“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, alive or dead, it’s that sex causes more problems than it solves.”
Saturday night, 19 March 2016, PM
Celia: Celia checks the time after their conversation wraps up and says she needs to get going. She hugs her mom a final time and wishes her a good evening, uses her bathroom to change her face and dress, and heads out for the night. She’s tempted to stop for a drink on the way… but there will be plenty to do at the party, and the bars don’t close for some time yet even if not. She can always pop out for a bit if she gets peckish.
It’s a quick trip to the Evergreen after that.
Saturday night, 19 March 2016, PM
Celia: The Cat’s Meow. World famous, if you believe the sign on the door. Jade hasn’t been around the world (though she’s done some traveling) so she can’t say for sure whether or not it’s actually world famous, but she supposes, so far as domains go, that maybe it’s a good thing. The Quarter already sees its share of interlopers and poachers during Mardi Gras—she doesn’t need them eyeing her club in particular.
Tonight it’s crowded. More than crowded, really. Saturday evening is prime party time, and this evening is no exception. Even the multiple bars that line the walls are no match for the press of bodies streaming in off the streets, and people wait three or four deep for their 32oz Hurricanes in plastic cups or Jello tooter shots (which Jade thinks are inherently messy considering the small opening and long body, and she’s seen plenty of drunk people attempt to stick their tongues into the little plastic tubes to get at the jello still clinging to the bottom—why don’t they just do normal shots?), while music blares from the speakers near the stage. The two drink minimum means there’s plenty of unaware vessels that don’t notice the predator in their midst.
Short. Young. Comely. No, perhaps not comely. Perhaps comely is too ordinary or too soft a word to describe the predator that stalks the night. Striking, maybe. Luscious. Bewitching. Desirable.
Desirable. That’s the one. Every inch of her is painted, sculpted perfection, from the shade of her shadow to the wing of her liner to the fresh coat of polish on her nails. Her dark hair is loosely curled and pulled back from her face, highlighting the dark lashes that frame her large eyes, the delicate hollow of neck and collarbone, the high cheekbones and sharp chin. Her tan skin is offset by the scarlet dress—if the strips of fabric that cling to her hips and bust but bare her sides with open cutouts could be called a dress—and a pair of nude stilettos add another few inches to her height.
Standing room only by now. Or it would be for a mortal, but a dip of her head and a promise in her smile means that the boys who had occupied the table she’d wanted, the one upstairs that overlooks the stage, had freely offered it to her and gone off to find another place to enjoy their evening.
Two drink minimum, but there’s six in front of the predator now, and the empty plastic cups on the table are nearest the girl. A large black man with a smattering of tattoos peeking out from beneath a tight black tee occupies a seat at the table, and the other is taken by another black man. Not quite as muscular as the first, with a little more facial hair and padding around the middle. Not fat. But large. Probably more of a football player than a baseball player, that kind of look. His attention alternates between the two at the table, though the girl—the pretty one, remember?—has her eyes on the stage where a gaggle of women in sky-high heels and cat ears, one of whom wears a white tank top with the saying “Buy me a shot I’m tying the knot”, butcher that popular Journey song about a small town girl and a city boy.
Jade doesn’t mask her presence this evening. Her contact will no doubt be able to sniff her out as soon as he steps inside. A glance at her phone’s clock tells her that they have a solid three-quarters of an hour before Savoy’s court starts. Long enough for this little meeting if they don’t dawdle.
Julius: And her guest doesn’t dawdle. After all, the jazz musician knows how to stay on tempo.
Jules wades into the Cat’s Meow, an odd old whale amongst young, sleek sardines. Tonight, the knock-off king is dressed in what appears to be a a dark magenta velour tracksuit made by Gucci, a pre-release pair of Yeezy 700 V3 Dark Glow sneakers, Dior black-mask sunglasses, a Versace Palazzo empire bracelet watch, and a David Yurman dog-tag necklace with Pavé black diamonds, cognac diamonds, and color-change garnets.
Beyond such accoutrements, the Caitiff is unaccompanied, as he has left Tyzee and Dashonte to wait outside, idling in the latter’s supped-up T-bird.
Approaching the table, the undead jazzman considers that call doubly wise as he notes not only his host seated at the front-stage table, but that all three of that table’s seats are occupied. The black Caitiff, however, is used to metaphorically carving out his own seat at table of the All-Night Society. And tonight, he does so quite literally, as he makes his way to Jade’s table, only pausing long enough to snatch his own chair from a nearby table. That said chair was occupied doesn’t seem to bother Julius in the least bit, as if the chair and its former occupant weighed no more than a red solo cup. Moreover, when the seat’s prior occupant, a bridesmaids-hunting frat boy, spills onto the floor alongside his shattering Hurricane, Julius cuts off his flustered shout of shock and anger with a smooth dip of his sunglasses, flash of a hard smile, and his bullfrog-bass voice:
“You wuz jus’ ‘bout to offer me yo chair, bid deese dawls uh gud nite, an git yoself home now, ain’t dat rite?”
Julius doesn’t wait for the young man’s reply to his question. After all, it wasn’t really a question. Just like it’s no question whether the kine can resist his supernatural command. So undisturbed, the vampire finishes sauntering towards Jade’s table, plopping down his chair and himself to join his hostess, if not her hospitality.
“Lookin gud as always, Ms. Kalani. Scarlet suits you’s like uh pearl in uh ersta.”
Celia: Julius is a hard sight to miss in a club like this. Particularly with that… getup. Her eyes follow him once she notices his appearance in the door, tracking him up the stairs to the second floor where her table juts up against the railing. Room enough for three, but leave it to Julius to bring his own chair over, even timing it perfectly while the singers belt out the chorus—joined by everyone watching who knows the lyrics—so that not a single stray glance cuts his way.
“Evenin’, Papa Juj.” L…“oo” sound in the center there, like jew, then a soft J at the end. A nickname on top of a nickname. And why not? The lick has enough of them, what’s another. She flashes a smile his way at the compliment, then moves her seat to the side to give him room at the table. It’s crowded with the four of them. The poor boys across from them look positively cramped.
“Mm. I was going to offer you mine and find another place to perch.” On a lap, perhaps. She’s seen on them often enough. Court starts soon. She’d missed it last week and doesn’t intend to repeat the behavior this week; she cuts to the heart of things.
“I’ve been thinking about your offer, Jules.”
Julius: ‘Papa Juj’ smiles at the nickname, as if hearing a hot, innovative trumpet note. Her mention of his offer sustains that smile like a piano’s foot pedal.
Notwithstanding, he lets the silence linger till she fills it.
Celia: There’s nothing obvious in the way she does what she does. No snapping fingers. No flashing eyes. Not even a head tilt and smile. But as soon as Jade rises, moving her chair aside to free up some of that cramped space for the boys, and settles on Julius’ lap both black boys that accompanied her turn their eyes toward the stage, as if they can’t quite get enough of the bride-to-be and her entourage. The stools nearby hold plenty of bodies, but they, too, seem fixated on the music rather than the cute girl on the old man’s lap.
Even when the performers change, swapping to a young couple singing about summer love from that late 70’s musical, their attention stays on the stage. They ignore whatever it is that goes on between the two licks.
“I’d like to know who’s going to be coming and going from my space. So I don’t pick them up as a trespasser, you understand.” She flashes a casual smile over her shoulder at him.
Julius: Julius bristles at the unexpected contact. Not like a frat pledge having his first lap-dance, but more like a tiger suddenly put in a tight cage with another. For all the Camarilla’s social pretenses, the Beast is ultimately a solitary predator. But as the Sindaco of Slidell might suggest, that predator is also cannibalistic.
Up close, Julius cannot help but smell the Toreador’s vitae as it courses through her arteries, veins, and sanguine-plump organs. Those are the ‘curves’ that sing to him, that arouse his lust—or more precisely bloodlust—and make it hard to concentrate. Which is probably why the social-savvy vampiress is saddling him. Unlike the full table, it’s a power-move that catches him off-guard. It also impresses the hell out of him. None of which makes the subsequent negotiations any easier—for the Caitiff.
“Yeah, you… rite,” the clanless vampire lamely responds as he tries to force his thoughts away from how delicious the tantalizingly wrapped bloodbag atop his lap would taste.
“Cain’t fault you’s fo’ axin.”
It takes some effort to keep his hands from squeezing her like a cherry snow cone, to crush her so he could suck out every. Last. Drop.
There’s some small measure of self-pride that he doesn’t next cough to clear an unbreathing throat.
“If you dink da trade is gud, I’ll introduce y’all rite an propuh as podnas. Tonite if we git da time, or after us skeetas are done makin dodo. F’sure ya gotta be knowin whoose a’comin into an outta yo part of da Quartuh. Dey’ll jus’ be wantin you’s to udderwise keep it mums. I dink I said ‘fo dat dis cat is uh public fren of Lawd Savoy, but der blood-daddy is uh tad… controllin. Tight lease an all dat jass. Cain’t fault a cap fo’ wantin der own stoop an zink to wrench off der hands widdout daddy-dearest watchin yo every step.”
Celia: She’s a pretty enough package on his lap. Warm, too, with a heart that beats regularly and continues to pump that deliciously scented vitae through every inch of her body. Tiny. No doubt his hands would go right around her waist or neck or wherever it is he wants to squeeze.
“The yacht, the paperwork, the membership… I’ll send my boy here to check it out when we’re done, but I’m interested. I’ll meet your friend and play mum.”
She knows all about controlling blood-daddies.
“And how,” she asks id…“did you come across his boat?” Towers. Twice in a week the name has been brought up to her. Fortuitous timing, perhaps, or things are simply more connected than she’d assumed.
Julius: It takes Julius half-a-heartbeat (though clearly not his own) to process the lapcat’s words. Looking away from Jade to ‘her boy’ reminds Julius of being a little boy trying to swim against the Tchefuncte’s current. He’s not entirely sure he looked at the right ‘boy’ before her riptide voice pulls him back to her.
Another half-heartbeat passes before Julius replies. Not with words, not at first, but rather with a hand shuffling into his pants. Perhaps the undead nymphomaniac is disappointed when Julius’ jostling only produces a business card.
The card is jet-black with equally dark but glossy lettering. To a kine, those letters would be nigh-impossible to read in the dim-lit Cat’s Meow, but Julius holds the card for Jade to clearly see an embossed image of stylized smoke in the shape of a serpent, next to which letters read:
Black Vyper Vaping, LLC.
302 Decatur Street | Office 420B
“Git yo bra to ax fo’ De’Lanice Gaines. She’s uh lawyer of mine who can git yo cap all da deets.”
“As fo’ how I done come by dat boat, da shoit answer is dollahs. Uh lotta dollahs. But da long answer, dawl, wud cost ya somedin.”
He doesn’t lick his lips at that last statement, but his tone might as well have drooled.
Celia: Not even an absent fondle. Veronica’s childe certainly seems suited to the bloodline when she all but huffs at the produced card.
Snakes, though. Now there’s a thought.
“Reg,” she says to one of the boys, ending whatever charm she’d placed on them to turn their attention to the stage. She plucks the card from Julius’ hand to slide into the large black palm waiting for it. “De’Lanice. Take your friend. Find me after.”
He knows where.
The men leave without a word, and it’s just Jade and her new friend at the table without them. She makes no motion to remove herself from his lap.
“Something like a favor,” she purrs, “or can I offer you a drink while we’re here?”
Julius: Papa Juj’s reply is as swift as it’s greedy:
“Some wud say uh drink is uh favor—at least if it’s da gawddamn rite kinda drink, f’true?”
Celia: “Then it’s settled.” She lifts her hand in a lazy wave to encompass the club. “Who catches your eye, Jules?”
Julius: It’s no question of who’s caught his eye. She’s been reeling him this entire time: hook, line, and sinker. And she’s done it so skillfully, he can’t even complain. Instead, the hoary jazzman laughs lecherously:
“As if dat contest wusn’t rigged from da git-go.”
Celia: Roderick is going to be so mad. Her smile sharpens.
“Here and now, Papa Juj, or do you prefer the… anticipation?” She shifts to look at him, trailing her fingertips down the Gucci velour.
Julius: Those fingertips elicit another dark, husky laugh.
“As a dimeback in college,” he says, slipping a cement-thick hand beneath one of her dress straps, “I told ma bras dat you’s don’t git no mo’ points fo’ savin uh touchdown till da fourth quartuh.”
He tenses then as if about to violently rip off her dress. She can tell that it would be easy for him, too. Like pulling apart cobweb.
“But being uh musician has learned me a ding or two ‘bout tempo. Timin an tension. Da slow-berlin heat. Make ’em beg fo’ da climax, an it makes da cool-down all da sweeter, no?”
As if punctuating that point, his one hands stops, then retreats from beneath the scarlet thread, only to snatch her own wandering hand. Rising suddenly, he allows her voluptuous body to slide down his much larger, velour-clad frame. Maintaining his vice-like grip, he raises her capillary-rich fingers to his lips.
“But dat jus ma opinion,” he adds, his lips parting into a fanged smile, “an ma mawmaw done learned me to always ax uh dawl fo’ hers.”
Celia: She doesn’t need to let her dead body respond to his touch. She doesn’t have to let her heart stutter inside its cage, or let her unnecessary breath hitch in her throat, or pull the color from the rest of her to stain her cheeks.
But she enjoys the game, and he seems the sort to appreciate a show. That’s where she draws the line, though; she keeps her other perversions tightly under wraps.
Wide eyes gaze up at him from beneath long lashes—a head taller than her, even in heels—and there’s an answering flash of fang behind her slightly parted lips.
“Your momma was right, Jules. I’d hate to make you rush through things so we aren’t late. Let’s call it a celebratory sip after our deal goes through.”
Julius: Julius nods, but doesn’t let go. Not before kissing the tip of Jade’s index finger, the digit with the greatest bloodflow, courtesy of the radialis indicis artery and its thick spiderweb of sensitive capillaries. Julius’ kiss upon that digit’s tip doesn’t last long, but it’s forceful: a hurricane-strong sucking motion that threatens—or perhaps teases—to burst the finger’s capillaries and drain its artery straight through her pores.
But he doesn’t. Not here. Not now. And not for a lack of want.
Making that ample desire perfectly clear, he slowly releases her hand.
“Cain’t say I won’t be countin da clock til den. But I guess dat’s da point.”
He then glances down at matte black steel and gold-accented Versace timepiece, “An speakin of clocks an not wantin to be late to da party, I got one last thing I binlookin to run by you, boo.”
His bloodlust is far from cooled, but it’s no longer threatening to boil over with the lapdance over (for now). As such, the mogul returns to his more typical businessman mien.
“Last-sec scoop I done heard from a lil’ birdie bout da party. Wuz one of dose boys yo street-racin cap?”
Celia: He’s not the only one. Not after that.
The mention of racing doesn’t make her do more than lift one expertly shaped brow at the Caitiff. It doesn’t give away anything going on inside of her—the screaming, the broken smile, the crack of parting ribs, a cold hand bursting through a chest cavity to seize a still heart and squeeze it for every last drop.
“D’you need a little racer boy for somethin’, Papi?”
