CLOSED SIGNUPS Vampire: the Masquerade - Visions

Kuno

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A Beastly Affair (pt. 1)
a collab between @Kuno | @Red Thunder

The paltry lies Kindred told themselves to maintain some flimsy sense of humanity numbered amongst the millions of stars dotting the bleak, unpolluted sky. Their very appearance was a sham: a deadened husk of what they once were, a human skin worn to mask the monster that thrived within. Where was the humanity in bared fangs and granite skin? Where lay the beating heart’s love for fellow man in the tearing of flesh for blood? There was none. The only separation between men and animals was the mind. The mind and its tenets: cognitive thought. Civility. A conscience. Emotions.

And what emotions did the Dame de la Sorcellerie feel now that she was alone with her thoughts?

Amélie did not look any more inhuman than she did standing there in the hallway mirror, the glow from the kitchen lights carving out her intently dour traits. Her pupils had rescinded back to their natural size; they stared, a bleak and darkened grey, back at the humanoid prop reflected through the mirror. Her movements resembled that of a doll: stiffly, her fingers curled about the chain link, bone carving necklace, and as the abnormality at her neck caught the barest rays of light from the hall, her eyes rose once more, empty.

Vitae had given her mind the clarity it sorely needed. No longer did the needling and mewling of hunger obstruct her focus. Time, for once, was on her side: with her blood having been restored and her guests having been attended to with needed clothes, the Tremere was left finally to complete her more monstrous affairs. And there was to be no dilly-dallying. After all, she strove to be a good hostess, and let it never be said she conducted her business amidst good company.

And so, Amélie and the reflection parted.

First there’d been the mess in her home to mind. She had indeed set the laundry to soak - the call to feed had been trumped by her own violent distaste of unfinished work, and she had not been able to drink a drop before setting aside her tub and washboard. Old habits before new; first a good soak and scrub for the soiled clothes, then a proper spin in the machines. She didn’t trust the machine’s efficiency at drawing out blood.

The next link in the chain required more than one habitual breath to fortify her nerves. There were any number of ways her following mission could end. The urge to sweep the entire matter under the rug was palpable; but she was who she was, and to be quite honest...

Well. As it was said. She did have a violent distaste of unfinished work.

Perhaps it was hubris to relegate Sigurd Erickson as a mere task. Business was more suitable, though that, too, carried the connotation that there’d be a continuation of the mission she’d set herself upon. There was no longevity for it. She would not allow it.

In the corner of her stately living room sat yet another aged edition to her estate: a high-backed, white leather armchair. Positioned next to it was a small, waist-high glass stand, and upon it lay a pearl white rotary dial phone.

Amélie set the logs in the fireplace aflame. The flames painted her skin in hues of orange and red as she turned the dial on the phone round and round, claws tapping against the metal as she settled slowly into the plush chair. She pressed the receiver against her ear and waited.

It rang. Once. Twice. Thrice. Finally- click. A voice like a bassoon answered.

"Mr. Erickson is not taking clients at this time. How may I direct your call?"

There was nothing in that voice: neither anger nor professionalism, nor impatience nor eagerness. It was utterly devoid, and one had the distinct impression of possibly falling into it.

Amélie stared ahead unblinking.

"Good evening. Please inform Mr. Erickson that this is Madame Amélie calling in regards to our earlier engagement. There have been developments made requiring his immediate attentions."

"Madame."

The voice echoed in the earpiece as the phone line clicked once more. There was no wait. Half a moment later, the familiar Scandinavian accent began to speak.

"Good evening, Amélie."

"Hello, Sigurd. Thank you for taking my call."

Where only hours earlier the same greeting had carried a distinct vein of anger and disdain, here only a simple respect was conveyed. Amélie straightened, her legs crossing and her head affixed to its position, as if the man was sitting across from her.

"This won't take long. Given your request earlier, I thought it best to keep you aware of what grounds I'm covering as I pursue Washburn's, mm, assignment. I am not yet familiar with…this city, so I am looking for some assistance. I've been directed to find Fannin and Gray. Are you familiar with these peoples?"

She paused. She was reminded rather abruptly of Isabel's and Wesley's ignorance of the names, and as the thought came and went, she tacked on, "Or am I to be looking for a building instead?"

"Mm," he hummed in reply, apparently pensive. "The name 'Fannin' is of historical significance to Texas, relating back to their war against Mexico in the early 19th century; he was one of their commanders. 'Gray', similarly, was the name of one of Houston's first District Attorneys. Both names of authority and influence a century and a half ago, but not in the current state of affairs.

"But places are often given historical figures' names. 'Fannin and Gray' are street names; it is likely your- contact was referring to an intersection."

“I see.”

She distinctly remembered asking that useless old tramp who he was working for. Begrudgingly, she supposed it was a miracle that in his inebriated state he’d been able to be any sort of help at all. There was the scratch of pen on paper as Amélie made a note of it on the writing pad besides the phone.

“Thank you. Oh, and one last thing,” She remarked, as if another thought had suddenly come to her. "You told me before that you are to support the lower levels of the Pyramid so that the top may find stability, yes? Is that correct?"

There was a brief huff of air into the receiver that might have been a restrained chuckle.

"I did, for if the foundation of a thing loses its integrity, how then should the pinnacle remain unaffected? To say nothing of the … levels in between." The phone fell silent. It was longer than might have been expected, and even as Amélie opened her mouth to fill the gap, Sigurd spoke again. "Our relationship is reciprocal, bear in mind. Now: what is it you want?"

"Very well. I won't waste either of our time with idle talk."

Much like her personality, the smile on her face was caustic.

"Reparations are what I want, Sigurd. For what I've deemed an egregious offense. On your orders, your lackeys breached my home and violated my person in a manner - to be quite frank - more akin to a hated enemy than a member of my own clan. I admit that perhaps it was my own lax attitude toward home security in my time living in Houston that has led to this unfortunate affair, but alas - I assumed one would want little to do with one so low on the totem pole as I am.”

She waved her hand impatiently at her own tangent. Despite her request, Amélie maintained the same poise, the same grace as before. Even her tone remained subdued, though an edge had formed along her pointed words, quick and sleek as a dagger.

“I’ve tried and failed to understand the rationale behind it. It frankly makes no difference if I did understand. What matters is two ghouls are traipsing around with my blood and this...can not stand.

"I will take only what's been stolen from me. Blood for blood. And a humiliation of the same tier."

Hitherto, pleasant formality, such as one might retain while exchanging pleasantries with an elected official, had been the order of the conversation. It was, after all, appropriate: in a world of life and death politics between inhuman monsters who wished for nothing better than to rip the throats from any and all who might stand in their way, formality was the means by which you survived. You gave obeisance to those with greater power, political and physical, and you gave measured respect (if begrudgingly) to those beneath your own station. It was a thin veil, a fragile sheen of ice that, when broken, risked causing the fracture or even annihilation of everything you had ever built or sustained. Including one's Unlife.

"Perhaps," the Regent began, enunciating each syllable in a deliberate, excruciatingly slow manner, "you merely wish an answer, an explanation, as to my actions. For I cannot guess you would so risk alienating me in a vain effort to appease a misguided sense of vengeance. Particularly after I just assisted you."

There was obvious restraint in his voice, each word carefully chosen before being said. And they were cold, those words: detached and hateful. They dug into the ear like so many shards of ice, waiting only to be pressed further in.

"Or perhaps I misunderstand. Be so kind as to clarify for me, Ms. Dupuis."

It was not a request.
 

Kuno

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A Beastly Affair (pt.2)
a collab with @Kuno | @Red Thunder | @Doctor Jax

If there were any signs of life present before in the aforementioned woman, they had since ceased to exist. Amélie had frozen into a wax figure of herself: porcelain white fingers remained limply about the phone, and the other hand lay upon the strange necklace at her neck. It clutched, like one would a set of pearls, though the expression on her face was anything but dramatic. It was, instead, eerily and disturbingly reticent.

The game had ended. What was left instead was the cruel machinations of a monster, and this time the Beast within could not be blamed for a single thought.

And many thoughts she had. She was an old woman, and she had not lived that long due to mere luck. One misstep could define her.

