Celia: She has the decency to look ashamed, at least.
Diana swabs away the blood and applies some disinfectant to Emily’s hand.
“Look, sweetie, I appreciate you want to make things easier for us, but all of this with mind controlling her, giving her blood, drinking her blood, it is just going to cause more problems.”
Celia: Celia sits beside Emily on the bed, looking down at her hand. It’s not a large wound. Maybe she doesn’t even need to use her craft. She could just… lick it.
“Can I try something?”
GM: Emily considers her for a moment.
“Okay, go ahead.”
Celia: “I’m not going to bite you,” Celia promises, lifting Emily’s hand to her mouth. She extends her tongue, lapping first at the blood dripping down her wrist, then moves it across the wound itself.
GM: Emily’s blood is fantastic.
It’s fierce. Alive. Sharpening. It makes Celia feel strong and alert. It’s not dissimilar from Roderick’s vitae, in some ways, that Brujah fire, but this is an altogether different vintage. This is… natural. All-human flavor. But there’s something else, too, something deeper. That love for her, her adoptive sister. They’ve meant so much to each other. It tastes…
But that’s all she gets. She can’t sample the rest. Can’t roll it over her tongue, can’t swallow mouthfuls of it down, can’t experience the full heady flavor, can’t compare the depth of its love to Diana’s blood. How delicious must a sister’s love taste? She’s already had a mother’s. She’s had just the barest sample of Emily’s. It does hardly more than whet her tongue before she’s swallowed it all, and then it’s gone. This is cruel. Torturous.
To just get the full thing…
The alcohol-based disinfectant is so bitter and cruel against her tongue. Then just like that, Abigail’s bite marks are gone, sealed over. The baby’s teeth were hardly sharper and deeper than a true lord of the night’s.
“Wow,” says Emily, looking over her hand. “That’s good as new.”
“I remember, you did this on Mom, when you first told me.”
“I went on about how many medical applications this could have.”
Abigail continues to cry despite Diana’s soft words and efforts to calm her down.
Celia: Celia doesn’t seem as if she’s listening to anything Emily says. The wound is gone, healed as if it never was, but the taste of her sister’s blood lingers on her tongue. The disinfectant isn’t enough to turn her off; it’s like the other night when she’d mixed tequila with the bagged stuff, just something to get through.
But if she bites… if she bites, and takes a full drink, it’ll get rid of that sharp acidity in the back of her throat, she’ll be able to…
Celia’s eyes glaze over, tongue running across her lips and fangs like an alcoholic trying to get the last drop from an empty bottle.
GM: “Uh. You doing okay?” asks Emily.
Celia: “Hungry. Tastes… really, really good.”
GM: “Should I say thanks?”
Celia: “Could say you’re welcome,” Celia says, “if you want to donate.”
GM: “Uh,” says Emily.
Celia: Is the moon shining just for her? Her eyes sparkle something fierce when she lifts them to look at Emily. This is her sister. And she’s hungry. And all Emily has to do is let her take a little nibble. It won’t hurt. She’ll recover quickly. Celia can show her so many cool things…
GM: Emily’s eyes swim in and out of focus before a smile spreads across her face.
“All right, go ahead…”
Celia: That’s consent. Even if it’s assisted consent. Right?
Celia smiles at her sister. She slides closer, murmuring something about taking from the wrist for the first time, and lowers her mouth to Emily’s arm. Her fangs pierce the soft, supple flesh of her sister.
GM: She tries to.
The slap connects full on with her cheek, turning her head around.
Her mother’s face is furious.
Celia: Her mother is met by lips pulled back in a snarl, eyes narrowed at this bitch that thinks to keep her from a meal. She snarls.
GM: Perhaps the Diana of old would flinch, but the one tonight does not. If anything, she looks emboldened.
“Get out,” she says in a low voice.
Celia: For a long, tense moment Celia stares her mother down.
Then she blinks, eyes focusing on the scene at hand. Angry mother. Wailing infant. Star-struck sister.
Color creeps across her face. Shame fills her eyes. She lets the aura drop as she turns on her heel and strides from the carriage house, picking up her purse along the way.
GM: “What the fuck!?” exclaims Emily.