Julius: “Something like dat, shug.” He pauses to scan the crowd as if checking for familiar faces or too-eager eavesdroppers. Spotting none—which doesn’t mean there aren’t any—he drapes a long arm over her in what might be a grandfatherly or conspiratorial gesture. The latter seems more likely when he begins to whisper:
“Don’t know if you’s evah dealt wid da Envoy Boggs. White as Uncle Rastus’ instant rice, but rich as da US Mint, dey say. He don’t always come to Lawd Savoy’s parties, but he’s comin to dis one. Wot’s mo’ portant is dat it’s bin 10 years past since he came an hosted uh game, giftin da winner wid uh vintage Maserati, uh ’60 Maserati 3500GT Vignale Spyder clean as uh whistle an worth half uh mil, easy.”
“Ma inside scoop just learned me dat he’s gonna do it gain tonite. Not a Maserati, but a racing car from da 20s. Winna gits da antique car. Dat’s a lotta dolluhs, dawl. Catch is, you only win it if yo driver can beat Ms. Larieux in uh street race at tonite’s party. Dat’s uh tall order, especially as not many caps got skillz drivin a century-old racin relic.”
“I ain’t got one of dem on ma tab rite now, an e’en if I did, I wudn’t be wantin to win. Don’t look gud for uh clanless to beat da lawd’s herald, no?”
Celia: “Instead you’re tippin’ off your new boo. Well ain’t that somethin’.”
Her sire couldn’t have timed his murder any better. It’s like he knew. He couldn’t have. Coincidence, right?
As if there’s such a thing.
For half a heartbeat her lips flatten into a thin line. How fitting that her useless ghoul would have finally served a purpose. If only he hadn’t been cut to pieces. If only she hadn’t severed his head from his body with one clean stroke of a blade.
“I s’pose I’ll have to bring someone who’s been around long enough to know how to handle something that old. Appreciate the heads up, Jules.”
She smiles at him in a way that suggests she’ll show him just how much she appreciates him later.
Julius: Julius’ smile returns like a golden sunrise. “Awrite, you did strike me like an appreciative soul, dawlin. Also, I’d rather you’s git da car an’ da glory dan uh lotta udder so-called frenz of our lawd. Bettah fo’ it to be uh Bourbon is all I’m sayin.”
He checks his likely knockoff watch again before adding, “Da party’s gonna start soon, so you give ol’ Papa Juj uh call if you be needin anything bout dis. Dolluhs, car, parts, specs, brain-juju, wotevah you need.”
Celia: How about a driver?
Ruby’s no doubt sitting at the spa. Or down the block from her haven. Or the home he shares with his brothers. It’s not the car she’s worried about, just the body inside of it.
Convenient, isn’t it, that this comes along the next night.
Jade scatters the first of the crumbs.
She hesitates a moment, then reaches out to touch Julius’ sleeve before he can turn to go. Her eyes search his face and she lets her mask slip for just an instant, showing the portrait of a young domitor concerned for her charges.
“He didn’t come home last night. Thought he was off with his lady friend, but it ain’t like him, Papa Juj. You think ’lotta people knew prior?” Hers is the only one that could give Mel a run for her money and everyone knows it. Who else wastes their blood on a racer?
Julius: The jazzman frowns at that confession. In fact, if he had two mouths, he’d be frowning with both. He thought his inside edge was exclusive, but does he really know? How would he know? He doesn’t, and that doubt causes his thoughts to play like an out-of-tune piano.
“Lady fren? Gawddamn, Jade, wot’s he doin wid uh lady fren sides you’s?”
He shakes his head and clenches a sousaphone-heavy fist.
“An no, I didn’t think udders knew, but I don’t rite know, not no mo’.”
He releases his arm, scanning the crowd again. “But if I knew you’s had a racing cap, den udders wud’ve too. So who’s da biggest comp, you dink? I don’t figure nobody’d off ya blood-boo jus’ to make damn sure Mél smokes da race. Dat squeeze don’t seem worth da juice.”
He scratches his sugar-white beard. “But maybe it ain’t bout Mél winnin, as much as makin f’sure you’s don’t. Anybody might ring dat kind of bell fo’ ya?”
Celia: Who would be out to get Jade that might plausibly know about this race ahead of time?
“Coulda been…” One of the harpies. Beaumont. She doesn’t quite fit the bill, though. Literally. Too fat to fit into a car. Benson. But that’s a secret friendship, and Jade doesn’t spill her role in the events of last week here. The debt has been settled.
“The Axles, maybe?” But she runs with them on occasion, and their leader and Jade’s sire are thick as thieves right now.
“The Baron’s girl, that witchy one.” Witchy, bitchy, same difference. Melton, but Jade doesn’t put the name forth to her krewemate.
“One of the Quarter rats… oh! The rats. We had a run in, I thought they’d gotten over it.” Maybe that stupid monkey had died.
A longer pause. Then, grudgingly, as if she doesn’t think her “little sister” has the balls—but it would be fitting, wouldn’t it, for her sister to retaliate after the events of last night? Hatred had burned so brightly in her eyes.
Julius: Julius nods. “Mmhmm, dat wud make mo’ sense den uh bucket o’ dollahs. Axles too. Da Anarchs got uh wonky ‘ship wid da Boggs. Yo sire an Mr. Boggs seem to git along fine, maybe gud. But Shep? Yo sis? Snaggin da car cud be dem givin da finger to dem. Or maybe da prince’s Anarchs or dat Baron mambo tryin’ to cause trouble tween Lawd Savoy’s allies, meanin’ turnin da Anarchs an da niggamancers.”
He scratches his jaw again, his eyes narrowing. “But you said a rat? Which rat?”
Celia: She’s not quite sure she wants to send Reggie up against Shep. Seems like a bad idea waiting to happen.
“The one with the ape. Greasy.”
Julius: “Da nossie? He ain’t no rat him, no.”
Celia: “Oh. That rat. The one with the kids.”
Julius: “Gerald an’ Geraldine,” Jules huffs, as if finding the names’ similarity an idle joke not worth telling. “But dat kid an’ her marrain, I jus’ don’t see it. Doubt dey got da stones.”
“But you said yo boy had a lady fren?”
But he waves away the question.
“Ain’t none of us got time fo’ 20 questions now. So whatcha gonna do?”
Celia: “Find a replacement. Win. Then find my boy.”
Julius: Julius’ highbeam smile returns. “Dat’s da jass I like to lissen to. How can I help?”
Celia: “I’ve got the car. I just need a body to put in it.” She spares a glance at his watch, though its face is upside down to her. “But you said you ain’t got a driver on speed dial, Jules.”
Finally, she smiles.
“Luckily, I know a guy. I’m gonna take off. I’ll let you know if I need somethin’, Papi.”
Jade rises to the very tips of her toes to plant a kiss on his cheek. She winks. Then she’s gone, slipping through the crowd with a swagger in her step that suggests she’s not worried about the race. Not at all.
Julius: Getting to watch the voluptuous morsel swagger away dims some of the sting of her leaving.
“Gawd,” Julius exclaims to nobody in particular,
“Uh cap could git mighty used to binlookin at dat one.”
Saturday night, 19 March 2016, PM
GM: Peter Lebeaux catches Celia when she arrives at the Evergreen. Other Kindred are already filing in.
“Change of plans. Now’s a better time than after court,” says the Tremere detective, leading the way up to his office.
Celia: Change of plans. Those are never words she wants to hear. She wonders if she’s in trouble. Celia trails after him until they reach his office and closes the door behind the pair of them, settling into one of his chairs. She crosses one leg over the other. The hem of her rather short dress stays firmly in place.
“What’s up, Pete?”
GM: “Just more convenient,” says Lebeaux as he sits down.
“So what’s on your mind?”
Celia: “Meeting with your sire went well. Thanks for setting it up. Pretty sure he owns me forever now, though.” A slight grimace. “Actually, I have a question about that. Those statues in the garden—guardians, yeah?”
GM: Pete gives her a flat look.
Celia: “I’m not prying, I’m wondering if I’d be able to do something similar. I was working on a project.”
GM: “You might have noticed from the multiple scans and pat-downs that my clan takes security somewhat seriously, Celia. I’m not confirming or denying anything about the chantry’s defenses.”
Celia: “Mm, that burly one got pretty friendly with me,” Celia confirms with a grin.
“I won’t push, anyway. I’ll figure out the project on my own.”
GM: Pete gives a droll look at the description of his clanmate.
“That’s Doyle. Can’t keep his hands to himself.”
Celia: Celia heaves a sigh at him.
“Here I thought he found me cute, Pete. Breakin’ my heart.”
GM: “Somehow it mends itself, even though it seems to break every other time it’s in here.”
“Must be the rejuvenative effects of my scintillating personality.”
The Tremere’s voice is as dry as before.
Celia: “Well, sure, I knew I’d get to see you again.”
GM: “Should we have me say no after you try to set me up with your mother again, just to make this visit complete?”
Celia: “Is it because of what happened? ‘Cause listen, if you’re not into her anymore, I heard she’s got a cute daughter lookin’ for something a little more serious.”
GM: “I thought Emily had a boyfriend. Did they break things off?” Pete asks innocuously.
Celia: “Oh, sweetheart, I meant the little one. Lucy. Figured if I start asking now you’ll be ready by the time she’s eighteen.”
Celia beams at him.
GM: “Oh, of course. I’ll wait for her. I suppose we’ll just have to put a pause to all this talk for the next twelve years?”
Celia: “No, the plan is to wear you down. Or break you in.” Celia tilts her head, considering. Her eyes roam up and down his body—or at least what she can see above the desk. “Make sure you know how to treat her right when she’s of age and all.”
GM: “Absolutely. I’d say to find her a real man too.”
“Rightest way I can treat any lady.”
There’s less dryness in the Tremere’s response there.
Celia: “Even me, Pete?”
GM: “You’re serious,” Pete half-asks, half-remarks, eyebrows slightly raised.
“Especially you. That wouldn’t be at all wise.”
Celia: “No? Why not?”
GM: “You’re not my type. I like what we have. It’s categorically unwise to think with your pants around other licks. Particularly Toreador.”
Celia: Not his type.
There might be a flicker of something across her face, but it could just be a trick of the light. Whatever it is it’s gone in a flash. Celia smiles prettily. That’s what she’s good at.
GM: Perhaps Pete sees it. Perhaps he doesn’t. Either way, he frowns faintly as he asks,
“Why are you bringing this up now, anyway? For seven years you were set on setting me up with your mother.”
“And I’ve yet to meet a Toreador who considered anything off-limits.”
Celia: Probably because she doesn’t think Pete is the kind of lick to get mad at her and put her in the microwave.
She starts to open her mouth. Hesitates. Closes it again and shrugs. She doesn’t quite meet his eye, though. The pattern on the wall behind him is just so interesting.
GM: Roderick didn’t used to be that kind of lick either.
How did things get to that point?
Celia: She didn’t lie to him about his brother.
GM: “If there’s one thing I’ve learned, alive or dead, it’s that sex causes more problems than it solves,” says Pete.
Celia: “He saw me with Reynaldo. He got mad. I lied to him. He got more mad.” Another shrug, like it doesn’t matter. “Brujah, right?”
GM: “Brujah makes it worse, but there has to be some bad to begin with.”
Celia: “Sure. Like with Maxen.”
GM: “Lot more bad to your old man than ‘some.’”
Celia: “Mm. Lucky me.” She flashes him a humorless smile. “Anyway, hunters.”
“Followed up on that, uh, vision? Rite? The thing you did with the blood. ‘Glinko.’ Glynco. Glynn County. It’s up in Georgia. Law enforcement training center. Federal law enforcement.”
She’s surprised he hadn’t known considering his work in the field. But he’s not a fed, so she doesn’t ask about it. Maybe he had known and this whole situation was another one of those need-to-know things.
Which means she’s wasted time on it, if so. The thought irritates her.
“Apparently they’re recruiting. People bring ’em three licks and they get to go off to the fancy training center to join the team.”
“Reg said they seem like assholes. Which, y’know, is a lot coming from him.”
GM: Pete slaps his head.
“I’ve fucking been there.”
“Stupid not to have thought of that.”
“I’ll blame it on funny pronunciation.”
Celia: “And misspelling. I thought there was a K. No wonder I didn’t find anything.”
“Got it now, though. But you’ve been there?”
GM: “Yeah. It’s primarily for feds, but state and local agencies still send people there for training sometimes.”
“I went with some other NOPD folks. While ago.”
Celia: “They all secretly hunters now?”
GM: “Not to my knowledge.”
Celia: “And I assume nothing tipped you off while you were there or you’d have mentioned it to the right people by now. Could be new? Probably just super secret. Not like they’re telling every cop who walks a beat about it.”
“Kind of begs the question how much they know, though.”
GM: “Too much.”
Celia: “There’s a whole agency, Reg said. They were vague about it.”
“But they’re feds, Pete.”
“But, uh, there’s something else.”
GM: “Wouldn’t expect them to share more than they absolutely have to. But what?”
Celia: “Getting rid of licks isn’t their main objective. Or it is, but only in a roundabout way. I mentioned they’re recruiting. That’s why they were dismissive of the pair when we sent Tantal, since there’s always more of ‘em. Testing competence and dedication but going after ’small fries,’ like they’re basically just looking for the best ones to join them.”
“Reg didn’t ask about the other supes, but I figure maybe they’d know about them too.”
“So… all he has to do is bring ‘em another body and he can join. I’ve been thinking about maybe, ah, maybe getting a man inside.”
GM: Pete chews that over.
“That’s consistent with what the stake has picked up.”
“I don’t like this. They’re not testing and recruiting hunters just to collect them.”
Celia: “We could find out.”
“Send someone in if we don’t want to tip them off. Or grab them, maybe.”
“If they’re bold enough to attack strongholds in other cities… gotta assume it’s something big, Pete, right?”
“Even if they’re not the same group.”
“Did the stake say anything else?”
“Maybe the girl with it knows more? We could pick her up. Doesn’t give us a heads up when she makes a move on someone, though.”
GM: Pete shakes his head. “No. Stake could feed us intelligence for quite a while. That’s more useful than one hunter off the streets.”
“Getting someone to deliver three staked licks wouldn’t be overly hard. Real challenge with an inside man is what comes after. They’ll be far away from any support in Glynco. Flying blind and on their own. Lot of ways that could go wrong.”
“Still, it could yield a lot of intelligence.”
“More than we might be able to get any other way.”
“I’ll run the idea past Lord Savoy.”
“Something that big is his call.”
Celia: “Keep thinking of Reg, but… not sure how well it’d go, considering the renfield thing. Withdrawal would be messy. Could be nearby, I guess, but that’s got its own risks.”
“Didn’t say how long the program is.”
“Could always use the same identities, anyway, if we only want to give them one more body.”
“Reg said the next meeting is about a week out.”
“Not a ton of time, but enough.”
Celia: “Your sire mentioned a chantry in Atlanta, though.” Celia asks if he minds if she pulls it up on her phone; she remembers last time she’d whipped out the device in front of him. She doesn’t type the word “glynco” into the maps function, opting for “Atlanta” instead, and uses her fingers to scroll across the map of Georgia until she finds what she’s looking for.