"I know my station, Sigurd. I know it well." Mechanically, her legs crossed. "But if you deign to give me an explanation, I am in no position to refuse."

The hiss of air filled the earpiece, forceful and distorted. It was filled with impatient frustration, as if it were being released from within.

"I do hate that, Ms. Dupuis, the- 'station' talk. We all have our place and role, of course, but-" Sigurd clicked his tongue. "I prefer the straight if formal talk of intellectual equals, striving for common purpose. I prefer- honesty.

"Which I will allow is a questionable thing for me to say, given the nature of your concern. Nevertheless, it was necessary. And nevertheless, I addressed it during our last meeting. Do you not recall? The face of duplicitousness I showed you? The Emperor and Subjugate, and no clarity as to which was which? We did just speak of it a few hours ago."

“Yes, yes, I know. Merde, I know and I am, how you - thankful to share your confidence but-”

Ah, the bittersweet curse of polyglotism. The agitation building in her only served to further distort that which was not her mother tongue. Life filled the formerly deadened creature; her brows furrowed together, and she shifted, nearly hanging off the seat of her chair in her distress.

The source of her sudden imbalance was unclear. She strove to make a concrete point, and yet the words eluded her, the English dancing about her unattainable while French flooded her mind. A low, frustrated exhale escaped her.

“You ask for honesty, and I have been honest, have I not? Do you not understand why I -”

Petulance! What were feelings and emotions to beings, to things like her and Sigurd? She faltered momentarily, regrouping.

“Do you understand the basis for my request?” Amélie asked in a low, controlled voice.

"I am not without empathy, for I, too, share the pride of both our kind and our Clan. You chafe at your treatment, it seems, regardless of the reasoning behind it. I will remind you, Madáme, that swallowing pride is as much a survival skill as any, particularly in these modern nights."

Sigurd clicked his teeth, falling silent. He had, evidently, much to consider; Amélie's request was a touch uncommon, and precedent was a terrible thing to establish, particularly regarding favors.

"This thing I will grant you, under a number of circumstances," he said at last. "Firstly: you may only take your vengeance on Joe. The other, Frank, I value too highly. Secondly: you will speak of this boon to no one. Should you disregard this, you will not- you will not see the next- ahem, the next moon. And finally-"

He paused, as if listening. Indeed, muffled dialogue filled the earpiece. After a moment or two of such, Sigurd spoke back into the receiver with a beleaguered sigh.

"Forgive me; I have a short but pressing matter to attend. If you would hold, I shall return shortly."

The muted thump of the other phone on a table indicated that he hadn't waited for an answer.

Slowly, Amélie's right hand lowered, gradually inching down until the phone receiver rested against the indent of her collarbone. She leaned a bit to the side, lips obscured as her free hand came to support her chin, the look in her eyes mirroring that of one staring far-off into the stars…

The immortal gift of Kindred afforded many blessings so coveted by the squalid, transient Kine: fortune, power, the adoration of many, and the baseless comfort of knowing no death awaited you. But even in her most abject poverty, even now with all her money and strength and gifts, there was one thing she continued to pursue fruitlessly, like chasing after the wind. It came and went in waves but never stayed, elusive in its nature only to her, denied only ever to her.

And though she feared the cost of such a boon, she realized then and there that it didn’t matter. For the moment, for one single moment of her endless nights, Amélie was satisfied.

Upstairs, the raven-haired woman heard the steps of Wesley or Isabel stepping out of the tub, and she pressed the receiver to her ear once more, waiting.

She didn't wait long.

"Your pardon, Ms. Dupuis; I can now give you my full attention. Where was I…"

Sigurd's voice trailed off, lost in thought, as the sound of cloth on steel overwhelmed his gentle murmurs as he pursued the last subject-matter.

"Ah," he finally interjected. "As I was saying. Concerning your boon. Lastly: the amulet I provided should remain with you at all times. 'Why' is irrelevant; I require this of you, should you require my subject's blood of me."

There was the sound of steel on stone, and then silence.

"Is this agreeable?"

“Yes,” Amélie nodded, as if the man could see her. “I agree to your terms. All of them.”

She had yet to take the amulet off. Even then, her fingers roved over the bone-carving necklace, the metal chainlinks reflected in the shifting flames.

"Thank you. Now - where can I get Joe?"

"That is the question. He cannot, of course, visit you directly. Perhaps he should have an errand." Sigurd's voice lowered, as if he were speaking to himself. "The Majestic? No. Henrietta's haven? Ah; she'd remove his limbs again. Perhaps- of course.

"Madáme," he said, raising his voice to conversational volume again, "the gentlemen in question is due to drop off my dry cleaning tomorrow night at McQueen's Tailors, just before they close at 7pm. Almeda Road and Rosewood Street, in case you need clarification."

The wry smile was evident in his voice. Gone, was the offended patriarch carefully restraining his anger. Gone, too, however, was the reserved scholar with whom Amélie was accustomed. In their place was a conniving businessman, confident in the decision that they made.

"Have you other concerns, or will that be all?"

"No."

With a satisfactory tap, the pen came to a stop at her right, elegant script sprawled across the notepad in large letters. Her notes thus finished, Amélie set the pen down and straightened. It was hard to discern: the harsh intensity of the woman's features often dissuaded thoughts of her appearing even remotely happy, but to the trained eye, at least for the moment, the old Tremere seemed...pleased.

Was that a genuine smile gracing her face?

"I'll leave you to your business. Until next time, Sigurd."

And as suddenly as their affair began, it too ended in the abrupt clink of the receiver. So, too, was Amélie left to her own business. She did not give herself time to revel in her own, petty victory. There was still yet another matter to be solved before returning to her guests.

Another phone call was required. The phone lifted once more to her ear, and this time she referred to her cell phone - a redundant action, she realized - to dial the numbers to Hanna’s own phone.

“Hello, hello. What’s up?” The voice that answered was languid, low.

"Hanna, this is Amélie. Are you busy?"

“Funny you ask, I just got done with some business. I’m walkin’ up the stairs right now. What’s the deal?”

"I'd like you to stop by my home. Let us reconvene and...see where we're at," Amélie answered vaguely. Already she was rising from her seat, the phone cord uncoiling in tandem. "I will text you my address in case you need it. Get here when you can."

“Hey, I’m down to clown. See ya in a jiffy.”

“Alright.”

The transition back into the role of hostess was seamless. Soon after hanging up, Amélie returned to her domestic duties. When the first of her guests came into the kitchen, the French woman was sitting cross-legged on the ground beside the tin tub, Wesley’s shirt stretched wide over her washboard as she scrubbed vigorously at the stains. She glanced up, momentarily pausing.

Her eyes roved up and down Wesley’s build. She gave a single nod.

“Better.” The scrubbing resumed, and raising her voice a bit, she tacked on, “I am glad it fits. Sorry that it’s so...formal.”
 

Doctor Jax

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Hanna Wojciek
I can go
with the flow
I can go
with the flow (ooh)
I can go
(do you believe it in your head?)

with the flow...

The refrain of Queens of the Stone Age played as Hanna sped down the highway, chewing over the night's events. She hadn't expected tonight to be nearly this eventful, but whatever - sometimes it worked out that way. She just needed to.... ha, go with the flow. Ripping part of the hem to her t-shirt, she easily pulled off pieces to stuff into the bulletholes left over from her little 'scuffle' in front of Sal's place. God, that was going to need to politicking, and she wasn't looking forward to that bit of thinking. Sal wouldn't be happy, not with her that close to his new fixation. She wasn't going to want to cede the place to him... but she did want to at least make a token attempt at showing good faith.

Making friends helped a lot more than making enemies around here. You didn't get old on your own.

Was it safe to be doing this doing 75 on the highway? Probably not. But it wasn't as if it was going to make things that much worse. She wanted to look halfway like she hadn't just been to Hell and chatted vigorously with the Devil.

After a few tracks on her CD player, she found herself in front of Amelie's posh townhouse, having only needed a cursory glance at the address to guess where it was. Parking near Amelie's car, she quickly threw some of the random detritus from her floorboards into her seats to cover the blood starting to stain the upholstery. Finally, it was time to make for her place, and she was surprised to find she had some jitters. Things were moving awful fast. She wished cigarettes actually did something these days for that.