Diana doesn’t say anything over Abigail’s cries. Just watches Celia leave through the door.
Celia: “I’m sorry,” she says before stepping out into the night.
She shuts the door behind her.
Tuesday night, 22 March 2016, PM
GM: It’s started to rain outside. The night is not cold, not in New Orleans in late March, but it is dark and wet.
Celia: It’s a quick walk to the car. Celia catches sight of herself in the reflection from the window: fangs distended, eyes wild, hunger plain to see.
The face of a monster, isn’t it?
Her hand curls into a fist. She brings the bottom of it down on the roof of her car just above the door. She’s not strong enough to dent it, and all she gets for her effort is an aching hand.
Stupid. Reckless. Useless. Selfish.
Selfish to ask her sister for blood. Selfish to hit her with a mind control power rather than letting her make an informed decision.
She’s supposed to be better.
Supposed to be making life better for her mother and family rather than more difficult. What was she thinking, dropping a baby off? What was she thinking, asking to feed from the child? From her sister? Snarling at her mother?
GM: Roderick was supposed to be better, too.
He was the shining example of all that was better.
And look at him now.
The lines are so easily crossed.
Celia: That’s her fault, too, isn’t it. No matter what Joseph had said. She’d told her grandsire what sort of heroin to hook him on. The easiest way to get to him. Slammed the final nail in the coffin with all the lies and cheating.
GM: Who among them stays better?
What saints remain among the ever-swelling legion of devils?
Celia: No one. It’s all just a slow descent into darkness.
She’s itching for a fight. Itching to take out all this pent up frustration on someone because sex just hadn’t cut it tonight. She needs release. Another outlet. She wants to hurt someone.
She knows who, but she can’t. Or won’t. It’s just going to fuck her night up some more.
Celia doesn’t want to be here anymore. She tugs at Jade, skin and flesh rippling to become the prettiest lick in the city—and what a crock of shit that is. As if it means anything. As if anyone respects her after years of playing airheaded lapcat.
Celia’s last thoughts are of her mother’s angry face and low voice.
Jade: Then she’s gone, Jade in her place, and the beautiful lick knows exactly how to let go of this mounting pressure. She opens the back of her trunk and strips from her clothing, pulling on the men’s clothing Alana had gotten for her. A moment later she’s gone too, the male version with his lifted shoes in her place.
He tucks a handful of necessary items into his pocket and calls for a Ryde from his new phone, glad Dani had suggested two that night. He leaves the other phones behind and sets his pickup spot down the block, closer to Rampart. Then he takes off.
Tuesday night, 22 March 2016, PM
Jade: The nameless male doesn’t speak to his Ryde driver on the way. He’s not overtly rude about it, just absorbed in his own thoughts, eyes staring out the window at the passing city.
He doesn’t have the same troubles as the girls. He’s not quite one of them, not really, just a step removed from their problems and drama and petty bullshit.
A bit of shadow dancing keeps the predator tucked away as the car approaches the edge of the turf he’s looking to invade. Once he’s out of the car another bit of it prevents anyone from thinking he’s out of place. He’s just another nameless face in the dark, walking through the rain to see what the night brings him.
GM: Mid-City is a working-class neighborhood, even if gentrifying forces may be at work. The nameless man passes by fast food places, an auto repair shop, cheaper-looking hotels, a self-storage space, a dollar store, a laundromat, and apartment buildings with rents in only the triple digits. There are more black faces than white faces out on the streets.
Jade: He fits right in, dark-skinned as he is.
He glances through the windows of the fast food joints that he passes, looking to see who’s inside.
GM: Breathers, more dark-skinned than not. Some younger. Some older. No kids, at this hour.
Jade: The man steps inside one of the joints, shaking the rain off his coat. He lingers near the door with his eyes on the menu, lips moving soundlessly as if he’s debating what to order. He waits for a likely subject to head to the restroom down the hall.
GM: He doesn’t wait long before another man in worn jeans whose tired- and jaded-looking expression belies his 20- or 30-something years heads down to the loo.
Jade: The man slips after him.
GM: The O’Tolley’s bathroom looks like it hasn’t been cleaned in ages, with formerly white tiles that are now stained an ugly yellow-brown. Crude graffiti mars the walls. It smells like the previous occupants did their business on the floor rather than the toilet.
