“This family’s sick, Caroline.”
Saturday night, 12 September 2015, PM
GM: After Caroline has paid and left the restaurant, her phone rings. It’s Autumn’s number.
Caroline: She curses in frustration. All she wants to do is lose herself in someone else’s flesh right now, to forget Lou, her own ghouls, and her earlier murder in a moment of bliss. Instead she swipes to answer the call.
“Malveaux,” she answers.
GM: “It’s Autumn.”
The ghoul asks to meet up with Caroline so they can talk. She’s currently at another restaurant in Riverbend. A short while later, Autumn picks up her domitor in her minicooper.
“The body double thing sort of worked,” she says, “Someone was tailing me to another restaurant. I didn’t get a look at who. They left after a little while, though. Probably better to assume they recognized I wasn’t you.”
Caroline: Caroline resists the urge to snarl. Of course Lou would be right one more time.
Instead she keeps her tone level.
“Head back to my place and reach out to your ghoul body disposal expert. A consult, not a contract. Find out what he would want. Get back to me with the price.”
GM: “Okay. Uh, there’s another thing before I go. Sort of got… lost in the shuffle after everything that’s happened, I guess. I looked into that woman from earlier. Her name’s Marianna Christian. The son is Brandon Christian. She’s recovering in a hospital.”
Caroline pauses in mid-speech. Shame floods over her.
GM: “I dug up some more, but… it can wait?”
Caroline: “Yes. Find out about a price, and make sure Turner got rid of the car—and isn’t freaking out herself. I’ll see you there once I’ve taken care of a few matters.”
GM: “Okay, on it. I hope the… meeting went well.”
Caroline: Caroline exits the car without another word. She digs out her phone to hail a Ryde.
GM: Autumn gets out after her.
“Oh, hey, one more thing. I can’t get into Audubon. The Krewe isn’t pulling strings anymore. Meet you outside?”
She pauses. “Actually, no, you could just tell them to let me in. Sorry. Rough few nights.”
Caroline: Caroline doesn’t look over her shoulder as she summons the cab.
“I’ll tell them to add you to the guest list.”
GM: “Thanks,” Autumn answers.
“Oh. Shit. That’s what you did for him.”
Caroline: The Ventrue still doesn’t turn around.
“Did for who?”
GM: “Trenton. Blackwatch all saw him drive in. And it was recorded on camera.”
Caroline: “Blackwatch isn’t going to disclose anything about their clients,” Caroline answers, somewhat irritated. “They take the private in PMC very seriously.”
She very much hope’s she’s right… but right about now no one is looking for him yet anyway, so it’s a problem that’s quite far from a priority.
GM: “Those guys work for Audubon’s homeowners association, though, not you?”
Caroline: “How do you see this becoming a problem? His photo shows up as a missing and they come out and say that one of their clients buzzed him in? Bad press all around. Worst I’ll get is a nasty letter about it.”
GM: “He went missing because of a lick. Normal people saw. The Krewe would scrub this right up.”
“But you’re the boss.”
Caroline: "We’ll run it down later if we have to. For now, take care of your job.
Saturday night, 12 September 2015, PM
Caroline: Lou’s demands regarding her feeding are still burning in her ears as she combs college bars looking for fresh victims. Distantly she considers that she’s probably brushing off Aimee on the boy’s death, but in truth she doesn’t want to think about it. Cold-blooded murder. That’s what it was. She can’t even justify it the way she can the other… half dozen? Is it really that many? The way she can the others. No self-defense. No threat to her. Just a horny kid. She presses on, looking for a warm body to distract herself with, knowing that in the moment, with the blood in her mouth, she won’t worry about Trent.
GM: Caroline hits the streets. Much of Tulane’s campus and the choicest student bars remains off-limits to her, and she must turn to another place to find the college students whose vitae she so desperately needs. She finds herself in the back seat of a tiny car littered with manga books, school papers, and fast food wrappers still coated with leftover food and candy residue. The odious smell is all the more pronounced in the confined space. The overweight, pasty-faced Asian boy’s blood has a greasy texture like processed food, and the taste is not abated by the sweat that pricks his neck at Caroline’s touch. The yellow glow of O’Tolley’s giant ‘O’ and “Over One Billion Served” dimly illuminates the pair as she feeds.
“Oh… god… KIIKIIIIIIII!” the boy moans as she finishes. He convulses and thrashes a pudgy arm, scattering dirty wrappers. A stain appears against his bulging crotch.
He looks up at Caroline and smiles widely. “I’m… gonna… put you in the manga I’m writing.”
Caroline: Licking the wounds closed is vile, but needed, and in the moment she’s still floating in the bliss of success that almost covers up the smell. It’s not fine dining, but she’s had much worse.
“You do that, sweetie.”
She leverages his floppy bulk off of her and checks to make sure he didn’t stain her shorts when he stained his pants.
GM: “Hey, what’s… your Facemash!” he calls as Caroline extricates herself from the stinky car.
Saturday night, 12 September 2015, PM
Caroline: She swings by her house via called Ryde to check on the status of Autumn and Turner. She takes the opportunity to change into something more suitable. The clothing Lou provided goes in the garbage.
GM: Turner has deposited Trent’s body in the upstairs bathtub and cleaned up the blood in the kitchen, which smells strongly of bleach.
“Oh yeah,” she adds, “turns out ‘he’ is really a she. Does that make this a hate crime?”
Caroline: “No, but I’m sure that wouldn’t stop someone from trying to make it one.”
Caroline’s reply is awkward, almost trying too hard. She’s clearly not at ease with the macabre humor.
“Are you ready?” she asks the former Marine. Might as well get this over with.
GM: Turner frowns. “For?”
Caroline: “Your cut of her.”
GM: The soldier of fortune just gives a blank look for a moment. “You mean more blood?” She shrugs. “Thought it was only once.”
Caroline: The heiress nods. “It takes multiple doses at first. After that semi-regular refreshers. And obviously, when you use it, you’re going to need it replenished.”
GM: Something hungry alights Turner’s eyes. “Fill me up.”
On other fronts, Trent’s car is still there in the driveway, and Caroline’s ghouls are waiting for her go-ahead on how to proceed. Autumn repeats Shep Jennings’ name as a lick who runs a chop shop that doesn’t ask questions.
Caroline: Once Caroline has topped off Turner for the evening she asks Autumn to reach out to Jennings—or his ghouls—regarding the car, and her contact with the Krewe regarding body disposal.
“Either way, the car needs to be gone tonight.”
GM: “Okay, I can drive it over to Mid-City,” Autumn nods. “I also got in touch with Garcou. He says consulting isn’t what he usually does, but he’s willing to negotiate. I did ask how much he’d charge to get rid of the body himself. Twenty thousand dollars.”
The ghoul pauses.
“…I think he changes his price for different customers. More for ones who can pay a lot. It’s also in cash only.”
Caroline: Caroline doesn’t quite roll her eyes. “What is this, 1996?”
GM: “Well, it’s hard to beat cash for no paper trail. But he was ghouled a while ago. I think during the Spanish influenza.”
Caroline: She looks to Turner. “Could you get rid of it?”
GM: “The body?” Turner snorts. “I don’t get rid of bodies. I make them.”
Caroline: She looks back to Autumn. “I don’t suppose he accepts any other form of payment?”
GM: “Boons owed to licks in, too. Might be able to promise a favor to him, but that’ll be a sell. Kindred don’t really recognize debts owed to ghouls.”
Caroline: She frowns. “Really?”
GM: Autumn gives a helpless shrug. “Kindred can’t buy or sell each other either. Is that a surprise? So if you promise a favor to one of the Krewe, Garcou’ll basically approach them as a middleman, and they’ll pay him blood or cash.”
Caroline: The hell they can’t, but Caroline offers no further comment on that.
“Sit on it for now. In the meantime, if Jennings won’t take the car, move it.” She turns back to Turner. “Ms. Turner, you and I need to visit several people, can you bring the car around?”
GM: Autumn nods her assent.
Turner frowns. “I didn’t see another.”
Cartwright, Caroline recalls, disposed of her car by sending it to Jennings too. Or at least that’s how Autumn guessed the Nosferatu got rid of it. There aren’t any other Kindred-run chop shops that she’s aware of.
“I have one, anyways,” Turner states. “Not as fancy as yours, but it drives.”
Caroline: “A to B for now,” she agrees.
Saturday night, 12 September 2015, PM
GM: Caroline searches Aimee’s social media feeds on her phone and wracks her memory as Turner drives the black suburban. Eventually, she surmises that her reluctant ghoul is likely staying, probably also temporarily, with her parents.
Caroline hasn’t ever known Aimee to talk very much about them. Middle- or working-class background was the most she said. She seemed mildly embarrassed about the subject around Caroline. After all, she was the first of her family to go to college. Further searching for the name ‘Morgan Rosler’, Aimee’s mother, eventually pulls up an address on the border of Carrollton and Mid-City.
Caroline: “What could go wrong?” she murmurs to herself as she gives the address to Turner.
GM: Turner shrugs and drives into a lower-middle-class neighborhood that Caroline never would’ve been seen in when she was alive. No evidence of violent crime plagues the streets, but homes are small, one-story affairs that could do with coats of fresh paint, new roofs, new windows, and other improvements. Aimee’s, or rather her mother’s, home only stands out from the others because of the address. Two cars sit along the curb (there is no driveway or garage), Aimee’s Prius and a beat-up looking minivan.
Caroline: She texts Aimee. Would you rather me come in?
GM: No response is forthcoming.
Caroline: She sets the phone down. “Let me out and park just down the street.”
GM: Turner frowns. “Don’t like the place. Should I come with?”
Caroline: Caroline considers for a moment, then shakes her head. “Just keep an eye on the street from now. If you don’t get a text from me within five minutes… you brought your rifle, right?”
GM: “Never leave home without.” Turner frowns again. “Crowded parking anyways. Might just cruise a while.”
Now that Caroline notices it, there are at least several more cars than there is comfortable room for on the available curb space.
Caroline: She frowns, looking over the cars for anything out of the ordinary.
GM: Most of the cars in the area are pick-up trucks and minivans. One is an Esplanade. It’s not so new or maintained-looking as Wright’s, and in fact looks almost as beat up as the minivans, but is inconsistent with the demographic profile of the neighborhood’s other cars. Another one of the trucks, too, looks in considerably worse repair than the others. One of the headlights is smashed in, and long jagged marks mar the vehicle’s right side.
Caroline: “Circle the block,” she instructs on second thought, jotting down the license plates of each vehicle as they creep by.
She fires off a text to Jessica White. Can you run a plate for me?
GM: Jessica fortunately seems to be around at the station, and shoots back a reply in short order.
Caroline: Caroline fires the two at her.
GM: A little while passes.
These were both reported stolen. Where are you?
Turner, meanwhile, pulls away from the house per her domitor’s instructions.
Caroline: She doesn’t reply for a moment, instead texting Wright.
