November 20, 2009

The Secret Room

I tucked the newspaper under my arm and watched the others walk towards the shop. I was far enough back that I was the only one, besides Martindale, to notice Abel standing on the roof of the building.

I frowned. "Should I be worried?"
Martindale gave me a droll look. "Now that's a silly question."
I frowned to myself and strode towards the others, lengthening my stride to catch them before they entered the shop. I watched as Gio pulled the key out of his pocket. We all knew (except, we hoped, Dr. Bright) that he didn't need to actually put the key in the lock. The door was special, it sensed people's intent and opened for them if they meant to enter the shop. I think Giovanni was trying to make the shop appear as mundane as possible in front of our "guest".

"So, uh, whats that you got there?" Bright was peering intently at the key.
Gio just shrugged and slipped it into the lock on the door. "Just a key, nothing special."
"Right... Well then, give me the nickle tour." Bright stepped into the front of the store.

I whispered into Giovanni's head, Murdertron on the roof.
I didn't want to be the only one ready for Abel to appear and start a fight. Giovanni thought, I figured he would be around somewhere.

Gio made a sweeping gesture with his hand. "This is the store, where things get sold, occasionally. Mostly teenagers coming in looking for something they think is occult related, tarot cards, ect. ect."
Bright looked down at one of the crates scattered about. "And whats in the crates?"
Gio pried one open, holding it that way and allowing Bright to look inside. "As far as we can tell? Interesting junk. We haven't had time to go through it all."

We walked back into the lab area, which we had already stripped completely clean, save a couple tables. "This is the lab area.."
Bright walked up to one of the drawers that had no key hole and pointed to it. All the drawers without key holes also opened to Gio's magic key. Bright knocked on one drawer. "Whats in these?"
Gio hobbled over and slammed a fist onto the cabinet below the drawer and the drawer popped open. "These? nothing."
Bright smirked. "Clever."
Gio snorted in annoyance. "Clever nothin, I'm not the one who made the damn things with no key holes!"
Bright half sat on the barren table and took a sip from the Starbucks cup he carried. "Can you open the rest of them please?"

"No problem." Gio went around to each drawer and either banged it with his fist, kicked at it, or something else of similar force while Bright sat there with his arms crossed and watched him in wry amusement, perfectly content to let him wear himself out opening all the drawers. Of course, they were all empty. Bright probably figured as much. He was just being a dick. I leaned against one wall and crossed my arms, feeling and looking annoyed. I didn't like this one bit.

Cheshire appeared out of one of the shadowed corners and started to wind himself around Gio's legs. Bright's eyebrows went up in surprise. "Wow. That's a big cat."
Gio shrugged. "Yup, that he is."
"How do you get a cat that big? What do you feed that thing?" The tone in Bright's voice suggested he in no way thought Cheshire was a normal cat. Observant, that one.
Gio just shrugged. "Cat food?"
"Small children probably." I muttered to myself.
"You know, I can't say I've ever seen a cats eyes that look like that." Bright's own eyes narrowed. He took out his cellphone and pulled up a photo of a man. The guy didn't look remarkable at all, but when he showed it to Ches, the cat freaked out. He hissed loudly, and I swear it almost sounded like he said something in multiple languages at one time, his fur stood up on end and he bolted out of the room. We all looked after him in surprise.

"So, why don't you tell me about the cat." Bright stared hard at Gio, who just shrugged.
"I made him." I was a bit surprised that Gio was going the honest route with this one. But I bit my tongue. It was his business.
Bright nodded. "Out of what."
Gio sighed and looked at the ceiling in thought. "Uhh, the bones of a child..."
Bright nodded. "Anything unusual about the child?"
"No older than 10."
"But not a specific child?"
"Nope." Gio shook his head.
"Interesting. What else?"
"The eyes are made from tin coins.. stolen from a mage, melted down."
"And the irises?"
Gio waved a hand dismissively. "Crushed rubies, but that's just cosmetic, not necessary. I had to feed him a fruit from a garden tended by the true Fae when he woke up."
Bright nodded, he was writing on a notepad. "Which one?"
Gio blinked. "Uhhh.." He looked at Nobody who shrugged.
"I'm not sure who it was." nobody said.
"Describe it." Bright said.
Nobody paused, considering, before speaking again. "Light hurt it, it liked to eat small children, it looked like a woman, in a garden with all these weird plants... that's all I can really tell you."
Bright nodded. "Well. If you think of anything else, please don't hesitate to call me." he handed Nobody a business card with nothing but a phone number printed on the front. Nobody hesitated a moment before putting it in his pocket. Bright waited for Gio to continue.

"Lets see, Bones, eyes, fruit.. the blood is mine, did that ever fucking hurt.."
I made a noise of agreement in my throat.
"Werewolf skin.. one of the Pure specifically." Gio said.

I was getting more and more pissed with every question. This guy was riding my last nerve. I muttered in Giovanni's head, I don't like this at all.
You think I do? But if you think we have another option right now, please, let me know. He thought. I gave a low growl inside his skull. No, dammit. I don't have a better idea. But that doesn't mean I like it.

Bright's eyes narrowed once again. he seemed just as agitated. "And how did you manage to acquire that?"
"Oh, had help from a demon, from the 9th circle of hell.. chaos demon."
"And how'd you get a powerful demon to help you?"
Gio laughed. "Luck, really."

Brights face clouded over with surpressed anger. He didn't like that answer. "I am trying to make a concerted effort to be civil here, when I could, with much less effort, just call the very pissed off homicidal first murder victim down from the roof to tear you all to pieces and try and read the answers from your entrails. So understand that 'Luck' is not exactly the type of answer that is going to be suitable for this conversation. Understand that this is me being civil."

Gio just shrugged in response to Bright's outburst. "A friend of ours threw a dagger to keep a cop from blowing his own brains out. He missed, it got stuck in a wall. After a few minutes we noticed that there was a crack in the wall and that there was something looking out of the crack, pulling it open more, and attempting to crawl out. I don't know how it happened."
Bright was nodding continuously and taking notes. "So, paradox then?" At that, Nadi's stare became significantly more intense.
Gio shrugged. "I guess so. I figured there was a high likelihood of the crack leading to hell, so I told it to go away. It didn't, but thought we were interesting enough to help us out. I asked it to get me the tanned hide of a werewolf not touched by Luna's blessing. It got it half right. It wasn't tanned."

"I see, I suppose the tanning part would be a challenge." Bright mused.
Gio nodded. "Damn straight."
"Anything else go into creating this thing?"
"Spark of life.. uuhh..pyros.. From sewn togeth... Like Frankenstein. Promethean?" Gio wasn't sure if Bright would recognize the terminology.. but Bright didn't seem at all confused.
"From Frankenstein specifically?"
Nobody spoke up. "What, you mean from Mary Shelley's creation directly?"
"Or the creations creation..or that monsters creation.. stitched together, lots of electricity, makes you really angry? You know there's a reason they always get chased out of town by a mob with torches and pitchforks."
Gio nodded.

Bright's eyes flashed and he gave an unpleasant laugh. "So there's one of those in town!"
"Hell if I know. Wouldn't the town be turning on each other if it was? Because of the Disquiet?" Gio asked.
"There could be more than one of them keeping it at bay for awhile at least... anything else go into that thing?"
Gio shook his head. "No. That's it."
Bright did not seem happy, and I was okay with that. "Does it grow?"
Gio nodded. "I think so."
Bright was getting more annoyed with every answer. "Learn?"
Bright set his coffee cup on a table and rubbed his temples. "So let me get this straight, you created a powerful, dare I say, demonic, creature, able to grow stronger, regenerate like a werewolf, and learn like an intelligent human. Tell me, what happens if you die and his lease is suddenly cut?"

Gio opened his mouth to respond but Bright cut him off. "My organization now has a vested interest in keeping you alive, at least until we can figure out how to neutralize that thing and keep it from wrecking havoc on humanity." He took a swig from his paper Starbucks coffee cup. "As hard as your friend tries to hide it, I know that she does not enjoy my company or my line of questions, but understand that we are not directly targeting you."

I wasn't trying to hide a damn thing. I just wasn't saying it out loud. I knew perfectly well the "fuck off" written across my face screamed volumes all on its own. I decided not to dignify his comment with any sort of response. I continued to stand there, arms crossed, looking annoyed. I was good at it. I had practice.

"You just happen to have some items that interest us, and be the new owner of a shop owned by the oldest man in the world, and you'd be stupid to think that he hadn't collected some interesting items in his life. Now, do you have any questions for me?"

I raised an eyebrow in mild surprise. I'd remained quiet the whole time, mostly. I didn't want his questions directed at me. "None that I think you'd answer." I said quietly.
Bright shrugged. "Never know until you ask."
I pushed myself off the wall and moved towards the Good Doctor. "What is your organization?" My voice was far from friendly, but I managed minor annoyance, instead of surpressed anger.
"We are the SCP Foundation." Bright said.
"SCP?" I questioned. I was honestly surprised he'd even given us a name.
"Secure. Contain. Protect. My organization is seeking items that we can contain and classify as either Safe, Euclid or Keter to prevent destruction of of humanity. Similar to your..Shield and Spear, and although they are significantly older than us, we are better funded."
"Government?" I guessed.
"Multiple governments and organizations provide us with funding, not all of which are on this plain of existence."
"And what exactly do 'Euclid' and 'Keter' mean?" I asked.
"Euclid- dangerous to human life, but not actively. Keter objects are those that are not only dangerous to human life but actively seek to destroy it."
"And what do you do with these things once you find and contain them?" I asked. I found it hard to believe his intentions were completely honorable.
"We are, above all, scientists. We study them, their weaknesses and potential usefulness. Many we destroy if we can, and yes, we have had to weaponize some of them." He knew what I had been getting at.
I quirked a brow. "Had to?"
"Yes. Had too." He didn't elaborate.

Gio looked thoughtful a moment before speaking. "So we have Abel.. Seth.. is Cain around anywhere?"
"Yeah, nice guy too." Bright said.
Gio laughed. "The first murderer is a nice guy?"
"What? You've never made a mistake before in your life? How many people have YOU killed?"
Gio chuckled. "I see your point."
"When the only people in the whole world are you, your brother, and your parents, you don't have much option besides patricide. The man was a revolutionary. He's also mopey, sits in his room all day."