The other man unzips his fly and starts pissing into a urinal.
Jade: The girls have seen worse in club bathrooms. Drunk girls are disgusting.
He waits until the door closes behind him to hit the guy with the same trick Celia had used on Emily, making him seem powerful, important, maybe even a bit desirable. Not in a weird way, though. No homo.
He flicks the lock on the door. Starts to wash his hands in the sink. Does a double-take at the dude.
“Hey. You Mike’s friend, ain’t you?”
Everyone knows a Mike.
“He still slingin’?”
GM: No guy in a public bathroom likes a stranger starting a mid-pass conversation with them.
The other man, though, gives a downright friendly-looking nod.
“Nah man, he got picked up last week. LeBron’s slingin’ now.”
Jade: “Ah, shit, I was lookin’ to get somethin’ tonight. Y’aint got anything, eh?”
“I got cash if you cool partin’ with some.”
GM: The other guy finishes pissing, wiggles his junk, and zips back up.
“I got some weed.”
Jade: The man gives him a look. He steps away from the sink to let the other guy in, lowering his voice.
“Listen,” he says, “I know Mikey got picked up, I jus’ need a few to get me through the next few days, aight? Jus’ like a few, my girl been on my ass an’ I can’t hardly deal with her when she gets like this, yaknow?”
GM: “I know, man, I totally know,” other man nods, caught on his words. “All I got’s the weed. But I can hook you up with LeBron if you need somethin’ harder, yeah?”
Jade: “Wha’ like t’night? Aigh’ yeah.”
“Lesgo see ’im.”
GM: “’Kay. You got money, right?”
Jade: The nameless man gives his new friend a look. “Jus’ said so, ain’t I?”
GM: The other man rubs his head. “Right. Sorry, man. Tired an’ shit.”
“Had a shitty day.”
Jade: “Yeah? What happen?” He leads the way out the door, unlocking it with little fanfare to let the pair out.
GM: The other man glowers. “Asshole brought in her dog where I work. Shat all over the floor. Boss yelled at me while I cleaned it up, about how I shoulda kept her out, when I was already swamped dealin’ with even more assholes.”
Jade: “She made you clean it up? Fuckin’ bitch.”
They leave the restaurant. He falls in step beside his new friend.
“Who brings their fuckin’ dog places like that.”
GM: “I don’t even fuckin’ know, but I got a million horror stories.”
The other man digs out a phone and taps off a text.
Jade: He seems receptive to listening to the stories while they head out, nodding his head and making disgusted sounds as needed.
GM: “Like, one time a lady tried returning somethin’ that wouldn’t scan, an’ she didn’t have a receipt. I called an’ called for a manager, but nobody showed. So I told her, okay, I’d go to the back an’ find a manager. Soon as I was in the back, she was right behind me. And she just ran up and fuckin’ punched me in the back! I got no fuckin’ idea why. Like, I was so fuckin’ shocked I didn’t even say nothin’ about it when I found the manager.”
Jade: “Punched you? You shittin’ me, right?”
GM: “Nope. Just ran up an’ hit me. In the back.”
Jade: “The fuck is wrong with people.”
GM: “Really weird’s how it was a woman. Like, figured that would be a guy.”
Jade: He shakes his head.
“You smack ’er back?”
“Sometimes, y’know, my bitch gets lippy, I just wanna—” He makes a backhanding motion.
GM: “Yeah,” the other man nods.
“And I wish, man, but I was just totally surprised. She ran off after she hit me. I was still standin’ there goin’ ‘what the fuck.’”
He leads the first man to Comiskey Playground. It’s open 24 hours, or so proclaims the sign, though no kids (or adults) are enjoying themselves on the play equipment during this dark and rainy night.
The two wait for several minutes, listening and telling more retail horror stories, before two other guys show up. They don’t ‘look’ like drug dealers, or at least any more than two other 30-something African-American males in a working-class neighborhood in do.
“Yo,” says the other man.
“Yo,” says one of the newcomers.
Jade: “Yo, sup sup,” the nameless man says, clapping hands with one of the newcomers and pulling him in to pat his back. He repeats the motion with the second.