Hound Wright, I’m not about to cause any of your men trouble am I?
The address follows.
“Stolen,” she provides for Turner.
GM: The hound’s reply comes after a moment.
fuck is this?
Turner just frowns.
Caroline: I’m tending to some business, wanted to make sure I didn’t cause you any trouble. Sorry to disturb you, she sends back.
GM: what did you do NOW
Caroline: Nothing yet, but stolen vehicles parked in front of my ghoul’s home.
She follows up, That’s why I asked.
GM: No further reply is forthcoming from the hound.
Another text comes in from Jessica.
Caroline, we need to recover these. Where are you?
Caroline: She texts the address to Jessica.
Be careful with this Jessica. Bring another unit.
GM: Caroline’s phone rings. The caller ID is Jessica’s.
Caroline: She sighs and picks up.
GM: “Hi, Caroline. What’s going on here?”
Caroline: “Not sure, Jessica… they’re parked in front of Aimee’s house.”
GM: “Aimee, that’s… a friend of yours?” The police officer doesn’t wait for her to confirm, though, before continuing, “Okay, stay put. I’ll be there with some backup in a bit. Don’t go inside the house.”
Caroline: “Wasn’t planning on it. Thanks, Jessica.”
GM: “Or do anything else that might draw attention. But you’re welcome.”
The line clicks off.
Turner frowns. “So what is this?”
Caroline: “If I had to guess, gangbangers trying to get even.”
GM: “Vampire gangbangers?” Turner asks skeptically. “Thought you all were rich.”
Caroline: Caroline gives a little laugh. “Many, but not all. They’re somewhat irritated because I crushed one’s head like a pumpkin.”
GM: “Thought your pussy friend was new to this all, though. How do they know about her? Or are there any other vampires who do?”
Caroline: “Any number of places to buy that information. Or just ask.”
GM: “Guess so.”
Turner stares out the window towards the house.
Caroline: “This is… dangerous.”
GM: The mercenary shrugs.
“Said that was in the job descrip.”
Caroline: “Involving mortal authorities, I mean.”
GM: “Do they know about vampires?”
GM: She frowns. “So what happens if they try to arrest a bunch of them?”
Caroline: “The vampires charm them away. Or flee. Or try to fight them.”
GM: “Fighting cops is pretty dumb.”
Caroline: “Then let’s hope they learned their lesson the last time.”
GM: Minutes pass. The police response time isn’t very quick in this neighborhood, and Caroline has to wonder how much slower it would be if she hadn’t called a friend in the force. Eventually, a telltale white cruiser with “Police” written on its flank by the crescent badge pulls in.
A uniformed Jessica White gets out of the car with another deputy, a thirty-something man with a scar under his right eye, and scans the area for a few moments. She walks up to Caroline’s vehicle and raps on the window.
Caroline: Caroline rolls down the window.
GM: “Evening, Caroline. Has anything else happened that we should know since you called?”
Turner stays silent.
Caroline: “Not that we’ve seen.”
GM: “Okay. Stay put.”
Caroline: “Will do.”
GM: White and the other officer shine flashlights over the stolen cars’ plates to confirm them. The two nod to each other and say something into their radios. They then make their way past discarded trash bags and browning grass up the rickety wooden steps to the front door of Aimee’s house, or rather her mother’s. Jessica hits the doorbell.
“Who is it?” calls an older-sounding woman’s voice from the other side.
“Police. Can we have a moment please, ma’am?”
Caroline: Caroline watches from the street.
“If it goes sideways, keep your distance with the rifle.”
GM: Turner nods silently.
The wood and screen doors screech open. Caroline can’t readily see the person who Jessica and her partner are talking to, but she can make out her legs, which are covered in simple blue jeans. The woman’s head isn’t visible either. It almost looks like she’s sitting down.
“What’s this about?”
The police ask the woman, presumably Aimee’s mother, if there’s been any suspicious activity in the area lately, or if she’s had reason to fear for her safety. The woman answers no. They ask her if she was aware two stolen cars were parked outside her house. The woman indignantly replies she was not, and denies involvement, if that’s what the cops are insinuating. Jessica answers that it wasn’t, but they are trying to figure out who might have taken the vehicles, and why they’re parked here. Does she remember when they first showed up? The woman answers no, she doesn’t. Is that everything? Jessica asks a few follow-up questions and finally concludes with, “Thank you for your time, ma’am.” The door to Aimee’s house closes.
Jessica trades a few words with her partner, who heads off to the neighboring house. The young officer walks back up to Caroline’s car.
“All right, your friend’s house checks out, at least so far as we can search. We’re going to get these cars taken in and interview a few more neighbors. If you want to see your friend, we’re only a shout anyway.”
Caroline: “Thanks, Jessica.”
GM: The officer smiles. “No, thanks for finding those cars for us.”
Caroline: “Just paranoid I guess.”
GM: “Sometimes it pays.”
Jessica exchanges final goodbyes and heads off to the neighboring houses.
Turner regards her domitor expectantly.
Caroline: “I still don’t trust it. Can’t help but notice Aimee didn’t answer the door.”
GM: “Any way you could flush her out?”
Caroline: “You have any grenades?”
Turner’s eyes cut towards the police’s darkened figures.
“You’re not thinking of using those here.”
Caroline: “No. I will wait for the police tow truck to show up though and see if anyone comes out to object.”
GM: “So, do you vampires burn in the sun?” Turner abruptly asks.
Caroline: She nods.
GM: “Could just have me or your second pussy friend come back during the day. Haul your first one out if she’s holed up.”
Caroline: Caroline considers. “Not a bad idea… unless they’ve got their own versions of you.”
GM: “That’s all it takes, just a drop of blood?”
Caroline: “A little more than that, but that’s the short of it.”
GM: “Could be armies of mes, then.”
Caroline: “Hard to sustain that.”
GM: A white tow truck with the same blue “police” letters eventually arrives. The battered Esplanade gets hooked up, then taken away. Nothing undue disturbs the neighborhood.
Jessica walks back up to Caroline’s car.
“Still here? The neighbors don’t know anything.”
Caroline: “Seems weird,” Caroline ventures.
GM: “Maybe the thieves were just temporarily stashing them here. Anyways, we’re going to wrap this up once the second car gets towed.”
Caroline: Caroline nods. “I’m not in a rush.”
GM: “All right. You hang around.” Jessica heads off.
As she does, Caroline’s phone buzzes with a text from Aimee.
call off the cops or your ghoul dies
Caroline: Caroline hisses with anger.
Send out the ghoul or I’ll send IN the cops.
GM: Silence is the Ventrue’s only answer.
Turner surveys the message.
“So much for their ambush.”
Caroline: She stews in it, mulling the odds that Aimee is even alive.
“I should have seen this coming.”
GM: “So how do we want to play this?”
Caroline: She thinks long and hard on it, biting her lip.
At last her hand tightens into a bone-white fist and she admits, “We don’t for now. Head for the CBD, where you picked us up earlier. I need to talk to someone.”
GM: Turner frowns. “How much time you think they’re gonna give us? And how much more before the next car gets towed?”
Caroline: “Better question, why do they care so much about the cars?”
GM: Turner shrugs.
Caroline: She texts Jessica again.
Peak inside the truck.
“I don’t know, but I know going in there does nothing but put both she and I in their power.”
GM: Whats up?
Caroline: Just a hunch that you’ll find something inside.
“And calling off the cops similarly gives us less leverage.”
GM: Caroline sees Jessica walk over to the truck. The police flashlight shines over the window. It’d be hard for a mortal to see the officer’s eyebrows raise in the dark. After a moment she texts back,
There’s money in here. And won’t believe this. Blood bags.
GM: Yeah, I know you need it.
Caroline: How much?
GM: Few thousand? We’ll know for sure when it’s hauled in.
Caroline: She turns back to Aimee’s number.
Is that a lot of money for you?
GM: An attached photo arrives after a moment. It’s a knife pressed against the base of a woman’s big toe, tracing a thin red line.
Caroline: Bored. You already threatened to kill her. I’ll tell you what though. Send her out, and I’ll make you whole financially. We’ll call it a wash.
Caroline’s grateful for the medium. She’s not sure she could spout off that line so cleanly in person.
GM: Aimee’s number rings on the phone.
Caroline: She weighs answering it for a moment, then finally does.
GM: “You meet us, tomorrow, WIT’ the cash,” sounds a man’s voice. “Then you get the renfield.”
Caroline: “Too much opportunity for misunderstanding. Your ghoul meets one of my ghouls in the morning, with her, exchange happens then, in a semi-public location.”
GM: There’s a pause.
Caroline hears muted voices.
“We meet at Blaze, when Coco’s ’round. Us. No ghouls.”
Caroline: “And you jump me on the way there or out?”
GM: A sneer on the line’s other end. “Tell her you comin’ over if you so scared.”
Caroline: “Is she in the business of involving herself in squabbles? Because that’s what this will look like, and we’re both going to end up with more shit on our face the way this is going.”
GM: “She the regent.”
Caroline: “You don’t trust me, do you?”
GM: Guffaws sound from the line’s other end.
“You gonna bring extra f’ the cars an’ blood too.”
Caroline: “Should I expect more of this?”
GM: “If you have juicebags steal more of our shit.”
Caroline: “Let’s be fair, you kidnapped my ghoul and plotted to attack me before I called them.”
GM: “An’ you fuckin’ poached in our turf. Man, can’t wait ‘til Bliss wakes up an’ calls in that marker.”
Caroline: “For which I paid a price to your regent, which brings me back to my original question. Is this what we’re going to do? You throw away time and money on a fledgling already under pain of death? Certainly you could do something better with your time.”
GM: “We text you when we ready t’ meet.”
The line clicks off.
Caroline: Caroline puts away the phone slowly, deep in thought.
GM: Turner frowns. “Mom’s got a good poker face.”
Caroline: “Hum?” Caroline asks.
GM: “When the cops were asking what was up. Didn’t blink.”
Caroline: “Strange, that.”
GM: Meanwhile, Caroline can see the truck has since been towed. Jessica White knocks on the Ventrue’s window.
“All right, weren’t able to get anything from the neighbors. We’re heading back to the station. Thanks again for reporting those cars.”
Caroline: “Anytime Jessica, thanks for coming out.”
She tells Turner to follow them out as they pull away.
“CBD, as before.”
Saturday night, 12 September 2015, PM
Caroline: As she makes her way back downtown Caroline calls Autumn to clue her in to the circumstances with Aimee, and asks her to post out down the street to make sure Eight-Nine-Six doesn’t leave.
GM: Autumn sounds like she’s trying not to scoff at the news Aimee got herself kidnapped. There’s a slight pause from the ghoul at Caroline’s request, but she then affirms she’ll keep a discrete eye out and call Caroline if she sees any movement.
“Do you want to me scope the house to see if they’re still there? I’m all right at sneaking around.”
Caroline: “No. Hang back. Be careful. I don’t need two ghouls in their hands. Just let me know if anyone else arrives, or they leave.”