“Close to the water, port city. Ah, damn, Atlanta is like almost five hours away. Savannah is closer. So is Jacksonville, looks like.”
Two fingertips zoom her in closer, looking at the surrounding area.
“Doesn’t look like there are any big cities nearby… some wildlife areas, parks, islands… Brunswick?” She taps the name. “Census says population of 16,000.”
“Little over sixty miles from the other cities. ‘Bout an hour drive time. Through, uh… probably loop territory? Don’t they like parks? Lotta green around it, anyway.”
She can fly, though. So there’s that.
GM: “Lot of factors to consider,” Pete says at her initial words. “Reggie wouldn’t be my first choice of inside man, though. Need someone with a better police temperament.”
He looks at the phone.
He gives a grunt. “You can turn that back off now.”
Celia: Celia does so.
GM: “We’ll work out the logistics if Savoy gives the operation the thumbs-up. Moot until he does.”
Celia: “Just thought it would be good to tell him everything all at once.”
GM: “It’s far from home, however we slice it. This would be much easier if they were based somewhere local.”
“On the other hand, Savannah’s or Atlanta’s Kindred might already know something.”
Celia: “And if not, they might be grateful.”
“You know anyone up that way? I know one of the Torries up in Atlanta. I think that’s where she’s from. Or, uh, maybe San Fran. Bit of a blur when we met.”
GM: “You don’t say,” Pete says dryly. “But no, I don’t. Lord Savoy probably does.”
Celia: “We danced, Pete.” Celia grins. “She’s very fast.”
“Can get an introduction, anyway. If he doesn’t know someone.”
Celia: “But, uh, yeah. Like you said. Moot to plan until he gives the go ahead.”
GM: “It’s an option to keep in mind.”
Pete glances down at his watch, then gets up from his seat.
“Court’s starting soon.”
Celia: Celia rises with him.
“Hey, Pete? Real quick. Before we go. You think he’s gonna let me help once things get moving?” She shuffles her feet, glancing down at her toes before back up at him. “I just… kinda want to be able to do something other than sleeping with people for him, you know?”
Celia: “And I’m supposed to see him tonight after the party. Should I tell him about this, or do you want to?”
GM: “If he thinks your help will be useful, yes. I’d convince him of that if you’re worried.”
Celia: “Yeah. Guess so.”
It’s not like she’d fought off the hunters, escaped, gotten their identities, helped kill three more, gathered their blood for a ritual, followed the lead, found the base, sent her people undercover with a skill very few licks have, given them the idea for the stake to gather more intel, brought back the phones that gave Pete new information and a hit list, stolen papers from Roderick to give to Savoy about another hunter attack and the Inquisition then replaced it with none the wiser…
GM: “I need to take off soon. You can tell him.”
Celia: “Sounds good. Be safe tonight with whatever you’re up to. I’ll let you go ahead of me so no one thinks we were being overly friendly in your office.”
Celia winks at him and follows him out.
She waits until he’s out of sight to send a text to Reggie to stop at her haven on the way back. There’s a box beneath the bed she’d like him to retrieve.
Then she’s off to join the court, a spring in her step and a smile on her lips.
Saturday night, 19 March 2016, PM
Celia: Jade finds a place to change for court. She could do it between court and the party, she knows, but she’s always liked to be prepared. She’d thought about doing it in Pete’s office, but no doubt he’d have told her that it isn’t the right place for that. Even if he was thinking about how he’d like to sink his teeth in. He definitely thinks she’s cute.
She tries not to take the rejection personally. She likes what they have, too. Most nights.
While she changes she fishes out her phone, sending a handful of texts.
A second to Reggie: Find it okay?
It being the boat.
To Alana: Makeup going well with our friend? Let me know when you arrive, I’ll do the finishing touches before the party. Have his outfit here. Yours too. :) ;) ♡
To a certain black Caitiff rapper who, like all rappers, has a penchant for loud and fast cars: You and Malik still tight? Might find him helpful tonight.
And to Randy, just to keep up the charade that she hadn’t been the one to cut his head off:
Hey. Haven’t heard from you. Still coming tonight? Need you babe.
GM: It’s going wonderful! Will do! Can’t wait to see them, love you! ♡ comes Alana’s near-instantaneous response.
Yep, comes Reggie’s text after a bit.
The rapper doesn’t reply immediately.
The drag racer, she’s pretty sure, is replying never.
Celia: Love you too, Celia texts back to Alana. With a handful of heart-eyes emojis. Too bad she already asked Dani to sleep over; she could use some fawning adoration from Alana after everything else that has been going on lately.
She hadn’t expected much of a reply from the rapper; Malik is his ghoul, no doubt they’re still “tight.”
She stares at the open conversation with Randy for a long moment and finally puts her phone away. He’s gone. He’s gone and he’s not coming back and it’s her fault.
It’s always her fault.
Everyone close to her will end up suffering the same thing. Maybe she should cut her losses with Roderick before either one of them dig the knife any deeper.
Or she could double down instead. Reach out to him about that ‘problem’ she has tonight, see if he wants to help. They’d never gotten around to talking about it even though she’d asked if they could and brought all her research and notes from the meeting with the Tremere.
She breathes a sigh that doesn’t do much to settle her nerves. Does she want to see him tonight? Does she want to invite him here when she’s going to ignore every direction he gave her?
She doesn’t know if she’ll have time to do his face. If she’ll have time to mark him. What’s he going to think when he sees her in the Mafia getup?
Don’t be someone else’s no. She’d told him that once.
So she breathes again, thinking that maybe one of these nights she’ll stop that useless habit, and sends him a text.
Never got to tell you that other thing. Kind of time sensitive. Could maybe use your help tonight but I get it if you’re busy.
GM: The response, which comes after a few moments, is short.
Have you done what I told you?
Celia: Uh which part?
GM: The friend you’re introducing me to.
Celia: Oh lol party hasn’t started yet but he’s def interested in meeting my friends. This is just unrelated but like I said no big if you’re busy.
Figured it was a long shot.
GM: You’ve arranged a time and place for the date?
Celia: No I think I mistyped? It’s happening I just don’t know what day.
GM: Did you somehow think I wouldn’t need to know what day?
Celia: Celia stares at the phone in her hands.
Nvm I’ll just see you tomorrow I guess.
GM: Go back and find out the day, Celia. You can see me early if you do that.
Do you remember what I said would happen if you didn’t arrange this?
Celia: Yeah. I know. Sorry. I’ll do this thing on my own tonight it’s ok.
GM: You’re playing more games, Celia. More manipulation. But as usual, simple reason and bullshit intolerance see right through them.
You will see him at tonight’s party. That party should be about to start. But you implied you saw him between now and our last conversation. You implied this without directly stating so.
So did you not see him, and then attempt to mislead me as to the extent of your progress, in hopes of getting to see me early?
Or did you see him and fail to do as I instructed?
Celia: Idk what you mean, I said the party didn’t start yet which means I haven’t seen him. I’m not trying to mislead you? I said he’ll be happy to meet my friend so it’s no big deal and that I’ll get a date for you. Sorry if I worded it weirdly. I’ll be more clear going forward. I wasn’t trying to intrude on your evening to break the rules or anything I’m sorry if it came off that way.
GM: So you said it was happening. Even though you hadn’t seen him. After I told you to set up a date. We don’t think that’s misleading, do we?
I hope you realize and appreciate just how little I trust you these days, Celia.
Celia: I’m sorry. I’ll do better.
GM: Arrange the date by our meeting tomorrow. If you are successful, I will be very happy and you will be rewarded. If you are unsuccessful, the thing I told you about will happen. Understood?
Celia: Got it.
I love you. I’ll see you tomorrow.
Love, she types, and desperately tries to feel it again.
Saturday night, 19 March 2016, PM
For private event
So reads the sign over the Evergreen Plantation’s front doors in stylish gold writing. The club’s regulars have long grown to accept that the Evergreen simply does not open its doors to the public on Saturday nights.
Some patrons take offense that the Quarter’s premier club is closed to them, for all their wealth and connections and means. Some patrons do not take no for an answer. They are not accustomed to being told ‘no.’ Some of these disgruntled patrons take their concerns directly to Leon Gressau. He always seems to have an answer for why the club is closed on Saturdays, and for why the ‘private event’ really isn’t their scene. He’d let them in if it was, of course.
Most such patrons walk away with their feathers smoothed and their pride assuaged. Mr. Gressau always knows just what to say.
But there have been a few would-be attendees of the Saturday ‘private events’ who were just so curious, so persistent, so entitled, that they could not accept ‘no’ for an answer. There have been even more would-be attendees who simply were not important enough to warrant Mr. Gressau’s time and personal assurances. These individuals often make themselves obnoxious to the Evergreen’s staff.
Mr. Gresseau only smiles and instructs his employees to allow these individuals entrance to the private event. Let them have what they wish.
Too late, they learn to be careful what one wishes for.
The Evergreen’s interior tonight is a place out of time. The Art Deco style of the early 20th century reigns supreme. Luxurious fabrics, sharp lines, mixed metallics, and rich color palettes give the décor an air simultaneously glamorous and eclectic. The floor is a black and white checker pattern. Several enormous white and gold vintage chandeliers composed of cut glass hang from the ceiling (each one still lit electrically). Drapes use shiny gold metallic fabric. Modernist art hangs along the walls. Brass combines everywhere with glass. Huge wall-to-wall television screens, currently set to mirror mode, make the space seem bigger than it is. Louis Armstrong jazz, always popular at the Evergreen, feels all the more period-appropriate as it plays from antique bronze phonographs (and perhaps more discretely located modern speakers).
It may be 2016 outside, but within the Evergreen’s walls, the 1920s are back.
Antoine Savoy’s court is more comfortable than Vidal’s. Spacious and comfortable seating is located throughout the room. Anachronistically garbed attendees lounge about on the sharp-angled Art Deco furniture. Pinstripes, coattails, bobbed hair, cloche hats, short dresses, and huge kohl-outlined eyes predominate.
Heroin chic pallid faces, though, remain timeless.
For all that Antoine Savoy might profess to do things differently than his archrival, attendees highest in favor (or greatest in presumption) sit closest to the center of power, like they do anywhere. The Lord of the French Quarter occupies a throne-like seat on an elevated dais at the center of the room, grinning as the attendees file in in their anachronistic garb.
The Toreador himself wears a midnight-blue worsted swallow-tailed coat trimmed with satin, and a pair of matching trousers, trimmed down the sides with satin ribbon. A white bow tie, unworn black silk top hat, white gloves, patent leather Oxford shoes, a white silk handkerchief, and white flower boutonnière complete the outfit. A signet ring bearing the Bourbon coat of arms remains in place on his right hand.
Preston quietly converses with her master. She’s one of the comparatively few female attendees not dressed like a flapper. She still wears a conservative dark skirtsuit, only by the era’s standards instead of the present. Its hem reaches all the way down to the knee.
Blood dolls make their rounds throughout the room, showing attendees to changing rooms or simply lounging alongside them and engaging in conversational foreplay before the inevitable occurs. Those who have previously made nuisances of themselves to the Evergreen’s staff speak the least and wear the most vacant smiles. Their fates are preordained. For now, though, no drinking is allowed.
Pleasure comes after business, even in the French Quarter.
Even when it is so intermingled.
Celia: She could have worn a flapper dress. Pearls, feathers, fringe, or peacocks, all of it dazzling and sparkling. No doubt even Veronica still has things from the era that she could have borrowed if she wanted to go authentic.
But every lick with tits is going to be in a flapper dress. The younger ones will put them on with wide eyes and giggles about the decadence of the “Gatsby” era and throw a feather boa around their necks and coif their hair to the side with one of those little cloche caps or knit caps with a flower on the brim.
Jade could have done that, too. Sequins and feathers and fur: she’d have made it look good.
She makes everything look good.
Like the ensemble she’d selected for the evening: a black high-waisted, hip hugging pencil skirt that goes no further than halfway down her thighs, a white form fitting collared shirt with half the buttons undone from the top, and a tiny half-jacket. Pinstripes. Suspenders over the shirt, under the jacket. A strand of off-white pearls adorn her throat, and a black fedora with a black satin band sits at an angle atop her tamed curls. Stockings rise up her long legs until they hit a garter, the thin line of it disappearing beneath the hem of her skirt. Black and white mary janes with blood red bottoms complete the look.
It’s a mix of feminine and masculine, a play on the typical “mobster” look from the 1920’s, but without the plastic Tommy Gun or tie. A moll, maybe. The kind who doesn’t need a man to hide behind and doesn’t get cheated on or smacked around in public. The kind who knows exactly what she wants and isn’t afraid to go for it.
Like a femme fatale. It’s there in the way she smiles with lips that have been stained crimson, and she doesn’t need to flash her fangs for people to get the message: mesmeric, deadly vixen.
She’d wondered, as she dressed, how much it would piss off her lover to see her draped in Mafia colors in an homage to Capone and every other family that he hates, everything that stands in his way of the picturesque, ideal world.
She hadn’t let it stop her.
Savvy Kindred might note that Jade had left with the warden wearing one thing and returned in another, a satisfied smirk in place. She nods to a few licks as she passes the rabble at court, striding through the sea of nobodies and “almost somebodies” to take a seat near Savoy’s opulent throne beside her favorite thief. She smiles prettily at one of the mortal troublemakers and waves him over to serve as cushion beneath her svelte form, cooing in absent delight at whatever mind numbing words he utters.
GM: Jade finds him sitting next to Veronica, wearing a pinstriped black and white suit with a fedora hat. A red silk tie and large, shiny gold watch encrusted with diamonds and several more jeweled rings add some further splashes of color and extravagance. So does a peacock feather tucked into the fedora’s band, gold buttons along the suit, and the red handkerchief tucked into the breast pocket. Jade’s not sure how period-authentic the entire ensemble is,
“Someone guessed the flapper look would be taken,” he remarks appreciatively, looking her up and down.
Celia: “Few enough licks who could pull it off as well as my sire,” Jade says with a nod toward the harpy in question, who indeed has outdone every other “flapper” in attendance with what is no doubt an original-era gown. She leans forward, plucking the peacock feather from his hat as she places a chaste kiss on his cheek with lip and fang.
“Takers keepers, cuz.” It finds a place on her head instead, tucked neatly into the satin band of the hat perched atop her curls.
GM: A 20something shirtless black man wearing similarly pinstriped pants presents himself for Jade to get comfortable on. He regards her with a vacantly pleased smile.
Celia: It’s not that Savoy’s choice of furniture isn’t comfortable. It’s that this man is warm and adoring and she’s going to have a drink with him later. From him. Whichever. She settles on his lap, idly plucking at one of the suspenders over his bare chest.
GM: Veronica, meanwhile, has pulled it off with an original-looking slim-figured mid-thigh dress, pearls, wavy bob cut, and the other accouterments of the age.
But she’s not been content to leave off with just those.
The first thing that’s different is the snake carcass. It’s around the length of a human arm and twisted in loops from her ankle up to her thigh. A blood-smeared (though not blood-smelling) apple is wedged into its open mouth. Twisting Bahari symbols are painfully carved along her exposed legs in reddened scar tissue. The pearl necklace is interspersed with Kindred-sized fangs. Finally, she’s foregone period-appropriate footwear for her usual stilt-high heels, these ones relatively ‘tame’ black mary janes that contrast with the violent bodily decorations above. They’d otherwise be period-appropriate if they were four or so inches shorter. They seem to say she could pull off this look better than any younger lick, but doesn’t care enough to. She’ll dress in the past and dress up the past with her favorite bits of the present.