“Heard y’all took over for Mikey since he got pinched.”
GM: One of the new men, who’s wearing a blue rain jacket, returns the motions.
The other one, who’s wearing a gray rain jacket, doesn’t.
“Yeah, what you hear?” he asks.
Jade: He jerks his chin at Mikey’s buddy. “Said you the guy to talk to.”
GM: The guy in the gray jacket grins.
“Ah, yeah, Brian here set you straight, din’t he?”
Jade: “Said LeBron’s the new guy, got what I’m lookin’ for.”
GM: “Uh huh, uh huh,” nods the blue jacket guy. “DeShawn, ain’ it?”
Jade: “Who, me? Nah man,” he holds out his hand again to bump, “I ain’t think we met yet, it’s Z.”
GM: “Z, huh,” says blue jacket.
Gray walks behind ‘Z’.
“Well, there ain’ no DeShawn, give you that.”
Blue jacket walks closer and gives a mean smile. He spares a glance at Z’s ‘friend’.
“But his name ain’ Brian.”
Jade: “Never sai’ it was, man, jus’ ran into him at O’Tolley’s an’ knew he was Mike’s buddy.”
GM: Blue spits at his feet.
“You givin’ me this shit?”
Gray takes another step closer.
Jade: “Look dawg,” Z says, taking a step back with his hands up, “I ain’t want whatever bullshit y’all into, wanted some bennies, y’ain’t got it then it’s cool.”
GM: “Nah man, we ain’ got no bennies, donno what you heard,” says Blue.
Jade: “Oh, aight. S’cool then. S’all I was lookin’ for.”
GM: “Yeah, I bet it were,” sneers Gray.
Both men cast dark looks at ‘Brian’, who’s been rather conspicuously quiet, then turn to leave.
Jade: Z turns a look on ‘Brian.’
“The fuck, dude. Said he had the shit.”
“Said he’s the guy.”
GM: “Hey, he is, man!” the supernaturally charmed man nods.
Jade: “He ain’t sellin’ it, is he?”
GM: “Sure is, man!” ‘Brian’ nods again. “I dunno whas’ up with him, you the shit!”
“Like, why the fuck wouldn’ he wanna deal to you?”
Jade: “I ‘unno, man, why don’t you ask him. He’s still righ’ there an’ all.”
Z waits for ‘Brian’ to call out before he hits the other two boys with the same charm. How could they not want to sell to him? He’s got money. He needs something small, just a few pills, ain’t a big deal. So he didn’t know a dude’s name, they probably met at a party or something. Those are all loud and shit, can’t hear anyone.
GM: The two men aren’t still there, they’re walking away. Though they haven’t gotten far yet.
Jade: “Yo, LeBron!”
Z jerks his chin at ‘Brian’ and takes off at an easy jog to close the distance so he doesn’t have to scream across the park.
The supernatural charm hits the pair of boys before Z even gets close.
GM: The two turn around once it hits them. Both men look impressed, and a little cowed.
“Yeah?” says Gray.
Jade: “Think we got off on the wrong foot,” Z says, slowing to a halt.
GM: “Yeah, might be we did, man,” he nods.
Jade: “How’s we start over, eh? I’m Z.”
GM: “Okay,” he nods again. “Nice to meet you an’ shit. I’m LeBron.”
Jade: “Like that basketball guy, eh?” Z grins.
“Shit, man, wish my momma woulda thoughta that. Betcha could pick up a buncha babes with it.”
GM: “Yeah, man,” LeBron grins. “He’s better’n MJ, you ask me.”
“No he ain’t,” says Blue.
Jade: “Yo ain’t they both play fo’ the Cavs at the same point an’ they still sucked?”
GM: LeBron ignores his friend completely as he scoffs in agreement.
“Carryin’ all the weight, man.”
Jade: “I mean, depends’n how you lookin’ at it,” Z says to Blue, “like yeah Jordan put up more points but LeBron got ’im beat everywhere else.”
“‘Cept free throws, that kid can’t sink a shot to save ’is life.”
GM: “There’s no comparin’ with MJ,” says Blue. “Man’s a legend. I remember, growin’ up, how every kid wanted to be MJ.”