GM: Caroline hangs up after Autumn confirms that she will do so. The Ventrue’s destination looms into view.
The modestly-named Perdido House is one of the tallest skyscrapers in New Orleans, a soaring black and gray steel monolith that surveys the city beneath it like a grim sentinel. Fearsome gargoyles jut from crenelations, baring their claws and fangs to the night sky with muted howls.
Caroline is firmly denied by black-uniformed, grim-faced security personnel when she attempts to access the underground parking garage this time. Turner finds a place to park on the curb. Caroline heads in through the revolving glass front door.
The interior lobby is a harshly lit black marble affair whose brutally straight angles and severe, minimalist decor brings to mind the fascist architecture of decades past. Bulky men wearing black suits, opaque sunglasses and ear radios stand in silent vigil, modern palace guards within their master’s castle. Coldly professional secretaries at the receptionists’ desk direct visitors to their destinations. Save for an iron statue of a man on horseback brandishing a sword (El Cid, Caroline identifies), the entrance hall to Augusto Vidal’s court is austerely decorated, yet projects an oppressively inescapable atmosphere of power and wealth.
The lobby is not so full as one might expect to find it during the day, but numerous men and women still mill about the space and engage one another in conversation, check their phones, or simply wait for some unknown person or vehicle. All of them, to Caroline’s predatory sight, are ordinary mortals.
Maybe they’re not. Maybe Lou’s poison courses through one of them. Several of them. Dozens of them. The entire lobby could secretly be under Kindred thrall. There would be no way to tell. That’d be the subtle horror of it, to someone who knows the truth, but isn’t in the club. How could you trust anyone?
Caroline: She approaches the guard she estimates as most likely to be less than human, looking for directions.
GM: The thick-necked man inquires as to where.
Caroline: “Malveaux, or somewhere I can leave him a message.”
GM: The guard looks at Caroline impassively.
“I know of no one by that name.”
Caroline: “I’m sorry, I must be in the wrong place. Could you point me in the right direction?”
GM: “Perhaps you will have better luck on the 34th floor,” the man answers in a low voice.
Caroline: Caroline smiles as she moves away to do just that.
GM: Caroline and her bodyguard endure a long elevator ride up to the 34th floor. The doors ding open, revealing an expansive reception area. The minimally decorated room is dominated by sterile grays and blacks. Letters on a wide steel plaque behind the receptionist’s granite desk coldly spell out “Paulson Investment Group”. Apart from a lone receptionist, the room is bereft of any further presences save the unblinking security cameras’.
The black-haired, thirty-something woman looks up at Caroline’s presence. “May I help you, ma’am?”
It’s only for a moment, but Caroline feels a noticeable tension and suspicion behind the woman’s gaze. It’s gone almost as quickly.
Caroline: “Yes.” Caroline smiles as she approaches the desk. “I was hoping to speak to someone about some investments my family has made with your firm.”
GM: “Do you have an appointment, ma’am?” the receptionist inquires.
Caroline: “Someone was supposed to make one… the name is Malveaux.”
Caroline watches closely how the woman reacts.
GM: Caroline observes clear recognition behind the woman’s eyes as she replies, “Let me check for you, ma’am.”
Somewhat unusually, the receptionist picks up a phone instead of looking on her computer. She inquires as to the availability of several men whose names are unfamiliar to Caroline. What sounds like several conversations pass. After a few moments, the woman puts the phone down and looks up to address the waiting Ventrue.
“The father will be available in two hours, ma’am. If you wish to wait here, the wifi password is ‘Cyrus’.”
The waiting area has a few chairs and austere tables laid out with recent magazines.
Caroline: “No, thank you,” she says in response to the invitation to remain. “I’ll be back. Thank you for your help.”
Saturday night, 12 September 2015, PM
Caroline: Her business concluded, Caroline makes for the elevator with her ghoul, and proceeds in short order to the street with her. As she climbs into the back of the black suburban Blackwatch provided along with Turner she gives directions, her face set in a grim mask. “Tulane Medical Center.”
GM: Turner’s own face remains the picture of detached acquiescence to her domitor-employer’s directives. It’s a short drive from Perdido House to Tulane Medical Center.
Skyways line several of the brown, box-like buildings, one of which spells “Tulane Medical Center” in blocky white letters. Most lights are out, and no sound disturbs the dark hallways save for the steady beep-humming of medical equipment and graveyard shift security officers making their rounds, leather shoes steadily thumping against the linoleum floors as their flashlight beams cut through the gloom.
Whether out of shame or desire to keep him out of Kindred affairs, Caroline does not enlist the help of her ex-boyfriend Neil to gain entrance. She waits to catch a nurse or med tech who’s slipped out for their smoke break, and Kindred powers make entering the hospital past visitation hours all too easy. In short order, Caroline has made several new friends, and is actually led to the locker room and cheerfully handed a spare set of scrubs.
Lauren Peterson’s room is as dark as before, but Caroline can make out its features clearly. Maybe even more clearly.
Caroline: She changed out of her clothes and even snags a lab coat as well, making a stop off in the blood bank on her way to the girl’s room.
GM: Caroline’s new friends prove all-too willing to help her find where the hospital keeps its store of O negative blood, and to abscond with a bag, even though they’re not supposed to.
They leave the Ventrue to her own devices as she enters her victim’s room. It smells of sterile disinfectant and has the usual plain hospital bed, covers pulled up to the patient’s chin. Lauren Peterson, college student, assault victim, and hospital patient, sleeps in respite if not contentment. Her dark skin is a ruddier, healthier hue than the last time Caroline visited, but not by much. Her neck is covered with bandages, and an IV is hooked up to her arm. A few “get well” cards featuring designs of cute animals and smiley faces rest on the adjacent bedside stable.
Caroline: Her superb visual acuity works in her favor as she moves quietly about the dark room, opening a few drawers to find what she’s after. Rather than run a new line, which would almost certainly wake up the girl, she moves to hang and plug the bag into the current one.
Her eyes focus on her work, not her handiwork. Is that shame in her eyes? Regret? Who can say.
GM: The former would-be doctor does not find the task overly difficult. Lauren continues to sleep.
Caroline: Certainly whatever the windows to her soul may say, her mouth is set in a grim line as she moves her attention to the girl’s vitals.
GM: The nearby machine continues to steadily beep along. Caroline estimates that although Lauren looks in no state to leave the hospital yet, she is on her way to making a successful recovery. She can probably use the bathroom on her own instead of a hospital beadpan now. It’s been… how many days since the attack that put her where she now is? Three, four? A week, at the absolute most.
It seems like another life ago.
It almost was another life ago.
Just after the end of her old one.
Caroline: More than a lifetime, it seems. Every one of those days has delivered a hammer blow to her core. Wars waged over her soul, and lost time and again, with no rest between them. She’s exhausted. But as the old adage goes: when you’re going through Hell, keep going.
GM: It’s even odder to think that Lauren has spent all those days, that more-than-lifetime, sleeping undisturbed in a hospital bed. While it all passed her by.
Caroline: When she has satisfied herself that the IV is running smoothly and the girl is not going to be irreparably harmed she takes Lauren’s wrist in her too cold hands and slowly brings it to her mouth. Just a gentle kiss… the lightest touch…
GM: Lauren stiffens in her bed as Caroline’s fangs puncture her skin. But it’s only for a moment. Then she goes limp. She doesn’t smile, but a low, throaty groan escapes her lips as she arches her back, her cheeks flushing just a bit red. The nearby medical machines beep faster.
Her distant relative’s words flash through the Ventrue’s mind.
“Have you led them to water, my child? Merely feeding from them is not an instructive experience. They must realize it was a consequence of their wanton behavior.”
Caroline: This lacks the rapine pleasure of sucking down the liquid bliss from a victim, the ability to lose herself in it. Instead it is controlled, scripted, moderated. All the same, Caroline can feel the blood soothing the monster that beats on the cage. All the more so as the long held wounds inflicted on her by the savage whipping finally close.
GM: Not simply close. Caroline lacks the mirror to check, but she knows there’s not even a scar. Her flesh is as pristine as the night she died.
Lauren whimpers and scrunches her eyes.
Caroline: When she pulls away however, she is mindful of Father Malveaux’s words, and she leans in to whisper in the girl’s ear, watching for any response.
“It’s your fault, you know.”
GM: Lauren gives another low whimper and shifts her head.
Caroline: “Sinner,” she hisses in the girl’s ear.
GM: Lauren turns away into her pillow.
Caroline: “Repent.” Another poisonous hiss.
GM: Lauren groggily blinks.
Her head tilts. “Who’s… whozere…”
She gives groan.
Caroline: Caroline lets the girl’s wrist bleed for a moment longer, lets the blood run down her arm, before she licks the wounds closed and drops her arm.
“Think on your sins,” she whispers, even as she vanishes from her bedside in a blur.
Sunday night, 13 September 2015, AM
GM: Autumn calls her domitor back. She reports that “your friends” have since left. In fact, she just barely caught them leaving (in Aimee’s car) when she arrived at the house. Aimee was with them, though not resisting. In fact, she seemed to be hanging onto their every word.
“I also dropped the car off with, uh, my friend,” the ghoul adds. “There’s a bill if you want him to total it. He wants $4,000 cash, a favor, or a full thing of juice. The $4,000 is how much he’s valued the car at.”
Evidently it’s 1996 for him too.
“I got the sense he’d be open to haggling, but… it doesn’t sound like that’s a lot of money for you.”
Caroline: Full thing of juice?
Caroline indicates that the money is preferred.
“I’ll set you up with the needed documents to make withdrawals from one of my accounts this evening. In the meantime, follow them for now, but if you think they spot you break off and head back into Riverbend.”
GM: Another slight pause. “All right. I’ll see how much more I can dig up.”
Caroline: “Call me if anything happens.” She hangs up.
Sunday night, 13 September 2015, AM
GM: The elevator doors ding open as Caroline and her bodyguard step out into Paulson Investment’s lobby. The receptionist is on the phone.
“…yes, Mr. Harrison.”
A pause. “Yes, the reception is clear. Is-” The ghoul looks at the phone as it clicks, seems to repress a frown, and sets it down.
The other elevator dings. A solitary Kindred steps out. He is a square-jawed, moderately tall and ruggedly-built African-American man with thick arms and a buzzcut concealed under a hunting cap. He wears a pale green hunting vest, worn-looking khakis and dirty combat boots. A bulging trash bag is casually slung over his back. Caroline can smell the blood wafting from it.
The receptionist looks up, a distinct frown crossing her features. “Mr. Harrison-”
The Kindred grunts and tosses the bag onto the desk with a heavy wet thump.
The ghoul picks up the phone and tersely states into the receiver, “Disposal.”
After a moment, the thick doors open, and two security guards stride out. They frown but heft the trash bag, audibly grunting under its weight, and carefully haul it inside Paulson Investment Group without letting it touch the floor. The receptionist gets up to close the doors behind them.