Finally, she walked into the austere white surroundings to find Amelie seated on a chair next to a fire place, two settees and a chaise adjacent where her protege and employee happened to be sitting respectively. Her eyes looked over Wesley and Izzy's sudden new attire with a quizzical and amused expression, smiling slightly as she dumped her bag.

"Nice digs, you two. Those're new... Ey, I'm not gonna take a seat, if you don't mind. Everything you own's, you know... stainable," Hanna warned. "What's up, kiddos? I've had a fun night. And it looks like maybe you guys have, too... Who wants to start?"

She looked about, eyebrows raising, arms in her pockets and nonchalant, despite the rather obvious state of her dishevelment, between her unruly hair and ragged newly cropped top.

@Kuno @Lillian Gray @Applo
 

Applo

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Some things aren't important until they are suddenly very important. What exactly it was they were going to tell Hanna about what had gone down tonight was one of those things. The new blood's mind was fast enough to clamp down on her tongue before the wretched truth came tumbling out, but that was all it was fast at. Under her friend's gaze, Isabel had a sudden feeling of sitting in front of a teacher.

She had never been good at dealing with angry teachers. Quite often, she had liked them more than most of her classmates. For their part, her teachers had always seemed able to read her like a book. They had always seemed to know when she was withholding something from them. It felt like they could see into her head. Hanna’s question felt the same. The way Brujah had noticed the change of clothes instantly and then asked if they had had a fun night. In Isabel’s mind, her surrogate sire may as well have stared right at her and asked who in the room had purple hair and had bombed a residential neighborhood tonight.

On her lap, the records that she had been flicking through before Hanna had arrived were pulled in tight against her stomach as a solitary green eye flicked from Wes to Amalie. She was hoping, no, praying that one of them would speak. So far neither of them had made any effort to shatter the silence. Isabel could have sworn everyone in the room was staring at her.

“Errm, a friend from the taxi company did me a solid and helped us find Wes’s car so we went to get it back.” Honesty seemed like the best option, or at least, being mostly honest anyway. It was probably for the best that some of the finer details were forgotten. “They chopped the car up pretty good, but we got it back so yeah. That's good I guess.”

Once again a solitary green eye flicked around the room’s inhabitants before settling on the house owners face.

“Amélie found something about where we can maybe find that stuff.”

The french kindred’s news was important and interesting, but as her words faded into silence Isabel couldn’t help but wonder if she hadn’t been a little transparent.​

 

Lillian Gray

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Wesley 'Wes' James Moore
Maybe it was the meal he'd just had, but Wesley was feeling oddly content, even with Hanna standing bloodied in the door drilling him with questions about how they'd spent their evening. He had dipped on her, so it was only fair she ask for some kind of explanation. There were a few of his own inquiries forming in his pretty little head. Mainly, how it was that she'd also managed to get herself riddled full of holes. Still, a smirk began to grow across his lips as he listed to the new blood explain just what it was they'd been doing.

Her words were so sweet. Watered down in an attempt to hide the grisly truth of the matter. How convenient that she left out the bits where they had slaughtered a room full of men in cold blood using nothing more than a tire iron and their own teeth.

He chimed in to elaborate. It was probably the least helpful thing he could have done. "Mm, they chopped her up real nice." Wesley's voice was dripping with sarcasm and a smile. "She's not so pretty any more, but neither are the men responsible so... I can't really complain. I'm going to need a new car though. after I send the monstrosity to an early grave. A shame really. I liked this one." He grimaced. "But, she's ugly now and I don't want it." He added on childishly, like a toddler who'd outgrown a toy, he would mope and whine about it until he got the emotions out of his system. Thanks to his Toreador lineage that likely wouldn't happen for a few days yet. But no matter. Hanna had to have been used to his tantrums.

There was still no explanation for the new change of clothes. His hair was still wet, which Hanna had to have noticed, and there was really no other good reason for a kindred to take a shower than the obvious. Blood. And plenty of it. But his lips remained pressed into that amused smirk he had began the conversation with.

"Now that we're all together, perhaps Amélie could enlighten us to what she's learned. Hm, mon amie?" He turned, moving on from the boring conversation about cars and bullets to something even more bleak. Drugs and comatose kindred. Lovely.
 

Kuno

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Amélie


What a joke.

Isabel and Wesley’s hilariously abridged renditions of their night run did not miss its mark on the french vampire in question. Hanna’s entry and reluctance to sit had stirred once more the hostess within Amélie, and she had gone to fetch a robe from the hallway closet as the Neonate’s tinny words spilled into the air. As she’d pressed it into Hanna’s hands while urging the woman to sit, Wesley had chimed in with his piece. Handsome, dazzling, childish man he was; why, he embellished, he whined, he veritably - in his own flippant way - muddied the shaky narrative Isabel had set forth. And when he, too, brought the Tremere back into the spotlight, her physical response could not be helped.

Her lips twitched. Her brows quirked. And she...Ms. Dupuis, she...

Well. What else could Amélie do but laugh?

It was not a comforting sound. It should have been: the notes were light and airy, much as feminine as it was pleasant, perfectly tonal like her singing. Even her head was thrown back a bit, the suspicion of a false laugh dissuaded by the genuine crinkle of her eyes. And yet all was soured by the distinct, twisted scorn of her smile.

There was no mistaking it. She was laughing at them, not with them - and she didn’t seem to care if they noticed or not.

“Bien! Very good!”

Her hands clapped together loudly once, much like a teacher drawing attention from her students. “Yeah, on to the next thing. Enough with this bullshit with the car.”

She resembled a devilish figure curled up in the chair by the fireplace. Flames danced across her skin and yet did not burn, and she remained coiled up in a stiff, tight position, like a great serpent in the still moments before it struck. Grey eyes turned Hanna’s way, and the snake smiled.

“You’ve got dirty hands meddling in your place of business, Hanna darling,” the Tremere cooed.

“I came to Buzz to see you, and it just so happened that I witnessed a drug deal taking place in-house. On the dance floor. Between a...I don’t know, some man and his hobo friend. Ah, the hobo was the dealer. Apparently. His name was Tony-”

Who cared what the little man’s name was? Her hand swept his name, his life story, his entire existence away.

“The little gremlin was selling our mystery drug, which is apparently called ‘Deep Sleep’. Now - I don’t know who his suppliers are, but he gave me a bus pick-up spot for the drug at Fannin’ and Gray. That’s where they- he gets his new stock of the stuff. I don’t know much more than that.”

She cocked her to the side, an unnatural smile on her face.

“And that’s where you come in. Care to help me suss this shit out? I could go myself but merde, things are done so much more quickly with two instead of one.”

After a pause, her eyes slid in Wesley’s and Isabel’s directions.

“Maybe even four. If I do not overestimate abilities.”



 
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Doctor Jax

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Hanna Wojciek

Hanna might have been born in the dark, but she certainly wasn't born last night.

She hadn't missed that her two proteges - if you could call them that - were abridging quite a lot of the truth. The change of clothes - the mutilation of the Green Machine - the discomfort Izzy exuded, the carefully crafted nonchalance Wes displayed, it all spoke, frankly, of some potent shenanigans. The pieces were coming together, and she could feel her stomach twist together. Ever so slightly her gaze tightened on Wes with very little amusement, as the implication hung in the air. There were going to be some words.

She didn't care to be wrapped up in something over a car.

As only a Toreador could, he steered the conversation back to Amelie. Hanna decided it best not to shrug off the offered hospitality, instead taking the robe and sitting down on the offered settee. As the French woman began to speak, Hanna's gaze only began to darken, and an ugly feeling started to well on top of that twisted knot she called her stomach. She knew that there were deals going on in her place, but to have this right under her nose... It did sting a little bit. It said 'Hanna Wojciek doesn't know what goes on in her own house.' It said 'Hanna did not have this under control.'

If there was anything Hanna didn't like, it was losing control. The Beast squared up, shoulders broad, snorting, huffing. A feeling Hanna didn't often encounter - embarrassment.

The diminutive vampire chewed at her bottom lip in thought.

