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.

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