Jade: “Now every kid wanna be LeBron.”
GM: “Everythin’ from when you was a kid seems better, though,” says ‘Brian’. “LeBron’s MJ to kids today.”
GM: “Fuck, that makes me feel old,” mutters Blue.
Jade: “S’like lookin’ at actors, man. All these new faces.” Z shakes his head. “Can’t fuckin’ keep up wit it half the time.”
GM: “Well actors at least stick around,” says LeBron. “Like, Towers. I watched his shit as a kid and he’s still makin’ movies.”
“Wait, I thought he’s dead,” says ‘Brian’.
“Yeah, drank himself dead, din’t he?” says Blue.
“No man, he ain’t dead,” says LeBron. “Was in some shit, but he’s still makin’ movies.”
Jade: “Shit, feel like I been under a rock, tellin’ me he dead. Damn.”
GM: “Yeah man, his life was a fuckin’ train wreck,” says LeBron. “Gettin’ arrested an’ shit.”
“I know a guy who says he was in OPP same time.”
“Get out,” scoffs Blue.
“Someone like Towers, he gets bail.”
Jade: “Nah man nah, sometimes they wanna make a point.”
GM: “I didn’ say I believe him, just that he said s…” starts LeBron, then trails off as Z disagrees.
“Yeah, man, maybe,” he then says, changing track. “Example makes sense.”
Jade: Z shrugs. “But ‘ey, who’s surprised the rich guy got off on bail? Ha!”
“Hey, let’s get outta this rain, eh?”
GM: “A’ight, sure, you goin’ someplace?” asks Blue.
Jade: “I got a date later, na’mean?” He smiles.
Z slings an arm around Brian’s shoulders.
“Not-Bri, you hostin’?”
“Or y’all wanna kick it with the good shit?” A nod towards LeBron.
GM: The men’s smiles start to slip.
“Look man, you cool and all, but we don’t know you,” Blue says slowly.
“You could be a cop,” says LeBron, his tongue clearly loosened by Celia’s supernal presence.
Jade: Z looks at LeBron like that’s the dumbest shit he’s ever heard. Then he laughs.
“Oh shit man, you serious?” He looks at Brian. “He serious? What kinda half-assed—” Z cuts off with a shake of his head, looking back to the ‘dealer.’
“What kinda whack-ass fantasy world you living in, nigga? What kinda fuckin’ cop goes after a small time nobody for slingin’ a handful’a bennies? You think you in a fuckin’ movie ‘cause you mention Towers? Fuck man, only way some lightweight like you gets picked up is at a routine fuckin’ stop after speeding down the street in yo mama’s car with fuckin’ drugs in it. He said you was new, I ain’t think he meant you don’t even got hair on your nuts.”
Z gives an exasperated sigh.
“You got the pills or not, clown? I got shit to do.”
“Or is this one’a them ‘gotta frisk you to make sure you ain’t wearing a wire’ shit to get me outta my shirt? Cause fuck, I ain’t into that homo faggot shit, n’ I’ll buy from someone who ain’t a pillow biter if that’s the case.”
GM: LeBron’s face reddens as he takes all of the insults in. Small-time nobody. Lightweight in his mama’s car. New. Hairless nuts. Homo faggot. Pillow biter.
Then he throws a punch.
Jade: Z’s pretty sure this kid ain’t never been in a drug deal before, ‘cause he ain’t even playing by the rules. No one wants escalation in a deal. It ain’t like the movies. It’s chill. It’s all real chill. A lotta smack talk, lotta posturing, but nobody starts shit like this.
Maybe it’s all those souls he’s collected lately. Or maybe it’s that old “fake it til you make it” bullshit. Either way, LeBron gets an air ball. Like the real LeBron when he goes for a free throw; that shit don’t even strike the rim.
Z’s fist is nothing but net, though. LeBron’s nose crunches under his blow and the wannabe dealer hits the ground. Z reaches into his pocket for the pills while he’s dazed, then throws a wad of cash down on his chest.
“Coulda been real fuckin’ easy, man.”