Jade may wonder if it says anything that both ancillae aren’t even trying to get the period completely right. For that matter, neither is Savoy, with his Bourbon ring.
Micheal is also present. He’s dressed in an old-fashioned prisoner’s uniform: black and white horizontal stripes, replete with a matching cap and ball and chain around his leg. A leather mask with a bulging gag completely obscures his sight and prevents speech. His hands are cuffed together in some sharp and very nasty-looking period-appropriate cuffs. A thick iron collar and chain leashes him to Veronica’s side.
Celia: Of course it says something. Everything they do, every stray look, every piece of clothing and ornamentation—it all says something. It says something that she’s seated here, with them, rather than with the rest of the neonates who compete with her for recognition. It says something that her sire so loudly parades her bitch in front of all the licks inside the Quarter. It says something that Jade has perched herself on this breathing troublemaker.
Everything says something. Everything means something.
Amused eyes take in the bitch in question, overly long nails reaching out to tap against the leather gag that obscures his mouth.
“You look ravishing as ever, my sire. Have you thought further of my offer to borrow him an evening? I do so enjoy the way he screams at my gentle caress.”
GM: Pietro smirks as Jade steals the peacock feather.
“Few licks who can pull off anything as well as her. And I suppose I’ll have to steal something to replace that. Whoever loses an accessory can blame Jade. I was just a victim.”
Celia: “Poor, poor victim,” Jade agrees. She turns her attention from the bitch to the thief, fingertips sliding down the front of his pinstripe jacket. “Make a game of it with me? Whoever steals the most impressive thing wins.”
GM: Veronica doesn’t smile so much as sneer less at the two’s flattery.
Then she kicks Micheal, hard, in his flank.
The Brujah keels over and makes a muffled sound of pain past the leather.
The sneer returns.
“Feel free. The bitch doesn’t appreciate how good he has it sometimes.”
Celia: “I’ll come by to pick him up in a night or two,” Jade tells her sire. “He’ll be begging to get back home to you.”
GM: Micheal makes another muffled protest-like sound past the gag.
Veronica kicks him again.
Micheal groans again.
“Pain teaches, bitch. If you aren’t too stupid to be taught. Praise Lilith.”
Pietro, meanwhile, lays back and smirks as Jade’s lithe fingers start their mischief.
“You’re on. What does the winner win, besides the most impressive thing?”
Celia: Tempting to slide right onto his lap instead of this kine’s. She’s done it plenty of times, perched herself on the lap of older, stronger, more powerful licks. And she’s known Pietro since her first nights. Since before her first night. So it’s an easy decision to make, an easy glide from one man to the next, turning herself so she’s astride his thigh with her legs between his after she tells the breather to stay put. She nuzzles at Pietro’s neck with her teeth, then moves her lips to his ear.
“A secret,” she whispers, nipping at his flesh. “Or a favor.” She pulls back, mischief in her eyes as her fingers slide down his cheek. “Something fun, not the boring sort everyone else wants. I’ll keep you on your toes, darling.” She’s good for it, he knows. She’s done it before: they’ll both enjoy whatever she has in mind.
GM: The kine lets her go with a vacant stare.
Pietro’s lap seems much more welcoming. His hands disappear behind her head as she slides onto him. His fingers are so light. It feels like a breeze where he’s touching her.
It’s really too bad he won’t help her get off with those fingers.
“Let’s keep this interesting, then. The winner gets to pick either. Secret or favor.”
An equally familiar mischief dances in his eyes as he glances towards his cousin.
“Ronny, you can judge whose thing is more impressive if there’s a dispute.”
Veronica makes a noise like agreement as she kicks Micheal in the throat.
Celia: There’s a reason why she likes him so much, and this is it. On nights like these she wonders what it would be like to have been his childe rather than the other’s. Whether the affection he holds for her as surrogate “uncle” would spill over into a more familiar, more intimate relation.
Not that they need it to play.
Jade all but purrs as the thief’s fingers disappear around her head, wondering if he’s decided to begin by lifting the pearls from her very throat.
All the better to get a nip in, isn’t it? Not that he’d be so gauche as to drink from the same place as everyone else.
Jade keeps her arousal to herself, killing the human part of her that he’s so disgusted by. She seals their deal with another brush of fangs against his cheek, then glances down at the Brujah on a leash.
“Stupid can be taught. It just takes longer.”
GM: Veronica just sneers as Roderick’s broodmate gags and awkwardly raises his shackled hands to rub his throat. That earns a kick too.
“There’s nothing left to teach.”
Pietro just smiles, his own fangs showing, and hands Jade back her earrings. She never felt them come off.
“What is there to teach? You don’t do much with him these nights besides filling his holes with new things.”
“Maybe to be less stupid,” Veronica declares contemptuously. “Can you teach that?”
Celia: Jade mock scowls at the thief, sliding the studs back into the lobes of her ears.
“I suppose it’s all in what you want to do with him, isn’t it. Otherwise he’s just a waste of blood.”
GM: “I don’t think so,” answers Pietro.
“You could teach him to enjoy this.”
“What he now is.”
“I don’t want him to enjoy this,” answers Veronica.
She stomps the heel of her shoe over Micheal’s fingers.
The Brujah makes a low sound of pain.
“Clearly,” smirks Pietro.
Celia: “Strip him for parts,” Jade says, touching a finger to her chin. “I bet he’d turn into a nice pair of boots. Thigh high. Stiletto. Could put his eyes in the platform…” She trails off thoughtfully.
“I know just the lick.”
As if it isn’t her.
GM: “He used to at least be a source of muscle,” says Pietro. “He’s not really good for that when he’s always chained up.”
“What do you think about that, bitch? Would you like to be a pair of boots?” sneers Veronica, this time kicking him in his masked face. “We could cut off your legs. You’ll just regrow them anyway.”
“Maybe cut off your arms for gloves.”
“Maybe burn the stumps, too, so they don’t grow back.”
“Leave you staked in a basement somewhere, fed just enough juice to stay awake, and slowly go insane.”
Micheal just lies at her feet.
Celia: “I’ve been working on a new project you might find interesting,” Jade says to the harpy. “He’d be great for the research.”
GM: “Micheal Kelly contribute to research. Will wonders never fucking cease.”
Celia: Jade just smiles, nuzzling Pietro’s neck once more. Her fingers glide down his arm to unfasten the watch on his wrist while she distracts him with her teeth.
GM: Pietro seems happy for the distraction, but Jade finds his wrist bare.
“That’s attached lower down,” he remarks amusedly. “We didn’t keep them on wrists back then.”
Celia: “Further down,” she muses, moving her fingertips to his chest so she can slide them lower. “That an invitation, darling?”
GM: “Just the truth,” he smiles at the sight of Jade stroking down his chest. She finds the gem-crusted pocketwatch attached to a chain on his jacket. “And a lie, too. The ’20s were when wristwatches started to get really popular.”
“Returning soldiers from World War I, wasn’t it?” remarks Peter Lebeaux as he makes his way up to Savoy’s throne. He has on a vintage police uniform with shiny buttons and an ovular hat with a strap around his chin. A bobby club and revolver hang from his belt.
“Yes,” says Pietro. “It was obviously more convenient on a battlefield to have the watch secured to your wrist. So people back home copied it to look more soldier-like, more martial, more masculine.”
Celia: “Warden.” Jade purrs the word, wiggling her fingers at the Tremere as he passes. “Come play with us. I’ll be the robber to your cop.”
GM: “I’m afraid robbery isn’t even worth citing for here, Miss Kalani,” Lebeaux answers dryly as he approaches Savoy, murmuring something into the French Quarter lord’s ear.
Celia: “He doesn’t care that I stole your pocket watch, dear,” Jade whispers to the thief, wrapping the golden chain of the watch in question around her finger with a coy smile. “I s’pose we’ll need to move on to bigger things to get him to frisk us.”
She passes her ill-gotten gains back to him.
Celia: She can’t help but notice how dreadfully empty her grandsire’s lap looks this evening. Her eyes stay on the pair even as she tells Pietro that she “ran into his friend” and “showed him a good time” and “is looking forward to seeing him again soon.”
Julius: Before Jade’s ‘cousin’ can reply, all four of the Levee Hepcats cruise into the scene.
Tonight, the krewe’s leader is dressed in a double-breasted suit, with a houndstooth burgundy and white windowpane weave. The suit’s sack-jacket is straight and boxy, though its shorter cut and felt-backed, flanging peak lapels make clear its sartorial era. Its brass buttons feature an etched profile of a cat against a sunburst pattern, while its striped lining is fashioned of yellow, white, and brown silk. The suit’s matching trousers are straight-legged with turned-up cuffs, high-waisted, and hoisted by suspenders beaded with pale pink tourmalines. His sleeve-gartered dress shirt is coral in color, though its detachable round-club collar is moonflower white, pinned, and fastening a slim cherry, scarlet, turquoise, and white paisley necktie. These garments are further accented with a vintage 14-karat gold Hamilton Gilbert wristwatch; white wingtips, a similarly white homburg with ostrich feather accents; and a boutonnière with fragrant pink datura, night gladiolus, and evening primrose. Such attire, though, is currently swallowed by a giant raccoon fur-coat with a shawl collar, turned-up cuffs, and plentitude of pockets. That coat, though, does nothing to conceal Julius’ eyes. Rather, his gaze is shaded tonight by period-appropriate Crookes lenses with green calobar glass, brass, and black bakelite frames. A new gleam, however, graces his smile, as his top-left canine has a borderline gaudy glued-on diamond.
That gemstone-flashing smile presently falls upon the krewemate currently hanging on his long trombonist arm.
Despite lacking a legitimate sire, Justine Chaudrier clearly displays her Toreador clanship if not artistic panache tonight as she wears a gold lamé coat printed with abstract roses in varied shades of ivory, crimson, and caramel, with black velvet shirred and padded collar, cuffs, and lining. Beneath that wrap-style coat half-hides a knee-length mauve silk Georgette dress with a matching silk slip. That dress is trimmed with bands of self-fabric-pleated ruffles at the waist, skirt, and along the outside of each sleeve from elbow to wrist. A self-fabric bow on the left shoulder and dropped waist sash are finished with pale diamond, celestine, and morganite jewel ornaments. Said jewels match her Art Nouveau long-drop earrings, brown bakelite bangles, and sparkling filigree rings. For foot apparel, she wears burgundy Mary Janes whose heels are sultry enough for the silver screen but sturdy enough for street dancing. Meanwhile, her head is decorated with a shimmering skullcap of gold metallic lace and rhinestones that beautifully contrast with her inky hair and obsidian skin.
Beside her, Justine’s fellow Toreador and krewemate also arrives in chic era-appropriate garb. In Arthur Duchamps’ case, it’s a throwback tweed suit in a lime-cream plaid pattern with a matching scoop vest, side-vented jacket, sharp peak lapel, and patch pockets. No pocket-watch graces the latter; instead, Arthur’s timepiece is an authentic (or authentic-looking counterfeit) of a 1923 Hamilton watch, complete with stainless steel band, gold filigreed case, and radium-painted hands and numbers. His other hand bears a bas-relief hematite Intaglio ring on his pinky, whose dark stone mirrors the iridescent hue of his Parisian Charvet silk-print necktie. That tie is framed by his ivory-white shirt, which features a stiff round-edge club collar, with mother-of-pearl collar buttons that match his shirt-studs and cufflinks. Arthur’s look is finished with brown-and-blonde wingtip Spectactors; a gray Merino wool fedora with a black grosgrain ribbon and tan leather brim-band; and a double-breasted herringbone topcoat with a shearling collar, belted back, welt pockets, horn buttons, and olive bemberg sleeve-lining.
The Hepcats’ last member is dressed—or perhaps half-undressed—in a dark pink silk robe over a pale gold crepe de-chine slip. The former has a full straight cut, side panel under-arm, and high hip snap-closure, with black silk trim on the robe’s slim batwing sleeves, neck, and front edges. The latter garment has net-lace silk appliqué and re-embroidered flowers, asps, and scrolls, with lingerie straps, a straight top, dropped waistband, and an attached skirt wrapped to create a double layer with an open back. A Sautoir of Chanel pearls casually coils around her neck, looping over her shoulder such that its azure-blue tassel teases the curve of her silk-clad ass. In contrast to her typically rustled hairstyle, Laura’s dark locks are presently pressed into sinuous, serpentine finger curls, with a single obelisk drop-earring whose Art Deco Egyptian Revival motif matches her 14-karat gold ring with its turquoise-carved scarab and hieroglyphics-enameled lotuses. That hand also bears a long, white and black vaping stick crafted to resemble a cigarette with an opera-length holder. Oddly—or perhaps not so oddly for a Gangrel—her feet, however, are bare.
The krewe gives a collective nod to the three seated Toreador, particularly the two ancillae—though in Laura’s case, it’s more a bob of her smoke-issuing ‘cigarette’ than her head.
After greeting each of those Kindred by name (with the Brujah ‘bitch’ being passed-over), Julius gives another individual, sweeping bow to Veronica, his white homburg doffed with a Vaudeville flourish, as he says:
“Da hunerd years lookin rite fine on yo’…. everywhere, ma’am.”
Celia: It’s hard for the licks to overlook Jade, perched as she is on Pietro’s lap. She pretends the nods are for her and catches Melton’s eye, tossing the Gangrel a lascivious wink.
GM: Everyone at the Evergreen tonight has put a lot of effort into their outfits.
They have the money.
They have the memory.
They have the motivation.
There’s nowhere better than a gathering of vain, peacocking, wealthy, and nostalgic immortals to transport oneself a century back into the past. The costumes are all but perfect, at least on the older Kindred.
Then Julius and the Hepcats come in.
And show everyone else how it’s done.
Faint oohs and ahs from the outermost seats greet the results of Julius’ handiwork. The attention to detail. The careful selection of every article and accessory. The brass buttons. The Hamilton wristwatch. The diamond tooth. The rose coat. The Art Nouveau jewels. The tweed suit. The morher-of-pearl cufflinks. The period-authentic (still extant, but declining) Egyptomania. The opera-length cigarette holder.
What is there to say?
It’s perfect. It’s all perfect. Even those who know the knockoff king for what he is cannot tell what is vintage and what is a modern recreation. It’s the mark of a true master, Savoy once told Julius—to fool someone even when they think you’re trying to fool them.
The Hepcats’ outfits look more authentic than the Kindred actually from that era.
And why should they not? Memory is fallible. Memory is subjective. The past is a fluid and fallible thing even to those who were there for it. It’s given shape and form only by the hands of craftsmen. Storytellers. Illusionists.
And Julius is a maestro among those illusionists. Where the younger licks ooh and ah over the authenticity of the Hepcats’ outfits, the older Kindred are silent and contemplative. They see someone who has claimed the past they so proudly wore like a royal mantle. They see something new who has draped it even more resplendently about his own shoulders. They see someone who has seized power thought barred to clanless whelps bereft of any past or history—and who now wields it even more adroitly than they do. They see someone who has laid claim to their past and made it his.