"I dunno, considering I'm not the person who typically buys, you dig? Unfortunately, my face is a little too recognizable in these circles, on top of it. But I can definitely put out feelers," Hanna stated, flicking her thumb against the inside of her pointer in want of a cigarette to keep her hands occupied. "Deep Sleep - I'll try and keep that in mind if I go around asking. Maybe these two jokers can look at doin' a little scouting themselves, but that's up to them, obviously."

She looked over to the two, before looking back to Amelie, and a dark chuckle worked its way out of her.

"And yes - I've had a night. I've got it on good word right now that the dealers are the homeless -"

She pointed to Amelie, nodding in affirmation.

"- and they're trafficking it somehow, as far as I know. They come in and then start dealing it out. What for? Who knows. But then they disappear, so my guess, someone is either cutting loose ends or they're using themselves, and they end up in the good ol' morgue. My bet - and my source's - is on the former, because the smell woulda got to us by now," Hanna mused, smoothing her hair back. Her thoughts churned on all that Sal had told her, and some parts of it... didn't sit right. Something about the way he'd talked about Washburn's 'contacts' in the Camarilla.

Why hide it? Even a Prince needed his peons and pawns. The other Kindred would've figured that out by now. And Sal had wanted her out of the Dome quick, only to find it was already being held by a different group...

"I think that this is causing a lot more waves than Washburn wants. This isn't just a drug problem," Hanna said softly, her expression uncharacteristically serious. "I think he's in way deep, with whatever this is. Because there's a lot of big names looking to find out about what this is, and why it's going around."

This went beyond just the Malkavians spreading the love and sudden, accidental drug overdose.

@Kuno @Lillian Gray @Applo
 

Kuno

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Amélie


She’d thought it once. She’d heard it twice. It was no longer a matter of believing so much as it was time to accept the hard facts and act upon them. To deal with the growing crisis that was called Prince Washburn and his mysterious drug entanglement. Amélie’s gaze was as sobering as Hanna’s own, and she listened as her internal thoughts were brought to life by the petite Anarch. Other big names, she said…

“The Prince is in bed with the enemy, and the Tremere must know why."

Well. There was at least one big name she could personally account for.

“Makes sense, no?” Amélie mused. “Washburn never struck me as some sort of genius mastermind. Or a genius of any sort, if I’m to be completely honest. The little shit.”

Stiletto nails dug into her skin as she grasped her arms tightly, locking them against her chest. Untold secrets waited in the tense silence as she paused. This whole business with the drug was proving a rather irksome and tangled web, indeed. She could tell Hanna held more pieces to it than she let on; so, too, did the French vampire herself. But to ask would be to inevitably share, and quite frankly Amélie had no desire to spill anything more of Sigurd’s confidence than she was inclined to.

The Camarilla took care of their own, and for the Tremere, the sentiment was doubly so. It was best that things were kept on a need to know basis.

“Well. Can’t say I’m not disappointed you can’t ride along but, ah - I think I’ll manage.” The french woman preened her nails absentmindedly. “I have a date tomorrow at seven, too, so I can check out the bus route after...and perhaps we can compare notes at a later time.”

Slowly, with keen focus, Amélie turned her head to stare at Wesley and Isabel.

“Agreed?”


 

Red Thunder

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Dethroned
a collab between @Radio Jelly and @Red Thunder

∆∆∆​
Salvatore didn’t have long to wait, if in fact he did have to be patient with yet another guest’s pace. Sheriff Bringham’s form was obvious in the clear night, illuminated if badly by the starlight and moonlight that the breeze before had cleared away. He closed the back door to a taxi before watching it creep down the street. His shoulders seemed to slump with kine-like weariness, as if he were struck with some weakness uncommon to his kind. But the Sheriff’s display was for all his efforts in vain. Even at this distance, obvious confidence radiated off his body. Unlike the Prince, who’s position of power was regularly questioned, rumor of his cold-hearted and ruthlessly efficient muscle was widespread.

Hands in his pockets, Lance began taking the long journey from the street to the Astrodome’s gate. As he drew nearer, his features began to show more clearly. He wore a grim expression on his face, and his eyes were hard. Finally, he drew up to the entrance.

“C’mon out, Salvatore. Wherever the hell you are.”

Bringham frowned deeply.

Bringham’s challenge was met with a pregnant pause. Because Lance had come directly to the front gate, Sal hadn't had any trouble picking him out in the dark, and the old Nosferatu had already begun to approach the gate by the time the Sheriff had called his name. In fact, Salvatore's hand was already on the latch by the time Bringham spoke, but the fierce sheriff’s tone wasn’t lost on Sal. It was wrong--something was wrong.

The thought sent a minor wave of consternation down the kindred cowboy’s back. Why was Lance pissed? He shouldn’t have been. After all, Salvatore had sent good news to the Cammy’s best bloodhound. There was a hunt on tonight, and an important one at that. Salvatore hadn’t expected outright gratitude from a hardass like Lance, but he definitely wasn’t expecting a tongue-lashing either.

Salvatore swung the outer gate backwards with a single, Potence-enhanced motion. For a loud moment, the sounds of iron on iron clattered and screeched through the night air, before stillness reclaimed the lot again.

Salvatore deactivated Unseen Presence, but not before invoking Mask of a Thousand Faces to blanket his body in a masquerade-safe illusion. A blanket of supernatural shadow peeled away from Salvatore’s form, revealing that the Nosferatu had imitated Lance’s own form identically. Salvatore didn’t allow Lance a moment to speak; there had already been enough leaks at the Dome for one night.

“Follow me inside ‘fore you talk. I had a… rat problem that I’m not completely sure has been stamped out. Better we not do this out here.”

If Bringham was surprised by the sudden noise, he didn't show it; his stone-like visage remained. Indeed, even with the veritable reflection he now found himself staring at, the only sign of emotion was a raised eyebrow.

"A rat? You mean, one that doesn't belong?"

There was no sarcasm in his tone, despite the words. Gesturing for Salvatore to lead, he followed, expressionless.

Lance’s comment gave rise to a mirthless grunt from old Salvatore, who spoke no further on the matter. The quicker he put that Lasombra snake in his rearview, the quicker he’d be able to realign his focus on what truly mattered: the bus.

Wordlessly, Salvatore led Lance back into the Astrodome. This time he made for neither the field nor the rooftop. The Nosferatu took his guest through employee-access tunnels, maintenance rooms, and fire escapes. Sal paused at every corner, and before every door: no one else was going to fly under his radar tonight (or ever again, for that matter), and certainly not while he was entertaining the city’s sheriff.

After ten or twelve minutes of slithering through a variety of back-of-house passageways, Salvatore stepped into his destination: a V.I.P box overlooking the right side of the field. When the Astrodome had opened, this particular box had belonged to the president of the Astros—Roy Hofheinz—himself. Now, it was little more than a dusty storage place for a number of covered furniture pieces. Still, there was history to the place, and (perhaps most importantly) it wasn’t so big that Salvatore couldn’t clear the space himself.

After doing a once over in the quiet darkness of his chosen meeting place, Salvatore doubled back to where his guest stood in the room, and made sure to procure two chairs for the both of them to do their talking.

“You’ll forgive the walkabout, I hope. I sent all my folk out for tonight’s cause. Speaking of which…”

Salvatore collapsed into one of the old vinyl chairs, dropping his Mask of a Thousand Faces as he did so.

“I didn’t expect Kat to find you so soon.” Sal met Lance’s eyes, his expression motionless in the dark. “Where is she?”

Bringham had stayed in the doorway throughout Salvatore's room clearing, nor did he move when his host set the chairs in place and collapsed into one of them. And he ignored the question.
"I received a tip, Sal." Unblinking, his eyes never left the Nosferatu. "I need to see your logs. Immediately."

Sal let the words hang in the air. His logs? A tip?

And no Kat.

An uneasy chill slid down Salvatore’s undead spine, and his danger sense--which had been honed over the last two centuries of playing the game, began to light up like fireworks on the fourth of July. Suddenly, this encounter didn’t feel natural to Sal. It didn’t feel right.

“Logs, huh?”