The Kindred addressed as Harrison glances at Caroline, then strides back to the elevator.
Caroline: She watches him go curiously, quietly, as she’s watched the entire exchange.
GM: Turner’s own reaction largely mirrors her employer’s, the Blackwatch merc knowing well enough to stay silent. Meanwhile, the receptionist looks up at Caroline’s presence, asks her to wait a moment, and picks up the phone, stating into it that “Ms. Malveaux is here.”
After a brief wait, the doors open again, and the tall, dark, powerfully built ghoul who punched Caroline in front of Donovan strides out. He gives her an ugly leer as he tells the Ventrue to follow him, then leads her and her ghoul bodyguard through a dizzying maze of corridors and office spaces. This late at night, the cubicles are largely empty, though a few-tired looking souls presumably working overtime remain hunched over computers, fingers dully clinking against the keys. The ghoul escorts Caroline and Turner into another elevator, swipes a key card, and presses the button for the 35th floor. He leads her down several bare hallways to a plain and unmarked door, which he raps once.
“Caroline Malveaux for you, Father.”
“Enter,” rasps a dry voice.
The ghoul opens the door. Caroline sees her albino relative sitting behind a desk, clad in the same black priest’s habit in which she last saw him. Full bookshelves press against the otherwise largely bare walls. Where one might expect to see a crucifix mounted on the wall behind the priest, however, there is instead a simple lance.
Father Malveaux’s pinkish eyes briefly take in Turner’s presence before he rasps, “You are a night early for your weekly confession, fledgling.”
The ghoul departs without a word.
Caroline: Why is it that sitting there he makes her feel like she’s thirteen years old again, sent in to meet with her uncle Orson when her father caught her with the Argabrite boy drinking at a social function in a closet? She feels so… small, and knows if she had a pulse it would be beating in her ears right now like a steady drum. She struggles for a moment to find her voice, and she’s ashamed of it. Not just in front of him, but in front of Turner.
“Wait outside, Ms. Turner.”
GM: There’s a flicker of apprehension in the soldier of fortune’s eyes, but she gives a nod of acknowledgment and steps out of the office.
Caroline’s pallid ancestor watches her leave in that utterly still way only the dead can.
Caroline: Caroline waits until the door closes before she looks for her voice again, and tries to meet those startling eyes.
“Father, I admit I am here for… more than just confession. In another life I would have looked to priest or family for it in this circumstance. Now you are as close to either as I have…”
GM: The albino’s pinkish eyes regard his distant relation steadily. What passes behind them is hard for the young Ventrue to say.
Caroline: She pauses for a moment before she continues. “Without them I’ve been a ship caught with no compass at sea. Pushed and pulled by every current and wind, and steering no course towards safe waters.”
GM: “The kines’ priests are for the kine. Their salvation is not for us,” the father rasps.
Caroline: “I can see that now,” Caroline agrees quietly.
GM: “‘We are the mirrors of Christ. We are the agents of humanity’s damnation, just as the Christians are the agents of God’s salvation. We bring disease, and death, and despair, just as the Spirit brings healing, and life, and hope. We are the vehicles of despair. We are the tools of wrath. Although we are ourselves Damned and deprived of a living heart’s feeling, we find our joy in knowing our role, and in feeding and bringing suffering, and killing when it is ordained necessary.’ Sanguinaria 9:15.”
Caroline: The words are a brick thrown through Caroline’s glassy facade. Her mask cracks, as though in slow motion, then shatters. Her drawn breath, a gasp, is all the more noticeable for its lack of purpose for her dead lungs, and for a moment her sheer hopelessness is scrawled across her face in ugly lines cast by the room’s limited illumination.
“I don’t understand, Father,” she admits, “But I want to. I need to, again. And I’m trying to.”
GM: The pinkish-eyed priest seems to silently consider Caroline for a moment, then motions for the fledgling to be seated.
Caroline: She moves forward, again feeling like a child as she takes a seat in the priest’s office.
GM: “And the Monachus said: ’We are dead, and we do not feel the same sensations that the living feel. When the living desire food, their desires are in the heart, but our hearts are still. They do not beat. The living, who still exist in the light of God, know the experience of love, and hate, and sadness, and joy.”
“But we can only remember such things, for we do not exist in the light of God. We can only know reflections of the movements that once governed our hearts, as if in a clouded mirror. We know fear, anger and hunger; but even these sensations are not our own, but are the emotions of the demon that lives within each of us, even though we are all dead.” The priest’s voice still has a distinct timber to it, as if reciting scripture.
“But when we become Sanctified, we may find a purity and joy in our purpose. We above all were chosen for the great mission because we did not know true happiness, or love, or charity, or faith in our living days, while we yet had hope of salvation.” Father Malveaux finally pauses in his recitation.
“There are subsequent verses that expound upon our role as Christ’s mirrors. Upon the purpose of the Dark Gift. But is it the nature of this purpose that is unclear to you, my child, or why you were chosen for it?”
Caroline: Blood. Murder. Her own child. A dozen sins leading to that one, and it never confessed, not even to herself. No, she has no questions as to why she has been chosen. Her face twists in an ugly mask as she blinks away the start of tears, composing herself.
“I suppose… neither, Father. I am struggling at coming to peace with it, but I should expect no less. In truth I was never at peace with God’s will when living either, however I might have lied to myself. I sought out my first victim tonight though. Reminded her of her own ill deeds. And… I took another life. Lost myself in the hunger, in the moment.”
GM: The albino vampire’s eyes glint with an ineffable hunger. Predatory, yes, but also… zealous.
“Did this soul deserve death, my child? Of what sins was he guilty?”
Caroline: “Fornication. Living outwardly as a man, though a woman. Dishonesty.”
GM: “Grave sins, my child. Yet you are troubled. You did not freely choose to serve as God’s instrument of vengeance, but as you have said, succumbed to the Beast’s urges.”
Caroline: “Yes… and no. I knew, in my heart, what would happen when she arrived. Knew that I was delivering her into death.”
GM: “You have done no wrong in killing this woman. But what you have experienced is a common spiritual dilemma. You have been told that the Beast’s urges are sinful, even by the mandate of our kind, yet indulging them served the cause of Grace. This troubles you, for there is no similar analogue among the kine. One cannot so readily commit an act of apparent virtue through succumbing to temptation.”
“Your spirit is further troubled by the fact that your higher self, the Man, recognized the purpose of this woman’s death. You wished to enact it, but were unable to. An act that to the kine was a grave sin, and is to us holy, was made again sinful by your lapse. Even as the act’s holy aim was accomplished. Coupled with the travails of your new state, your spirit is ill at peace.”
Caroline: Caroline nods. “With this matter… and others, Father.”
GM: “Go on, my child.”
Caroline: “I allowed my ghoul to be taken.”
GM: “A sin of inadequate forethought, perhaps, but no more.”
Caroline: “She has been caught in my own sins, Father, dragged down by them until now, and was only in the position because of them.”
GM: “Indeed, my child? And of what sins do you believe her guilty?”
Caroline: “Many of my own, from my mortal life, though not the gravest of them.”
GM: “You feel they are insufficient to warrant whatever fate she will suffer at the hands of other Kindred.”
Caroline: “And that I might still fulfill a purpose in turning her from that path,” Caroline agrees.
“And there is a practical matter. She knows things about me, about the family, that could be damaging. Not terribly, but enough that I would not see her in the hands of savages. Savages that have made clear their intention to plague me further.”
GM: “The defense of the innocent is not our province, but the punishment of the guilty. Christ shows the path to salvation. We show it to damnation. You are under no spiritual obligation to defend your ghoul from other Kindred. Nevertheless,” Caroline’s relative muses, “it ill-befits a scion of Clan Ventrue to have their property absconded with by others.”
Caroline: Caroline allows him to muse.
GM: The albino priest’s eyes return to Caroline. “See that your ghoul is recovered, and that those who would presume to steal from the Kingship Clan are suitably chastened.”
Caroline: “They have retreated into the domain of another,” Caroline offers carefully, slowly.
GM: “Then pay heed to the Fifth Tradition and announce your presence to its regent. Or take further actions of your own to draw them out.”
Caroline: Caroline bites her lower lip. “And if they have numbers?”
GM: Father Malveaux leans slightly forward.
“Hound Agnello has advised you—has instructed you, to repay his boon—that you join a coterie of your own.”
“Then you shall also have numbers.”
Caroline: “Would you have a recommendation in that, Father?”
GM: Caroline’s pale relative doesn’t frown. Instead, his pinkish eyes instead narrow.
“It is my recommendation that you do as your creditor—who has generously agreed to exonerate your debt in return for a service that does not benefit him—has instructed.”
Caroline: “But what is their interest?” Caroline asks.
GM: “That is upon you to evince from them,” Father Malveaux rasps in reproach. “If you are asking what motive they have to assist in retrieving your ghoul, precious little. You would be well-served to cultivate ties nevertheless. Future crises will not postpone themselves on account of your present lack of allies.”
He makes a dismissive motion with a scarecrow-like limb.
“That is enough. I am your confessor, not your sire. We will either speak of spiritual matters, or speak of none further and conclude this audience.”
Caroline: Caroline is silent for a moment at his pronouncement.
“There are two more matters of entwined secular and non-secular natures I would seek your brief council on, both of them related directly to you, Father, if you would humor me the moment.”
GM: “Speak,” the albino priest bids.
Caroline: “First, most directly, as related to my sire, and his punishment for breaking the Third Tradition. Your recommended agent located him, hiding in the French Quarter.”
GM: Father Malveaux frowns. “What recommended agent?”
Caroline: “The investigator.”
GM: “I made no such recommendation to you.”
Caroline: Caroline frowns. “I shall not gainsay you, Father, but in any case, I’m told by relatively reliable sources that he’s holed up in the French Quarter, and running with several other Kindred.”
GM: “I am a priest, my child. My duties concern matters spiritual, not temporal. If you have been barred from the French Quarter, you would be advised to speak to Sheriff Donovan.”
GM: The pallid vampire’s lips pull back and reveal a bare hint of canines, the start of a low hiss that does not sound.
“Then consorting with blasphemers may be added to his list of crimes.”
Caroline: “And more temporally, presenting himself to Antoine Savoy. Though I doubt that is of much interest or surprise.”
GM: “Little, to any who would already sully the name of our clan.”
Caroline: Caroline nods. “And I would ask that you lift your injunction on interactions with any of our mortal kin, for the sake of preserving the First Tradition, and only that.”
GM: The albino vampire’s eyes glint with an ineffable hunger. Predatory, yes, but also… zealous. It’s a more than slighting disconcerting combination, like a wolf slavering that it acts in God’s name. As if faith and blood are equally necessary to satisfy his hunger.
“Your memory proves false once again. I have forbidden you from drawing them into activities that relate to our kind, and from employing Caine’s gifts upon them—highly lenient terms.”