Because his clothes are better.
It seems silly, to the young and the ignorant. Mere peacockry.
But to those with the eyes to see and the enduring Requiems to know, the conclusion is as apparent as the diamond glint in Julius’ mouth:
This Caitiff is not to be taken lightly.
Veronica’s smoldering eyes take in Julius. The harpies have never have been kind to any Caitiff, nor has this harpy been kind to this Caitiff. Julius has heard more than one cruel barb from her perfect lips on how the best this clanless trash can do is ape the creative labors of others. Pathetic. Fitting, but still pathetic.
Those have mostly stopped since the Anarch split. Bad practice, to dunk too hard on the court musician of one’s new patron.
But a Caitiff’s choices are rarely good and bad options—merely bad and worse.
And for all this fellow jazz musician’s snide remarks, they paled against the venom spat and the subtle cruelties devised by her jazz-hating cousin Katherine.
Bad and worse indeed.
Then Veronica’s lip pulls back in something like a smile, like she and Julius are friends.
“You don’t look too bad yourself, gleamfang.”
Celia: She’s not ignorant of the entrance he made with his krewe, so much louder than the way she’d slipped through the crowd on her own. She’s not immune to the way the younger licks get quiet as they pass, or how even Veronica and Pietro fall silent for a moment as he approaches. And that almost-smile on her sire’s lips.
Twice in two nights that he’s stolen the spotlight from her, isn’t it?
And yet who did he come to when he had fun things to share, and who did he ask for a sliver of her domain? Who had he endured to be on his lap while she played her games and riled him up while she whispered and murmured in his ear scant half an hour ago, just as she does now to the Toreador beneath her.
Jade’s eyes dance across the four-large krewe, idly cataloguing items for her game, and after she winks at Melton she focuses her eyes on their leader.
“Saved you a seat, Jules,” she says at last, nodding her chin to where the breather she’d corralled earlier sits. A motion of her hand has the man on the floor, settled between her legs “like a good boy,” she coos at him, petting his head. Astride Pietro as she is, there’s enough room for one more to join their little party.
Quid pro quo and all that.
GM: Laura’s kohl-lined turn up in a sly smile as she blows a kiss at Jade.
Celia: “Have a seat for you too, sweetling,” Jade says to the Gangrel, lifting a hand to rub across her face.
GM: “I’m sure you have a lot more than that,” purrs the Gangrel as she deftly saddles atop the lap of the already lap-seated Jade.
Yet, as the second Hepcat assumes an invited seat, an invisible line is crossed, casting the others’ status suddenly into question. Veronica’s smoldering eyes burn hotter as they settle first upon Justine, drawing stares from Harlequin, Pietro, Reynaldo Gui, and Shep Jennings.
The younger Toreador approaches no closer. It is well that she does not as Veronica sneers,
“Rats sit in the back.”
Laughter sounds from the nearby Kindred.
Celia: There’d been no invitation for the others. Surely no one is ignorant enough to have missed that.
Jade doesn’t speak up as they go, watching in idle amusement. As if they’d get to sit among this gathering. It’s only Melton’s prior interactions with Jade that gets the lick an invitation to the party near the throne.
Her hand wanders up the Gangrel’s thigh, lips busy at her neckline.
GM: Arthur does not try to reach beyond his station. For now. At least so visibly. Already hanging behind the others, he moves to find a seat around the middle. Perhaps closer than he might normally. Still, there’s a familiar (to Julius) bitterness in his eyes.
Celia: “I have a surprise for you later,” Jade whispers to the lick on her lap.
Julius: If Julius’ shaded eyes could speak, they’re whispering ‘in time’ to the young Toreador from the Little Easy. To Justine, those same Crookes-shaded eyes offer a different, but not too different, refrain:
In Savoy’s time. Prince Savoy’s time.
But in the meantime, the Caitiff turns back to the seated Toreador, and joins them. Perhaps for him, it’s finally ‘his time’. Longinus knows he’s put in his own time at the back of the bus.
Homberg still in hand, he bows again at the harpy, smiling:
“Not lookin too bad is dollahs to dinnah too generous comin from uh jass legend, like you’s.”
He then bounces the hat off his bicep, setting it atop his head to give another dip of its brim. Next, Julius smoothly slides off his raccoon coat and drapes it over his ‘seat’ in a swirl of fur. Turning to Jade, his literal diamond smile shines:
“An ma thanks too, shug, fo’ yo most kind invitation.”
And it is kind—especially given how their last social exchange started. The large man then squats down on his now-‘upholstered’ seat, silently hoping it holds. Settling in, his smile continues as he adds:
“Though I reckon me, dat Lollie rightchere don got da bettuh sittin.”
He chuckles, then, “But I den suppose dat maybe it’s Mr. Silvestri who’s bin gots da best seat.”
He offers a complimentary smile at the Italian.
Celia: “His wandering hands would assuredly agree with you, Papa Juj,” Jade says to the Caitiff, her own busy with Miss Melton. Now he’s got a pair of them for double the good time.
GM: “I love surprises,” Melton answers with a giggle.
The kneeling man almost buckles under Julius’ considerable weight, but doesn’t protest. The Caitiff’s ‘seat’ feels shaky.
The metaphor is obvious.
Veronica’s ego looks stroked at ‘jazz legend’, though she looks even more amused by the kine struggling under Julius. She kicks her feet over Micheal’s back.
Pietro smirks from underneath the two ladies. He turns over Melton’s Sautoir of Chanel necklace in his hands, though no one saw him remove it.
“This one looks genuine. Interspersing forgeries among the reals is what I’d do.”
“You mean what you do do?” Melton smiles winsomely.
“That too,” agrees Pietro.
Celia: Pleased with the turn of events—lack of attention from Gui withstanding—Jade doubles down with the attention she demands from the pair she’s sandwiched between, passing time with idle strokes and fondling that promises a better time once the party is started in earnest.
Julius: Julius’ smiles takes on a different tone at Pietro’s implied praise and related question.
“You’s got dat rite bout interspersin,” he says, “Da pearlz are da real thang, wus part of strings wid settin’s done by Duke Fulco di Vedura in ‘28, but da settin’s done got broke an da loose pearlz wus sold on iBid fo’ biscuits. Dat dere settin is a replica, but da tassel’s all ma doin. Trick’s in usin old silk dat I got from uh antique throw pillow from da Mint dat got ruined by Kat.”
He pauses a moment, as if considering the other precious things ruined by the hurricane.
But such dark musings pass as his smile returns. “But dey say uh magician shouldn’t evah give away his secrets, so maybe I’m jus lyin through my lips.”
Celia: “Mm, Pietro knows all about that. Magicians not giving away their secrets.” Jade shoots the Toreador in question a look. He’d said the same the first time they met.
GM: Jade receives attention, caresses, and fang-drags in spades from the other two licks. Where Laura lets her Beast rise to the surface, losing herself in kisses and touches, Pietro answers,
“Old antiques to make new antiques. It’s a good idea whether you did it or not.”
“It doesn’t matter whether you did it or not. Jade’s always been curious how magicians do their tricks, but one of my countrymen had a quote. ‘Illusion is perhaps the only reality in life.’”
Celia: Lucky Jade that Pietro had finally shown her some of those secrets.
Julius: Julius nods at Pietro’s remark, rubbing a hand along the raccoon upholstery. “Or as uh certain jass-man done said, ’Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there’.”
“But den, music is magick, if it’s da gud kind.”
Turning to Veronica, he then adds, "An speakin of magical music… I’s wus wonderin, should Lawd Savoy, da Hawt Licks, an da rest of us po’ caps an dawls, git da noive to look fo’ward to lissenin to yo’s buttah-lip-liscious pipes tonite?”
GM: “I haven’t decided if I feel like it,” the harpy answers airily, turning away from a conversation with Harlequin and Gui. As far as Julius knows, Veronica hasn’t been specifically scheduled to sing. That isn’t uncommon at the Evergreen or other Kindred parties, though, for musically inclined licks to drop in and out as they feel like it.
Kindred musicians are even more temperamental than living ones.
“I’d need someone to look after my bitch, too.”
Julius: Julius’ smile becomes demure, “Well, uh lady’s got to do what she rite feels like doin. As fo me, I jus wud feel real rite by later lissenin to uh stuffy op’ra has-bin hear how you’s blew off da roofs an all da pants ritchere at dis party.”
“As fo someone mindin yo bitch, I reckon me dat I jus dun overheard how uh certain young delicious dawl wus achin to hold his lease fo’ uh while.”
His face—if not shade-covered gaze—glances meaningfully in Jade’s directions.
Celia: Jade seems to have a sixth sense for when licks are talking about her. She pulls her attention away from Melton and Pietro, nodding in accord with Julius’ words.
“I’ll keep him nice and pretty for you, Ronnie.”
GM: The dig against Katherine earns a curl of Veronica’s lip.
She drops Micheal’s leash on Jade’s lap, tugs down his black and white pants with one hand, then drives the heel of her shoe up his asshole. The Brujah gives a muffled cry and buries his face against the ground as Veronica twists it around and then pushes it deeper with a bored expression.
Celia: Jade picks up the offered leash, amusement dancing across her face at Veronica’s treatment of Micheal.
“I can take him tonight,” she offers, “if you really want me to find a use for him.”
GM: “A useful purpose for Micheal Kelly. That should be hard,” the harpy sneers, twisting around the heel in another rotation.
Celia: She can think of several, most of them involving removing the skin from his limbs. She favors her “sire” with a smirk and caresses the leash between her fingers.
Julius: Julius chuckles, “Well, by ma count, dat’s one impediment dun wid… now’s we jus gotta see if uh gawddess of jass will take to da stage as she bin did during da first Roarin Twenties.”
“If she did, though, I wonder, what lick wud it be? May-haps something from da old vinyls of Sweet Barrett or Lizzie Miles, or something cut wholecloth?”
He gives a clearly feigned shrug of nonchalance, before rising. Giving another doffed homberg-bow to the harpy, he adds, “But no mattah, Papa Bleu an da Hawt Licks will be ready to aid da goddess if she be havin da rite _feelin.”
Turning back to Jade, the jazzman says, “Meanwhile, Jade, I’ll be swappin dis ‘seat’ rite here for dat one.”
He motions to the nearby unoccupied inanimate chair. Lifting the raccoon coat off the spine-strained man, Julius drapes his fur outerwear over the chair’s back before re-seating himself with a diamond-studded smile.
“No offense, boo, but dis one sweats less ovah da furs.”
So resettled, Julius and the other Kindred notice the arrival of another predator.
Cletus: True to the themed decade’s sobriquet, Don Cletus Lee Boggs literally roars into the party, chauffeured in a ’28 Duesenberg J. As the antique luxury car slows down before Savoy’s establishment, the automobile’s sleek lines and chrome accents gleam and purr like a supine Art Deco goddess draped in naught but diamonds and moonlight. A liveried footman opens a rear door to that opulent vessel, allowing the Inviato of Clan Giovannini to slide out and wade into the soiree with all the predatory grace of Bayou Bonfouca’s infamous albino alligator.
Tonight, the Sindaco of Slidell is, much like his transportation, an anachronistic if well-heeled sight. Rather than thrift-store overalls stained with blood, barbecue sauce, and cannibalistic lard, the Dunsirn-descended ancilla presently wears a seersucker suit worthy of its Persian name of ‘milk and sugar’. The bespoke suit’s two-toned stripes keenly mirror the vampire’s ivory skin and blowtorch-blue eyes. Accenting the emblematically southern suit is a pair of scallop-buttoned gloves and boot-shod sprats the shade of fresh-frenzied blood, monogrammed cufflinks and a collar-pin made of opal and gold, and a green-and red pocket-square whose tartan cloth matches his bowtie and the ribbon around the straw boater jauntily crowning Cletus’ head.
Notwithstanding such high class, if century-old, accoutrements, only fools miss the monster lurking under tonight’s sartorial masquerade. Inhuman and inhumane, here is a monster of hard, rangy lines of taut muscles, coiled puissance, and barely simmering savagery. Unblinking eyes burning bright and hungry as acetylene. Sepulchral flesh slick with the night’s humidity and the palpable scent of libido and heat lightning. A mesmerically feral, fanged smile that teases supple lips and promises pleasure, pain, perdition. The strange melange of peckerwood perversion, Southern aristocracy, and undying sociopathy.
Surveying the scene, the monster flashes a moonshine smile.
“Well kiss my go-to-hell if this party rightchere hain’t busier than a one-legged cat in a sandbox!”
The Capo of St. Tammany Parish stalks through the crowd, flashing fanged smiles and giving hearty backslaps that would better pass for a full-throttle jackhammer rather than a greeting, at least if he were amidst mere mortals.
Regardless, the monster carves his way to the inner circle, where he takes off his boater mid-gentlemanly bow to the party’s host.
“Lord Savoy, forgive a feller fer ahootin’ and ahollerin’, but I must say: yer party and yerself are lookin’ finer than froghair done split four ways!”
Celia: It’s quite possible that Jade had some witty repartee to sling back at the musician after he abandons her offered chair, but whatever it is will need to be uttered another night as the opening door and arrival of another guest steals the breath from her dead lungs. Even warned that he’d been coming there’s still no “getting ready” for the arrival of the cannibal from Slidell, and she’s not the only lick whose eyes dart towards the newcomer. Nor, she’s sure, is she the only lick whose eyes then proceed to rake him from head to toe, taking in every piece of finery he wears, every accoutrement, every era-appropriate garnishment upon his frame.
Been a while, hasn’t it, since the Giovannini stalked into the halls of Vidal’s court with a carcass slung over his shoulder and accusation in his eyes.
Dibs, she thinks, as if any of the rest of them have a chance against Jade Kalani, Veronica’s childe. Shame that she’s already sandwiched between the two licks as she is; she’d show him a warmer welcome if not. She settles for the unflinching gaze of a lick who knows what she wants when she sees it, a smile tugging at the corners of her lips that answers his promise of pleasure and pain with one of her own.
All the same, she displaces the Gangrel on her lap with a murmured word of apology, rising in her Mafia-esque getup as the blue-eyed monster passes them by. The lift of her hand is aborted before it begins, waiting for him to finish with her grandsire before she thinks to summon him to their circle of “haves” amidst the wider range of “have nots.”
Julius: It’s hard to say whether Jules follows Jade’s gaze, or just follows the object of that gaze. It’s even harder to know what the Caitiff might be thinking about the non-Camarilla ancilla who could be a poster-child of the Knights of the White Camelia.
Regardless, such thoughts are swiftly derailed, as Julius’ krewemate is de-seated. To her, the jazzman motions with a long-fingered hand at the still-prostrate ‘man-seat’ as well as his own lap:
“Cain’t say why da music stopped, shug, or if either of dese udder chairs might be as musical…”
Celia: “I just wanted a better look,” Jade huffs at Julius. Indeed, even in heels she’s on the shorter end of the spectrum, but she resumes her seat on Pietro’s lap all the same. Her eyes cut to the other Mafiosa in the crowd.
Julius: “Well den, dats an awrite reason to pause da music,” Julius replies nonplussed.