Nadi spoke for the first time since entering the shop. "How do you know about Paradox?"
Bright took another swig of his coffee. "We have a few mages on staff. They explain things to us as best they can.. you guys see things.. differently. Not better. Don't kid yourself into thinking its better, but its different." He looked her over and a nasty grin spread across his face. "You've never met them have you. The Twisted Ones."
Nadi regarded him cautiously. "No."
His grin widened. "Would you like too?"
She paused a moment to consider, then nodded. "I shouldn't, but yes." I had the idea that she'd just agreed to something rather dangerous for the sake of curiosity. It was stupid thing to do, but I wasn't exactly in a position to cast stones. I'd done stupider things for the same reason.
Bright pulled out his phone again and snapped her picture, slipping it back into his coat pocket. He looked at Gio. "When you guys come back to meet our team, bring her with you. Anyone else? Any more questions?"

I opened my mouth, then closed it, and thought. With a shrug, I asked the only question that came to mind at that point. "Whats the weirdest thing you've come across?"
He gave me a sardonic look. "Based on what scale?"
"You're own personal opinion." I said.
He grinned at me. "Honestly? Me."
"Oh? And whys that?"
"Sorry, but that actually is classified." He shrugged.
It was my turn to give the sardonic look. "Of course."

Bright stood. "Well if there are no further questions, a team will be back here in two days to go through what is remaining inside the shop."

I nodded to him. "Thank you for answering our questions." And I meant it. I didn't trust Bright or his organization, but he didn't have to give us as much information as he did.

Bright regarded me a moment, his stare was clinical. "Can you do me a favor?"
I raised an eyebrow in question. "Maybe."
"You're a vampire right?"
"Last time I checked."
He held out his coffee to me. "Try this."
I grew instantly suspicious. "Why?"
"Because I'm curious."
I looked at him, then at the cup. Every thread of common sense told me it was a bad idea, but he'd struck a chord with my own curiosity. From what I could tell he'd actually been drinking it all night, and it did smell like coffee. Obviously it was something more, or why else would he want me to try it? He was watching me like a hawk, waiting for my response. After a good minute of deliberation, I gingerly took the cup from his hand. It was about 1/3 of the way full, and still warm. I could see the scientist in him come out in the way he watched me. I definitely felt like I was under a magnifying glass.

Remember how I said Nadi had done something incredibly stupid in the name of curiosity? This was a prime example of me doing something even worse. There was no good goddamn reason for me to drink whatever the fuck was in this cup. But my curiosity outweighed my better judgment, (as it usually does) and I took a small sip of the liquid.

It was coffee. Holy shit was it ever coffee. It was probably the strongest fucking coffee I'd ever had, and when working as an EMT for over a year, I drank a lot shitty coffee that was made as strong as possible, taste be damned. This was stronger. From just one sip, I instantly felt shockingly alert and awake. Which of course, is pretty weird considering I don't have normal human physiology anymore and caffeine shouldn't effect me in the slightest. I hadn't felt this effected by food or drink, besides blood, since the embrace. The taste for blood pretty much dulled everything else in comparison, but this cut right through it.

I looked at the cup in surprise. Bright was still watching me intently. "How do you feel?"
I took a moment to consider exactly how I did feel. I focused on myself, allowing me to feel any changes.. then shrugged at Bright and handed him his cup back. "Really fucking awake. That's fucking strong shit."
He nodded and accepted the cup, taking another sip himself. "Good. Please, let me know if anything changes. We'd love to add the data to the case studies."
I nodded slowly. He headed to the door.
"Remember, two days." and he was gone.

When we looked outside, we saw that Martindale was still sitting on the bench across the street. Gio limped towards the door. "I'll be right back. Going to go see what he had to say, then we can get to work figuring out how we're going to get this stuff out of here."

I turned to the table as he walked out the door and unfolded the newspaper Martindale had given me, taking out the file folder in the sports section. I started flipping through the pages (there were only a few). It was the forensics report from the body in the car. They were able to identify her by dental records. her name was Loraine Summers, gone missing from New York City. She had a criminal record for aiding and abetting known felons.. it actually listed the felons. They weren't names I recognized, but the names were Italian. Everyone took turns looking through the file, even Gio when he got back.

"We're throwing it all away." Gio said boldly.
Everyone looked at him and waited silently for the catch.
"Everything we can take is going in the dumpster. Martindale reminded me that it's trash day tomorrow. Harper, can you get in touch with your friend with the dump truck that helped us haul the casket?"
I slipped the slim wallet I kept with me out of my pocket and liberated Dump truck Ned's business card. I handed it to Giovanni, smirking. "Throwing it away, huh?" He returned my smirk and nodded.

I had nearly forgotten about Ned and his services with all the chaos going around. However, he was still a vampire, so I let Gio make the call. I still didn't know who I could trust on the surface right now.

Gio dialed the number.
"Hello?" Ned said.
"Hello! I am in need or your..removal services."
Ned's voice grew suspicious. "This doesn't sound like the person this number should belong too."
"I'm a friend of hers, shes here, if you'd like to speak with her, just a bit busy at the moment"
I called out to Ned so he'd know Gio was telling the truth. I head Ned pause a moment before continuing.

"So what do you need hauled and how much are we talkin?"
"About a dumpsters worth of stuff... and how much do your services usually run? I'm not familiar with the typical pay scale." Gio said.
"Well, it depends on what you need hauled. If we're talking mundane stuff, I'd say about 20k.. now if its bodies you want to disappear, its gonna be a bit more pricey."
"Oh nothing like that. It's mostly documents." Gio said.
"Roughly 20k then, cash only, of course. Now this stuff, you need it disposed of? Or you wanna keep it around for awhile?"
"We'd like to keep it around.. we just need it someone secure."
"That we can do. Go talk to Kerwin, he'll tell you where the stuff will be. Now is this something you need picked up now or can it wait till normal trash day?"
"As soon as possible would be preferred." Gio said.
"I'll be there is an hour." And Ned hung up.

"Well that solves that problem. For now. Lets go through the files and see what we need to take with us. We've only got an hour." Gio began to walk into the other room as he was speaking.
I started walking after him, but after two steps, the next thing I knew I was sitting on the floor in front of the far wall, my face hurting and I could hear the others laughing at me. I'd somehow run straight into the wall. My Celerity had activated itself on its own, and now even their voices sounded like they were moving in slow motion.

The fucking coffee. I started to curse, but paused. I realized I could see everything with startling accuracy. It was all moving in slow motion. That normally didn't happen with celerity, I sped up, but no one else slowed down. I knew they weren't really moving slower, but I was perceiving faster. I sat there, the world slowed down while I moved normally, and realized that I could utilize it. I smirked to myself, focused on slowing myself down, and everything fell back into a normal pacing.

"...ou okay?" I caught the end of what Gio was asking me at normal speed. Nobody was laughing his ass off. Nadi and Becca looked amused as hell. I stood. "Yeah, I'm fine." I got up and walked past him to where the files were, trying to pretend I hadn't just ran face first into a wall.

We started sorting, but after a few minutes Gio stopped and looked at the cieling. "We need to find a way to get upstairs. We have no idea what is up there."

I nodded and looked at Nobody. "Think you could climb the wall and get in a window?"
Nobody balked. "Fuck, I'm not gonna break in a window in this place."
I rolled my eyes. "How about you just look in the damn window and tell us what you see."

He mutter disparaging remarks and walked outside. We followed. I didn't crash into any walls this time. Nobody did his Spiderman routine and went up the dark side of the building. The rest of us looked for the fire escape.
Nadi frowned as we started to climb the ladder. "It's odd that the fire escape would be on the side of the building with no windows."

"There's a reason for it, there always is with Yousef." Gio responded. We got to the landing that was about 20 feet from the ground before we noticed anything out of the ordinary. I peered closer at the mortar and could see a slight discoloration in patches on the wall in front of us. Gio gave me a weird look.

"Hey this is going to sound weird.. but.. can you do this for me?" Gio put his arms up in the air and waved them around. I quirked a brow at him. "Seriously.. I'm not fucking around." He said. I did as he asked and he stared at my shadow as I did. When I looked at it it was moving normally. "Huh, weird.. a second ago your shadow was moving slower than you.. side effect of the coffee maybe." Gio just shrugged.

I watched my shadow for a moment frowning. I didn't like that one bit. May have been the coffee, also may have been whoever has been following me as I hunt... I shook it off and turned back to the wall. "Look, there are discolored areas... they look like symbols..." I pointed to the four patches of differing mortal, they formed the corners of a rectangle. Gio looked but couldn't see it. "What do they say?"
I gave him an annoyed scowl. "I don't know. I don't read Hebrew, genius. You tell me." I traced them with a finger and he finally noticed where I was talking about.

"Its Hebrew alright, looks like 'Shiyth' which, I believe, is an alternate form of Seth..." Gio examined it closer. None of us knew what to do. Gio finally just shrugged and said, I think just for the fuck of it, "Shalom?" And lo and behold, we all had to step back as a piece of the wall swung outward, revealing a window.

"Nobody! get over here!" I called after him, it didn't take him more than 10 seconds to come around the side of the building and see we'd found a window that wasn't boarded up from the inside like the windows in the front had been.

We all ducked through the window one at a time and found ourselves in a surprisingly small room considering it looked like it should take up the entire second floor. There were roughly 20 5ft filing cabinets against the far wall. There was a large clay statue that looked a little bigger than a man with features that lacked sufficient detail (such as impressions where eyes should be, but no eyeballs were sculpted), made from clay that appeared to still be moist, a Hebrew symbol carved into the forehead and a medium sized wooden crate on the left wall. Sitting against the wall that our window entrance was set into was an ornately carved chest roughly 4 feet across. It appeared to be made, or at least plated in, gold, with religious symbols carved all over it. The symbols were far from modern. One the other side of the window there was a small desk covered with documents, and a shelf holding various odd looking liquids in sealed beakers.

Each one of us went to a different part of the room to inspect its treasures. Giovanni made a beeline for the desk and the documents there and started mutter to himself, presumably reading them out loud. Nadi and Becca went over to the filing cabinets, and Nobody looked at the golden chest. I slowly approached the clay statue. There wasn't much more to it than the cursory inspection had given me. When I asked Gio what the symbol was on its forehead, he absently looked up from his documents and said, "Death." and promptly returned to reading. Nadi mentioned that there was a small ball of darkness inside the statue.