Caroline: “It is the last matter I would speak to, Father, especially should they begin to ask uncomfortable questions. I ask only that you permit such uses when in the service of preserving the Masquerade.”
GM: Caroline’s long-dead relative seems to consider the request for a moment, then rasps, “You will report all such uses of disciplines to me after they have taken place. I will inspect their minds, periodically, to ensure they have not been unduly tampered with.”
This time the albino’s full canines flash as he snarls,
“They are my domain.”
Caroline: Caroline is the soul of submission. “Of course, Father. I seek not to trample upon your rights.”
“Finally, Father, I would ask that you allow me to take confession this night, since I have already troubled you.”
GM: The older Kindred’s fangs disappear.
“The matter of your presence among the kine shall be one for you to attend in due time, as well. The Second Canon of the Sanguineous Catechism, penned by the Monachus and regarding the inalienable wisdom of the Masquerade, holds that we are of one world, and they another. To ape their ways and act as if one still lives is to repudiate our damnation and holy purpose.”
“But such matters are for the future, after your release. I shall take your confession now.”
The Kindred priest rises from his seat and strides out of the room. He does not spare a glance for for the still patiently-waiting Turner, who regards her domitor-employer with silently raised eyebrows, as if to see whether she should follow.
Caroline: Caroline gestures with a hand to wait for now.
GM: Turner remains in place outside the door to Father Malveaux’s office. The priest leads Caroline a moderate distance down several seemingly barren hallways and into an equally sparse room, empty save for a wooden confession booth and lance mounted upon the opposing wall.
Father Malveaux opens the door and steps into the priest’s side. Caroline did it when she was alive a thousand times. She’s done it twice since she died.
Third time, if she counts the omission-filled ‘confession’ with her cousin Adam. That’s debatable.
“In the name of the Father, the Dark Prophet and the Holy Spirit. Amen,” Caroline’s relative rasps.
Caroline: She steadies herself for a moment, taking another senseless deep breath, before she moves quickly into the confessional opposite the priest to begin.
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned…”
GM: Caroline takes and concludes confession. Father Malveaux questions her regarding the penance she was assigned last week. He is less than impressed by her tactic of whispering “sinner” into a sleeping girl’s ear. As Caroline lacks a sire, he reaffirms Hound Agnello’s assessment that she should join a krewe so as to learn the proper means of putting the fear of God into sinful kine. The Storyville Krewe are less than subtle in their methods, but they are eager and devout, and will provide Caroline with examples to follow.
That, he clarifies, will be Caroline’s penance for her sin in failing to fulfill her nature as a divine predator: she must find another Kindred to instruct her in such. Father Malveaux does not mandate that it be the Storyville Krewe, simply another Sanctified. Caroline will still owe Hound Agnello if she is unwilling or unable to join the Storyvilles, but that is a prestation matter outside his purview.
Father Malveaux also decides to change the penance he previously assigned her for Paxton’s murder. Rather than making an example of unrelated victims, which he no longer believes will be to Caroline’s spiritual benefit, he charges her with tracking down one of her previous victims: any sinner she fed upon in the depths of their iniquity. Caroline is to observe how that kine is now conducting their life. If they have been driven towards acts of greater piety and virtue, she is to do nothing. If they show no indication of repentance, she is to kill them.
Caroline: Caroline accepts the penance without complaint and takes her leave with Turner, once more into the night.
Sunday night, 13 September 2015, AM
Caroline: Caroline digs out her phone and re-downloads an app that conveniently saved her information in the cloud. While she pings Aimee’s phone, she gives directions to an apartment not far from their current location.
GM: Caroline’s “investment” in buying Aimee that Solaris last Christmas amply pays itself back as her own phone’s screen lights up. Aimee’s phone is coming from a neighborhood in, unsurprisingly, Mid-City.
Autumn calls Caroline back around the same time. The ghoul investigator, unfortunately, wasn’t able to find out much on Eight-Nine-Six… she followed them a few blocks until “someone from a family with good eyes” happened on the scene. Autumn took a detour to avoid her, and the by the time she got to where it looked like Eight-Nine-Six was headed, they were gone.
“I could try again when they’re less likely to be up, though,” Autumn continues. “Their place probably isn’t gonna be that hard to find.”
Caroline: Caroline gives her the address.
“Don’t stop. Don’t snoop. Just let me know if you see her car on the street as you pass through.”
GM: Autumn sounds for a moment as if she’s about to ask where Caroline got it, but settles for an “Okay.”
A few minutes pass.
“The car’s there. So’s our friends and… I’m not sure who.”
Caroline: “What do you mean ‘not sure who’?” Caroline asks.
GM: “A couple people. I haven’t seen them before. There’s money changing hands. And… the car too, it looks like. Guess they’re not so eager to hang onto any more stolen ones.”
“Sucks to be Aimee.”
Caroline: “Get out of there,” Caroline growls, giving her the address for their present location. “I’ve got something else for you.”
GM: “Okay. I’m out,” the ghoul quickly responds.
Another few minutes pass.
Autumn’s minicooper pulls up by the sidewalk Caroline is parked out. The ghoul gets out and walks up the Blackwatch suburban.
“All right, what is it?”
Caroline: “When was the last time you slept?” Caroline asks.
GM: Autumn rubs her eyes.
“Uh, last night.”
“Well, night before last, technically.”
Caroline: She nods and gestures to the back of the SUV.
“Get a few minutes here. We’ll talk when I come back out.”
Caroline nods to Turner and slips out the opposite door. She waits for the mercenary to fall in beside her before she speaks, explaining that they’re here to visit her drug addict brother, and find out if he’s off the wagon.
GM: Turner simply offers a wordless nod and gets out. Autumn actually looks as if she’s going to protest, but upon hearing it’s only for a bit she assents and climbs into the SUV, clicking her beeper to lock the other car.
Caroline: Her dug addict brother awaits.
Sunday night, 13 September 2015, AM
GM: Turner drives. One River Place is an exclusive high-rise condominium building and one of the nicest in the city. It overlooks the Mississippi River, giving residents sweeping waterfront views from the heart of the Big Easy. Suburban Algiers sits just across the river. The Greater New Orleans Bridge links the two land masses over the river’s inky black waters. The occasional car thrums along, headlights flashing through the dark.
The building’s exterior has palm trees, a garden, gated swimming pool (closed, currently) overlooking the waterfront and some docked cruise ships. The front door and parking garage into the building are closed and locked. Inside, floor plans are open and expansive, while walls of glass and spacious terraces that give the area a picturesque feel.
Westley isn’t the only one of Caroline’s brothers to live here. Luke does too. Their parents figured it couldn’t hurt to have him nearby in case Wes got in trouble, though Caroline wonders if it might actually hurt a great deal. The highest-achieving and lowest-achieving Malveaux boys have had a strained relationship.
Caroline: Caroline walks briskly, knowing well the way. She remembers the last time she visited his apartment, after that panicked phone call at 3 AM, and for a moment can almost hear his voice ‘I don’t think she’s breathing!‘. And she certainly wasn’t.
GM: Nor is she, now. Ironic, that a figurative specter of her brother’s misdeeds should so literally revisit him.
Caroline: She buzzes the desk.
GM: A late-night receptionist answers her call and asks the usual pleasantries of what she can do to assist Caroline.
Caroline: Caroline gives her name and relation. “He asked me to drop something off. Can you buzz me in?”
GM: The woman answers in the affirmative and tells Caroline the front door is now unlocked. The Ventrue and her bodyguard make their way inside an upscale atrium space and are greeted again by a tired-looking graveyard-shift night desk girl before taking an elevator up to her brother’s residence on floor thirteen, suite #4.
Caroline encounters no other souls on the way up. Westley’s closed door stares her in the face.
Caroline: She listens first, then knocks loudly enough to be heard.
GM: No response is forthcoming.
Turner knocks again.
Turner impatiently bangs the door’s frame with the same callused fists that have put more than a few Blackwatch mercs into the hospital. Just as complaints start sounding from the neighboring units, a voice grogs from Westley’s.
“Ugh… who th’ fuck issit…?”
Caroline: “Your sister,” Caroline growls.
GM: “The… fuck you here so late…”
Caroline: “Because I need to talk to you, obviously. Open the door.”
GM: “’S better be…” grogs her brother’s voice before the door unlocks.
Westley Malveaux is a twenty-something young man of average height, moderate build, and a clean-shaven, heart-shaped face with deep blue eyes that some girls have been known to describe as soulful, or at least searching. His brown rather than blond hair isn’t the only thing Caroline’s middle brother doesn’t share with her. He’s dressed in a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt. His eyes are crusted with sleep. He blearily takes in Turner’s presence and stifles a yawn.
“Th’ fuck is it, Caroline…”
Caroline: She pushes past him into the apartment.
“I need your help.”
It isn’t even difficult to put some desperation into her voice. She pinches the bridge of her nose between her eyes with one hand. “I wasn’t sure who else to talk to.”
GM: “Wha…” grogs Westley.
The apartment, meanwhile, is well-furnished with comfortable-looking furniture, indulgent pillows, a widescreen TV, glass furniture, and floor-to-ceiling living room windows that would provide a lovely view of the now-dark Mississippi, if the shades weren’t currently drawn. There’s also, Caroline notes, a mini-bar in the corner of the room, just by the kitchen area.
Westley tiredly rubs his head again and plops down on a chair.
“Help with… what? An’ who’s she?”
He makes a vague motion at Turner without looking at her.
Caroline: “The family.”
GM: Westley rubs his head again, walks up to the fridge, and gets out a Ten Tickle craft beer. He uncorks it, takes a pull, and looks a bit more aware when he looks to Caroline asks, “What’ll you have?”
Caroline: She forces a smile as she falls into one of the comfortable leather chairs.
“A do-over on the last week.”
GM: “Cheers to that.” Westley raises his bottle in toast. And seeming understanding.
Caroline: The sigh is none too feigned, even as the physiological reflex is now past.
“I got into some trouble, Wes,” she says, using the nickname that harkens to a younger, more comfortable time. “Nothing… super serious. I just wanted to have a good time, blow off some steam, but you know how Dad and Orson are about blowing everything up.”
GM: Westley plops back down on the chair across from Caroline. He sets the bottle and two glasses on an adjacent transparent glass table.
“Yeah, the… thing with Decadence. I heard.”
Caroline: “How the fuck did you already hear about that?”
GM: “Week ago, hasn’t it been?” Westley shrugs. “Gabe was frantic though, the night it happened. He must’ve called every cousin across the coast looking for you.”
Caroline: “How did he know about it that night? That’s the first I’ve heard.”
GM: “Couldn’t tell him much, though. Just that it didn’t seem… all that you,” Westley says thoughtfully. “He said he got a call from some friend of yours who said you’d disappeared.”
Caroline: Caroline sighs. “Oh fuck.”
GM: “Well, you didn’t. Or not forever, I guess.”
Caroline: “No wonder Uncle Orson was all over me.” She shakes her head. “I don’t even remember parts of that night.”