GM: The shirtless man collapses with (physical) relief as the bulky quarterback turned undead jazz musician finally gets off.
The seat was wobbly anyway.
GM: Cletus’ entrance elicits stares and looks of a different variety than the Hepcats’. He’s dressed well, but not so well for his garb to be the talk of the hour. Instead, the lick himself is. Cletus Lee Boggs, prince of Slidell. A lick with you do not fuck.
The Giovannini receives his warmest welcome, as the necromancers always do, from clan and kin. Don Vico, his childe Lucy, and Catfish Freddy are sequestered in their own corner of the room, simultaneously among yet distinctly apart from the mass of Camarilla licks.
Vico and Freddy return the backslaps with sapling-felling clouts of their own, and Lucy offers a more ladylike extended hand, but none of the three’s greetings take overly long or distract Cletus from his approach of the evening’s host.
“Inviato Boggs!” exclaims the white-garbed French Quarter lord, breaking off from his silent conversation with Preston and Lebeaux to greet the evening’s guest with a broad smile.
“To forgive requires that a sin be committed, and what sin is there in so warm a greeting and such kindly offered words? Far from requiring forgiveness, your presence betters this humble gathering, and may now permit it to begin in earnest!”
“I dare say our chosen color becomes us both, too,” he chuckles, his gaze passing between the two Kindred’s distinctly cut but identically colored suits. “In fact, I think I recall you also wearing that suit for… ah, yes… the great party of ’44?”
The half-milllennial anniversary of Clan Giovannini’s overthrow of the Cappadocians.
Boston’s worth might have eclipsed New Orleans’ in Genoa’s eyes. Then as now.
But no one doubted which branch of the clan threw the better party.
“That was a party to remember,” grins the French Quarter lord. “Here is to many more such memories formed tonight!”
Melton huffs with displeasure as Jade dislodges her for a look at Cletus and settles herself onto Julius’ lap with a whisper in his ear.
But she’s still sitting closer to the throne than normal.
Saturday night, 19 March 2016, PM
GM: “I can’t believe she dumped me, to stare at another lick. I don’t like her anymore, Jules,” the ‘Gangrel’ pouts.
Julius: Julius chuckles quietly at Melton.
“Somehow, shug, I think you’s gonna survive—well except fo’ da fact dat you’s, me’s, an all da udders is already dead.”
Smiling, he adds, “Sides, I bet her lap will come round gain.”
He shifts slightly, as if aligning them both to better glance at their krewemates in the corner of their eyes. “But how bout dose two? How dey ain’t gonna pout? How dey gonna feels like we didn’t dump dem?”
GM: Melton gives another initial hmph.
“No room for rats,” the ‘Gangrel’ shrugs. “She’s never gonna sit up here. We already lucked out that we got to, didn’t we?”
Julius: “Justine’s ain’t no thin-blood, but uh true an through Rose. She just ain’t got no blood-mama or -daddy.” He gestures lightly at the Italian Giovannini. “Dem? Dey step outta da Quartah, an da prince’ll curb-stomp ‘em cus he don’t like ‘em. Ain’t no different den how it is wid Justine. Or say, da Setites. I cain’t imagine you’d be walkin up to Don Vico or da Ministry’s grand poo-bah an callin dem Rats.”
GM: “Yeah, but they got puissance,” says Melton.
“I called that bad boy a rat,” she says with an appreciate glance at Cletus, “I bet he’d make me really regret it.”
“What it all comes down to, doesn’t it?”
Julius: “F’sure,” he says, giving her a slow, yet almost violently coiling, embrace. Tickling her neck with his diamond-studded fang, he ever-so slightly adjusts her glancing gaze to fall upon Savoy. “Which is why we done back his play fo’ power, cus he’s gots it, an when he gits mo’, so do we. As prince, he’d have the power to turn a rat into a rose, which wud be a purdy trick if you’d bin askin me’s.”
GM: Melton giggles as the Caitiff’s so-strong arms encircle her. She leans in close, brushing her own fangs across his cheek as her fingers encircle his cherry- scarlet-turquoise-white paisley necktie and give it a playful tug.
“No purdier than the ones he’s pulled off so far,” smiles Melton. “It’s just been win after win after win lately, hasn’t it? The hardasses and their poor bishop…”
“Justine just has to wait a lil’ longer. I don’t think it’s gonna be very long.”
“And then the rat will be a rose.”
Julius: “An what den will you’s be, hmm?” he asks in a liquid, bullfrog-bass whisper even as his long, vice-like fingers caress the appliqué of her silk slip, tracing its flowers, scrolls, and snakes.
GM: Does she know he knows?
“Happy for Justine, not least of all,” smiles Melton, twisting her fingers along the tie’s folds.
“And happy for me, too. I expect Prince Savoy’s going to make this city a lot more fun for licks like me.”
Julius: “Well, happy is uh gud bit bettah den da alternative,” the Caitiff answers no longer in a whisper, even as one of his hands slithers beneath her mauve robe to the exposed back of her slip. There, that hand kneads her flesh like a content if increasingly hungry cat.
Does she know?
Does he care?
After all, the knockoff mogul has little scruples about counterfeits—so long as they are profitable.
Saturday night, 19 March 2016, PM
GM: Gui, meanwhile, remains engrossed in conversation with Harlequin and Shep Jennings. He’s regarding the latter with a bemused look while Harlequin giggles and holds a gloved hand to his painted lips.
Celia: Why, she wonders, does everyone need to get their panties in a wad because she’d stood up for thirty whole seconds to get a better look at the new guy. It’s not like she’d shoved the bitch off her, just literally gotten to her feet after she’d excused herself. Hadn’t moved. Hadn’t taken steps. Hadn’t told the Gangrel to get lost. They’d both been standing in the same space, right up against each other.
Julius gets an annoyed look from where she’s resettled on Pietro’s lap for his interference. This is the last time she’ll invite him to sit with them.
Julius: At the moment, Julius’ attention seems diverted away, perhaps back to his twice distanced krewemates—or perhaps he’s staring at the Giovannini. It’s hard to say. There’s a lot to stare at.
Cletus: Cletus, meanwhile, beams back at Savoy. If lips could ruefully wag, the Boggs’ patriarch might, as if playfully conceding Savoy’s better turn of phrase—and praise.
“To such memories, and mo’, ma ever-gracious friend! May we be happier tonite and tomorrow den ol’ Yeller layin’ on the porch chewin’ on a big ol’ bucket of catfish heads. And with yerself as our host, hain’t been any other way!”
With that de facto toast, he bows again to Savoy, before playfully leaning in as if to kiss Preston in greeting. Only the vigilant notice the Giovannini uses the act to whisper something to the Bourbon’s innermost circle, and only the most vigilant can make out that whisper:
“Day I say the only right proper way to repay yerself fer dis party is to be done hostin’ one meself. Been lookin into a venue in Concordia. Perhaps later y’all might wanna shuck some corn and whittle out an invite list?”
Pulling back, Cletus smoothes his straw boater back on his head. He doesn’t wait for a reply—not now or here—but rather carves his way back to his clan’s corner.
Julius: Ironically, such occurs just as Julius’ attention returns to the room’s inward circles. Jade and the others nearby likely notice as Julius’ arms coil around Melton’s much smaller frame, his diamond-studded fang tickling her neck. As he does so, he whispers again in her ear—perhaps another sweet nothing—or maybe an unsweet something.
Either way, Julius’ eyes peer over his downturned shades at Jade, with a look that could be apologetic or inviting—or both—depending on one’s perspective.
GM: Cletus’ seeming-almost-kiss, for all those caveats, still draws its shared of amused looks. The inviato even hears, “…thing for him,” from someone, though the Malkavian’s face remains all-business.
Savoy grins widely at Cletus’ idea and makes a flourishing motion in the direction of the latter’s clan in seeming agreement—they’ll discuss this later.
“Hear that, Nat? We’d better let Mr. Gui know to get started on some names!” exclaims the Toreador as Cletus withdraws.
“Very well, sir.”
Melton, meanwhile, giggles as the Caitiff’s so-strong arms encircle her. She leans in close, brushing her own fangs across his cheek as her fingers encircle his cherry- scarlet-turquoise-white paisley necktie and give it a playful tug.
Pietro pulls Jade fully back onto his lap, smirking as his arms descend around her and he preemptively ‘steals’ her from a possibly returning Melton. His murmur sounds in the younger Toreador’s ears.
“I’d say I knew he couldn’t keep his dick out of you, but that’s like saying I know it’s going to rain again.”
The thief smirks.
“What was he like in bed?”
Celia: Jade only has long enough to wonder if the Caitiff and his new lap ornament are talking about her—good things? bad things? what does that look mean—before Pietro’s deft fingers make the decision on relocating or not for her. Even the cannibal’s loud entrance and actions become nothing but background noise when she finds herself curled on the thief’s lap, held securely within the circle of his arms. His lips against her ear threaten to send shivers down her spine. She giggles at the soft touch, turning her face toward him to respond in kind.
“Eager,” she says with a smirk of her own, recalling how the cop had fumbled to keep up with them both. “Inexperienced. I could tell when he kissed me that it had been a while for him, but he was more than happy to let me lead and show him what goes where. Very generous, too. He made sure ’Lana and I both had our share of attention.”
“Made noise about not looking for something long term, but I suspect after that show he’s hungry for more.”
“He mentioned you,” she adds coyly.
GM: Pietro is more than happy that keep Jade entertained with his fearher-light fingers, especially at that news. They’re like whispers along her skin.
“I told you he has a giant hard-on for me. He’s like a dog with a bone.”
“He actually mentioned me around you and Alana?”
The thief smirks.
“Not the sort of topic you pick up girls with.”
Celia: “Mm,” Jade says absently, flicking her tongue across her lips. “Out of practice. Told me about how he almost drowned in prison during Katrina, too. Not exactly a panty-dropper of a story.”
GM: “So he was out of practice. But he wasn’t looking for sex?”
“That’s funny. Wonder why.”
Celia: “Said he’s not really looking.” Now that Pietro mentions it, though, she did have to work rather more than usual to get him to agree to fuck. “Avoided mentioning he’s a cop. Wouldn’t let me see his car.”
Hadn’t even wanted road head.
GM: “Mm That’s not surprising he wouldn’t say he’s a cop. Lot of them don’t.”
“Try to keep their work lives and ‘civilian lives’ separate.”
“Sometimes criminals send girls to sleep with cops. Snoop on them or get them in trouble.” He smiles.
Celia: “You mean like you did,” Jade says wryly.
GM: “Yes,” the thief agrees without missing a beat. “Lots of ways people can try to fuck with known cops off the job.”
“They have their own bars in some cities. Cop bars.”
Celia: “I suppose I’ll just have to show him that I only want to fuck him rather than fuck with him.”
GM: “Wonder what’s up with his car.”
“Detectives on the take make all right money.”
Celia: Jade shrugs. “First contact. My goal was to get him into bed and make sure he didn’t forget me. I can dig into other things now if you’re curious.”
“Maybe he’s not, though. On the take. Reynaldo said he’s not really part of the family or something.”
Hard to remember what he’d said when the three of them had been busy fucking.
GM: Pietro laughs.
“Every fucking cop is on the take.”
Celia: “Apparently. One of my girls had a run-in last week with some.”
GM: “They fuck her, shake her down, or both?”
GM: “Yeah. Tons of ways for cops to make money. So he probably isn’t embarrassed because the car is cheap or damaged or whatever.”
Celia: “I’d hoped it was something exciting like a body in the back.”
GM: Pietro laughs. “You never know with cops.”
Celia: “I’ve been handling the other side of things,” Jade tacks on, referring to their reason for messing with Vinny in the first place, “so when the timing is right it’ll be an easy in and out.”
Like it is for Vinny.
GM: The thief smirks. “Because it hasn’t been already for one of you?”
Celia: Jade giggles as the thief echoes her thoughts.
GM: “Good, though. I want to start really fucking with him soon.”
Celia: “Your friend or the other one?”
GM: “My friend.”
Celia: “Mm. Seeing him soon.”
GM: “Good. Plant some seeds. Wonder if there’s anything to the car, too.”
Celia: “I’ll find out.”
Celia: “Do you think Ronnie would really mind if her bitch is turned into boots? He’s just so…” She waves a hand at the Brujah, indicating the lack of usefulness as anything more than an assortment of holes.
GM: “Of course she’ll mind. He’s hers. If anyone’s going to kill him, she’ll want it to be her.”
“She’ll eventually get bored with him.”
Celia: “Mm,” Jade muses, “I was just thinking about how embarrassing it would be for his sire if Ronnie shows up to next week’s or tomorrow’s Elysium in Kelly-skin.”
GM: “I think Coco’s washed her hands of him. Washed them a while ago.”
“Always liked Roderick more.”
Celia: “Golden childe.”
GM: “Kellyskin is funny.”
Celia: Jade smiles. “Thanks.”
GM: “I wonder what those boots would be like. If they’d be much different from leather.”
Celia: “Leather is animal skin,” she points out. “Tanned and treated to prevent decay. There’s just no waiting period this way. No need to dry and stretch and mix chemicals together. Could be firm, or soft and supple, any color, pattern, ornamentation…” She keeps her voice low, so as not to be overheard by anyone near them. She doesn’t need people thinking she’s the lick who can turn others into leather. Quiet as she is, her lips almost brush his ear. She nips at the lobe with her teeth. “Some people use ash to treat hides, did you know? And there’s enough brain matter in every animal to tan its own hide. Imagine skinning an elder and using the traditional method to turn them into a hat with their own brain and ash.”
GM: Pietro snickers.
“I think you’ll be out of luck when it comes to getting brain matter from Micheal Kelly.”
Celia: “No, darling, he still has one, it’s just failed to retain anything. Though I wonder if someone adding a few folds will mean he can actually learn…” Jade trails off thoughtfully.
GM: “Odds are against that. Veronica glamours him at least every night.”
Celia: “For what, adoration?”
GM: “Adoration. Keeping him compliant. Keeping him oblivious. Maybe just to permanently fuck his head.”
“Take your pick of reason.”
Celia: She bets she could get in there still. Strap him down to a table and let her fingers work their magic on him, dig into the soft folds of his mind and suss out whatever secrets he’s holding onto. Veronica has only had him a few months, hasn’t she?
Jade itches to get her hands on him. She fingers his leash in quiet contemplation.
“Don’t think she’d come off him, then? So many little projects and curiosities he can assist with if I can dig in… think she’d trade? I’d love to show her what I’ve been working on.”
GM: Pietro shrugs. “Maybe. Depends on the trade. Like anything.”
“I doubt he’s going to keep her entertained like this forever.”
Celia: “Mm.” Something to consider, then. As they say, timing is everything.
Saturday night, 19 March 2016, PM
Julius: The Caitiff breaks his own whispered exchange with a mirthful comment clearly directed to Melton but which makes no pretense at privacy:
“Well, happy is uh gud bit bettah den da alternative.”
No less modest, one of his hands slithers beneath his krewemate’s mauve robe to the exposed back of her slip. There, that hand kneads her undead flesh like a content if increasingly hungry cat.
