May 7, 2010

A moment of Truth

((More flashbacks.. sorry for no post last week, I was out of town. This scene occurred in the car on the way to Mexico. As I've said before Simon Goule and Asol were player characters that are no longer in the game for various reasons. Both characters were killed in game after they're players where no longer playing with us.

The scene may seem a bit choppy, because the questions don't necessarily feed into each other all the time, but that's what it was like originally. It was a scene of us players trying to think of anything to ask that we thought would be important. As you can see, some players are more focused on the big issues than others...Enjoy))

We had already spent a few hours on the highway. I did my best to ignore Asol's babbling from the back seat and focus on the road in front of me, the roar of the motorcycles following us, and the million questions racing through my head. Giuseppe sat in the passenger seat, the faint sound of opera music drifting from his headphones.

I drove, turning the mysterious around in my head for a long time. I started becoming more and more frustrated, because nothing was making any goddamn sense. The New Orleans power structure was falling, mostly because we had been picking away at its foundations, more or less unintentionally. We had decided to make ourselves scarce before anyone realized our part in the matter. There was a civil war brewing, just under the surface, and it was very likely that if we stuck around, all us poor little humans would be caught in the middle. I did not foresee that ending well.

And then there was the issue of Stone.. I suppose it worked out alright that we needed to leave New Orleans for awhile.. we needed to find Stone. The only lead we had was the note Asol had... so we were heading to Mexico, to find an Aztec temple, and to find Stone. We had no idea what he might be doing there. We were going in blind and that worried me.. a lot. Going in blind, and Giuseppe was still keeping secrets.

The more I thought about that the more annoyed I got. We had been running around looking for information on this priest, and still had no idea why, except that Giuseppe wanted to find him.

I frowned and glanced at the Italian, he was sketching something on a small pad, seemingly oblivious to the rest of us, but I knew better. Giuseppe was never oblivious to anything. But he was stuck in the car with me, at least for awhile, and that, maybe, was an opportunity. He couldn't lock himself away in the rectory this time.

I decided I was tired of this bullshit.

"We need to talk."

I thought for a moment he didn't hear me, or was ignoring me, he just kept sketching away at that pad. I clenched the steering wheel hard and was about to get significantly more pushy when I heard the music from his headphones go silent. He kept sketching. ""

"Why are you looking for the priest. Who is he?"

He didn't stop drawing, but I noticed his hand tighten on the pencil for a brief instant.

"It is not something you need to concern yourself with."

I slammed my hand hard against the steering wheel. Goule and Asol both jumped in surprise, Giuseppe just gave me a sidelong glance and continued scribbling.

"Bullshit! We're helping you and you have yet to tell us what the fuck we're doing. I'm not a big fan about going into all these potentially life threatening situations totally blind, so I think its not too much to ask to know who the fuck this guy is and why he's so fucking important! We can't figure anything out about this whole mess if you don't tell us what the fuck is going on!" I looked back to the road, I'd been glaring at him. It was a good thing we were on a mostly deserted highway.

Giuseppe put his pencil down, his normal grumpy expression having transformed into something more like a sneer. He stared at me with this very unfriendly look, but there was a spark of something else in his eye. It seemed slightly out of place, but I couldn't quite figure out how, or what emotion it was.

"You would like to know why I am looking for this priest?"
"Yes." I replied with no small amount of anger.
"Fine. The priest is a man I knew as a child, as an altar boy. He was the perpetrator of the systematic abuse I experienced during my very young years serving at that church. I recently discovered he is still alive, and am working to discover his whereabouts so that I might pay the worthless piece of shit a visit." He had nearly imperceptible tremors in his clenched fists, and his voice contained suppressed violence.

I suddenyl felt sick to my stomach... I was glad he hadn't elaborated on the abuse, there are some thing that even I don't want to know.

But I refused to show that I felt like an asshole. Regardless of the outcome, my question had been valid and justified. He had kept us too in the dark to know this was a personal issue, and I wasn't going to let him turn it around on me. So I just nodded. "Thank you."

But he wasn't done yet. He closed his sketchpad with an authoritative 'snap' and tucked it away. I didn't at all like the look he gave me. He was pissed, and was going to do something about it. And I knew it would be something I didn't like.

"Since you are so determined to drag painful and personal truths out of people, we are going to play a little game. I will answer your questions truthfully, and you will answer mine." His voice was dangerously soft, and it wasn't a request. Which I guess was fair enough. Mine hadn't been either. I wasn't really worried.

I should've been.

"Fine. Whatever."

"Can we play too?" Goule asked from the backseat, Asol looking between us eagerly. Giuseppe's eyes never left mine, and the smirk was small, but present. "If you agree to abide by the rules."

I shifted in my seat, trying to get comfortable.

"So tell me Harper. How did your friend die?"
I felt my hands spasm against the steering wheel, knuckles white. I had to bite my tongue to keep from mouthing off to him, telling him it was none of his goddamn business. I should've known he'd aim right for the one sore spot he knew about. I briefly debated telling him to fuck off.. or lying.. but somehow..he'd know. He know I was lying to him, and then I'd never get a straight answer from him ever again. If I didn't answer his fucking questions now, he'd never tell me anything. So instead, I gritted my teeth and stared at the highway, and tried to tell the story as succinctly as possible.