Lance had barely spoken since his arrival at the dome. By reputation, Sal knew he wasn’t much of a talker, but if Kat hadn’t found him, why was it that Bringham had come knocking at Salvatore’s door? Why was the sheriff blatantly ignoring what Sal had to say? Did he really expect Salvatore--a Camarilla Primogen--to roll over for some sourceless tip? Why wouldn’t he sit?.

Lance wasn’t here for the Bus. Hell, he probably wasn’t here for Sal’s logs neither.

“Sure, Sheriff. I got plenty of records here…” Salvatore turned his gaze back to his visitor. “It’s just a little strange, is all. What with you turnin’ up without my girl. Leads me to believe you got some other business with me altogether, ‘cept I’d already know if you and I had any dealings to spare.” Sal gave Bringham a pained smile, before taking a long hard look at the empty seat in front of him.
“What kinda tip did you get, Lance?”

The corner of Bringham’s eye twitched.
Your logs, Sal; where are they? I want to do this right.”

He didn’t move, rigid as granite, merely staring at the old Primogen from beneath a ratted old baseball cap with a cold, impersonal gaze.

“Ain’t asking again.”

As the gravity of Lance’s command hung over Sal, the old Nos realized he could no longer spare the sheriff any doubt. It had been suspicious, of course, for Lance to show up unannounced and without Kat, but Sal could’ve chalked it up to a miscommunication. It had been odd for the sheriff to come sniffing around for his logs, too, but Salvatore had made his information network an indispensable asset to the Camarilla, and could understand why a sheriff might need a hot tip.

It was Lance himself. The way the sheriff had refused to budge from the only exit. The way he wouldn’t explain what it was he was looking for, or why it was that he couldn’t explain to begin with. Not to mention, Lance hadn’t done a damn thing to defuse the situation himself. Slowly, Sal got to his feet, the scant few lights on the outfield below framing his silhouette in the otherwise pitch-black box. Even there, obscured by the dark as Salvatore was, he had no doubt Lance could see the disdain in his features, and the defiance in his posture.

When Salvatore spoke, he did so slowly, as if testing and tasting each word on his tongue. He was angry, of course, but the fact of the matter was he didn’t know the truth. Lance was a bloodhound, and for whatever reason he’d come nipping at Sal’s heels. The only problem was Salvatore still didn’t know if the dog was off his leash, or just acting on someone else’s accord. As the mystery began to take root in Salvatore’s mind, he couldn’t help but replay Beatrice’s farewell over again in his mind: “No one can say that I didn't try. For what it's worth, I'm sorry."
Beatrice had known about Lance--or at the very least, knew there would be someone coming to knock him down a peg. He’d need to use that.

“So this is how you want to do this, huh? A shakedown?” The Primogen scoffed, “So what was it that Lasombra rattlesnake offered you then? Power? Promotion?” Salvatore examined Lance’s features closely as he spoke, his eyes keen for any semblance of recognition or surprise on the old sheriff’s face.

“S’alright Lance. You don’t gotta tell me the what, but as a guest here in my dome, I must insist you tell me the why. So…”

From within himself, and as he continued to try stalling the wolf in his pasture, Salvatore activated Beckoning.

“Why’d you sell out to them.

"If you're not pulling files for me, I'm assuming it's true." Again ignoring him, Lance placed his closest hand on the light switch just past the door frame. The old, yellowed plastic cover shattered under his Kindred strength as he dug his fingers in. They made purchase on the metal box. It crumpled as easily as paper within his fist, and as the electricity sought a grounding through his body, his eyes lit up white-blue.

"Me and the Lasombra? Sal. 'Let him without sin cast the first stone.'"
The Sheriff raised his free hand and pointed. Power erupted from the outstretched digit: a bolt of blindingly hot electricity. It raced toward the Nosferatu.

The moment Lance had pointed, Salvatore’s knees buckled, and the old Nosferatu threw himself to the ground. There was no time to plan now—no time to maneuver. The lance of white-hot electricity passed nearly directly through where Sal had been standing, crashing into the opposite wall in a hail of sparks and fire. The Nosferatu regarded the bubbling wall paper for just a single moment, before scrambling to his feet.

Salvatore did not have time to wait for the encore. Instead, the kindred grabbed the back of the chair he had been sitting in, and with a dash of Potence-fueled strength, he sent it careening back at his attacker. It was a wild toss, but one aimed at Lance’s grip on the wall.

As the chair went sailing through the air, a dull thud sounded against the window behind Salvatore. He didn’t have to look to know what it was.

Move.

The time for talk was over, and now it was time to survive. Sal knew that he would have to root out what the ‘it’ in Lance’s statement referred to. He knew he would have to work to expose whatever lie had sold the sheriff on his life. But those things would have to wait.

Without waiting to see the effects of his haphazard projectile, Salvatore once again dropped low to the floor, weaving alongside the covered furniture in pursuit of his next distraction.

He was crafty, was the Sewer Rat, and perhaps more dangerous in a pinch than the average Kindred; age and the experience that comes with it will do that. The chair now hurtling toward the Sheriff's grip on the wires was evidence of that. In a moment, Salvatore had observed exactly what Lance was doing, how to potentially stop it, and acted on that information. Then, having played that card, he actively sought another. Never mind whatever that thudding in the window was.

The Thaumaturgical Path of the Levinbolt, while not particularly applicable in a wide variety of arenas, was nevertheless a tool that did its particular job particularly well. All the more so, perhaps, due to the obscure knowledge of this branch of blood magic. It is a Masquerade-shattering Discipline, with few ways to hide it from the public; the Tremere using it becomes increasingly an avatar of electricity, pouring waves of white-blue death at wherever they point.

So it was with Sheriff Bringham. In addition to his glowing eyes, his skin began to crackle, bright jagged lines racing across it. Another out-stretched finger, another crack, the smell of ozone filled the room, and the chair exploded as a bolt of lightning shattered it.

But it didn't disperse the energy. Electricity raced on through the path of destruction. The great viewing window stood beyond Salvatore's makeshift projectile, overlooking the sea of Astroturf below. The life it usually held made it feel full, even though it never really was. But now, it was desolate.
Save for one crowd. Lightning struck the window's metal frame, grounding. It superheated, expanding rapidly, shattering the glass already compromised by the lightning's resulting boom. The glass fell away, tinkling like a gentle rain and giving way to the Astrodome's sole other occupants.

The sound of the window being reduced to smithereens was astounding from inside the box. The sudden and wailing chorus of glass on glass was nearly enough to divert Sal’s gaze. Nearly enough to stop him from throwing yet another stadium chair at Lance. Though it didn’t stop Sal, it did cause him to flinch, sending the seat too high to meet its intended target.

No matter. Lance had made a mistake—he just wasn’t totally aware of it yet.
“Must be my lucky day,” the Primogen wheezed. Sal jerked a quick thumb over his shoulder.

“Theirs’ too.”

As if on cue, three or four onyx shapes swept into the room through the newly-made egress, shrieking and cawing in distress. If Lance hadn’t opened the window, they would’ve died against it. Breaking his flock against the screen was a sacrifice he’d no longer have to make thanks to his hunter’s efforts. Now, the birds served a different purpose.

Sal wrenched another chair free from the floor, his eyes trained on the sheriff’s movements as more and more birds came screaming into the space. He had not called just two or three of his messenger crows, but all of them. From behind him, in the darkness above the baseball diamond, he could hear them. The arrhythmic sound of their wingbeats, punctuated only by their fearful squawking. Only mere moments separated the two combatants from a whirling dervish of feather and talon. It was a fact Sal was sure Lance was about to realize himself. Over the ruckus of the wildly flailing creatures in the room, Salvatore piped up one last time, doing his best to shout over the steadily increasing volume of his summoned flock.

“You’re a Warlock Sheriff, and still dumb enough to believe I’d give the Sabbat a damn thing.” Sal licked his lips, his tone leveling out as he did. Salvatore was well and truly pissed off, but the time for talk was over. The only thing to do now was get out and get moving. The Primogen licked his weathered lips, and tightened his grip on the seat he was using for cover.

“Make the next one count, sheriff. I ain’t giving you another shot.”

Then, Sal’s rigid poise snapped, as he flung one final projectile at Lance’s traitorous mug.