GM: “Yeah. I know how that is.” Westley takes another pull of beer. “He written you off too?”
Caroline: “I think I talked him off a ledge, at least until he talks to Dad and finds out I lost my internship.”
GM: “Huh. How’d that happen?” her brother asks. Half-frowning, half-curious.
He walks back to the fridge, gets out another Ten Tickle, and sets it down in front of Caroline.
“You really need this.”
He also retrieves a bottle of Woody Creek Kentucky bourbon from the minibar and comes back with two shot glasses. He pours one for each of them.
Caroline: Another sigh. “Lost track of it. It just…” And another. She looks down. “After the shooting. Not being able to save Sarah. I guess I needed to blow off steam. Was tired of being the little angel anyway. Lost track of things. Drinking late into the night. Seedy bars.”
She takes the offered drink off the table and nurses it in both hands.
GM: “Well, welcome to being the black sheep of the family. It sucks.”
He downs the bourbon shot.
Caroline: “Oh?” Caroline asks. “Did they threaten to cut off your trust as well?”
GM: “Psshh. As if. No, they let you keep that.”
Caroline: “So what then, for you?”
GM: “That’s it, really. I keep the apartment, the…” He gestures vaguely. “Just get written off by Dad and the uncles.”
He takes another pull of beer.
“Mom, though. She understands. How it all… how it all is. Hell. Maybe she’s why I didn’t get sent off to monks like Susan.”
“Or maybe not. Orson just wanted to forget about me. You’re a girl, though, guess you have to be put away.”
Caroline: She snorts. “Guess I’m fucked then?”
GM: “Pretty sure you’d never get fucked again, actually.”
Westley downs Caroline’s untouched shot of bourbon.
“This family’s sick, Caroline.”
Caroline: “And what’s your answer?” she asks bitterly.
GM: Westley motions to the craft beer in Caroline’s hands. “That’s the thing, isn’t it? We’re sick in so many ways. Orson barely even begins to cover it. Mom’s fucking other men and Dad doesn’t care. Matt chews his lip bloody asking ‘how high’ when Orson says ‘jump’, then drives away from it all in his newest shiny car. Aunt Vera’s been a mess ever since that lunatic sliced up her face, though I suppose she’s still together enough to send PIs after Matt’s secretary.”
Westley takes another pull of his own beer. “Adam’s got a shaft up his ass and would probably blow Orson if he thought that’s what God wanted. Luke’s busy blowing Saudis, which I guess sucks for Matt when he wants to hand off the company, because Savannah doesn’t have a cock or seem too interested in those anyways. But hey, they’ll probably just run the whole thing into the ground once Matt and Orson are dead.”
Her brother takes a longer pull. “I’m the bleeting black sheep, and now it looks like you too. Or maybe you’re going to be a nun like good ol’ Sue, who could be six feet under for all anyone in this family cares.”
“And what about all the freaks and geeks we attract like flies to shit? Let’s see, there’s Alphonse, who probably rips the wings off bugs in his spare time. Garrison, who was a drunk. Pot, kettle, black there. Taylor, that gutter trash who acts like he’s one of us.”
He finishes off the Ten Tickle, pours a third shot of Woody Creek he finishes off, then gets up and retrieves another beer from the fridge.
Caroline: “And what about me?” Caroline asks, as he slips to the family minions.
GM: “Already covered you,” Westley declares. His voice is starting to sound a bit slurred. “An’ you’re also fucking that law student you live with.”
“Eesh,” he mumbles. “Savannah’s fucking that spic. Dad and Mom…” he gestures vaguely. “What is with our family and fucking all these poor people?”
Caroline: Caroline lets him drink and rant. “Is that what everyone thinks?”
GM: “What, that we fuck the poor instead of giving them alms?”
Caroline: “Please, everyone fucks the poor. Don’t tell me you care.”
GM: Westley laughs. “Yeah, I guess we do it both ways. Oh no, I’m a hypocrite and a drunk, but ‘least I’m honest.” Another lifting of the bottle. Another gulp. “Bein’ on the outside does that to you. Guess you’ll know too, soon.”
Caroline: “I’m not going to a damn convent.”
GM: “Yeah, Sue said that too.”
Caroline: “Then she was weak.”
GM: “Psshhh.” Westley waves his arm. “Orson gets his way. Always does.” He gives a bitter, humorless laugh. “Everyone thinks I got off so fuckin’ light. After that girl I ran over. That’s Wes, fucks up everything, and the family puts up with him! You know, in this family, getting drunk’s the only sane thing to do.”
Caroline’s brother gives another bleak laugh and downs the Ten Tickle.
“We’re all fucked. We’re all so, so fucked.”
Caroline: “What happened then, Wes? What did they do to you?”
GM: “Don’ wanna talk abou’ that,” he slurs. “Fucked. All of us. Well, ’cept Gabriel, I guess, locked in the crypt with Grandma in Baton Rouge. Kinda feel sorry for him, when he graduates.”
“You know,” he declares, waving the glass, “I bet Grandma wishes she could just suck us all back up her cunt.”
Caroline: Caroline has no neat or clean response to that particular bit of vulgarity.
She takes another fake sip of her drink.
GM: Westley raises his own bottle in mock-toast, clinking it against the air. “Fucked.”
Caroline: “You’ve had all of this on your chest for a while, Wes.”
GM: “Well it gets oh so lonely, sister dearest. Mom’s the only one of them who gives a damn. It any wonder she spends half her time in DC, away from us all?”
Caroline: “I just assumed she had a lover up there.”
GM: “Oh, ’m sure she does,” Wes nods. “Or two. Or three.”
Caroline: “I still don’t know what I’m going to do, Wes.” Caroline’s eyes rest on her lap.
GM: “What, dye your coat white again, o blackening sheep?”
Caroline: “Not unless I’m joining the convent, but Uncle Orson was serious when he was making demands earlier, before the second half shit storm.”
GM: Westley frowns. “Why ’idn’t he just ship you off anyways?”
Caroline: “Talked him off the ledge with talk of coming around. Scared straight.”
GM: “Guess he’s getting soft in his old age, huh? Prob’ly should dump your girlfriend, though. Gonna blow a gasket when that comes out.”
Caroline: “This may come as a shock, but I like dick,” Caroline growls harshly. “Aimee is a friend.”
GM: “Yeah, so she’s living with you to help pay your share of rent?” Westley guffaws.
Caroline: “We’re all lonely in our own way, Wes. Not all of us constantly fill that hole with a bottle.”
GM: “You’ll wanna drink too, you get… like I do,” Westley declares with a sweep of his glass. “Mom, she doesn’t drink, jus’ whores around. Whazza better outlet, huh? She, she understands.”
Caroline: “And what did you get? You keep alluding to it. Clearly you do want to talk about it.”
GM: “Mom’s cunt is very welcoming,” her brother blithely declares. “I figure if it popped out four of us, there’s room for at least that many men.”
Caroline: “You seem awfully obsessed with Mom’s sex life,” Caroline all but spits.
GM: “Oh, you wanna talk about Dad’s instead?” Wes slurs. “Well, he’s getting rammed so hard by everyone in DC he doesn’t even about his wife’s.”
Caroline: “I want to talk about what the fuck I’m going to do when they try to turn me out on the street, but I’d settle for any conversation other than graphic depictions of our fucking mother.”
GM: Wes shrugs and gestures around at the still-dark apartment. “I’d offer to let you stay with me, but you’d probably rather pick the streets.”
Caroline: “Why’s that?”
GM: He guffaws. “I would.” He raises a hand as if in protest. “Las’ name you wanna hear, I guess, but… Mom. She understands.”
Caroline: "Understands what? "
GM: “Just what it’s like. Bein’ on the… ous’ide. Probably set you up with somewhere to stay still. Spends half her time in DC or Baton Rouge anyway, so don’t think Orson’s ever really gotten his claws into her. Not as deep as Dad or Matt, ’least.”
Caroline: “And what about you?” she asks.
GM: Westley snorts and looks at the Woody Creek contemplatively. “What ’bout me?”
Caroline: “Have they gotten their fangs into you?”
GM: “Pssh.” Westley waves his hand. “The family drunk? Sooner forget I existed.”
Caroline: “I remember when you were more than that.”
Caroline does not look toward the bedroom where she more than once found prostitutes and drugs of all kinds.
GM: A dark, and perhaps even shamed look passes over Westley’s face as he stares at the Ten Tickle in his hand. Then he takes a long pull.
“Well, I ‘member when I thought we were a big happy family too. Or maybe thas’ just me bein’ drunk.”
Caroline: “I think, as a child, it is easier to normalize things.” She looks a little melancholy, though in his present state it’s doubtful her brother notices. “When they come for me, will you help?”
GM: Westley pours another shot of Woody Creek and tosses it back. “What th’ hell you think I could do?”
Caroline: “Tip me off if you hear something, for one.”
GM: “I wish I hadn’t killed her, you know,” Caroline’s middle brother slurs. “Not because I feel bad about it. I’m not that good a person. Was just better, when I could pretend.”
Caroline: “Pretend what?”
GM: “Pretend. That all this…” Westley again gestures around the room, “Was… that I was just another trust fund baby who was going to grow up to be an executive or senator or fucking underwater basket-weaver, pop out a few kids with a trophy wife, dodge any scandals, get richer and fatter, then keel over dead.”
GM: Westley fills the shot glass back up with Woody Creek, and tosses it back up, then gives a half-belch, half-hiccup.
“I don’ even fuckin’ know, Caroline. Jus’ know that… all that,” he motions backwards, “mighta been… but ‘least there weren’t so many hangovers. So versus bein’ an asshole drunk fuck-up, I guess.”
Caroline: Caroline bites her tongue at his sniveling. “I’m sorry you can’t hide from your choices.”
GM: “Ha. Hahaha.” Westley takes a glug of beer. “That’s exactly it, Caroline. Crawling up a bottle though, it’s a close enough hideaway.”
Caroline: Caroline stands. “Well, this has been helpful.”
GM: “I’m too drunk to tell if you’re serious.”
Caroline: “I’m quite serious. A pointed reminder.”
GM: Westley hiccups. “You’re welcome. I guess.”
Caroline: “That no matter how much of a failure I am, I’m not a coward just waiting to die.” She slides her bottle across the table. “You need this more than me. Whatever happened to you, whatever you’re so afraid to talk about, clearly it left nothing of the Wes I knew.”
GM: Westley snorts. “Who really… knows each other, Caroline? What’s that quote? ’We’re all born alone, we all die alone’?”
Caroline: “I guess I’ll have to ask Susan what it was that scared you so much.”
GM: Westley’s knuckles tighten as he grips his bottle.
Caroline: “Or maybe Father Malveaux?”
GM: A blank look. “Adam?”
Caroline: “There are so many,” she replies opaquly.
GM: “There has always been a Father Malveaux,” her brother repeats somberly.
His voice does not sound drunk.