GM: Crack, goes Z’s fist. Blood messily spurts from LeBron’s nose. Z might not be big enough to knock someone over with a punch, but sweeping the stunned dealer’s legs out from under him does that just as well. LeBron moans as he hits the wet earth with a crash.
The other two men don’t make a move, seemingly cowed by the combination of quick takedown and Celia’s preternatural aura of power and importance.
Z’s search proves disappointing, however, for LeBron’s pockets are empty but for wallet and keys.
Jade: Z takes the wallet and keys, flipping open the former to look at LeBron’s ID.
“Lawren Bernice Jackson,” he reads. Then he laughs. “No wonder you fuckin’ go by LeBron. Your parents too poor to afford them extra letters for Lawrence?”
Z stuffs the wallet in his pocket.
“This for wastin’ my time, faggot. Now I know where you live.”
Jade: “See you ’round, twinkletoes.”
He takes off.
GM: The last thing Z hears is LeBron cursing the other two men while picking himself up from the wet, hard ground.
“You chickenshit numb-nuts…!”
Tuesday night, 22 March 2016, PM
Jade: Z doesn’t go far. A bit of shadow dancing, a bit of shape shifting, and a very hard-to-spot nightjar lands in a nearby branch. It looks like any other bird. Harmless.
The drugs might not have panned out, but Z isn’t going to waste the damage done to the bloody dealer. That red dripping down the front of him is like a neon sign pointing to an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Some predator is bound to notice.
GM: The nightjar swoops down in time to see the spot of trouble ‘Brian’ has landed himself into. Blue and LeBron are kicking the shit out of him as he yells and protests his innocence. A particularly fervid explanation earns a particularly hard kick to the ribs. The two men spit on him, take his wallet, split the cash, then go their separate ways. LeBron gets into a car and drives off.
Jade: Even better. There are all sorts of wild predators that cull the weak, slow, or injured from the herd.
The bird sticks with Brian.
GM: ‘Brian’ curses and stares death after the two. He slowly picks himself up, sticks his hands into his pockets, and walks back to the O’Tolley’s. It’s a damp and miserable-looking walk for the sullen-faced man. He walks towards the glowing ‘O’ over the doors, as if to order something inside, then seems to remember he doesn’t have his wallet. He gets a darker look, stalks back to his car, gets in, and drives off.
Jade: Unfortunate. The bird had thought that Brian might be in for a long walk home, all the better to spread that blood across the streets and lure in any hungry fish.
But the bird is patient. It follows the car. Perhaps something might yet be hooked.
GM: The car drives for a bit until it reaches a shitty-looking apartment building. ‘Brian’ parks, gets out, unlocks the front door, and lets himself inside.
Jade: What’s that over there? That thing that catches the eye? It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s—
Oh. Nothing. Just a trick of the light. That mirror with the cracked edge draws the attention every time.
How fortunate. The bird takes advantage of Brian’s distraction to swoop after him, flitting near the ceiling on silent wings with the mobster’s stolen gift.
GM: Brian ignores the bird completely as he shuts the door behind him and stalks up the creaky stairs. The building looks dirty and neglected. Sounds of yelling are audible past the paper-thin walls in one unit. “Shut the fuck up!” Brian yells.
“You shut up! Fuck you!” a voice yells back.
Brian loudly kicks the door, then walks down the hall to his own unit, unlocks the door, and walks in.
The bird follows him in. It finds a place to perch where it can see the door and Brian both.
GM: Brian doesn’t leave the door open for long, or for particularly wide. It’s when he turns around to lock it that the nightjar seizes its chance. The 1.7 foot wingspan is an awkward fit, and the bird has to close its wings to come to an awkward landing on the floor, but the door closes behind in.
The apartment is pretty shitty. Dirty dishes are stacked high in the sink. There’s stains and cracks over the walls. Whether from Brian’s personal habits or the building being a shitty building, the nightjar cannot say. The mirror over the sink is caked with toothpaste spittle. The windows and cheap tile floors have weird splotches on them, and the wood looks black and decayed. There are some squashed bugs sticking to the walls too. The whole place smells vaguely unpleasant. Brian removes his shoes, walks up to the freezer, and removes a Young & Smith frozen dinner to stick in the microwave.