If there was one thing you could count on when dealing with a Nosferatu, it was that they wouldn't shut the hell up. Sheriff Bringham stared at him as he chattered on, nonplussed. Neither the rain of shards nor the sudden entry of corvids broke his gaze, and only when the feathered flurry finally obscured Salvatore did he move, shifting his weight backwards and squinting his eyes. He still held the line of electricity, extended left hand sparking, but he did not press the attack.

The Sewer Rat was not so hesitant. Another chair, another improvised weapon. It whistled as it flew. Or was that the shrill whine of wings in the wind? It didn't matter; it would be dealt with as before. Again, a crack split the air, followed immediately after by the tang of ozone. The chair shattered, showering the Sheriff with splinters. He lowered his hand, his fingers outstretched from palming the projectile.

"If you have such a problem, come quietly; you can spill your guts to the Prince." His voice was low and measured, difficult to hear among the cacophony of the crows. Simultaneously, the air took on a sharp quality; static filled the room like helium filling a balloon. Small pops came from all around as ions jumped from positive to negative surfaces, and the hair on Salvatore's gnarled skin stood on end. Suddenly, the Sheriff appeared luminescent; it had been a gradual transition, only now truly noticeable. "Or you can spill your guts now. Either way, you won't speak to any Necromancer ever again."

As bright as the sun, if lacking the anti-Kindred solar quality, Lance released a flash of blinding light, and the entire room was illuminated in white fury.
Salvatore recoiled on instinct, shielding his darkened eyes from the sudden, searing light. Were the Nosferatu a human, he would have been blinded in an instant: whatever dark sorcery it was that Lance commanded, it was clearly growing stronger the longer this fight went on. Salvatore shook away the last of the corvid-shaped afterimages swimming across his vision, and, in doing so, beheld a chilling sight. Lance Bringham—with one hand pointed directly at Salvatore, and the other still entangled in wires—was almost entirely alight.

The sheriff’s body had become bright enough to cast a thousand shadows across the improvised battlefield, as he drew more and more power from the grid. Small arcs of electricity seemed to snap and pop across the length of his arm, and as if in response to the sudden and overwhelming transformation of their adversary, the birds in the box began to circle Salvatore more erratically; the pitch of their shrieking and cawing rising in anticipation of another bolt.

Salvatore met the light in Lance’s eyes, and in them he could read nothing. This was the hound of Houston’s Camarilla; a monster of both might and magic who—Salvatore knew by reputation—was exceptional at wielding both to devastating effect. The fact of the matter was Sal didn’t know Bringham’s magic, and even if he did, Clan Nosferatu weren’t exactly built for single combat. They were, however, gifted in the art of escapism.
Curling arcs of energy began to race towards Bringham’s outstretched fingertips, and as they did, Salvatore knew that he couldn’t stall any longer. Whatever Lance was now, it would not be stopped by hand-tossed stadium chairs and barbed words. That shot was coming, and a few early arrivals were not going to be enough to save the old Nos. Thankfully, he didn’t have to wait any longer.

As if on cue, a storm-wall of onyx feathers and nimble talons came surging into the room. Like a ocean wave scattering against a cliffside, Salvatore’s entire messenger flock burst apart at once: he had called them—all of them—with Beckoning, and now that their supernaturally-implanted prerogative was complete, the birds themselves were once again released to their individual senses.

Salvatore spared them a single second; his attention was momentarily stolen away from Bringham, and given instead to the little beasts as they pitched, plummeted, and swirled around him. The cowboy bit his lip, spared his swarming cloak of fearful friends a last look, and then spun on his heels. Though he couldn’t see Lance through the wall of crying crows, Salvatore could hear the thrum of power and snapping of electricity reach a crescendo. The next bolt was about to strike, and—without any time left to spare—the Nosferatu broke into a full sprint for the open window, trying to dodge his errant flock as he did.
Then, Salvatore jumped.

Not a moment too soon. Lightning split the air, searing feathers in its wake. It lanced through the broken window, impacting the Astrodome ceiling; the black scorch mark would necessitate much of the material's replacement. Immediately, the odor of ozone intensified, particularly within the small room. Crows dead and dying littered the floor about the Sheriff, and those that still could were fleeing for their lives.
They were ignored. With deliberate steps, each crushing glass beneath booted heel, he approached the window. Salvatore was gone, vanished into the gloom of his former hideout. Lance's eyes roved about the space slowly, to no effect. The Sewer Rat was gone. And with him, maybe, was a chance of toppling this empire of demonic drugs that had infested his city.

A gentle if digitized tune played from his pocket: a bad rendition of the Happy Days theme song. He reached in, extracting his cell phone. The Prince's secretary was trying to reach him. And like a dutiful dog, he answered.

"Maria."

"Lawrence," came the reply, the professionalism a harsh contrast to the Prince's own informalities. "A 'Katrina' is here to see you. A- mm, a Nosferatu with news from her Primogen."

"Yeah. On my way."

"Very good."

Lance ended the call and pocketed the device. Time to appointment a new Rat King. Or Queen.
∆∆∆​
 
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Applo

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“Errrmm, yeah sure. That sounds good to me.”

The french kindreds gaze was uncomfortably intense as it swung away from Hanna and landed on the Brujah’s employee and stray. The back and forth between Améli and Hanna had certainly driven home to Isabel just how much more the pair had uncovered of the mystery they had been tasked to solve than her or Wes had so far. Under the grey gaze, she couldn’t help but wonder if the Tremere was thinking much the same.

“I can help out like anywhere. I’m free and I don't really know anyone outside Buzz so nobody is going to recognise me I don’t think.”​

 
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∆∆∆
Amélie's House
the street outside

The autumn stillness of deep night lay on the small suburb, even as the Kindred within the unassuming home plotted, connived, and otherwise machinated with each other. The occasional bird would croak out a choking call, but it was otherwise silent of signs of natural life. Only the breeze provided any actual ambience.

A gentleman sat on a chair nearby; there was no other word for it. His blonde hair was neatly combed to one side, and his three piece suit fit him exactly. As soon as he'd spoken with the Sewer Rat at the Prince's Gate, he'd come straight here. New orders to follow. He occupied an old wooden chair on some grandmother's porch across the street from Amélie's residence. Elbows propped up on the armrests, he steepled his fingers and crossed his legs, placing an ankle on the opposite knee. An obtuse darkness, thicker than night, surrounded him like an oily film. But he would not have been seen even without it; he was perfectly still, merely another layer in the black of the late hour. He stared at the Tremere's house. And waited.

October 15, 1999
6:30 pm

∆∆∆
the Tremere Chantry,
back gate

Washing day. Every time it happened, Joe found himself hating it. He grumbled to himself as he tossed a few cloth sacks into the backseat of his minivan. Who the hell couldn't just order a laundry pick up, like every single other self-respecting, ego-inflated, unreasonably-wealthy sumbitch in this damn city did? Grunting with the effort, he swung a large hanging bag full of his master's suits into the car as well, before securing them on the plastic coat hook within. No suit himself today, as when he and Frank took the bitch hostage. Sometimes, he reassured himself, the master's work wasn't too bad.

Joe paused, brow furrowed. Did Casey leave her backpack in the car again? He shook his head; that girl just wouldn't listen. Or maybe she'd forgotten it on the floorboard, still excited over her ballet recital the night before. The LEGO cat on the bag's face sparkled an eye-searing pink and yellow in the now hidden sun as its final rays filtered and reflected off many skyscrapers. He squinted against the glare, the frown turning to a sad smile. She had practice tomorrow afternoon; maybe he could actually make it this time. Sliding the minivan door closed, he jumped into the driver seat and sped off down the road, eager to get to the dry cleaners before they closed at 7.

∆∆∆
the Maximum Buzz

He felt a new man. New strength lanced through his arms, new energy in his bones. Who knew that a bit of the red stuff could do so much good?