Caroline: “Are you still into coke?” she asks, rather abruptly.
GM: “What?” Westley glowers. “Fuck off, Caroline.”
Caroline: She laughs lightly. “It’s a legitimate question.”
GM: “What are you, my sobriety buddy?” He snorts. “Okay, you tell me about whatever dope you shot or people you fucked at Decadence that got Orson’s tightey-whities in a bunch, then I’ll go.”
Caroline: “Wes, you know I don’t have to do either of those things to end up in the cold. Just going out was more than enough in that whirlwind of depravity.”
GM: “Yeah, guess it looked even worse with that law student who lives with you.”
Caroline: “Probably,” Caroline concedes.
GM: Westley looks towards the Ten Tickle, hiccups, and finally seems to think better of it.
“Why d’you care what I’m doing, anyways.”
Caroline: “New perspective, I guess. We all left you to your fate and forgot about you. Harder to do now.”
GM: Westley lifts the beer in mock-toast. “Yeah, thas’ ol’ Wes, your reminder.”
Caroline: “No, just my brother.”
GM: Wes shrugs. “What the fuck. Yeah, I’ve blown some lines. McMilyin’s…” he slurs, “McMillian’s a quack.”
Caroline: Caroline snorts at ‘some lines.’ She knows Wes does nothing halfway.
“Keep away from it until this blows over, Wes.”
GM: “Pretty sure you’re the one who should be keeping away from…” He makes a vague gesture again, “stuff, not me.”
Caroline: “They’re going to go trawling for anyone they can catch up in their net.”
GM: Westley heaves a sigh. “Fuck. Whazzat the Buddha said, life is suffering?”
Caroline: “I think you’ll survive. Anything you want gotten rid of before I go?”
GM: Westley rolls his eyes. “I have a toilet in here, Caroline.”
Caroline: Caroline rolls her eyes. “Not you pumping I’m concerned about.”
GM: Her brother hiccups and gives her a blank look.
Caroline: She shrugs. “Just trying to look out for you. Do me a favor, Wes… if things go sideways. Really sideways.”
GM: “Dunno if I can, but guess I can try.”
Caroline: “Tell Mom that I love her. And that I’m sorry.”
GM: Westley looks sober at that. In more than one sense of the word.
Caroline: She turns to go.
GM: “Hol’ up,” her brother mumbles.
He gets up and shuffles down the hallway, rubbing his head. He returns a minute later with several powder-filled plastic bags.
“Prob’ly wouldn’ta flushed it anyway.”
Westley then sweeps a finger at Turner, who has long since withdrawn to the apartment’s doorway to give the siblings some privacy. Caroline’s brother slurs out,
“Better’n Vera’s. Give you that. Doesn’ look like she drinks.” He hics and amends, “Much as me, anyway.”
Caroline: “She’s good. And necessary. I’ll give you the story someday, or you’ll hear it.” Caroline smiles, if sadly. She passes the bags to Turner and looks back at Wes. She wraps him in a hug, and kisses him once on the side of the head.
“Thank you, Wes. Take care.”
GM: Westley seems genuinely surprised as his sister embraces him, but returns it after a second. His body is so warm, his skin prickled with sweat. He smells of drink and bitter regret… and not at all appetizing. Caroline’s Beast sniffs this meal and finds it wanting.
“Don’t do too well a’ that either, but guess I can try,” Westley mumbles as the hug ends.
“See you ‘round, sis. An’ put on a sweater or somethin’, you’re really cold.”
Caroline: “I’ll do that.’”
She gives him one last look over her shoulder as she heads out, forcing a smile.
Sunday night, 13 September 2015, AM
GM: As Caroline and her bodyguard return to their car, she finds Autumn soundly konked out out in the back seat. The ghoul’s chest steadily rises and falls in her sleep, so unlike Caroline’s own.
Caroline: She slips into the front seat with Turner, letting Autumn rest, and begins in a low voice, “This next bit may be bloody.”
GM: “Finally,” is Turner’s only answer. The mercenary’s slate-gray eyes don’t shine with excitement so much as hunger. She doesn’t look too dissimilar from the Kindred.
Caroline: Caroline doesn’t quite crack a smile. She explains in small detail Eight-Nine-Six, their known methods, and location. “We’re going to try and ruin their night.”
GM: “We have any backup, or just us?”
Caroline: “Million dollar question,” she replies. “How many would you want for a job like this?”
GM: Turner thinks. “’Least even numbers, and even then we might not have the edge. You said vampires can take a worse beating than we do. And dish out even more. Getting your friend out complicates stuff too. Begging for them to use her as a hostage.”
Caroline: Caroline nods. “And we can’t make it too messy or loud.”
GM: “Could always try to set a distraction. Get some of them out of the building, then go in.”
Caroline: “Fire?” Caroline asks.
GM: “Huh. If that’s what really hurts you guys. Also doing it right at dawn. Don’t have too many more hours to wait. Probably gonna take some time to rustle up backup anyway.”
Caroline: Caroline frowns. “Could Blackwatch provide people for a daylight operation?”
GM: “Sure. Though like you say, if they see a bunch of vampires go crisp… I mean, could do it, but they don’t know what they’re fighting either.”
Caroline: “It would be mostly people like you.”
GM: “There any other… ghouls,” Turner says slowly, “like me you know?”
Caroline: “Kindred should be sleeping. Not sure how many, but I could probably get that number. Either way, they’d be mostly local thugs and toughs, not soldiers.”
GM: “Might be better. Still don’t really know what they’re up against. Hard explaining when the vampires go crisp. There were a bunch of professionals back in that building though, weren’t there? With the priest.”
Caroline: “Different class of people. These are the poor version of Kindred.”
GM: “Blackwatch or ghouls by day sounds better than doing this by night, either way.”
Caroline: Caroline scowls but nods. “Let me reach out to some people.”
GM: Turner grunts and sits back for Caroline to make her presumed calls.
Caroline: Names run through the Ventrue’s head. There’s Lou, but… even if she had his number, too many reasons he wouldn’t help. The threat to his anonymity. The ‘innocent girl’ to rescue being Caroline’s blood bound slave. His own reluctance to help a monster like her. No, there’s nothing in this for him.
But there might be for someone else. After all, he’s already cleaned up one of her problems. The number dials.
Annabelle: The line rings a couple times before there’s a click and a smooth, velvety feminine voice answers deferentially,
“Good evening Miss Malveaux. This is Hound Agnello’s herald speaking. How may I help you?”
Caroline: Of course it is. Caroline is growing distinctly unhappy with always being the last one in the loop.
“Good evening. I was hoping to speak to Hound Agnello. He had offered to make an introduction in my behalf, and I’m afraid the matter has become quite pressing.”
Annabelle: There is a slight pause on the other end of the line.
“I am afraid Hound Agnello is indisposed at this time,” the woman answers, “however, as the hound’s herald, I can certainly offer introductions in my domitor’s stead. Who is it that you wish to be introduced to, Miss Malveaux?”
Caroline: There is a pause on the other end of the line, and the other woman can almost hear the gears turning in Caroline’s head.
“Do you know when he will be available?”
Annabelle: “I am afraid I cannot say at this time, Miss Malveaux.”
Caroline: This time she can almost heart the hiss of displeasure from the Kindred on the other end of the phone.
Another pause. “May I ask your name?”
Annabelle: “My name is Annabelle, Miss Malveaux.” There is a hint of uncertainty in that answer despite the cordial tone.
Caroline: Another pause. “It is something of a sensitive matter. Would you be available to speak this evening?”
Annabelle: “No. I am afraid I have errands to run for my domitor for the remainder of this evening. I can pencil you in tomorrow night if that works for you.”
Caroline: There’s a faint crunching and cracking sound through the phone.
“I’m afraid that while that would be appreciated, there is a fair probability that I’ll be unable to attend, and I would not wish to leave you waiting.”
Annabelle: The sound is ignored.
“That’s quite all right, Miss Malveaux,” the ghoul answers politely. “Do you still want to plan a meeting at another time?”
Caroline: “I’ll have to get back to you on that. If you don’t hear from me, you can presume otherwise. Thank you for your time. Please give my respects to Hound Agnello when he is available.”
The gears are already turning in Caroline’s head. Questions on where she goes from here, what her next play is. Logically, practically, functionally, she should let Aimee go. She’s nothing but a liability. Distantly, she reflects that her father and uncles would do exactly that for anyone not in the family. Sending Turner in in the morning, or trying to stage her own rescue with the remains of the night, is throwing good money after bad, and lots of it.
But this is Aimee. Her friend. Maybe her only real friend, before all of this happened. Her friend sucked into this life by her own carelessness, and now trapped in it. Leave aside God, whatever His predilection and expectations of one such as her, she can’t just leave Aimee behind.
Aimee’s just a ghoul. A servant. A slave. Caroline’s eyes sweep across the other two ghouls in the black SUV with her, sleeping Autumn, restless Turner. Fuck. That. She may be a monster, damned, a killer on the path to Hell. But she’s not that much a monster. These are people. Good people. Her people. Her jaw sets in a grim line. If she’s going to justify killing in their name, she can damn well justify dying in it.
Course, that ain’t exactly plan A.
Sunday night, 13 September 2015, AM
Annabelle: After concluding her business on the phone with Caroline, Annabelle dials another Kindred’s number from her domitor’s rolodex.
GM: A few rings sound before a young woman’s voice replies, “Hello, Hound Agnello?”
Annabelle: “Good evening, Miss Gerlette. This is Hound Agnello’s herald speaking.”
GM: There’s a brief pause before the Kindred asks, “So what can I do for him?”
Annabelle: “My domitor wishes to invite you and the Storyville Krewe to Harrah’s, Miss Gerlette, to discuss a proposition. He will be pleased to offer his hospitality and succor for the night in return for the audience.” Annabelle’s tone is deferential enough, though a bit officious too.
GM: Roxanne seems to mull the offer over, though not for long. “All right, that sounds good. We’ll be over at ten.”
Annabelle: “Thank you for your time, Miss Gerlette.”
Sunday night, 13 September 2015, AM
GM: Caroline’s next call rings off. A pauper’s fortune, thrown away by others, she’d once considered those Kindred phone numbers.
“Hi, Caroline?” Jocelyn asks in that slightly questioning tone of someone getting called by a new number for the first time.
Caroline: “Good evening, Jocelyn,” Caroline replies affably. “I hope you’re well.”
GM: “I’m all right, thanks.” There’s a brief pause. “How’s things with you?”
The small talk is a familiar routine. The question a familiar line.
Caroline: “Not so great, but I think that can turn around with some swiftness—hence the call.” Despite the somewhat grim response, Caroline keeps her tone relatively light and confident. “I heard a rumor that the Storyville Krewe wasn’t terribly fond of the Eight-Nine-Six?”
GM: There’s a pause from the phone’s other end. Caroline can’t hear any breathing. It’s also been at least two years since Jocelyn needed to.
“Who’d you hear that from?”