Celia: Jade only has long enough to wonder if the Caitiff and his new lap ornament are talking about her—good things? bad things? what does that look mean?—before Pietro’s deft fingers make the decision on relocating or not for her. Even the cannibal’s loud entrance and actions become nothing but background noise when she finds herself curled on the thief’s lap, held securely within the circle of his arms. His lips against her ear threaten to send shivers down her spine. She giggles at the soft touch, turning her face toward him to respond in kind.
GM: Antoine Savoy motions and the jazz music dies. Eyes turn to the French Quarter lord’s throne.
GM: “I see we’ve got some new faces here tonight,” smiles the Toreador. “To them I say: be welcome in the Vieux Carré! We consider it our solemn duty—and it will surely be our great pleasure!—to make this party a night for y’all to remember,” he grins.
“Just so everyone knows who doesn’t already, this part is the boring part. The business before the pleasure. That’ll start once court is over! If anyone wishes to excuse themselves until then, we’ll be no pleased to receive you through the Evergreen’s doors.” Savoy motions in their direction.
Some glances follow the Toreador’s hand, but no one moves to leave.
“Full house, then!” Savoy beams. “Let’s cut to the chase. Nat, if you’ll be so kind as to start us with…”
GM: The Toreador doesn’t spend long on ritual. Preston reads items from a document, reading decrees or calling Kindred to come forward. Kindred not on the list who desire public audience with the French Quarter lord simply raise their hands.
Saturday night, 19 March 2016, PM
GM: Karena Cingolai is first to approach the throne.
Celia: Jade shamelessly listens in while she outwardly occupies her attention with the thief upon whom she perches.
GM: She offers the seated French Quarter lord a short bow.
GM: “Greetings, Lord Savoy. It my desire to attend the French Quarter Festival while I am in New Orleans, and to have temporary hunting rights along the parade route. In return for this privilege, I offer a vessel’s worth of vitae, and one additional vessel for every week I am in the area.”
Murmurs sound among the gathered Kindred. About Cingolai. About her offer. About her earlier tiff with Donovan.
Other Kindred, though, seem to tune the Ventrue out or only half pay attention as they converse among their neighbors.
Celia: Jade had tried that once. Offering an extra vessel for access to an area to avoid doing any favors that would sell out her own people. The elder in question had smiled, amused, and said something about people like her not needing additional vessels when they have so many others to do their hunting for them.
Elders rarely go hungry.
Jade lifts her gaze from Pietro for just a moment, long enough to take in the dolls and kine already waiting to be fed from. He does this every week. It’s a cheap offer when he’s rolling in blood.
Or maybe, years later, she’s still just salty about the way the negotiations had gone down. Even if the lick had been nice about it in the end.
“What’s the parade route?” she murmurs to the thief. Whose toes will she be stepping on?
Julius: “As fo’ me—,” the Caitiff says, not quite cutting in but speaking in a low voice that carries to their small circle but no further, “—I’s wonderin wot kinda music at da Festival wud be catchin her fancy. She binlookin like uh jass, blues, gospel, funk, folk, or zydeco fan to any of you’s?”
Celia: The “debate” with Donovan last night hadn’t done much to make her think that it was anything less than a setup. Like he does with her. Like Savoy does with Preston. Everything is deliberate.
She’s looking for something.
“Oh, definitely gospel,” Jade murmurs back. “Only, well, the best place to hear them perform is St. Patrick’s.”
Julius: “Longinus’ gospel, no doubt,” Julius responds with a ghost of a smile, “But she don’t strike me as singin along wid da likes of Mahalia Jackson covers. Color me wrong, but she don’t rite look black or Baptist nough…”
He shrugs, letting the bolstered implication hang.
Meanwhile, he watches for Savoy’s response—or more specifically for Preston to ‘honestly’ respond for the Toreador elder.
Celia: Jade gives a tiny nod of her head at the Caitiff’s words, attention likewise returning to the throne and the Malkavian that will give the answer for the lord perched upon it.
“Dare you to steal something from her,” she breathes into the thief’s ear.
GM: “Bourbon Street. Jackson Square. Some other parts I don’t remember,” the thief answers with a shrug.
Laura giggles again.
“I can’t see her singing either.”
“Bourbon Street, though. I wish I got to hunt along there.”
Veronica’s lip curls at the Gangrel’s expressed wish.
She probably gets to feed along there.
Pietro gives Jade an amused look.
“If she has the most impressive things to steal, would you be giving me the idea?”
Savoy, meanwhile, seems to consider Cingolai’s request for a moment and strokes his half-beard.
Preston leans in to whisper something in his ear.
“Granted, Madam Cingolai!” he finally beams. “On two conditions. Please have the vessels delivered alive to the Evergreen by Saturday night. We do need to wrangle them up somewhere, after all!”
Cingolai inclines her head. “An equitable arrangement, Lord Savoy.”
There are a few murmurs from the crowd.
“Oh fuck that bitch!” Laura whiser-hisses to Julius. “What does she even do, huh, to get to feed along Bourbon?”
“If your steward can find time in your lordship’s interary, there is another matter I would speak of in private.”
“Of course, Madam Cingolai,” answers the French Quarter lord. “Nat, I’m sure we can pencil our guest in somewhere?”
“We can, sir.” She turns to the Ventrue. “I will available during tonight’s festivities, Madam Cingolai, should you then wish to review your and Lord Savoy’s respective schedules.”
“Of course she never goes to them,” Laura mutters.
“Very good, Madam Preston. I will see you then,” answers Cingolai.
“Enjoy your stay in New Orleans, Madam Gingolai,” smiles Savoy, which soon grows into a grin. “And may you enjoy your stay in the Vieux Carré most of all!”
“Thank you, Lord Savoy,” offers Cingolai.
She offers another inclination of her head and then assumes a seat next to Harlequin, close to Savoy’s own.
Celia: She hadn’t expected the petition to feed along Bourbon to be granted, especially for so miserly an offer.
Is that what she can expect when she’s old and important, too? Small favors to get her what she wants? The thought of sharing her turf with the Ventrue makes her lip curl; surely she’s not going to be going into the clubs and stealing from the licks who hold those domains.
Jade shrugs at the thief, returning her attention to him once the matter is settled with Cingolai.
“I only thought it would be amusing to make a stiff wonder where all her things had gone.”
GM: “Mmm,” says Pietro. “Maybe after I steal the more impressive thing, first. Always keep your eye on the prize.”
Celia: “I suppose I’ll have to distract you some other way,” Jade murmurs, nibbling at his neck.
Saturday night, 19 March 2016, PM
Julius: Julius does the same, ruefully if quietly wagering with Laura as to whether Cingolai’s conversation tonight will include any critiques of Edgar Degas’ paintings.
“Den gain, I’s always bin takin uh shine to da man’s sculpture. Da lil’ dawlin dancer. You’s bin reminded me of her in uh ways or two’s.”
GM: Laura giggles.
“Is she a sexy dancer?”
The real Laura never was big on art.
Is the counterfeit ignorant, or just playing?
Julius: And does Julius care?
Does he miss the real Laura? And if so, what does he miss? And if he doesn’t, what does that say about him?
Perhaps at the end of the night, it’s not just ‘Laura’ who’s the counterfeit, but the krewe.
And tonight, as with so many nights, Julius must consider the knockoff to be shoddy.
Nowhere good as the real thing.
The old thing.
His old thing.
His old one.
The real one.
The lost one.
After all, isn’t Arthur just a thinner-blooded, less artistically talented version of his sire and ex-Numidian?
And what does that make Julius, then? A knockoff Remy?
GM: Caitiff versus Toreador.
Many might say yes.
Julius: He’s been dead too long to sigh.
But he’s also survived too long to let his sadness show.
He maintains the charade.
There are many masquerades to uphold.
GM: Having a Gangrel at least is new, even if it’s a fake one.
But the old krewe had plenty of fakes and knock-offs too, didn’t it?
What else was Julia?
Julius: She was beautiful. To him, at least. And that his opinion was so rarely shared made her all the more beautiful to him.
After all, anyone can buy a Chanel necklace and see its quality. But to notice the diamond in the rough, to spot the brand-less, nameless, unappreciated masterpieces?
GM: Perhaps it’s a projection.
Hoping others will see the same in him.
The diamond amidst his clanless blood.
He glances at Jade. Flawless. She’s gorgeous, plain as the sun is hot.
But scars can have their own beauty. And Julia had scars.
It’s a hard word.
But it’s a hard world.
Even for the damned.
Maybe especially for the damned.
GM: What else is the Requiem, if not its own knockoff?
A poor one, some might say.
But fewer in the Evergreen’s walls might say.
Laura tilts her head at Julius, still smiling.
“Penny for your thoughts, Papa J?”
Julius: Julius could answer her question. Honestly. He could tell her how La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans was noted for extraordinary realism yet denounced for being ugly. Truth was too ugly, and the critics could not stomach it. Rather, the nearly life-size, brown-skinned wax figure with real hair and cloth tutu, was described by Huysmans as a “terrible reality” that “produces uneasiness in the spectators.”
He could tell her how in 2004, his ring counterfeited 73 plaster casts made to more or less closely resembling Degas’s original wax sculptures. He sold them to the Airaindor-Valsuani for song. Did they know they were fakes? Maybe. But if so, it didn’t stop them from using the casts to pump out a plethora of bronzes statues for the next 12 years. Production only increased when critiques were raised concerns over the authenticity of these plasters—and their bronzes—as well as the circumstances and date of their proposed creation. Julius himself—indirectly— even bought a few, selling off most at significant markup. Especially after Julius applied some strategic manipulation, both mundane and otherwise, for a few museum and academic professionals to accept them as presented—and a few more of those “truth-bearers” followed like lemmings. Sure, most of the recognized Degas scholars have maligned or declined to comment on the pieces, but that hasn’t hurt auction prices. If anything, they’ve risen. After all, controversy sells.
Truth rarely does.
So the counterfeit mogul lies.
Lighting up a butter-warm smile, Julius laughs lightly, “Only two pennies, dawl? Didn’t know I wus dat cheap, but fo’ you’s, I’ll give you’s da frenz an family discount.”
“Yeah, dat dancer is rite sexy, jus’ like you is.”
“But you’s bettuh, of course,” he adds with a wider smile.
“I got some b-boys dat would f’sure like to see you’s grindin an twerkin in ways ol’ stiff Degas ain’t nevah dun dreamed.”
He then bounces her on his lap a bit, not enough to make a scene, but enough to accentuate his point. Vapid, carnal, and half-hearted though it is.
GM: No one cared about the truth.
Father Albright said there was no sin (religious or artistic) in selling counterfeits to kine rubs.
Louis had just shrugged and said, “Do what you gotta do to make a buck. Lick’s gotta eat.”
Half of Julia thought that maybe he should just maybe consider saying they were, um, recreations. Just a thought. To the buyers. If he thought he should. This maybe wasn’t her business, after all—
The other half told that half it wasn’t their problem.
And Lisette? She’d just shrugged and said there were worse sins in the world, that art fakes were sold all the time. Anyone willing to buy a Degas sculpture in the first place obviously had money to spare. It’s hardly as if Julius was robbing orphanages.
She’d also enjoyed setting masks on a few of them.
So maybe truth isn’t worthless.
Some of them cared.
But only so much.
Truth wasn’t worth enough to sell.
“How ‘bout two hits of juice, then. Who’s cheap around friends and family, right?” smiles Melton.
“But a dancer, huh.”
“So is she a pole dancer, or something fun, or just a ballerina?”
The Gangrel makes a hmph.
“The sculptures are always ballerinas.”
Julius: Julius strokes a long, strong finger across Laura’s arm, tracing the edge of the black silk batwing-sleeve. His eyes are clearly admiring—though whether the clothes or the ‘woman’ in them is uncertain.
“See’s, dat you’s mindin me’s of her gain. She’s uh ballerina, tutu an all, but one gud look at her face, an f’sure you’s can tell she’s bin made to do somethin she don’t rite wanna do.”
He squints, as if trying to force a memory or old factoid into focus.
“An come to think of it… da dawl dat posed fo’ da sculpture, uh Marie… somethin or udder, she wus uh ballerina at da Paris Royal Ballet, but she done quit an became uh prostitute, or so dey say. Den gain, Marie an da udder young ballerina boos wus expected to be givin sexual favors to da male patrons dat went backstage to watch da boos be practicin. So not too diff’rent den uh pole dancer when you’s think bout it.”
GM: “Oooh. I like this ballet,” says Laura, batting her koh-lined eyes.
“You think they still do that, at many ballet shows?”
Julius: Julius shrugs. “I ain’t never bin to no ballet.”
GM: “I bet they still do. The girls are super flexible, right? All the guys in the audience must want to fuck them.”
“Savoy should do a ballet night.”
“And just skip the dancing to feed on the dancers.”
Saturday night, 19 March 2016, PM
Cletus: Prior to the official commencement of Savoy’s court, the Giovannini Inviato hunts down his seat amongst his French Quarter-dwelling clan. He so arrives in their midst, arms outstretched and flashing a lightning-white smile.
“La Mia Famiglia!” he shouts fondly, his fierce familial pride and passion making up for the way his Southern-drawl bruises his Italian pronunciation, “Buonanotte!”
The social predator then makes his rounds with his non-Camarilla cousins, greeting each individually with a bacio sulla guancia and personal salutation.
“Don Vico!” he says first to the eldest among them (excluding himself), “Yer rite hittin a lick at the snake tonite! What kind o’ canvas is lil ol’ Sistine paintin’ on these nights?”
“Freddy!” he says to the next, “Lookin’ mighty fine yerself too—tis clear yer old lady is keepin’ her old man well-fed.”
“And speak o’ the ol’ devil—oh, Tuccy, I didn’t see you there!” he quips good-naturedly, “How’s that there spin-bike doohickey workin’ out fer her? Hell if I’d been knowin’ why anyone’d be wantin’ a bike dat don’t go nowhere, but hell if I’mma gonna be the sonnuvabitch that done didn’t get what ya asked fer on the anniversary of yer bacio per procura.”
“Lucia, why I’mma two-legged, flea-scratchin’ possum or is dat skullcap really made o’ skull-bone? Anybody I been knowin’?” His wicked smile suggests he hopes the answer is a ‘yes’.
“Teddy, ya ol’ bear, how’s it hangin’ dese days, ya need another stick—or ten or hundred—to be keepin’ away all of lil’ Lucy’s suitors? One call, and I can get a feller up in Bogalusa to fire up the ol’ saw-mill fer y’all.”
GM: Don Vico is a tall and pale-skinned man with a receding black hairline. His features have the haughtiness and arrogance of the Giovannini, but there is also a certain lowness them, a gangster-like crudity that belies his low-born (or at least low-raised) origins. He’s dressed in a double-breasted white suit much like the ones he normally wears and a matching trilby hat.
“_Buonanotte, cugino,_” he greets with a smile.
“Eddie’s working on ghosts, these nights." As if to address that physical impossibility, he adds, "Isabelica was real helpful there. They didn’t speak too much before, but I think they appreciate each other more now.”