I pried open the lid to the crate and found it full of unremarkable things. It held several sets of generic, utilitarian clothing, the type that mostly avoids dating itself.. t-shirts, jeans, button down shirts, and brown shoes. There was a passport inside that was filled out completely, but lacking a picture. A Polaroid camera could also be found in the crate. I took out the camera and snapped a photo of the chest, just to see if the camera did anything weird. No.. just a camera. I guess not everything we find can be imbued with supernatural whatthefucksthis.

Giovanni reported that his papers looked like religious rituals, possibly from the Malleus Mallifacarum. One ritual even brought someone back from the dead. Some of the Latin wasn't translatable though, even for him- the guy who can speak any language he wants. The beakers held what looked like failed elixirs as far as Gio could tell, except one, which was labeled, "A Glimpse of After" with a note scrawled across the label, "Already seen it." Gio pocketed it.

The filing cabinets were full of Yousef's journals, but from what we could tell, it was all very mundane stuff. So we turned our attention to the chest.

Nadi and Nobody were both inspecting it. "The carvings look Byzantine.. and its made out of the purest form of gold I've ever seen, perfect gold." Nadi explained.

Gio and I walked over and...hit a wall. Not literally this time, but we got within about 5 feet of it, and couldn't get any closer. For me, it was just like an invisible barrier. For Gio, it was painful.

"Well that's weird." I took a step back from the invisible barrier. "Nadi, Nobody, could you open it?" Everyone in the room gave me a look like I was crazy. No one moved to open it. Gio also took a step back and breathed a sigh of relief before speaking. "Lets do more research first, on it and the golem over there. Golems are from Hebrew legend right? Anyone know a Rabbi?"

Nadi nodded. "We can go see him tomorrow.. can't go alone though. He's very devote..won't be alone with a woman he isn't married too."

So we took what journals we could and threw them and what we could from the shop into the dumpster. Giovanni was the last to leave. He paused briefly inside before stepping out and closing the room.

Ned came, picked everything up, and we headed back down into the sewers. I still had an appointment to keep with Rowan.

November 13, 2009

Lucifuge and Bright

It needs to be mentioned that we did do one more thing that night before I went to sleep for the day. Gio finally found the old cassette player he'd been looking for, and we were finally able to listen to the tape that we had taken from the Family Vault.

The tape cracked and popped with static. The voice that came through sounded familiar, but younger. Less gruff.

"Test? Good. Hrrmm. If you are listening to this tape, then you are either Giuseppe, you work for him, or the family has fallen, and you're a looter, sifting through the ashes... Heh. Suppose it hardly matters, then. Either way, if you're one of Giuseppe's, I hope this reaches you, and him, in time to be useful. Hell, maybe you'll even be able to help us out.

There's something going down, something with a scar in the meat packing district. That much pain and death, it... warps the spirit of the place. I've tried to find out what sort of sick spirit is running the place, but whatever it is, it's good at hiding. I do whatever bindings I can, but the Beshilu are everywhere in that place, and they chew through too quickly. There's a smell, though, something I can't quite place, but...its one of us. It's some kind of tainted Uratha, some thing that's sick on the inside, spirit sick. It's out here I think, in the city, and it's... look, it's getting stronger. I don't know any way to explain it to you, but it's growing in power.

And if we fall, that'll be why. I know you're in charge here, and if there were some way I could reach you, I would, but you're incredibly difficult. And this is the kind of thing for an alpha to handle."

There was the sound of muffled voices, the rattle of someone messing with the tape recorder.

"So do your damn job. Whatever this is, Bella isn't tough enough to handle it. Maybe you are."

Another voice could be heard in the background. "Sam, you comin'?"

And the tape recorder clicked off. We all stood there in silence for a good minute. I reached over and took the tape out, putting it away in one of the drawers that had no key. "How long ago do you think that was made?"

Gio shook his head. "No idea.. but he sounded a lot younger.. but I mean, it couldn't have been that long ago could it? He mentioned Bella, so she was alive, and she was either in charge, or they knew she would be."

I pulled out my phone and texted Giuseppe.

From: H
To: G

Have a message for you that you really need to listen to.

I waited, but he never responded. Goddammit.. where the hell was he?

We discussed the meaning of the tape for a few more minutes. Goi thought he recalled someone mentioned a spirit in the meatpacking area of town before, but the memory was escaping him. I called Tommy, but no answer. Gio said he'd go see if Volkas was back from tending to his niece yet. For now, we didn't know what else to do. Spirits were not our forte.. though we had begun to get so mixed up with them, we needed to find some way to fix that, fast. It was too close to dawn for me to be anymore help in the conversation, so I went to bed thinking about rat spirits, slaughterhouses, and hoping I could get a hold of my aloof sire soon.


December 3rd, 2009

I checked with Nobody as soon as I was awake. He'd gone out during the day and set up the black box in the tunnels. He and the others wanted to update me on what had happened while I slept, but Rowan was coming tonight, and I desperately needed to feed, so it could wait.

I loaded up my weapons, 9mm in the thigh holster on my right leg, knives in sheaths on my left. Hard as I might try, I just couldn't get used to carrying a gun in a shoulder rig, or anywhere else. Ever since Korea, it just felt wrong. Sometimes I'd carry at the small of my back for the sake of concealment, but ever since I learned how to make them damn near invisible anywhere on my person, it was a moot point. Quick drawing from the small of your back is always going to be a little slower anyway. As I set out I contemplated upgrading the 9mm Beretta to something with a bit more punch. A .45 would be more effective in those rare times I was shooting at something that didn't shrug off bullets like mosquito bites.

Rat hunting was less than glamorous, but it was a means to an end. I was out for about an hour hunting. After about 20 minutes, I felt it. That itching on my back. I still couldn't make out anyone following me anywhere, but I knew they were there. I looked for the culprit, like I usually did, and kept hunting when I didn't see them, like I usually did. As I crept through the tunnel I had in mind when I had given Nobody the black box, I still felt like I was being watched, so I triggered the recorder with the small remote concealed in my palm. I'd thought ahead and put a small piece of electrical tape over the flashing light so it wouldn't give away it's position.

After that, I kept hunting until I was full, and headed back to base. I made sure not to change my behavior in the slightest.

I found Nobody first. "Can you get the box back for me tomorrow morning?"
He scowled at me. "Why? Get Rebecca to do it."
I frowned at him. "She can't. You put it up high. She can't play spiderman like you can."
He just glowered at me. "Fine. Fuck off."

Someone had their panties in a twist tonight. I left him to his brooding.

I walked into Gio's lab and was surprised, the homunculus was gone. "You finished it?"
He nodded. "Yup. Chesh should be back soon. He wanted to take the new body out for a spin." His grin was proud.
"How did you get the Pyros into it without Icegalos?" I inquired. I was glad he'd been able to figure it out. Chesh would prove useful. That, and it would've been infuriating if all that time gathering parts was a waste.
"Ingeniuty," Gio replied. "I went out for a drink to get away from the annoying changeling asshole and wound up at the Hair of the Dog. I met a very interesting man there, one who had a lot of stitches and made all the patrons pissy. I followed him out, watched him tear off a werewolf's arm that messed with him... since I recognized him as the Promethean Icegalos was talking to, the one that made the pandoran we fought, I figured he could help me. And he did. I came back here, got the body and the pyros, everyone else decided to tag along to his junk yard. He made them wait outside.. and there was some incident with a zombie cat while they waited that you'll have to ask Nadi or Rebecca about. And the weird caretaker from the cemetery and a friend of his showed up to talk to the Promethean, who I have dubbed 'Marv' since he won't tell me his name, no idea what about."

I smirked. "Marv? Really? No wonder people hate us."

Rebecca was in the living room and filled me in on everything else. She had gone with Nadi to see Blueford about warding her laptop, but Becca couldn't recall anything that was said or done in his office. I was mildly perturbed by that, but he's a mage, what could I do? All she knew was that they left the laptop, and Nadi now had a very old book she had been pouring over for the last few hours. Afterward they had met up with Giovanni and headed out to the junkyard.

"So whats this about a zombie cat?" I was more than a little perplexed.
"Oh uh..yeeah." Rebecca looked a little sheepish. "Nadi and Nobody were bored, so they found a cat to bring back to life to hunt rats while we waited. It..uh..wasn't happy with us. Then two people I'd never seen before showed up and killed it, telling Nadi she should know better, and that the junkyard was just another type of graveyard..."
I just looked at her incredulously, shook my head, and walked out of the room.

"Boss! Wait! The car was on the news!" She called after me. I turned back around and lifted a questioning eyebrow.
"Yeah, news report on the car.. no real info from it, but..ya know..weird thing was.. one of the forensics team that was milling around in the background was palming something red and shiny like, the entire time."
I frowned, brow furrowed. That was not good. I didn't expect Bright and his cronies to get involved with a simple 'person in the trunk of a car' case. I wondered if we'd have to deal with them every time we called Martindale now. "Thanks for letting me know, Becca." I headed to the lab.

I walked back into the lab right as Cheshire returned. The thing fucking swaggered. I stood there, admiring it as it padded across the floor to Gio. "Impressive."
It flicked its tail and looked at me. "Thank you."
I raised a brow in mild surprise. "You can talk now."
Instead of answering that painfully obvious statement, he turned his attention back to Gio. "Boss, we have a visitor. It's Her." And he turned and sauntered back out towards the tunnels. Gio and I exchanged a glance and grabbed the others, heading out to the tunnel entrance that that Chesh had exited through.Which 'her' was he talking about?

She was standing just outside the door. Everyone stopped and just stared. She was beautiful. Dark hair falling around her shoulders and down her back in waves, white satin gown hugging her generous, but not too generous curves.. she was one of the most beautiful women I'd ever seen. She looked to be roughly 19 years old, but we all knew she was significantly older than that. Chesh was draped across her shoulders like a living (if you can think of him as alive) stole. She idly scratched between his ears and he was honest-to-god purring.