"We were on a patrol. Another soldier was drunk, shooting into the air. Driscoll..he tried to get the guy to relinquish his side arm. It went off at the wrong moment, and took half his head off." Memories tried to overwhelm me. I hadn't thought about that moment in a long time. Even when I saw Driscoll again, I tried my best to keep them at bay. I did the same thing now. I told the story and tried to stem the tide of the vivid images. I didn't want to relive it.

But I was stupid to think Giuseppe was done. His face held no sympathy, he simply watch my expression like a bird of prey, reading me easily. "And how long have you hated him?"

I snorted and shook my head. Some small part of me twisted into a knot, and I felt a brief flash of heart wrenching sadness at the question. I didn't know why and I quickly shoved that small part away, I had no reason to feel that way. Not to that degree. It made no sense, so I refused to acknowledge it even existed.

"Not long after I met him. Everyone loved him, and he didn't even have to try." I said with a scowl. Giuseppe's expression became a touch more malicious and I knew he still had more to say. I braced for the next question.. but even though I thought I was prepared, the next words he said, quietly- but clear as water, turned my guts to ice and made my ego shrivel up into a tiny ball and roll away to a dark corner.

"How long have you been an addict?"

His eyes bored holes into me and I had to swallow three times before I could speak. My throat had suddenly gone very dry. I could feel all the blood draining from my face. Goule and Asol looked at me, stunned. I thought no one knew. I thought I'd kept it under wraps. Everyone knew Tommy was a junkie.. but until now I thought no one suspected that I had my own chemical crutch. Giuseppe looked smug.

When I could finally answer, my voice was barely more than a whisper. "Couple years. Since before Driscoll died.." I said nothing else. I don't know if I even could. I didn't want to give the others in the car any more information than I had too. I just sat there, staring ahead of me, aware of the arrogant smirk/sneer on Giuseppe's face now that he'd gotten his minor revenge, and hoped to God no one asked me what I was addicted too.

Thankfully, Giuseppe felt that was enough to put me in my place, because he turned his attention to the guys in the back seat while I sat, heart slamming in my chest, trying not have a full blown freak out. I wouldn't give him the satisfaction.

Giuseppe regarded Asol in the rearview mirror. They seemed slightly less enthusiastic about this new 'game' after seeing the entrails Giuseppe had split with just a few simple questions. "How old were you when you started seeing things?"

Asol seemed taken aback by the sheer innocence of the question. "Fuck if I know.. 5? 6? I usually tried to shut up about it, because people don't like it when kids talk about that shit. They put you in special ed classes and send you to doctors and shit..."

Giuseppe's eyes flicked to Goule.
"And what about you, Simon? What made you want become a police officer?"
He also shrugged. They seemed to be waiting for the other foot to fall. They didn't understand that the real show was over, this was all just followup. "My dad was a cop.. and he did good things for people. I wanted to be like him."

"And when did you go crooked?"

There was no gasp of surprise on that one. We had already pretty much figured Goule wasn't a straight arrow. Hell, I'd suspected it before we even fell into this group, when I'd met him at a few crimes scenes as an EMT.

Still, he looked nervous. "A lot of stuff. I learned the law doesn't mean shit when you're actually out there. Bad people still get away with bad shit, innocent people still get fucked. Someone offered me a lot of money one day to look the other way, so I took it. He'd get off scott free anyway, so what difference did it make?"

Giuseppe quirked a brow at Simon as he went silent. "And?"
"What do you mean and?" Goule seemed flustered.
"I believe you are leaving out a rather important detail."
Goule shifted uncomfortably, then shrugged in a very 'fuck it' manner. "It didn't take me long to realize I didn't give a shit about helping people. What I do now.. well.. its much more fulfilling to me, personally."

I couldn't help but sneer at him.. but he couldn't see it. I knew there was a reason I never liked that sonofabitch.

At this point I'd recovered enough from my shock to join back in the game again. I still had more questions for Giuseppe.. and while I'd had first hand experience at the consequences.. my curiosity outweighed my sense of self preservation.

I never said I was all that intelligent..

"What are you?"
My voice didn't quite sound like me. I cleared my throat and glanced at Giuseppe. he was regarding me with an expression that was a mixture of slight amusement, scorn, annoyance, and that something else that I still couldn't identify.. it was bugging the shit out of me.

"What they call a ghoul. One who drinks, or injects, as the case my be, the blood of a vampire, and can use it to improve oneself."
"That's how you move so fast."
He nodded. "That is one benefit, yes."
I crinkled my nose. I couldn't imagine injecting that shit into myself. Ironic, I know. "And you want to be a vampire?"

He tilted his head to one side to regard me a moment before answering. He seemed.. almost impressed, I'd made the connection from what little scraps I'd gathered over the last few weeks. But he was hard to read, so I couldn't ever tell for sure.

"There will come a point where that will be a necessary step, yes."