If Don Vico has a vague sense of thuggishness, though, it’s nothing against Catfish Freddy. The Putanesca scion is shorter but stockier, with a large face, squash-like nose, and whitening hair. Hooded dark eyes peer out from a lined and pockmarked face. His wide and thick-fingered hands look made for beatings. Next to him, Vico looks downright patrician—and is no doubt one of the reasons the don enjoys keeping him nearby. It’s also Freddy who truly wears the period tonight. He’s dressed in classic dark pinstripes and a fedora, looking every bit the Prohibition mobster he only narrowly missed being.
“_Buonanotte, cugino,_” he echoes, then grins. “Tuccy’s doin’ great on that thing. Keeps her busy. Good for her heart. She can listen to shit while she’s on it. Can’t do that with a real bike, right?”
Freddy’s sister-wife, Tuceia Giovannini-Putanesca, shares her brother-husband-domitor’s prominent nose but has narrower and more refined features befitting the Giovannini half of her blood, with slanted eyebrows and a thick mane of curly dark hair. Next to the two vampires, her skin retains a healthy olive color. She wears a dark evening dress with a Grecian inspired draping, elaborate hemline, and a brooch pin and pearl necklace.
Tuccy maintains enough of a polite smile not to look rude but doesn’t respond. Here are these two Kindred talking about her exercise habits. Exercise they no longer require. For all that she might feel deserving of the Embrace, she has not received it. But she does not complain, for all the envy that might lurk in her dark eyes.
The ghoul remembers her place.
Lucia, meanwhile, actually embraces Cletus. Vico’s childe would represent a comely face to mortals, with her straight features, full lips, slender neck, and equally slender figure. Most mortals react less than favorably to her cancer patient baldness, but that’s why she usually wears the wig. Tonight she’s dressed in a sheer black mesh flapper gown with silky fringe, a sweetheart bodice, sultry V back, and dazzling array of black sequins that cascade down to a tiered fringe scalloped hemline. It’s a classic enough choice, until one looks closer to observe that the sequins are interspersed with fingernail-sized pieces of glitter-coated white bone that rustle and clink as she walks. Her necklace is made of bone bits instead of pearls. Her white skullcap has a black headband with several matching feathers.
“Hi, Uncle Clete,” she smiles, then giggles at his question.
“Maybe in your stomach. Pervis gave it to me as a present. He said it was from that baby you ate. The bone is so smooth. You can feel it, if you like.” She tilts her head for him to do so.
Cletus remembers “that baby he ate”. Bobbi Jo brought home all of the corpses from Jacob Grunewald’s haven after she slaughtered the now-deceased Tremere’s herd—an action that wound up being to Clan Giovannini’s net benefit, in the end, so no one was too mad. Marjorie made sure the childrens’ bodies didn’t go to waste.
One was a baby’s.
The Boggs were puzzled why Grunewald kept a baby among his herd—lots of effort to care for so little blood—but it was some of the most tender, succulent meat Cletus ever tasted. Marjorie was disgruntled that it could have tasted even better. Slaughtering long pig is like slaughtering any other livestock—if they die struggling and frightened, with adrenaline spiking their systems, they taste worse.
Jacob’s children died very, very frightened.
Marjorie wished the infant had died of SIDS. The presentation would have looked better, too. There’d have been fewer missing fewer pieces. But the Boggs chef did what she could, and didn’t disappoint.
Teddy, meanwhile, is a figure cut in the same mold as Freddy. He’s a big, broad man in his early middle years, with looming shoulders, thick arms, and a stubble-lined face. Bluntly, he looks like a gorilla. The ghoul’s face looks like it’s rarely accustomed to doing anything but squinting, grunting, and glowering. He’s gone with a basic costumed for the party. Pinstriped suit and fedora. It works, though it doesn’t particularly stand out.
“It’s goin’ good,” the mobster answers Cletus, his tone somewhat slow. As though uncertain whether the Giovannini is making fun at his expense—and knowing he’s powerless to do anything about it either way. “Haven’t had to bash in any heads for a while.”
Lucia giggles. “Oh, Teddy, you’re such a goombah.”
“Worse things to be,” says Catfish Freddy with a faint smirk.
Teddy just gives a grunt with that same vaguely uncertain look.
Last of all among the necromancers’ entourage is Lucia’s newest cancer-ridden favorite. Cletus literally overlooked him. He’s a bald kid around nine or ten years old who only stands four feet tall. He doesn’t wear a shirt and looks as pale as any century-dead vampire. A nasogastric tube hangs from his nose, though for what purpose outside of a hospital, Cletus cannot say. Most Giovannini are equally unable to say for what purpose Lucia keeps these children, and don’t even bother learning their names—they just call each of the kids “Cancro,” literally, “Cancer”. The boy gives Cletus a vague smile that seems to stare halfway through him.
“Dylan’s gotten very good, you know,” says Lucia, as if the kid just said hello. She lowers her voice. “You know he can actually-”
“Not in public, Luchy. Lotta snoops here,” cuts in Vico.
Cletus: The Dunsirn-descended ex-grayback receives each of their replies in stride, weaving and responding as if returning a salvo back at a platoon of bluebellies.
“Well souiee!” he exclaims to the fellow don. “Haint be denyin’ dat jus’ dills ma pickle to be hearin’ bout ma Sugarbelle helpin’ Eddie’s paintin’.”
“And speakin’ o’ lil’ ol Miss Sugarbelle,” he adds, turning to Freddy and Tuccy, “I reckon it weren’t but a nite ago dat she and me’s was shootin’ the breeze bout yer bicycle doohicky, bout how fer yer anniversary, we’re fixin’ to give it a rite tune-up, so the resistance won’t be a’comin from yer flywheel, but a rite proper ghostie.”
“As da Rebs’ head coach like to be sayin’ whene’er he makes our boys take der laps, ‘No pain, no gain’. But who says it’s gotta be yer pain, rite?”
His fierce smile all but reflects the hunger, if not heat of his butane gaze.
After attending to the dead and half-dead couple’s response, Cletus’ gaze then settles to the youngest Giovannini. With her embrace, the taller man—or monster that loosely wears such trappings—accepts Lucia’s offer by tracing a single finger along the smooth fragments of baby skull. He then holds those fingers to his lips, his nostrils flaring slowly as he inhales, sucking in the scent of the devoured infant’s bones.
A perverse light glows in the monster’s eyes, perhaps indicating the savoring of a dark cannibalistic remembrance.
“Glad Pervis’ present rightchere came o’ somethin plumb peachy. Sometime dat boy makes me wanna slap ma mamma, and sometime he’s slicker than pig-snot on a radiator. But dat’s there them joys o’ parentin’.”
His blowtorch eyes flicker meaningfully between both Vico and Lucita before settling on ‘Cancro’ like a man inspecting a neighbor’s new car.
As part of that ‘inspection’, he halts just short of ‘kicking the tires’ before eventually looking the boy in the eyes. “Yerself ever done shot an assault rifle, kid, or drove a monster truck?”
GM: “Pain gotta come from somewhere, but who say it gotta come from you?” grins Catfish Freddy in agreement.
“Pervis gives the best presents,” declares Lucia.
“I don’t think it’s time yet,” says Cancro. His out-of-focus eyes don’t meet Cletus’, but remain level with Cletus’ torso. “It isn’t time yet. They wanted it to be time, but it wasn’t. I think they’re going to be left out but maybe they’re not. It’s bright. It’s so bright. Don’t go towards the light. Don’t go towards the light. It’ll come to you and that’s what they want.”
“He says stuff like that all the time,” says Lucia in seeming apology.
“No, I haven’t,” the kid tranquilly answers.
Cletus: At the semi-sensical portent and Lucia’s half-apology, Cletus just smiles.
“Kids these days done say the darndest things. Why, I recall lil’ Otis-Lyle was jibberin’ something fierce jus’ the other nite down at da Big Chief, all bout this itty bitty game on a NikNak phone he snatched from a trucker. Talkin’ bout Deep Dive this, EmEmOs dat, shrinkin’ respawn rates, and a bunch of stuff I reckon I’d be lyin’ if I done said I half understood.”
“His mawmaw, Thelma-Lou, done said the game was rite more addictive than Rhonda-Lynn’s heroine, so she wus wantin’ her ol’ man Clyde to take da boy to a monster truck rally and ‘git some fresh air’. But on account o’ me havin’ Clyde git the Blitzer Boys back in da saddle, I said I could take ’im to one real soon.”
Looking up at both Lucita and Vico, he then adds, “Maybe Dylan here might wanna come. Chaperones and all. After the rally, we’ll be havin’ a lil’ party at da Big House, with Franz, Callum, and Elizabeth too. I’ve got some napalm that Dylan, Otis-Lyle, lil’ Abner, and the other boys could play with. Also reckon we could be callin’ up some zombies, dress ‘em in Axis and Allies’ uniforms, and make ‘em play ’tag’ with vintage submachine guns. StG 44s, Schmeissers, Thompsons, STENs, and Models 38s. If y’all name ‘em, we’ve got ‘em. I reckon lil’ Lizzie would be happier than a tatter-chewin’ possum to share the Berettas and see some Genoan and Sicilian faces.”
GM: Cancro looks no comprehensive of the video game talk than any of the gathered Giovannini.
“Kids,” says Vico, shaking his head. “You don’t let the Cancros play those games, do you, Luchy?”
“No,” she says, “they’re addictive.”
Lucia gives a delighted giggle at Cletus’ description.
“Oh Clete, you come up with the best parties. We’ll be there! I bet Franz is gonna love that, stiffs in Nazi uniforms. Are there gonna be Italian soldiers too? I hope they win. Do you hope they win, Daddy?”
“Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, darling,” smiles Vico. “No, I’m gonna root for the Americans. Il Duce was no friend to ours. And even less of a friend to Freddy.”
“Fuck Mussolini,” concurs Catfish Freddy. “That bald bastard was the worst thing to ever happen to us back home.”
“Lucky Luciano helped out big with Operation Husky. We don’t bite the hand that feeds us either.”
Cletus: Clete’s smile grows even wider. “Yessiree, could’ve given Benito two nickels fer a dime, and he’d had thought he wus rich.”
“But speakin’ o’ coins,” Clete says, fishing in his pocket and producing a rusty nickel. “Freddy, I reckon dis is yers.”
Half-flashing, half-extending the coin, he relates:
“On the way down here, I git this call from Dewey-Bob. See, Dewey-Bob, he haint got nough sense to saddle a junebug, but he’s might sweet on his sister-cousin, Girlie-Ray. But Girlie-Ray won’t smoke his bone fer free, so he’s o’ da mind to find hisself some rite treasure in the swamp, lookin’ fer De Soto’s conquistador gold er somethin’ big nough to make Girlie-Ray his ferever. So he’s out in da bayou, combin’ it with his homemade metal detector, and he done gits all excited when it starts buzzin’, sparklin’, and fussin’ like one o’ Girlie-Ray’s vibrators. Diggin’ in the muck, though, all he turns up is a gnawed-on chunk of concrete. But his doohicky is still havin’ a hissy fit over it, so he sledges it open. Crack! Out pops some foot bones, shoe scraps, and dis nickel rightchere.”
Holding the coin a bit closer to catch the light, he continues, “So Dewey-Bob figured da Big House mighta had somethin’ to do with it, so after some fixin’s, I check dis coin here, and sure nough, it reckon I rite know dis nickel. Date was the first tip-off. ‘44, but the real giveaway came next. ’Member that Rothstein ghoul that caused a ruckus in ’62? Hersh Rothstein. Thought he was a real wiseguy, but he didn’t have the sense God done gave a rock. So as we were’s fittin’ him fer a new pair o’ concrete shoes, and he’s cryin’ and beggin’, Freddy righthere goes and takes out a nickel from his pocket. Dated ‘44. Minted four’ hunerd years from da Bite. Not too shabby. So Freddy makes a show of that, and says, ‘Okay, Rothstein, yer family’s into gamblin’, so let’s make a wager: I flip dis coin, and if you gets heads, you keep yours—but if not…‘. So this Hersh feller is all hoppin’. Fifty-fifty odds haint too bad, he reckons.”
“And y’all should have seen Hersh’s face when it done came up tails!”
Clete continues with a vicious smile, “But Freddy here, he says, ‘oh no, let’s go best out o’ three’, see, cus he’s a generous soul. And jus’ when the Rothstein stopped cryin’ to start hopin’ gain, Freddy flips the coin—and tails again!”
The Boggs patriarch holds up a gloved hand, “Wait, wait, and then, jus’ as the concrete starts to pour, Freddy shows him the coin real up close and all, front and back.”
A motion which Clete now replicates, slowly displaying both sides of the coin.
“Trick coin, it wus, with Freddy jus’ reelin’ and watchin’ ‘im squirm and wriggle like a wee catfish thinkin’ he’s gonna escape.”
“And as Hersh slowly realizes what done happened—which took a mighty bit as he didn’t have too many lights on upstairs—Freddy puts the nickel right in Hersh’s loafer, saying, ‘Call me from the other side, you’s and yer mortacci tua!”
“Ma boys reckon ol’ Hersch’s remains were done gobbled up by dem fishes and gators and like, wit his ‘boots’ washin’ up durin’ Katrina or Rita.”
Clete then flicks the coin to Freddy with a congenial if wicked smile.
“So, unless Hersh is gonna call collect, Freddy, I guess yer gittin’ to keep the change.”
GM: GM: Peals of laughter from all of the Giovannini answer Cletus’ story.
Catfish Freddy, grinning ear-to-ear, catches the coin in mid-air. “Heh heh heh. Best two of three. Heh. I was generous, wasn’t I, Tuccy?”
His sister-wife gives a cruel smile. “As generous as he deserved.”
Vico has a good laugh. “Idiota. Any Vegas man should’ve known they fix the odds.”
Teddy laughs harder. The ghoul doesn’t say anything witty. Just laughs. No doubt he’s glad to see someone else be the butt of a joke.
Lucia giggles from behind a raised hand.
“Oh Clete! You’re so funny.” She looks at her brother-in-blood. “Why’d you kill him, anyway?”
“’Cause he was a dumb fucking kike,” says Freddy.
“Got on too many people’s nerves,” Vico expounds. “Thought he was a mobster. He wasn’t.”
“His name isn’t Italian,” says Lucia.
“Yeah,” says Catfish Freddy. “Lotta kikes who are in with Cosa Nostra as associates.”
“Figured he’d be the next Meyer Lansky,” chuckles Vico. “Family mighta been trying to offload him onto us.”
“Time-honored way to dispose of idiots,” agrees Catfish Freddy.
“Did he leave a spirito?” Tuccy asks thoughtfully.
“Ooh,” smiles Lucia. “I bet the coin’s his fetter.”
Catfish Freddy gives the coin an equally thoughtful-seeming flip.
“Never gave me a call if he did.”
“Maybe he will now,” says Lucia. “I wonder if he’s wearing cement shoes? I’d love to see a spirito in cement shoes.”
Catfish Freddy grins and gives the double-sided coin another flip.
“We’ll owe it to Cletus if we get to. I’ll give Sugarbelle a call if Hersh shows, yeah?”
“Uncle Clete, too!” beams Lucia.
“Cletus too,” Vico smiles appreciatively, clearly pleased to see his childe happy.
Indeed, all of the present Giovannini look pleased.
Cletus has always been a family man.
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