Gio recovered first. "Hey Boss."
"Very well done, Giovanni."
Gio nodded. "Thank you. He seems to like it too."
She smiled and continued to pet Cheshire as she looked from one of us to the next. "You called me here, and I decided to answer.. I find the desire to check in on my people from time to time. I hear that you have been dealing with some.. difficulties." At this, her eyes focused on me. I was pretty surprised. I was expecting this to be mostly Gio's show, but she seemed to expect an answer from me instead. However, Gio responded before I could.
"Difficulties? Which ones? We have a lot to choose from. The first one that comes to mind is finding Thomas Mattheson."
"Ah yes, Mattheson. Why do you wish to find him?"
"Well.. if you didn't already know, he's my father..." Gio said this with no small amount of scorn directed at the idea.
A brief expression of annoyance flicked across her face, so brief, as a matter of fact, that I was unsure I'd seen it at all. In a moment of sheer curiosity, and stupidity, I focused on the Lucifuge's aura.
"Yes.. we.." I didn't hear the rest of her response. The sight of her aura was all I could comprehend for a few seconds

She looked absolutely angelic. White robes, soft feathered wings, the works. She was even more beautiful like this, if that was even possible. She turned her head slowly to regard me, and her eyes were that of a snake, vertical slits for pupils, greenish yellow in color, but it wasn't enough to counteract the vision of her. She spoke to me, but I didn't hear it. Instead, I felt it in my mind. "Do you like what you see?"
I answered truthfully, thinking my response. "You're beautiful."
She smiled, and the vision was gone.
"...venge, besides, if I get rid of him, that's one more spot that could be filled by someone who may end up on our side." Apparently I missed the first half of this conversation, only coming back to reality halfway through Giovanni's statement.

"I see. He has indeed been an annoyance to us. I will tell you he was associated with the Marcone family long ago, who were very focused on the profession of their eldest son." She was still looking and talking to Giovanni. Apparently her exchange with me hadn't been seen or heard by anyone else. I felt a little weird after that, though I'll be (further) damned if I could explain how.

I frowned. "What profession was that?"
She just smiled. "I cannot give you all the answers. How would you ever learn if I did?"
I muttered under my breath, "That sounds familiar." She just smiled at me.

Gio paused for a moment, then laughed to himself. "So, I have to ask. What did Giuseppe's face look like when he tried to kill you with fire and nothing happened?"
"Much like all of yours. Confused, angry, but determined. Determined to become more than he was- what he knew he could be." I noticed something odd as she said that. Her eyes flicked to me, then quickly to the lower left, before returning to my face. It was like she was glancing at something on the ground to my left. When I glanced myself, however, there was nothing there. Curiouser and curiouser.

"You still have the necklace, yes?" she said, still smiling.
I nodded. "I do."
"Good. If you need my assistance, it can be used to summon me. However, I recommend that this only be used in dire circumstances, a situation of the utmost importance, because I do not advise that you waste my time." She gently slid Chesh from her shoulders to the ground. He padded over to Gio and sat next to him. "Now, I will take my leave. It seems that you have other visitors to attend to." She glanced to the tunnels behind her and to the right, the tunnels that led towards Giovanni's shop. We all followed her gaze, and when we looked back to her, she was gone.

We all looked at each other coming to a decision without a word spoken, and set out down the tunnels towards the shop. We climbed out of the manhole in an alleyway out of sight of the front of the building. Once we were all out and accounted for, we stepped out of the alley and headed for the shop.

On a park bench, directly across from the entrance to the shop, sat two men. One was Martindale, folded newspaper sitting next to him on the bench, and the other was a nondescript man wearing heavy gloves and smoking three cigarettes. Both wore thick wool coats. I noticed our groups distinct lack of said coats. I don't think anyone had grabbed theirs as we were leaving. They must be freezing. I probably looked pretty strange standing out in the frigid air, wearing jeans and a tank top, and not shivering in the slightest. At least the weapons were hidden. I really more important things to concern myself with at the moment. We approached the bench. They weren't surprised to see us.

"Well hello people who I have no knowledge of ever existing." Martindale said.
Gio grinned. "Howdy." Then he looked over at the mystery man. "Those things will kill ya you know." I'm not a big joker.. but I couldn't help but think that comment would've been more ironic had I said it. Oh well.

The man gave us a scornful look. "Like I care. Not like it's my body. So you people have things that I want, but I take it all those things have been moved out of their previous location since we were so rudely delayed by a certain agent who I will now make it my personal mission to destroy." We just let him talk, which seemed to suit him just fine. He looked at me. "I think we should discuss our mutual taste and interest in jewelery sometime." I just cocked an eyebrow at him. I didn't let it show on my face that I was mildly surprised he knew about the necklace. These guys must have eyes fucking every where. I did not like that one bit.

"I will be honest. My first instinct is to take this warrant," he held up a folded piece of paper, "and use it to not only comb through your shop which has, naturally, been indicated to house a terrorist group and their supplies," I raised an eyebrow and smirked to which he interrupted himself to respond, "Oh yes, the Patriot Act has been very gracious to people like me.. I can get away with damn near anything in the name of fighting terrorism. But I digress. I can use this warrant to comb through this terrorist haven, report that it has been cleared out and proceed to process the haven, anything left inside, and any escapes routes that might be hidden, say, in the basement. When I process locations, I tend to do so with a fuck ton of armed personnel." I cringed inwardly. The only part of that bothered me was the escape route. I did not want Maury's haven under attack by some treasure hunting quasi-governmental agency.

"Now. Like I said. This was my first instinct. However, I was contacted by someone, my... rival, if you will..."
Martindale put a hand to his chest in mock gratitude. "Oh you flatter me."
Bright, which is who we figure this was (sans monkey body) continued. "and encouraged me to first begin by being...civil. Something I am not very practiced in." He gestured to us with a gloved hand that held the three cigarettes. "So this is me.. being civil. I would...appreciate.. the opportunity to move within the shop unrestricted tonight in order to make sure those items of interest have all truly been taken care of." he made the request as though he hadn't just threatened us with violence a few seconds earlier.

Gio stepped to one side and gestured to the shop. "Right this way."

Bright tossed the spent cigarettes on the ground and smashed them under his boot heel. He took out a pack from inside his coat, pulled out three new cigs, put them all between the pointer and middle finger of his right hand and lit each one, exhaling a huge cloud of smoke before standing.

Martindale also stood and handed me his newspaper. "You should check out the sports section. There's a good story about the Cubs in there." He didn't even bother to make significant eye contact. It wasn't at all necessary. I could already feel the stuff file folder that had been slipped in between the pages of the newspaper.
I nodded and tucked the paper under my arm. "Sounds good. I like the Cubs."
Nobody snorted. "The Cubs fucking suck."
Nadi said, deadpan, "I prefer the Red Sox."
I choked back laugh. I was pretty certain Nadi felt the same way about baseball as I did: fucking useless.

We all walked towards the dark Antique Shop.

November 11, 2009

The Black Congregation, Scratch, and the Lady of the Lake

When I got up the next night, I nearly ran into Rebecca when I opened the door. I caught her by the shoulders before she plowed into me. What is it with people standing right outside my door? Is the living room just that far away? Lord.

"Oof! Sorry Boss."
"Don't worry about it. Whats up?"
"Got your knives." She handed me four long, razor sharp lister knives. "I also talked to some guy from the Mallaus Malli.. Mall... the catholic church hunter guys you and Mona are looking for info on."
I blinked, it took me a second to process that. I'd been so involved with Scratch's journal last night I'd forgotten about Gio's meeting with the priest. "Damn. So he was part of the Mallifacarum. What happened?"
"He talked to Gio about his dad, where to look next. Apparently Birch knows something about him."
I grimaced. "Poor bastard."
"Yeah. Then he mentioned something about a farm outside of town with a bunch of people with blue eyes. Made me think Children of the Corn."
Holy shit its true.. It's not really that unbelievable.. but still.. "The priest told Gio where it was?"
"Yeah.. why? what is it?"
"There are rumors that Birch has his own eugenics program. Hand picks mortals and mates them. Like fucking cattle. And having met the guy it doesn't surprise me. He's a racist sonofabitch. Good to know though. What else?"

"Well, he knew about Giuseppe, and said they were trying to keep tabs on him, but it was difficult."
I nodded and motioned for her to continue.
"They're keeping tabs on him because they think he's dangerous. He didn't say what they were planning on doing about him.. but.." she hesitated.
I frowned. "What?"
"Well, he knew who I was.. and who you are.. and he didn't try to off me.. so I don't know if that means he's not after us or what."
I frowned deeper and chewed on that for a moment. Rebecca was looking at me like it was the calm before the storm. I raised an eyebrow at her in question.
"I just thought you'd be more pissed." She said, apologetically.
I shook my head. "I already figured they knew about me. I figured as much when we got the note saying they were watching. I don't like it, but it's not unexpected. If they can keep tabs on Giuseppe, they can certainly keep tabs on me. I'm not great at going unnoticed...yet. Find anything else?"
"Well, they said Giuseppe was excommunicated for knowing too many secrets. They also mentioned he attacked the Lucifuge with fire because he thought she was a vampire. She laughed at him."
That actually made me grin.
"Other than that was talk about Gio's dad. Apparently there are two types of Lucifuge. Gio is the type they don't want to kill on sight. Oh! I almost forgot. The whole reason the guy is here is to take care of those Heresy crazies."

That got my attention. "Really."
"Yeah. He brought infiltrators. He's trying to get rid of the 'heretics' he called them."
"Good. That it?"
"Good job."
I grabbed a glass from one of the cabinets in my room. I had little use for them usually, but all the rooms were outfitted the same. I took one of the new knives and drew it down my palm and willed the blood to flow out of it and into the glass. I watched Becca as I did it. Her eyes were fixated on the glass. I slid the container across the dresser to her and she snatched it up and downed in huge gulps. When she finished she seemed even more energized than before. She shivered and cracked her knuckles. "Damn. Helluva rush."
I smirked and nodded. "Mmhmm."
"So whats on the agenda tonight, Boss?"
"I get to go see Scratch. And I entirely expect him to try to kill me."
Rebecca just grinned. "Sounds like a party."

I gave her a small smirk and walked past her, heading for the lab. I hadn't lied to her. I was expecting Scratch to try to kill me, and worse. I knew he was a diablerist. What I didn't know was if his distaste of Maxwell was enough to keep him from jumping me. If not, I had what I hoped would be an ace in the hole.

Nobody and Gio were in the lab, Gio looking over his homunculus. He looked up as I walked in.
"Just the vampire I wanted to see! You think you can use that glass thingy to call Icegalos again? I need his help."
I leaned against the door frame and crossed my arms. "Nope."
He frowned at me, raising an eyebrow in question. "Why the fuck not?"
"I don't have it anymore."
"The fuck? How do you lose a 10 pound piece of volcanic glass the size of a dinner plate?"
"I never said I lost it."
"Then where is it?"
I shrugged. He was getting progressively more annoyed. It was entertaining. I didn't get under Gio's skin often.
"Well what the fuck did you do with it?"
"You knew I had a meeting with the khaibit."
"And you get pissed at US for giving away useful items!" Nobody said. I just glared at him.
Gio threw his hands in the air in frustration. "That's all you had to say! That you gave it back to her because it was hers. Was that so hard?"
I smirked at him. "But then I wouldn't have been able to see you get pissed.. and wheres the fun in that?"
He rolled his eyes at me. "Whatever, I'll figure something out. On to the next issue. What do you know about Solomon Birch?"