Celia isn’t a total stranger to shitty apartments. But Diana at least did her utmost to spruce the place up with as many homely touches as she could. This is a rather stark look at what someone who isn’t a long-time housewife and expert homemaker can’t manage.
Jade: It smells like poor people.
No wonder the kid has turned to drugs; he’s living in a literal shithole. Getting high is probably the only thing he has to look forward to.
The nightjar settles in while Brian makes dinner for himself. Perhaps the bait hadn’t been tempting enough. Perhaps it will need to search the turf itself to find the disgusting little creatures.
For now, though, it is patient. It takes stock of the layout of the apartment while it waits to see if there are any other visitors.
GM: There’s a combined kitchen/living room area and a bedroom. That’s it. The bathroom must be communally shared.
Brian sits down on a chair and plays on his phone until the microwave dings. He pulls the hot plastic tray onto a plate.
There are two rubbery-looking ‘steaks’ swimming in some kind of sauce that smells like liquid sodium. Some sad-looking mashed potatoes and corn lurk in adjacent depressions in the tray. The brownie looks like a turd.
Celia’s mother would weep if she saw this.
Brian starts eating with a spork while watching a MeVid clip on his phone.
Jade: Even if the bird ate human food, it doesn’t think it would touch this slop. It keeps a keen eye on the floor, looking for signs of disturbance. Wet footprints from a second pair of shoes. Indentations on the carpet from someone unseen moving around.
GM: The bird can make out none as Brian continues to slowly chew his ‘food’.
Jade: Maybe his trip in the car had prevented him from letting his scent out.
Maybe the Nosferatu are busy.
Maybe they don’t feed this way, or just wait until people go to sleep.
Maybe it was a stupid plan anyway.
GM: There are always maybes.
Tinny sounds and voices continue to go up from Brian’s phone as he eats. The consistency of the mashed potatoes he picks up in his spork looks runny and gooey.
Jade: The bird is hungry too, but not for the runny, gooey potatoes or steak. It hops from one perch to another, taking a quick survey of the apartment.
GM: As the bird observed, there’s a bedroom and a kitchen. Unfolded clothes are littered around the bed, some clean, some dirty.
Jade: It makes its way to the kitchen, where dirty dishes have piled up in the sink and the remnants of someone’s “home cooking”—which smell just as foul as the TV dinner—stick to the bottom of a pot.
The bird becomes a man again. With shadows still clinging to him he circles back to the kitchen, where Brian is absorbed in the video on his phone.
“Protect your pretty," Reggie used to tell her when they squared off against each other. “Tuck your chin. Keep your hands up. Ain’t you ever seen a fight before? I said hands up!"
No doubt he’d taken some pleasure in knocking her around whenever they settled in for the lessons, happy for the opportunity to get in free shots on a vampire. He’d used to say things like, “thought y’all were supposed to be strong and tough," as he broke her nose when she let her hands dip.
She’d thought that was what he meant to protect, since it had sent pain spiraling through her whole face and her vision had blurred with bloody tears. Apparently everyone tears up when their nose breaks, he’d said, and a bit of blood had set her to rights.
Then he’d taken her to see a fight. The underground kind with the chain fence where almost-anything goes and bare-chested men with wrapped hands squared off against each other. He’d pointed out how they stood, with their chins tucked, looking through their brows. She’d finally seen why when one of the men had taken a right hook to the jaw and toppled backward, out before he hit the ground.
“Wow," she’d said, “must have been a hell of a punch."
Reggie had snorted.
“No. That’s just an instant KO. You get a jab in on the chin and it don’t matter how small you are, you gonna rattle their brain and send ‘em sprawling. That’s why I keep tellin’ you to keep your damn hands up. You remember this next time you get in a fight without me."
So she’d tried it. Multiple times. On Randy first, testing to see if even her small frame packed enough of a punch to knock him out. The first time it hadn’t worked. Then Reggie had stood behind her, hands planting her hips, toes nudging her feet apart, and he’d shown her how to rotate the hips. How to throw a hook rather than a jab. How to put her whole body behind it rather than just punching with her arm.
It had reminded her of the times Stephen had taken her to the batting cages, how he’d said the same thing. Plant one foot. Take a tiny step. Rotate from the hips. Once she’d mastered that the balls she’d hit had gone farther and faster.