The basement was not dreary, but it was closed to view from the outside world, and the doors were secured. So Cut had lay on the bed as Omar had left him, unable to move for most of the day. Not that he'd have wanted to, even if he could: his limbs had been weighty with lethargy, and his heart had been eaten with ennui. He'd forced himself to stay awake for perhaps an hour before finally slipping into oblivion. But now, even as the sun began its rapid descent below the horizon, Cut practically leapt from his bed. He cast about, seeking an exit. He had his power back, and he wanted to hit the street again. Go party or something. Carefully, he shifted to what looked to be the exterior door and gave the handle a tug. No dice. Made sense, he supposed; couldn't have just anyone creeping in. But the bolt lock was keyed on the inside, too. Which meant-

Cut squashed the mixture of bile and panic rising in his throat. No, if the hippie had wanted him dead, he would be already. He gave the door a half-hearted kick and stepped away. She's mentioned working for her, yeah? Maybe she was still good for that. Better than dying. And maybe even better than his little two-bit gang.

Better to be the right hand of the devil then in his path. Or her path, maybe.

He cast his eye about, looking for a door into the building proper.

Last night had not been quiet at the Buzz. The body of some bedraggled, disease-ridden bum had been found not long after 1am. Rather, the constituent parts of said bum had been found, scattered about the back alley in violent fashion. Blood still painted the scum-coated bricks, drying in the Texas heat and beginning to create an awful stink. Police tape cordoned off the area, and the assigned officer looked none too pleased to have the job of securing it. Notepad in hand, he spoke with each person that entered and exited the area, jotting the information down lazily. The flow of personnel had dwindled somewhat; very soon now, the hazmat crew would arrive to clean up the mess, and the officer in question could go back to his routine beat.

Dylan sat in the office, the cigarette in his mouth nearly burned to ash. His eyes were bloodshot, and dark rings encircled them. He stared at the newspaper he held, rereading a particular article over and over again. "Buzzkill at the Maximum Buzz". The reporters had been kept from the immediate scene, but they'd still caught enough on camera to create a juicy write up. And with the inflow of Houston detectives all damn day- They'd be lucky if they had any business tonight. Or the next. Or for weeks to come! Panic began to rise in his chest again, and he took another hard drag on what was left of his tobacco.

"Someone to see the boss." Omar stood at the door, looking displeased. Behind him stood the very picture of an old west cowboy: Ranger Travers. He stood behind, silent and patient. Omar shrugged. "Questions about the- murder."

∆∆∆​

Merry Christmas! A few of you, I wasn't sure where y'all were planning your characters to be. So feel free to place yourselves wherever you'd like, including somewhere I didn't mention.
@Kuno @Doctor Jax @Applo @Lillian Gray @Radio Jelly
 
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Kuno

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Amélie


Red on red on red bled down her body. Like murder, she wrote painted across her skin. Tight, too; there was no room to breathe in the neon scarlet crop top Amélie wore, and the small spikes peppered across the polyester material enhanced the violence of its color. At her neck was the same bone carving necklace. Somehow it managed to fit the overall theme of her look.

It was wild. And garish. And perfectly appropriate.

Tell a lie enough times, and eventually it became the truth. Amélie did indeed feel like she was going on a date. There was nothing romantic in the least about it, but there was a certain weight in the preparations she made. A feeling of expectation, of yearning, of - hm, how could she best put this? Excitement, perhaps? Though she felt no childish giddiness Kine were wont to experience. Just a sense of resolution. It wasn’t often wrongs against her were so quickly righted.

The Tremere gave herself one last lookover in the mirror. She looked like she was bound for the stage; her eyes were piercing from the rim of black around them, and tawny feather earrings hung from each lobe. She pulled a bit at her leather pants, glancing at the exposed skin on her abdomen. The woman was noticeably shorter than from the previous night. No heels tonight. Only boots; thick, black combat boots with metal encircling the toe of the shoe. Good for running. And good for kicking.

All that was missing was her guitar. She retrieved her favorite one from the music room before leaving. This time she locked both the top and bottom lock, and there was a hint of a frown on her face as she turned away and trudged towards the rear of the house.

Amélie figured it would be better to drive herself. There were just too many stops to make, too many actions to perform - even the most well-trained ghoul from Madame would have questions, and quite frankly the Tremere could not be bothered to entertain the judgement and scrutiny of either party. Her business was her business, and the last thing she wanted was the old lady sticking her nose into it.

Her car sat just outside the garage. It was nothing special: a black 1997 Corolla bought fresh off the lot. It still smelled like a new car; as the sedan’s engine started, Amélie turned the volume to her cassette player all the way up. As Twisted Sister screamed in her ears, she glanced briefly at the clock. She smiled.

A quarter to. She’d be there right on time.

Waiting.


 

Applo

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Fresh and stale air mixed in swirling, invisible eddies as the sturdy metal apartment door was shoved open. A plastic bag flew through the archway, landing with a dull thud on the cheap carpet that covered the floor. Heavy boots hit the back of a counter. The door slammed shut. Finally, worn metal springs creaked and groaned as a weight was dropped on them.

Despite the protest of its springs, Isabel found supreme comfort in the embrace of her worn out second or maybe third hand couch. This was her place. Her space. Here… here she didn’t have to watch herself; guard herself. Away from the eyes of any and all she could just exist. It was freeing. Relaxing almost. A significant part of Isabel wanted to stay rooted to the sofa all night. It was somewhere her mind could be still.

Of course, the problem with a still mind is that errant and troubling thoughts find them so much easier to get inside. As the new blood stared blankly up at her popcorn ceiling, she noticed something she had never seen there before. There was a face. A twisted, screaming stucco face stared down at her. The expression of wordless horror was the same as the one the thugs in the chopshop had worn in their last moments. Their last bloody moments. Horrid images flooded Isabel’s mind.

Closing her eyes, the new blood groaned, rolled off the couch and crawled into the bedroom that she never slept in. When Isabel emerged once more, the only thing that really looked the same was her hair and the haunted look in her eyes. Instead of Amelie's comfortable, yet stylish, athleisure wear, the thin blood wore what she thought was her best party outfit; high waisted, designer torn jeans over fishnet tights paired with a burgundy halter top and red converse. A multitude of cheap necklaces around Isabel’s neck and eyes heavy with mascara and eyeliner completed the look. It wasn’t one Isabel was entirely comfortable with. She felt very exposed. But then that was the point for the kind of people that normally wore such an outfit; and looking like those people instead of herself could only help when she joined Amélie later to scour the city for this ‘Deep Sleep’.

The walk to the Buzz went quicker than normal. The beast, still satiated from the previous night’s feast, was quiet and docile. For once, the thin-blood didn't feel the need to cross the street, run down alleyways or just turn around to avoid the city’s denizens. At least she didn’t until she got near the club. The smell hit Isabel like a fist to the gut when she was about a block away from her second home. It crawled up her nose in the way only blood could, but it was revolting. It was like she had been locked in one of the dumpsters out back of the fish market back home on a summer’s day.

Before she had closed half the remaining distance to Hanna’s temple of excess and revelry, Isabel had both hands clamped over her face and was running at a full sprint. Ducking into the alley that encircled the club, she didn’t notice the scene that was the source of her discomfort. Her focus was on the kitchen door, and Isabel hammered on it with her feet, hoping and praying that Chuck or really anyone would hear and let her in.​

 

Radio Jelly

Galactic Gadabout
Salvatore
October 15th, 1999
Somewhere Under Sunnyside

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Arrogance.

It was the last thing Sal thought about before collapsing into Torpor, and it was the first thing he thought about when he woke up again. Such a simple flaw, and yet Salvatore had watched it worm its way into the thoughts and actions of just about every Kindred he had ever known. It wasn’t difficult to understand why. The undead so often conflated their immortality with invulnerability, and once someone allowed themselves to suffer that delusion--to believe that they could escape the fear of final death--they couldn’t blame anyone but themselves for the fall.

Salvatore knew he’d been arrogant. The former Primogen had thought (incorrectly) that if he kept his people useful to the Camarilla, they could avoid being dragged into Washburn’s games. He’d thought that if he could keep his Nosferatu towing the company line, they’d be treated with the respect they were due. He thought they were out of the cross-hairs. What a crock of shit that had turned out to be.

Sal’s eyelids fluttered open in the dark. Another night had begun. The Kindred placed both of his scarred hands against the damp aluminum door he’d been propped against, and waited. Lance’s final bolt had not entirely missed Salvatore, and despite having knitted the worst of it back together the night before, Sal had been too close to empty to finish the job. The pain along his right forearm was substantial, and it only multiplied once the Nosferatu threw his full weight against the door.