I made a face that expressed my feelings towards Birch.

Nobody even chimed in. "Fuck that guy!"
Gio nodded. "I know WE all hate Birch, but my question is, how does the vampire community as a whole feel about him?"
I shrugged and walked over to the work table, sitting on one of the stools. "Maxwell hates him, but Birch is a racist sonofabitch, so it's understandable."
"Racist like.. might have a farm just outside town that lots of blonde haired blue eyed people come from?" Gio inquired.
I snorted disgust. "There have always been rumors of him having a Eugenics program, yes, but nothing ever concrete."
"Yeah.. I heard about it fro.."
"The priest, Rebecca told me."
Gio grumbled, "Remind me not to take the ghoul with me on these things... ruins all the drama."
I rolled my eyes at him. "You're talking to someone who can read your mind if I wanted too. The drama isn't going to happen."
"You don't want to know what goes on in there. Didn't you try that before and it ended badly?"
"Not on you. Want my advice?"
He looked at me expectantly. I told him, "Find another lead. You don't want to get involved with Birch."
He shrugged. "Well yeah, but it's good information to know. It's an opportunity to fuck with Birch."
Nobody gave a bark of laughter. "That's one opportunity I'll gladly let pass by."

Gio shrugged again. "Hey, it could be useful information.. but since I'm not allowed to get into vampire politics, I guess I can't use this bit of information. I guess I'll just leave this piece of paper in my lab... on the table..unattended.. I cannot be held responsibly for what may come of it from others who may 'break in' and happen to read such information."
I made a face. "Ugh.. you'd fit into the vampire politics great.."
He smirked at me. "Why do you think Bella told me to stay out of them? Either way, no harm in filing the information away in case we need to attack it with fire one day."

I gave a disgruntled snort. "Count me out."
Gio smirked at me. "You kidding? I'm planning on testing the pyrotechnics in the lab."

I gave him a look that could freeze a solar flare.

Gio just laughed. "Good God, did your sense of humor die when you did?"
Nobody grinned. "According to Bob she never actually had one."
I flipped them both off. Then focused on Nobody's shadow and watched as it reached out and started to throttle him.

Maybe it wasn't the best idea to fuck with the one with the tenuous grasp on reality, but it was too tempting to pass up. And was less likely to get me stabbed then actually choking him.
Gio grabbed a flashlight. "Woah..weird.."
Nobody glanced over. "Huh?"
"Your shadow.." and he clicked on the flashlight, making the shadow disappear.
"I didn't notice.."

"We're going to the freehold."
I nodded to them both as I turned to leave. "Have fun. I'm going to meet Scratch.."
Nobody made a face. "Count me out."
"You weren't invited."

I stepped out in the tunnels. I stretched out my senses, listening to the dripping and groaning of the pipes, and followed the scrabbling noises of tiny paws. I tracked down three rats on my way to meet Scratch. That was all I could find before the itching between my shoulder blades became too much and I stopped trying to hunt. I knew something was there, but I couldn't find whatever it was. It was making me paranoid. Moreso than normal.

I hoisted myself out of the manhole nearest to the address. The less time above ground, the safer I'd be. I replaced the manhole cover as quietly as possible and walked up to the storefront.

It looked to be an abandoned prosthetic store. From the look of the merchandise left behind, it had been abandoned for a few decades. Logically, someone should have bought it and opened something else in the retail space since then, but I'm sure there were extenuating circumstances that kept that from happening. I slipped inside the door and locked it behind me. The store was mostly empty. There were a few outdated fake limbs lying here and there, a wooden table, a couple chairs, and a few dusty shelving units. Mostly, it was dark and empty. The only other door I could find was at the back of the store, and it was securely locked.

I couldn't sense anyone, but I figured he was here. The Nosferatu were even better than the Mekhet at hiding. I looked around for a few minutes, but it was pretty futile. He'd been at this longer than I had. Finally, I walked over to the wooden table and half sat against it, crossing my arms. "Are you going to hide from me all night?"
I froze. I heard something faint coming from the ceiling. I trained my eyes on the source... there was an expertly hidden surveillance camera tucked away in the shadows of the ceiling beams. The noise I had heard was the quiet motor as the camera turned to watch me. I looked straight at it and waited. I heard the thunk of a heavy lock, and the door I'd spotted at the back of the store swung open about a foot. I stood and peaked inside. It was a dark hallway that turned to the right after about 4 yards. The only illumination was a faint blue light that presumably came from the computer the camera was hooked into.

I stepped inside, and thought, not for the first time, that this was more than likely not going to end well for me. The risks I take for knowledge... The hallway ended in a small room that sported the security equipment. Several monitors were hooked up with views from different cameras. It was all being recorded. A small glass ashtray lay next to the keyboard, a shitty gas station cigarillo was still smoldering inside, sending up curls of gray smoke. The metal chair was empty. I heard the door at the end of the hallway close and lock. As I turned, Scratch materialized out of nowhere. I'd seen the Collector do much the same before. It remained unnerving.

"I had to make sure you came alone."
I nodded. "Understandably."
He pulled another metal folding chair out from against the wall and motioned for me to take a seat. I sat across from him, legs crossed, arms folded across my stomach. I didn't plan on having my hand too far away from my knives. I sat in silence while he scrutinized me. I waited for him to speak.

"You know... if I were an upstanding member of this community, I would kill you right where you sit." A very smug, unpleasant grin spread across his smug unpleasant face. "I bet the Prince wouldn't even mind if I drank your soul. So... give me a good reason why I shouldn't kill you right now?" He was eying me like a strung out addict. It was almost sexual, but it wasn't my legs he was ogling. He was practically salivating at the thought of devouring my soul.

I would have thought I would be scared in this situation, but I wasn't. I had expected this. My demeanor was calm, collected, and completely unconcerned. And for wasn't an act. I tilted my head to one side and pretended to consider the question. His expression said he didn't think I'd come up with a good answer. I was looking forward to seeing his face when I did.
"Well, I'm much more of a thorn in Maxwell's side if I still exist than if I don't..."

His grin got even nastier. "Smart.. appealing to me hatred of Maxwell.. but it won't work. Have you ever tasted the forbidden fruit..?"
I shook my head without taking my eyes off of him. "Not in the way you're meaning." I had drank a soul before.. several, actually.. but I killed no one to do it. I had drank the blood of Ophios. Apparently, the Ancient Egyptian opener of ways had blood made from souls. It had been intoxicating. I could understand his desire.
"It is worth skipping an opportunity to thumb my nose at the prince. You'll have to have a better reason than that."

I leaned back in my chair and allowed a smirk to creep up onto my face. "There is also the fact that they say I'm contagious."
Scratch's grin became significantly less smug, it was slowly transforming into a suspicious sneer. "With what?"
I raised my eyebrows in real surprise. I hadn't expected Maxwell to not give a reason for the kill on sight order. Or maybe he gave a bogus one to avoid panic. Either way, it was working in my favor tonight. Or there was some other reasoning at play that I wasn't aware of. I had learned not to discount any of the possibilities. I let my own smirk take on a hint of smugness. "The Prince called it 'malkavia'."

That rained all over his parade. There was not even a hint of that unpleasant, smug as fuck grin on his face now. It had devolved into something between a sneer and a scowl. He looked decidedly disappointed, and pretty pissed. He just stared at me for a good minute before speaking again. "Well I guess I'll get the chance to thumb my nose at Maxwell after all. So you want to make a deal then. What are you offering?"
"I want to learn the Coils of the Beast."
He waited expectantly.
"And, like we discussed at Court, in exchange I will be an...obedient student."
His eyes narrowed, regarding me with suspicion. "Completely obedient?"
I tried not to consider what he may have me do. I knew I probably wouldn't like it, but I also knew it would be necessary to advance my training. If I had to do something nefarious, I would at least be in control of it. I had mastered one part of the beast... but I was not stupid enough to think I had completely conquered it. And I needed to.

Scratch still didn't look happy, but he stood and walked past me into the hallway. He opened the heavy door and stepped out into the main store. I followed him out and watched as he pulled open a section of the floor, a trap door that hadn't been apparent before.

He motioned me down the ladder with a jerk of his head.

The ladder led down into a wide tunnel. A wide creepy tunnel. Prosthetic limbs hung from the walls and ceiling, connected by thick iron chains. They spun in slow, lazy circles as we brushed past them. The tunnel stretched out in both directions. I faced him as he slid down the ladder.

"So you want to learn to conquer the beast then. What do you already know?"
Right down to business. It was refreshing.
"I know how to shut it off when I need to.. shove is down. I know how to goad it to attack someone of my choosing..."
He nodded. "Show me."
I regarded him a moment. He wanted me ride the wave..on him? He returned me look with a deadpan expression. Apparently, he did. I was again glad I hunted on the way over here.

I had never forced the beast up without being in a fight already. I focused on the anger I had felt when the serial killer was fucking with us, how infuriated I was at being used for his little game. I felt the beast start to stir, uncurling and stretching like a cat. I started to replay the night when Maxwell came to destroy me, how angry and betrayed I had felt, how enraged and disgusted I was with their cowardice. I felt the beast begin to growl and snarl, pacing behind the bars I had erected. I felt its mad glee as the bars began to crumble away. I thought about Mona's half melted face, and that made the beast howl the loudest. So much that the memory probably would've brought it to the surface all by itself. I focused all that rage, pain, disgust, and betrayal on Scratch. I told the beast it was his fault, and he should pay for what he'd done. My vision began to fade to red, I felt my canines extend and my muscles tighten. My last conscious thought before the beast tore through the brittle bars was that Scratch was doing the same. His fangs extended, his two front teeth (not the canines, oddly) sharp and deadly and his eyes gleamed with bestial ferocity, giving him the resemblance of a very pissed off rat. He snarled and charged me.