So she’d done it with Randy. And she’d sent him sprawling. Then she’d tried it on Reggie, since he’s bigger and all, and she’d been amazed to see that had worked too.
Now Z plants one foot and curls his hands into a fist. He pulls back. He takes a step. He swings.
GM: The angle isn’t the best with Brian seated and facing a table, but he doesn’t in a million years see the punch coming. Who the fuck would in their own apartment? The punch connects solidly with his chin, like a rock ‘em sock ’em robot. The ’off-switch’ that if punched straight on, a forceful level action in their skull will cause their brain to rock around violently inside their head.
The man’s eyes don’t even widen in alarm before he’s out like a light, slumping face forward into his Young & Smith microwavable dinner.
Reggie always said the best way to throw a KO punch is for the other guy not to see it coming. The entire reason boxing requires a fighter to keep their hands up and jaw clenched is to make chin shots more difficult.
But not many boxers, Celia supposes, expect to get KO’d at their kitchen table while eating shitty microwavable dinners.
Jade: Maybe it’s not the same as beating up a lick or ghoul, but getting the better of two kine tonight in a physical contest has left Z feeling… well, like a man.
The video keeps playing on the phone where Brian had set it, but Z pays no mind to the voices coming from the speaker. He’s hungry, and this vessel is all-too-easy to snack on. He even deserves it, doesn’t he, wasting Z’s time like he had with a dealer who’s too chickenshit to carry product with him.
“You might be a cop."
Right. Name any normal cop that stalks people back to their homes so they can break in and feed.
Z punctures Brian’s neck with his fangs and drinks.
GM: Maybe lick cops like Pete feed this way. How does he feed?
The man’s blood tastes salty with simmering anger and sour with hopelessness and depression. Not the good kind of salty, like homemade cheese crackers or carrot chips. Not the good kind of sour, like Diana’s lemon bars. This tastes cheap and preservative-laden, perhaps as a result of a steady diet of Young & Smith microwavable dinners. You are what you eat, Kindred or kine. This tastes exactly like a cheap microwavable dinner. It tastes like a dead-end minimum-wage retail job where random customers punch you in the back and your boss yells at you. It tastes like cheap and dirty apartments without proper sofas.
But it’s blood, hot and coppery and claimed as the fruits of victory, claimed by force, and it fills.
Jade: The Beast inside wakes at the taste of hot, coppery blood. It’s different. Less sweet than the usual fare. None of the admiration or sexual chemistry that normally rounds out the flavor profile. This tastes like strength. Like power. Like a win.
The Beast purrs, rubbing against the rib cage that contains it despite its hunger, letting the lick drink his fill without interruption. It settles back down.
Z drinks deeply. He licks the wounds closed when he’s done. The video on the phone continues to play.
GM: It’s looped into a video ad for King Distilleries beer.
Just as well that he’s missing it.
Jade: It’d be easy to leave Brian dead on the floor. Easy to walk away from this scene. No one knows who he is. No one will connect this dead kine to the lick who runs a spa in the Quarter. Why would she slum it? Let him slake her hunger. Let him fill her completely. Z already knows how he’d make it look like an accident.
I want to be better, one of them had said.
So he doesn’t. Like Celia hadn’t earlier. Z finishes with the kine and drags him across the floor to his bedroom, taking his shoes off and tossing the comforter over his unconscious body. Then he sees the sauce splattered all over his face and dampens a napkin to wipe it off.
He glances down at the wallet stolen from LeBron and effects a sigh, taking out the cash to stuff into the pocket of a pair of jeans laying on the floor. It’s not like he needs the money. There’s even a gift card in there for gas, so he leaves that too.
Z turns the screen off on the phone and plugs it into the wall charger.
He knows what other licks would say if they could see him now. He’s glad that he’s alone. Z moves into the kitchen and slides the window up so he can leave. His form blurs and twists and the nightjar takes to the sky.
GM: As unhappy as the kine’s life might look, no doubt he prefers it and a bruise to being dead.
No doubt he prefers waking up in bed to waking up with his face over a cold microwaved dinner.
Better is better, even if it falls short of good.