I just looks at him incredulously. "Why?" Even more than injecting vampire blood, or worse yet, drinking it, I knew I never wanted to be one of the monsters that we'd already dealt with, that fed on people, twisted manipulative schemes, and constantly backstabbed for political power.

He shrugged, as though the answer should be obvious. "Time, mostly. I require more time to accomplish my goals than a normal human lifespan, or even the lifespan of a ghoul, will naturally allow me. Thus, the need for other measures to ensure that time.

I just gave a small shiver. He seemed to enjoy my discomfort.

"Is that what you took from that thing we shot? It's blood?" Simon asked.
Giuseppe simply nodded.
"How does that make you different from it?" Simon asked with a grimace.

I blinked. My mind counted the ways.. the many differences between stealing blood from a monster, and drinking the life force of an innocent person. But Giuseppe recounted none of these.

"Simply put, I am still alive. They are not."

I just shook my head. I seemed to be the only one making what seemed to me to be a very important distinction. Goule pulled my from my self-righteous musing with another question.

"So Harper, whats on the dog tags?"
I held them up for him to see. "Name, rank, religious affiliation, blood type..and everything else that's usually on a Army issue dog tag, for Jordan Driscoll. Sometimes, he uses them to talk to me, making the tags say other things. It's fucking weird."
He nodded slowly, letting the explanation sink in past his natural resistance to weird shit, then asked the question that really seemed to be on his mind.
"Have I given you reason to hate me?"
I almost laughed. Almost. "Aside from being a crooked cop who uses other people to get himself ahead in life?"
"Yeah, actually."

"I don't need any oth.." I stopped short, Giuseppe was giving me a look. I glared at him. "Fine. You make what I find impossible seem like the easiest thing in the world. That's enough reason for me." Simon tried to catch my eye in the rearview, and I wouldn't let him. He had a flabbergasted look on his face. "You're.. jealous of me? That's why?"

I didn't validate his question with a response, and I was saved from further annoying inquiries by Asol, who had turned his attention from us, to Giuseppe.

"Why aren't I dead?" He asked with the air of someone talking to an Oracle.

Giuseppe quirked a brow at him tone. "Primarily because Harper is a skilled medic and managed to keep you alive after you were shot. Also, because we did not let you leave our company while you were carrying the note that held your death sentence. You should be careful. We may not always be there, or willing, to such misfortunes in the future." There was no threat in Giuseppe's voice, merely a warning. And he was right. The kid was going to get himself killed if he wasn't more careful.

But Asol did not seem phased. "What do you want from me?"
"Right now, precisely nothing, but for you to stop asking me stupid questions. Later on, perhaps more insight into the Union of the Snake." Giuseppe seemed to grow very tired of Asol's questions very quickly. And who could blame him.
The kid just kept firing them off, presumably without putting any thought into their content. "Why are you dead?"
Giuseppe sighed heavily. "As we have already discussed, had you been listening, I am not."
"Are you like other dead boy?"
"Karl? No. His relationship with death is a much different creature."

It was actually me that lost patience with him first.
"What the fuck are you trying to prove Asol? Do you even listen to yourself?"
He just grinned at me. He was infuriatingly difficult to piss off.
"I wanna get back at those motherfuckers who tried to have me killed. I want to show the people who told me I was crazy, that I wasn't. That the weird stuff really is there. I'm okay if they never know it, because I do. Now I have a question for you."

I heaved a pained sigh.
"Why don't you hate me?" He looked at me, an honestly curious expression on his face. I smirked.
"Who says I don't?"
He shrugged and sat back heavily in his seat. "Believe it or not, I'm pretty perceptive.." I snorted...he ignored me. "and you don't like me.. I get that.. but you don't hate me either. Why not?"

I frowned, perplexed, and glanced back at him. "You're pretty cynical kid, you know that? Why would you assume I should hate you?"
"Everyone else seems too." He said, matter-of-factly.
I just shook my head. "You get in the way, and they don't want you here. But most of them don't hate you. I don't want you here either.. but the other option was to let you get yourself killed.. and I wasn't okay with that." I shifted uncomfortably when I noticed how intently Giuseppe was watching me, listening to my answer to the question. I felt, not for the first time, like I was being studied, like there would be an exam later, over me.

"I don't hate you because I have no reason too. I usually have to have a pretty good reason to hate someone.."

Asol laughed. "Like someone being more popular than you are? You're sayin' I've got nothing for you to be jealous of, that's why you don't hate me."
I narrowed my eyes, patience with this 'game' completely gone. "Keep it up Asol, and you may find yourself on that list after all." I growled.

He laced his fingers behind his head and grinned. We were saved from his next question by the roar of a motorcycle, as Roxanne's bike passed us, and turned off the highway, towards a truck stop.

"Thank God for pit stops." I grumbled, turning the car to follow her, and trying to ignore just how fucking self satisfied Giuseppe looked in the seat next to me.


I think I hated him more than I ever had at that point. I remember thinking that surely, there wasn't anything else he could do to make me hate him more. But Mexico would soon teach me to never underestimate Giuseppe Santore's ability to accomplish anything, especially piss me off.

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