He slammed me against the wall and I snapped at his face. RAGE, PAIN! How DARE he attack me! Blood filled my muscles almost as reflex and I brought my fist into contact with his face. He hissed and pushed himself off of me. As he did, he tore one of the prosthetic limbs from the ceiling and brought it down over my head. I felt the thick plastic splinter and crack, but I didn't hear it. All I could heard was the howling fury of the beast. It wanted to tear him apart and bathe in his blood. I tore a a heavy wooden leg from the wall and caught him across the face with it. The beast screamed in fierce delight. He hefted his own weapon and mimicked my attack, bringing the limb down across the side of my head with crushing force. My head snapped to the side, ears ringing loudly from the impact. When I looked up a fraction of a second later to go for his throat, he was gone.

The beast snarled at the empty room and then at me, as my consciousness forced it back down, back into its cage. It fought and wrestled, but I had brought it up on my own terms, and my will was too strong. The cage clanged shut, the beast hissed, then quieted.. I stood up straight and tried to ignore the singing in my ears. My fangs receded. I coaxed vitae through my battered skull and could feel the bone knitting itself back together. It is an odd sensation to feel two pieces of your skull shift and mold back together. The ringing instantly stopped. I heard a match strike behind me.

Scratch lit one of his shitty cigarillos, taking a long drag. He dropped the match and snuffed it out with his boot heel. Smoke trickled out of his nose and mouth as he spoke.
"It can be hard, force the beast to the surface.. can't it?"
I nodded. I tried not to let it irritate me that Scratch didn't at all look like he'd just been in a brawl. My ribs still ached.
He exhaled the remaining smoke, watching as it trailed up to the ceiling, curling around the swinging prosthetics. "Then don't force it."
Another long drag on the cigarillo. "Think about that."
He stepped around me and climbed up the ladder. I watched him climb, considering what he had said. When I climbed up myself, he was gone.

I let myself out.


I fed on the way back to Maury's. The itching between my shoulder blades was less intense this time, which made me think it was a product of my own paranoia. Nevertheless, I thought it couldn't hurt to set up the black box in one of the tunnels I hunt regularly in, just to see what it recorded. I thought about what Scratch had said all the way back to base. Up until now I had been considering my training as a mastering of the beast. What he had said made me reevaluate that position. It was, after all, a part of me. I contemplated the interaction as more of a partnership, instead. It seemed line a fine line. How do I work with the beast but still keep it from overwhelming me?

By the time I had fed again and arrived by at Maury's. Gio and Nobody were back. I walked in as Gio was examining a photograph. He didn't notice me until I spoke. "How did it go?"
He looked up suddenly and gave a small grin, his eyes flicked to the damp towel I was using to wipe blood and dirt off my hands and face, but he didn't ask. "Good. Lets get going. We're going on a field trip."
"Where to?"
"The lake."
My expression registered surprise. "The Lady?"

I smirked. "I'll grab Becca. I'm driving."

We loaded into the car, which was now bug free thanks to one of Gio's relatives. I hadn't had much of a chance to drive the thing, so I enjoyed the trip. Outwardly the car looked like a normal town car, but if you knew what you were looking for you could tell, upon closer inspection, that not only was it sun proofed, it was armored. The engine had also been overhauled. That monster could get up and GO when I gave it the gas.

They filled me, Nadi, and Becca in as we drove. They had gone to the freehold and found them preparing for war. A changeling called 'The Pan' had come to warn the freehold that when he awoke to battle the Fae, there were no Fae to battle. He was expecting us to have company. Gio had told them about the sword, but not that we had it. Apparently, only a specific person could pull it from the stone. Just like Arthurian legend. They pretty much confirmed that the sword had been what called the Fae here. He also mentioned that he palmed a note to Mathaias concerning his time in Cook County Asylum. It had been Wanda, the changeling we saved from the Pandoran in the lake the last time we were here, that had told him how to summon the lady of the lake. Gio also mentioned that the baby Nobody had saved from the garden a few weeks back was now about 15 years old. Nobody's aura spiked with nervous colors when Gio mentioned it. For once, I didn't rib him about it.

We pulled up to the southwestern bank of the lake and piled out of the car. I ignored the no parking signs and pulled the car out onto the sandy bank. I try to be prepared for a quick getaway.

The beach was peaceful, quiet waves lapping at the shore. A cold wind nipped at us and I noticed a couple of the others wrap coats tighter around themselves. I didn't mind the cold anymore. There were few clouds, but the moon was only a sliver, so darkness spread out over the water. I felt my pupils expand, almost a force of habit now in dark situations, and the scene brightened dramatically. I watched as Gio puled the photograph out of his pocket and rolled it up, tying it off with a length of string, and tossing it out over the water. We expected it to get caught by the wind and crash land only a few feet out, but instead, the wind switched direction, grabbing the photo and letting it glide out to the center of the part of the lake we could see.

We watched as a translucent hand shot up out of the water and caught the photo, and the rest of the person rose slowly upward, shimmering and ghost like. When I read her aura I saw exactly how ghost like. My night sight hinted that she was existing in Twilight. She WAS a ghost. She was also beautiful. Tall and statuesque, she slowly glided across the water towards us, examining the photograph as she moved. Her gown looked like solidified mist and it became one with the water when it touched it. Her hair fell down her back in a shimmering and slightly translucent waterfall. We all stared. The only one who seemed unaffected by her appearance was Nadi, but again- with her poker face, who knows what she was really thinking?

I glanced at the others. "She's a ghost.."
Gio looked at me and started when he noticed my eyes. "Shit woman. You need to lay off the Ecstasy!" I would have rolled my eyes at him, but he wouldn't have been able to tell. Right now, they were completely black, the pupil consumed everything else. He looked at Nadi for confirmation and she nodded. Definitely a ghost.

She stopped about 5 feet away from us. The wind picked up a bit, but it didn't seem to have any effect on her clothing or hair. Her voice had a lilting quality, everything she said sounded like the words to a song. "Why have you summoned me?"
Gio took a step towards her. This was his show.
"I was told to by Frost. I don't know why."
She regarded him a moment before responding. "Frost knew many things..."
"Many things he decided not to share with anyone..." Gio said.
"Why did you call the Fae here?" She didn't so much turn as she did rotate slightly to the left to look at Nobody when he interupted.
"I did not... I merely played my part."
Her entire body rotated back to look at Gio. "Why did you summon me?"
Gio frowned at her. "I'm trying to figure out why Frost wanted me too. I'm just doing what he told me I should do."
"You are seeking him, are you not? Your father?"
"Yeah, but he's a slippery bastard."
"Follow his sins."
Gio threw his hands in the air in sheer frustration. "I don't even know where to start!"
She smiled, turned away from us, and began gliding back out over the water. Her voice drifted back as she slipped silently down into the water. "Follow his sins..."

Gio looked like he was about to be very pissed, but suddenly the anger evaporated. "Hey! That's not where she rose up from."
Sure enough. She hadn't gone back out where she had come, she had drifted over to our left, about 20 feet out, before disappearing.
I frowned slightly, considering our options. "I guess we can't do the giant air bubble shit we did before, when we found Wanda can we? Didn't Cynthia Walsh do that for us?"
Gio shook his head. "Nope. No bubbles this time." Everyone was now watching me with very expectant looks.
I gave them all a very sour expression. Especially Giovanni. I took off the baseball cap Deuce had given me, my hair spilling down all over the damn place, and tossed it to Gio. "You're fucking lucky you've saved my life."
Gio smirked at me. "Lucky, nothin'." He reached over and put the hat on Nobody's head. "Ew. Now you have vampire cooties." Nobody swatted at him.
This time I did roll my eyes. "What are you, four?" I stripped off my trench coat and tossed it to Rebecca, along with my gun and thigh holster. I kept the knives on me, but tossed the sheaths to her as well. I waded out into the dark water. "If I get eaten by a pandoran I'm coming back to haunt all of you."

The water was bitterly cold. It cut right through the denim of my jeans and into my bones. I may not be able to suffer from hypothermia like the others, but it was still damn uncomfortable. I swam down towards the bottom, trying to gauge roughly where the lady of the lake had disappeared. It was difficult to see even using my night sight. The lake wasn't just dark, it was murky. I paused, trying to figure distance, when something caught my eye. Something reflecting just the barest hint of moonlight from the surface. When I approached, I could see that it was a car. The back end was buried under the mud of the lake bottom and the interior was filled with silt and lake debris. I kicked out one algae covered window to get a better look inside. From what I could tell, there was no one in the passenger area (but I'd stirred up a lot of mud, so it was even more difficult to see inside now), and the trunk was submerged so I couldn't jimmy it open to check there. I didn't see any ghosts, either. I laid a palm flat on the side of the vehicle and tried to block out the cold gnawing at my insides, concentrating on the vehicle itself.

I could see nothing but darkness. But I could feel fear, hear whimpering and banging noises like someone was kicking against metal. I heard the release of the car's hand brake and felt it begin to roll down a hill. I felt when the car impacted the water, and felt the cold of the water and the cold of the fear fill the trunk of the car.

I pushed myself off the sedan and shot towards the surface. The others were standing around chatting, waiting for me. "Hey! Pull the car over as close as you can to this spot without getting it stuck and grab the tow rope out of the trunk. There's a car down here half buried. I'm pretty sure there's a body in the trunk."

Gio grabbed the keys out of my coat pocket and drove the car around. Rebecca grabbed the rope and secured it to the back then threw the other end to me. She had a helluva arm. I secured my end to the front axle of the submerged sedan and gave two sharp tugs. As the rope pulled taut, I grabbed the axle, burned the blood and started to pull. At first, it wouldn't budge. But then gradually, it started to shift and pull free. It didn't take long before it was free of the bottom and gliding smoothly towards the surface. I followed it up, walking with it when the water became more shallow. Before I reached the surface I could hear Nadi yelling for me. Enhanced hearing is a nice thing to have.

When I heard her I was up on the beach and at her side in almost less time than it took her to finish my name. Nadi had dragged Becca a few feet away from where she had collapsed on the beach. "She was pulling on the tow rope to help and she just fainted. I'm pretty sure she tore something."

I had noticed it right away. Her right bicep looked malformed and an ugly purple bruise encased her entire upper arm. It had begun to swell. The dangers of using vampire blood to make a human body do things it was not designed to do. She had used her enhanced strength to help pull the car out of the lake and the muscles weren't conditioned to handle it. her bicep had torn and she had fainted from the pain.