Caroline: That information costs her comparatively little. “Hound Agnello. Was it incorrect?”
GM: There’s another pause. “No, it’s…” Caroline can picture the other vampire biting her lip. Jocelyn can’t entirely keep the urgency out of her voice as she asks, “If you knew about that, do you know something about Evan?”
Caroline: It isn’t that difficult to put sympathy into her voice under the circumstances.
“I’m afraid not, at least not specifically, though if the Eight-Nine-Six were responsible for his abduction, it’s possible that I may have a lead on where.”
GM: The urgency in Jocelyn’s goes up. “Really? Where?”
Then goes down just a bit. “We can swap boons for it, of course.”
Caroline: “The very same thought I had, well, of a sorts. You may have heard that they and I had something of a dust-up.”
GM: “Yeah, something about the prince having to kill a bunch of cops?”
Caroline: The bottom falls out of Caroline’s stomach at that reminder, but she pushes through it.
“Nothing so grand, but they had some hard feelings on the matter over their loss of domain, humiliation, and so forth. One thing led to another, they abducted a ghoul while trying to abduct me, and now I’m sitting on their location tonight, and their location tomorrow.”
GM: “Wait, you know where they’re sleeping? As in, their haven?”
Caroline: “Well, it’s where they retreated with their ill-gotten ghoul for the evening. Whether it’s their haven, or simply where they’re stashing their gains, I thought that might be of interest to you in either case.”
GM: Jocelyn seems to chew that over. “So what’s it you’re gonna do, nab your renfield back when they’re sleeping?”
Caroline: “Ah, no. This has gone on quite long enough. I had several thoughts in mind, depending on what level of involvement, if any, you and the rest of your Krewe might be interested in, and at what price, but fundamentally the intention is to raid that haven and recover anything of use. Up to and including, perhaps, Bliss Jackson, who last I saw was enjoying a some well earned, and extended, rest. And to do so while they’re out, presumably meeting with me. And attempting to double-cross and abduct me.”
GM: “Wait, what’s this part? They’re gonna be gone too?”
Caroline: “They set up an exchange for my ghoul tomorrow.” The other Kindred can practically hear Caroline licking her chops. “Interested yet?”
GM: A mortal might breathe faster. Jocelyn still doesn’t, but Caroline can hear the wheels turning in her head.
“…if we get involved, we’re gonna take one of them for ourselves. To… ask about Evan.”
Caroline: “No objections here, but this has to come together with a quickness to make it work tomorrow. Do you need to run it past anyone else and, alternatively and in addition, do you have a designated ghoul that could meet with one of mine to work out the details today?”
GM: “Yeah, I’ll wanna make some calls to Roxanne and the other Storyvilles. If this is gonna happen first thing tomorrow night, we could just talk over phone during the day? I mean, I doubt Eight-Nine-Six is going anywhere then.”
Caroline: Caroline chews her lip. “Preliminary, sure, but it seems like have people sit down and walk through, talk through would be necessarily on the back end.”
GM: “You mean, you still wanna talk things over in person? I guess we could meet first thing tomorrow night. Before mass.”
Caroline: “I guess it depends on what resources you want to put on the table.” Caroline concedes.
GM: Caroline spends the next few minutes planning and negotiating with Jocelyn over the phone. The latter calls Roxanne and puts them on conference.
The Storyvilles’ leader proves amenable to the plan to raid Eight-Nine-Six’s safe house and personally volunteers for the duty. In fact, she appears almost too amenable… Caroline couldn’t say why, but the vitriol in her voice when Bliss’ name comes up is all-too plain.
The senator’s daughter leverages it for everything that it’s worth. She plays hard to get, feigning that she wants to hold onto Bliss for her own purposes. Roxanne doesn’t want that at all. Eventually, the Storyvilles’ leader agrees to pledge Caroline a boon in return for the “trouble” of taking Bliss off her hands—and if Bliss wants to arrange a “rescue” from the Storyvilles by Caroline’s hands, Roxanne is glad to see Bliss deprived of her own marker.
Caroline: There’s a bit more to hash out, particularly with logistics, but Caroline and the Storyvilles find themselves largely in agreement across the board. Autumn is allowed to sleep until shortly before dawn, and back-filled, mostly by Turner, who heads off to make her own arrangements and get some sleep. It’s going to be a long night tomorrow. A message goes out to the Eight-Nine-Six shortly before dawn. They picked the place. Caroline picks the time. 90 minutes after nightfall. Tomorrow.
By the time the sun is fully risen in the sky, and Caroline is deeply in her day sleep, a dozen individuals from half a dozen walks of life are engaged on Caroline’s behalf in one way or another.
And if that sleep is fitful… well. Isn’t all of hers these days?
Sunday night, 13 September 2015, AM
GM: Around an hour after their conversation, Annabelle gets a call back from Roxanne.
“Tell your domitor the Storyvilles are sorry, but we can’t make it tomorrow night after all. We can do the night after tomorrow, or some other time that works for him.”
Annabelle: Annabelle does not sound the least bit displeased; in fact, there is a sense of relief upon Roxanne calling back to cancel their plans.
“It is quite all right, Miss Gerlette,” the herald replies in a smoothly polite cadence. “We can accommodate another time; your suggestion to rearrange the meeting to the night after tomorrow suits just as well.”
More time to lick her wounds.
GM: Roxanne’s tone sounds mildly surprised by the ghoul’s comparative relief. “Well, all right. Tell your domitor the Storyvilles will see him then.”
There’s little more to be said.
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Pete Feedback Repost
[…]Speaking of Lou, that introduction gets more and more mysterious. Interesting that it apparently wasn’t Malveaux that pointed her in that direction. I’m curious as to who it might have been, and what their motives might have been. It does make it more difficult to explain the source of her knowledge though with regard to her sire.
Caroline’s scene with her brother turned out to provide a lot more than I’d expected, and I thought provided a pretty touching moment at times, especially towards the end. The swap from botch to 4 success on a single die was pretty huge, and I appreciate you letting me roll the extra forgotten die. I don’t need to tell you that not all GMs feel compelled to give players that benefit when it applies.
The entire situation with the 896 is pretty awkward, and in hindsight, something I should have seeing coming. Not completely sure how they honed in on Aimee so quickly, but it’s definitely a weak spot in Caroline’s otherwise pretty ruthless armor, as evidenced by her defensiveness with her brother on the topic, and the stakes she’s willing to risk (and moral compromises she’s willing to make) in order to try and get her back. At the same time, Caroline’s far to shrewd a political actor to bow to threats when she has an alternative. The scene with Jessica, as it turned out, was quite a hoot, and I thought was a good example of both now neonates fight, and in particular how different backgrounds and different resources fight differently. I don’t think going in, even armed, and even with Turner for backup, would have ended well for Caroline (though who knows, my dice seem to get hot in this game when her back is against the wall).
Parts of a larger plot are taking shape here in terms of getting Aimee back, and level a counterstrike against the gang, though it make require that she take on some risks and leave Aimee in their hands for until the next night (though it’s much the last that Caroline wishes). Just not sure she can swing this quickly enough, given all the pieces still in motion. We’ll see though, maybe a few good rolls will help (or a few bad ones will doom).
It’s a shame she wasn’t able to leverage some aid out of Father Malveaux, but I suppose that’s how the cookie crumbles sometimes. I will note, her methods were a bit more than whispering mean things, what with leaving her dripping with her own blood and the mysterious exit, but I can see how it isn’t exactly up to Lance standards. I do wonder though how such terror tactics interact with the Masquerade, as potential breaches of it. I’d also expected more of a reaction with regard to where he was running / hiding, and who he was doing it with, but I suppose they’ve kept Caroline pretty far out of the loop thus far, so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, and ultimately they’re giving her an opportunity to prove herself and clean up the mess. The knowledge that he may have significant allies is pretty unsettling though, as even alone I’d expect him to be more than Caroline and her own resources could handle.
Speaking of, still needs to report into Wright… that should be fun.
Calder Feedback Repost
I’m glad you enjoyed the scene with Westley. I thought his character’s original concept was a bit one-sided and stood out as unusual next to his high-achieving siblings. I don’t think you’re going to argue for the canonization of St. Westley, but hopefully his actions are now more understandable.
For my part, I liked the chance to explore more of Caroline’s mortal family. She’s interacted with Orson and Gabriel before, but with them the rest of the family was an incidental focus vs. one of the major topics of discussion that it was with Wes.
[GM’s 2021 edit: This scene was actually played out before the Story Two scenes which included Luke and Orson. So more Malveaux interaction by this point after all.]
Caroline’s done pretty well against Eight-Nine-Six. (As always, you’re free to investigate if you’re curious how they found out about Aimee so fast.) I’d been counting on Caroline getting into another fight with them, and while the numbers weren’t in her favor, I had outcomes in mind for either her victory or defeat. I wasn’t counting on Eight-Nine-Six getting their cars towed by NOPD instead. They sure weren’t.
Beyond being an example of how neonates fight (ie, right alongside their mortal puppets vs. pulling strings from a corporate boardroom), it was also a good example of how Kindred fight in general. Vampire vs. vampire warehouse brawls have their place, but indirect fighting through mortal pawns and intermediaries is more common—and why the city’s three-way cold war has persisted for as long as it has. When PCs do blunt things like blowing up warehouses or physically attacking rivals that usually begets blunt responses, so to a significant (though not total) extent, player choices determine how subtle vs. overt the game’s inter-Kindred conflicts are.
I’m pleased to see Caroline being proactive and plotting how to rip off her foes vs. agreeing to the pay-off. I expected little less.
She’s very much been kept out of the loop. You can bet her handlers knew that Rene used to be a hound, or that his sire was the old sheriff.
Terror tactics could be something to ask your new krewe-mates, or a friendlier Mentor Malveaux (at this point, he’s still 0 dots, though further acts of piety/competence could impress him). Or even Autumn, whose previous job was maintaining the Masquerade.
Jack Feedback Repost
Caroline is one of my all-time favourite characters I have seen in play to this day. I always enjoy seeing her interactions with Lou. I always enjoy seeing her interactions with Calder’s dank world at large. I have to admit that meta-wise I wanted to help Caroline out through Annabelle; unfortunately, In-Character I was left with my hands tied behind my back as I couldn’t justify Annabelle wanting to meet with Caroline or any vampire for that matter with her bruises still healing. I even came up with a convoluted plan with Calder for a Dominated body-double to meet with Caroline instead and talk to her through cameras, microphones, and an earpiece. I know as a player that Caroline wouldn’t do anything untoward to Annabelle for any petty reason, but Annabelle as a character was absolutely terrified of the possibility considering her recent treatment. I even had it planned that the Storyville Krewe would be on hand not to be introduced to Caroline, but in case Caroline got too aggressive she’d be able to call in owed debts to escort her out of the premises / Rocco’s domain if push came to shove.
[GM’s 2021 edit: said bruises happen to Annabelle in Story Five, but were played out in real life before Story Four.]