Nobody dropped the tow rope and jogged over. "Want me to heal her?"
I nodded. "That would be nice." I watched as he concentrated, and the majority of the bruise faded, the bicep becoming more normalized. She remained unconscious, and it wasn't completely healed, but it looked much better. Nobody left to go help Gio with the soggy car. I sat on the sand and carefully pulled Rebecca's upper body into my lap, enough that her head was resting against my stomach. I took one of the knives and dragged it down my wrist. It didn't take much, the knife was razor sharp. I let the vitae course down into her mouth, rubbing her throat as I did so to make sure she drank it and didn't just choke on it. I continued with the steady stream until her bruising was completely gone and the muscle looked and felt normal. Her body used my blood to heal itself reflexively.

In the back of my mind I wondered how she'd already gone through what I'd given her earlier.

I cut off the flow, picked her up and laid her in the back seat of my car and covered her with my coat. She was still out, but would be fine. I took the tire iron she kept on her at all times (ever since the run in she had with the werewolf), and walked back over to the car. The others had already disconnected the rope from both vehicles. Now that I knew Rebecca was fine, I felt the wind. I was soaking wet, muddy, and could feel ice crystals forming in my eyelashes and my hair. Overall, not fun. Maybe I did still mind the cold.

I took to the the trunk with the crowbar as everyone gathered behind me. It popped open pretty easily. Not breathing has its ups and downs. On one hand, it had led me to become very uncomfortable as I stood there, wet, in the wind. On the other hand, I didn't have to smell the atrocious reek of the body that was in this trunk. Everyone groaned and took a few steps back. Nadi got a little green, excused herself, and vomited in the sand. I swear to god, even that was reserved. Poker. Face.

"Nadi, drinking that many energy drinks is seriously not healthy." I said absently. Her puke was florescent yellow. She gave me the finger and continued to dry heave. I grabbed a towel from the trunk of my car and tossed it to her, miming holding it over my nose and mouth, and walked back over to the soggy sedan.

The trunk was full of goo. That's what was left of whoever this had been. Bones, and goo. Most of the clothing had been dissolved by decades of lake residence. I was surprised that this much was even left, but I guess the fish had a hard time getting into the trunk. All in all, pretty fucking disgusting.
"Hey Harper why don't yo.."
"NO." I cut Nobody's train of thought off RIGHT there. I did not want to know what using the spirits touch on a corpse would do to me.

Nadi recovered enough to peer into the trunk. She was the resident death expert. I took a step back and let her examine the mess. She flinched when her arm brushed mine. I was ice cold. I think we all cringed as she reached her hand into the goo. She got a bit more green, but otherwise didn't seem too bothered by it. She dug around for a second, paused, then pulled her hand out. She held it away from her body as god knows what slide down her arm and plopped onto the sand. "The ghost has already passed on. I can call it back, but I won't put it back into its body." She paused as though she expected someone to fight with her about that. We didn't. None of us would want to be shoved into that mess. She continued. "I can give it someone to possess so we can talk too it.."
I frowned. "Could you make it leave when we were done?"
"Theoretically." No one spoke up to volunteer.

"Maybe someone close to the family would know who might be buried in the lake." Nobody suggested.
Gio barked out a laugh. "Really? Who might be buried in the lake? Pretty sure if I called someone like Mac, I'd ask the question, he would say 'CHICAGO' and hang up on me. Who ISN'T in the lake? I really don't want to know how many people just MY family has buried here, let alone the Irish. Fucking Irish.."
"Hey!" I protested.
Gio scoffed at me. "What are you upset about? You don't have an ethnicity anymore!"
I just gave him a mildly annoyed glare, I think the smirk I couldn't keep off my face ruined it though.

Gio pulled out his cell and started dialing a number. "You know, we know a guy who specializes in homicide crime scenes... Hey Martindale!" I stepped closer to listen, which was really just a pretext for putting a hand on the back of his neck just to watch him jump out of his skin from the cold. My hand was downright frigid. He gave me a dirty look and rubbed the back of his neck furiously. I just smirked at him and combed ice crystals from my hair with my fingers.

"Giovanni. Shouldn't you guys be busy not existing?" Martindale said with a hint of irritation.
"Heh..something like that. Hey, listen... I think a car that needs investigating may have..uh..washed up onto the beach of the lake. The kind with human remains in the trunk. Southwest bank, just off East 31st."
And cue the sarcasm. "Just washed up there huh? Well isn't that just like magic! A Christmas Miracle! If that's true its a miracle that will require a full investigation.. full forensics.. taking of statements... fuck you guys." CLICK.

Gio chuckled and put the phone in his pocket. I smirked and shook my head in amusement. I really did like Martindale. "We should go... lets take care of the evidence first."
Nobody waved hand dismissively. "Taken care of. No one will ever know we were here. Lets go."

We piled back into the car after I threw a couple trash bags on the drivers seat. There was just no good reason to fuck up the leather with lake mud. Nadi shook her gooey hand to get more of the soupy flesh off and slid into the back. She wiped her arm with the towel I'd given her. "Uh.. does anyone have hand sanitizer or anything?" I popped open the glove compartment, and handed her a box of baby wipes, after taking one to clean off the dried blood on my arm. We, me especially, tended to get covered in blood and other things on a regular basis. This is why there are towels, baby wipes, trash bags, gloves, a heavy duty med kit, extra weapons and ammunition, and a few other things in my car. And Febreze.

I glanced in the rearview as we pulled away. The beach was as serene as it had been before we arrived. There were no tire tracks, no footprints, even the dark spot marking where Nadi had puked was gone. The only difference was the soggy sedan with the open truck and a few tool marks on the paint now sat silently on the sand, bathed in scant moonlight. I had to admit (only to myself), Nobody's faery voodoo was pretty damn useful. I made a mental note to get him to show me stealth tricks when we got home, after I took a long hot shower, and pitch him my idea of hiding the black box in the tunnels. I cranked the heater up to full and turned the car towards Maury's.

November 5, 2009

Meeting the Khaibit

December 1st, 2009

I woke up hungry. Before I left to find food, I stopped to talk to Rebecca. They had retrieved the car, gone to the restaurant, and met with the Bishop. Apparently Gio had found out Thomas Mattheson had been put on trial for assaulting a priest and causing the priest to lose an eye. He pleaded self defense. And won.

Knowing what we did about Mattheson, its a good bet that the priest was a member of the Mallaus Mallifcarum. She didn't know what his uncle had said. I decided to ask later. For now, I was fucking parched, and I needed to find food before I met with the Khaibit tonight.

I struck out into the tunnels. Looking for larger prey up top meant I only needed one animal, but for now, this was safer. I didn't have the time tonight to risk getting fucked with.

I found a couple rats... which was actually more difficult than I ever thought it would be. Not so much finding them.. but catching the little bastards. I was looking for more when I felt an itch between my shoulder blades.. like someone was watching me. I turned in a slow circle, but could see nothing. I shook it off and kept moving.

Around the curve of the tunnel I noticed the shadows were dense and inky against one wall. Unnaturally so. I tried to move them, but they resisted me. I was fresh out of patience, so I tried for the direct approach. I unsheathed my combat knife. "Can I help you?"

A tear opened and a familiar face stepped out. The khaibit that had helped Giuseppe become a hollow. She looked like she should be wearing ceremonial garb from ancient Egypt, instead of dark leather died cotton. I quickly put the knife away.

"Wise choice." And she motioned me into the bank of shadows. The tear closed behind us. I found myself in a small room constructed completely of shadows, complete with a table and two chairs. Sound was muffled. We sat across from each other.

"You have something that belongs to me. Do you have it with you?"
"No, but I can get it for you quickly."
She nodded. "And how is Icegalos?"
"As well as he can be, I imagine."
"And I take it he left as soon as his task was complete?"
I nodded.
"An interesting experiment, trying to make them into servants. One that's success is still to be determined. Icegalos is the only one who has survived this long. Now, I have come all this way, I might as well answer your questions since you are returning my property to me."
"I appreciate it.." And suddenly I didn't know what to say. It took me a moment to gather my thoughts. I started with the obvious. "How did you do this?" I gestured to the room we sat in.
"Darkness is a part of us. It dwells inside of us even as we battle against it. Learning to shape it comes with experience. We can create it, mold it, and even step through one shadow and out of another. Your sire is especially adept at it."
I nodded, I'd seen some of his talents. "How do you know Giuseppe?"
She gave me a 'I know something that you don't' grin. I hate those. "We met many years ago in Rome. The question is, how do YOU know him?"
"We met a few years ago in New Orleans."
"I did not ask where you met him, I asked how you know him."
I tilted my head thoughtfully and regarded her. "I'm trying to know him better."
She just watched me. That wasn't the right answer either apparently. I got the feeling it was a question she didn't completely expect an answer too.

"What exactly did you help Giuseppe do in the lake? He became a hollow.. but what does that mean?" Right now I was more focused on that information than information concerning the khaibit.
"He separated his soul from his body."
"What benefit does that hold?"
"He can travel to realms he could not before to hunt his prey. He can attack the darkness directly, not being bound to this realm by his Ka. It comes with downsides, but the gains are great."
I chewed on that for minute. I knew the downside. I'd run into it a few times already. "I haven't heard about this before Giuseppe did it... is it something that is exclusive to the khaibit?"
She shook her head. "No, it is something you will find among the Shadows.. but you will never find it among the underdwellers... nor among the kings.. nor the Succubi.."
So it was a Mehket trait... it made sense, especially since Mona had been hollow since her embrace, and wasn't khaibit yet.. as far as I knew.

"And his Ka.. it is it trying to kill him?"
"Either that, or it seeks to make his existence extremely difficult. More than likely the latter is correct."
"Is it possible to put the Ka back?"
"There is no way I have discovered." And she had had a wealth of opportunity to search for such a thing.
"How does it find him?"
"It always knows where he is."
"And he it?"
"No...I can only wish to know what problems mine is causing at this moment..."
"Will it move far from him?"
She gave me that grin again, she knew what I was getting at. "Not as far as one might think..." She tapped her fingers on the shadow table. It sounded solid, like it was made of wood, yet oddly muffled.
"You said it probably wasn't trying to kill him.. would it try to get others killed to make his life more difficult?"
"Oh most certainly."
"Fantastic..." I considered what else I wanted to know. "The ritual that Giuseppe used.. how is it done?"
She shook her head. "That I cannot tell you. Only those who go through it may know what occurs in the ritual."

I had no other questions I could think to ask her. I went quickly and retrieved the mirror for her, and she departed. I felt like I should have asked more, but its not uncommon that I find myself at a loss when actually faced with someone who has information that I want.

When I returned, Nadi was setting up her new laptop in the internet room and Rebecca was having a very animated conversation with Maury about music. I paused and listened for a moment. It made me smile slightly, they both seemed to be enjoying themselves. I made a mental note to have a talk with Becca later. What Nobody had said was still eating at me. As I walked by the lab Gio called out to me.

"Hey Harper! Come help me a second."
I walked into the lab. He was holding a yellow funnel and a length of rubber hose. The homunculus stood there, staring straight ahead. He had finished the eyes, and they were rather impressive. The eyeballs were made from the gold coins, and from what I could tell he had ground up some precious stone, maybe rubies, and used the powder to form the iris. The eyes were beautiful.

It looked like a large house cat. It was black, paws fading to a subtle red, and if you looked closely, you could see the toes were elongated. The tail looked like it could be prehensile, but it was hard to tell.

"What do you need?"
"I need to put this," he pointed to the container of blood on the workbench,"in there."
I nodded and began to walk him through what areas would need more blood, how to get it in, and anything else I could think of. "I'm not so much used to putting blood back into things anymore."
"Learn something new everyday."

It took about 45 minutes to get all the blood into the correct areas of the body. As we were going, we noticed that areas where sticking had been were now healed over. "Okay.. that's fucking creepy. There werewolf skin is healing itself."
Gio agreed. Once we finished, Gio left to go nap. I went to the internet room to make a phone call.

As I walked in, Nobody shuffled in behind me. "Anyone seen my spear?"
Nadi and I pointed at the glowing sword in the wall.
"Oh. shit. Think that has anything to do with my dream?"
Nobody reached out to touch it and hesitated. "Is it okay to touch it?"
Nadi shrugged. "I'm not sure. There are strands of fate coming off it and heading out in every direction. I think we should ask Sansome if it's part of the binding before we do anything."
I shook my head. "Ill leave that to one of you guys whose throat he's not waiting for a reason to rip out."
"Aw fuck it. I guess I can't let Harper be the only one who goes around stupidly touching shit." I rolled my eyes at him. I didn't feel the need to point out that not even I had tried to Spirit Touch this damn thing.
We watched as his hand hesitated over the hilt for a moment before he went for it. He yanked, and pulled and forced, and..nothing. His face was ashen when he finished. Too much effort for the number of wounds he still had. Once he touched it and nothing bad happened, Nadi started inspecting it more closely, running her hand over the hilt like she had been waiting for an excuse to be able to get closer. She pulled too. Nothing.

"Harper, think you can pull it out?"
I shrugged. Probably not. But I tried anyway. It didn't budge.
"No luck."
"Well fuck. I'm going back to bed." and he walked out of the room.

Nadi went back to setting up the computer as I pulled out my phone and made a call. This was one of the few people I actually got nervous calling. I always had to pick and choose my words so fucking carefully. It drove me fucking nuts.

When the call connected I could hear Norris walking, the sound of people talking abruptly cut off by a closing door.
"You must have a damn good reason to be calling me at this number."
I bit back the smartass remark. Norris was one of the few of the cities higher ups who I was pretty sure didn't want my head on a platter. It would not be wise to antagonize him. Besides, the fact that he even picked up the phone was a good sign.

"I'm looking for information about my new apparent condition, and you're the only person with contact with Joseph Traveler that I know of, that I haven't spoken too."
"Do you know you even have a condition?"
"I've been told I do..."
"And you believe everything you're told?"
"Of course not. But it's in the realm of possibilities, so I'm looking into it just like I would any other possibility."
"If we were having this conversation, and of course, officially, we are not, I would tell you that it would be in your best interest to ignore the paranoid ramblings of the man who is convinced of this ridiculous condition. I know I do. As for Joseph Traveler, what do you think my connection with him is?"
"I'm not entirely sure, but I know that you acted as his defense, entering in the insanity plea, which, as a District attorney, is rather unusual."
"It is indeed unusual, but it was an unusual case. The duties of a District Attorney are varied and far reaching. This includes, occasionally, acting as defense."
He wasn't giving me information really, but he hadn't hung up on me yet either. I frowned and started pacing the room with the phone. Nadi looked up at me every once and awhile. "Besides the bodies being put through textile machines, what else was so unusual about this case?"
"The eyewitness reports varied dramatically."
"More dramatically than the usual unreliable eyewitness reports?"

I'd learned from first hand experience that eye witness reports were pretty unreliable. People added details that weren't there, forgot important clues, and sometimes outright lied. Sometimes it was on purpose, sometimes it was shock. It took me hours of going over Driscoll's death before I was able to remember some of the important details, and even then, my report didn't match up with a few of the others.

"If the witnesses had been the usual unreliable ones, yes. However, those questioned were known as upstanding members in certain communities."
"Which communities?"
"The less public ones."
I nodded to myself.
"The original defense attorney disappeared... mysteriously. I took the case after that when no other defense would."
"Why was that?"
"Whether or not the lawyers disappearance was Joseph Traveler's fault is irrelevant. There was a taboo surrounding him now that the other lawyer were afraid to become involved with."
"And you weren't afraid?"
"Quite the opposite. I had an axe to grind."
There was a pause. I was realizing that he was trying to give me information while still covering his own ass. If anyone asked, ie- Prince Maxwell, he could truthfully say he was merely discussing an old case with an interested party. The game was dangerous. I don't know why he was willing to take the risk for me, it could be because he didn't agree with Maxwell's decision, because I was Ordo, or because he owed something to Traveler, or someone else. Either way, I was grateful. Even if the conversation did make my brain throb.

"Did you know that I play the piano?"
I paused for a moment, slightly thrown by the abrupt shift in conversation.. then smirked to myself.
"I didn't."
"Oh yes. I was classically trained. However, it becomes very difficult to play without full use of the left hand."
Ah. The same mobsters that kidnapped him had attacked Joseph.
"I can imagine. How was it you were able to play again?"
"Time heals many wounds."
"And how did you not lose your entire arm?"
"There were... interested parties that wanted to hear me play again." That I already knew. I just didn't know who it was that saved him. I had a few ideas, but I couldn't think of a way to get it out of him safely, so I moved on.

"How was it that Traveler was able to defend himself against 6 attackers?"
"He had help... in that he was able to work himself up into quite a rage." I hesitated and took a moment to digest that. I knew from the time line that Traveler couldn't have been a vampire at that point. The attack occurred during the day, and he showed up to court cases. I realized the important part of that sentence was the words before the pregnant pause.
"Do you believe he was insane?"
His voice took on a subtly rebuking tone. "The evidence suggests that he was not completely clear of thought." That's what I get for asking an opinion question from a lawyer.
"Was it ever evident that he was able to use this.. lack of clarity for his own benefit."
"If anyone could do it, Traveler could."
I guess my only other option was to talk to Joseph again. Norris didn't seem to believe this malkavia existed at all, but there were still differences in our auras, so something had changed. I wanted to know how I could utilize it, if it was possible.

I couldn't think of anything else to ask Norris, so I ended the conversation.
"I appreciate you discussing this case with me."
"Certainly. I hope it will lend to your further study."
"It will. Have a pleasant evening."

I put the phone away and rubbed my eyes. I took a deep breath in then exhaled in a frustrated growl. Nadi raised one eyebrow at me. "What? I really do hate the double talk shit. I'm grateful, but fuck me, its like pulling teeth from a sleeping mountain lion."

I left her to her computer set up. I'd offer to help, but I had a feeling she wouldn't want me near her computer quite yet. I could always use my own when I needed to. Maury and Rebecca were still talking as I went to my room. I think Becca was trying to convince him of the merit of modern music. Specifically, Cannibal Corpse at the moment.

I wanted to talk with Nobody and Gio, but I wanted to give them time to rest, as well as give myself time to focus. I spent the next 3 hours in my room, meditating and going over Japanese lessons.

I woke Gio and Nobody up once they'd had some time to sleep. They were grumpy. I didn't really care.
"What do you want Harper." Gio's voice was more of a growl.
"I need advice on this whole Scratch thing."
"Well, the first rule is, don't get caught. The second rule is, if you do get caught, have a fall guy."
I waved my hand impatiently. "That's the whole point. I'm trying to figure out a way to set it up. If someone starts sniffing around, I want the trail to lead away from me. I'm having a hard time coming up with anything, so I thought I'd ask you nefarious mother fuckers."
Gio shrugged. "That's easy. Get Rowan's help. She hates him right? She needs you around. I'm sure she'd love to have him take the fall."
I grimaced. "Yeah, but what if she reacts negatively to the idea? Could screw up the whole thing."
"Well what do you know about the guy?"
"He's a Nosferatu, a member of the order, he's sneaky, and no one likes him. That's the extent of my knowledge."
Gio thought for a moment, tapping a finger against his lips. "You know who does know more about Scratch? Sundown."
I gave him a questioning look. "How do you figure?"
"He has Scratch's journal."
"How do you know?"
"Because I was with Jaleel when he came to get it from Maury. It's the whole reason that Jaleel was in Chicago. Sundown sent him to get it. Sundown likes you. Why don't you call him?"
I considered that. Sundown might be willing to give me the info. I might owe him another favor though..
"Think Maury kept a copy?"
Gio laughed. "Maury doesn't seem the type to ever lose a piece of information like that." I nodded, turning to Nobody.

"It has come to my attention that my skills in hiding myself are lacking."
"And my medical skills are also lacking."
"Trade you."

With that, I walked out of the room. Maury and Rebecca were STILL going at it. I walked up to them and cleared my throat softly. "Excuse me."

"Whats up Boss?"
"Yes Miss O'Shea?"
"I was wondering if you retained a copy of Scratch's journal...?"
He looked at me very seriously. "Keeping such a copy would be a direct violation of the trust that Sundown put in me to keep that journal. Do you understand."
I nodded. "Yes, Thank you." I guess I would have to call Sundown. Then Maury reached over to a bookcase and pulled a slim journal from a compartment and handed it to me.
"If Sundown were to find out about this, he would be... extremely... upset. And so would I."
"I understand." and I did. It was a subtle threat, and one I didn't plan on having to deal with. Since the moment I stepped foot down here I had made it a goal to do everything in my power to NOT offend Maxwell Maury. I was amazed nightly at the lengths he had gone to help us. I still didn't really know why. But I was grateful as hell.

I left and they resumed their conversation. I locked myself in my room for the rest of the night, pouring over the journal, looking for anything that might help me set up another vampire to take a fall for me...