The metal bent and bowed outwards, it’s hinges screaming and popping against the pressure before launching across the room. Salvatore stumbled out of the locker, swaying and shuffling like a roadside drunk coming off the worst bender of his life. In a way, he was: As Salvatore’s eyes adjusted to the flickering, fluorescent light overhead, he got a good look at the horde of desiccated rat corpses that littered the tiled floor. There weren’t kine down here--not anymore--and last night’s injuries had been… severe.

Sal didn’t spare the animals another thought, and instead he staggered out the doors of his hiding spot, and into the concrete hallway adjacent to it. Sal had an idea of where he was in relation to the surface, but he wasn't completely certain. The sewers felt like their own realm, and in a very real way, they belonged to his kin. The sewers were more than just territory, though. Few other clans ever had reason to suffer its stench and filth, but for the Nosferatu, the labirynthine tunnels were highways, homes, and safe-houses, rolled into one. Sal hadn’t been down in them for nearly a year, but time could not diminish his memory of the place.

In his heyday, the Primogen had mapped the lines a hundred times over, and there wasn’t a Nosferatu that had worked for him who couldn’t do the same. Still, there were places Salvatore didn’t share. Places he’d kept to himself. This was one such place: a remote monitoring installation for a sewage pump station a quarter mile away. There wasn’t much to it all--just three rooms. An employee locker room, the monitoring office itself, and a small hallway leading to a now-defunct elevator. Adjacent to the structure was a series of large pipes that emptied into the main sewer line. Whichever pump station this monitoring installation had been built for, it was almost certainly out of commission now. Salvatore had found this little nook not too long after he’d first arrived in Houston, and even then the place had been abandoned. He’d had little cause to come back in recent nights, which, for the purpose of keeping his location a secret, had worked out in his favor.

At last, the bruised and humiliated Primogen stepped out of the station, and into the mainline proper. Salvatore had heard things about Tremere--about the ways they could use a Kindred’s blood to learn about them. Even if he didn’t know precisely what Lance could do, he did know that more than enough of his vitae was emptied onto that baseball field when the sheriff nearly took his arm off. When Salvatore had first slipped into the sewers, he had fed some of the rats he caught with his vitae, and sent them in different directions. The Nosferatu had hoped it would buy him some time, but he didn't know nearly enough about the Warlocks to know whether or not that gambit had helped in any meaningful way. Still, he was alive, which counted for something.

Salvatore wanted to stay that way. The only path to ensure Salvatore’s survival now, was to find allies. Unfortunately, Sal hadn’t received any text messages from his clan. Not a single one had reported back last night. For the moment, he had to ignore the terrible implications of that silence, and instead turn his attention to new prospects.

But who was left?

Salvatore had turned down the Sabbat, and the Camarilla had made a criminal of him. Perhaps they had been misled, and in time he could clear his name, but for the moment they were off the table. That left only the Anarchs, and all things considered, he didn’t have much of a taste for them either. Still, something was better than nothing, and he knew at least one Anarch who had seemed… reasonable. At least one Anarch who seemed interested in figuring out what the fuck was going on.

Salvatore spat once into the dark, the bitter taste of rat fur and sulfur on his lips for just a little too long. He had been arrogant--maybe he had been alive too long, or maybe he had just gotten too greedy, or too complacent. The why didn't really matter now. He had been taught a violent lesson in humility, and now all he could do was push forward, get to the bottom of the mystery that had cost him everything, and find the sonofabitch that set him up to begin with.

When he did, Salvatore intended to remind them of the difference between immortality and invulnerability.
 

Lillian Gray

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Wesley 'Wes' James Moore
Why had he agreed to help again?

Had it been anything else. Murder outright, missing kindred, even a goddamn cleaning job, he would have been more than eager to assist. Well, the latter may not have held true, but the principle remained. Wesley didn't deal in drugs. Didn't care for them, didn't care who did them. It left a sour taste in his mouth to think of the underbelly of Houston and it's oh so honorable junkies. So why, he asked himself, had he so eagerly agreed to help Amélie look into this? Perhaps it had been Hanna and her watchful gaze. He couldn't say no when she was around, owed her too much.

Wesley was rooted to his position behind the bar, uncertain as to whether or not he was going to be pulled on some mysterious ride along to find their mystery drug, or if he was actually supposed to be working. One clean dress shoe tapped anxiously against the pristine floors in an even tempo. His nail dug into a particularly well worn spot on the otherwise immaculate bar top. A stain, a mark, it was something. Something. Small enough to be a cigarette burn, but not quite scorched enough to be that either. He continued to pick and pry at the spot without regard to the small chips it put into his nail.

Such a small imperfection. Like the superfluous flames on his otherwise flawless Viper. But no. Oh no. Things couldn't remain the way they were. Flawless. Lovely. There always had to be something wrong.

His nail cracked against the countertop and a small bit of varnish came with it. Wesley frowned. When he looked, really looked, down at the bar top he finally noticed all the other imperfections. Actual cigarette burns, water stains, small inexplainable holes. It wasn't just the one. And why should it have been? It was a damn club. He knew that. There were so many other problems in front of him. Hazel eyes traced lines across the bar, his face never betraying the irritation just beneath the surface, and his foot continued to tap against the floor.

Tap.

Tap.

Thud.

The noise made him turn. He blinked a few times before heading into the kitchen to the back door. Wesley pushed up the sleeves of his black turtleneck, one of many, and absentmindedly brushed his cracked nail against the back of his slacks. Another kick of a boot against the door, someone probably wanted in. Wesley didn't think twice about reaching down to twist the knob. That same arrogance was the reason he'd lost his car, not caring enough to put a second of thought into his actions, but that's just who he was. If he opened the door and some Nos stared him in the face then it was his own problem. If he opened the door and it was someone else?

"Oh, now what's this? New blood, I like the outfit." Wesley leaned in the open doorway so she had no room to pass, smile growing wider the longer they stood there. His words were dripping with sarcasm, that much was plain. "This, though, wow." He chuckled and pulled at one of the many gaudy pieces she had around her neck. "Come on, stench is awful, get in here."

He finally moved out of the way with a grand gesture of his arm. To her credit, the alley did stink of blood. Undesirable to his tastes. He was ready to slam the door shut the second the new blood was inside.

"Is that your sleuthing outfit, Detective Webb?" He cooed after her.
 

Doctor Jax

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Friends In Low Places
with @radiojelly

Tonight, of all nights, Maximum Buzz was living up to its name. Unfortunately, the kind of Buzz it was getting was probably not the kind its owner wanted. Salvatore waited in the dark, taking stock of the caution tape, cop cars, and police personnel that trailed in and out of the scene. What little his chosen vessel could overhear seemed to point towards some kind of murder, and right on the Buzz’s doorstep.

Great.

The canine eyes Salvatore was using on loan clocked another figure too--probably a lead investigator of some kind--as he made his way into the club. It looked like whoever was running the show inside was going to be busy. Maybe that meant he would have to wait, but then again he hadn’t seen Hanna since his vessel arrived on the scene, and even though Sal wouldn’t put it past her to shack up at her place of business, he didn’t get the impression that Hanna would enter Torpor somewhere as public as the Buzz. Maybe she was still on her way, maybe not. All he could do was wait.

Salvatore, or rather the mutt Salvatore was loosely controlling via Subsume the Spirit, eventually trotted over to the corner on the opposite side of the street from the Buzz’s entrance. In the dog’s mouth was a tattered, yet distinct cowboy hat of black velvet, it’s crown encircled with the skeleton of a viper. It was as obvious an invitation as Salvatore felt comfortable extending. He hadn’t been expecting cops, and even if they were Kine, Sal wasn’t in the mood to take chances with the Masquerade. Unfortunately, Subsume the Spirit was a taxing use of the Animalism discipline, and every moment Salvatore waited for Hanna, he could feel his Beast roiling and wriggling around in his stomach, its hunger rapidly swelling to a crescendo.

If she didn’t show up--and soon--he was going to have to find another way to get her attention.

“The hell….?”

It seemed that Salvatore wouldn’t need to wait too much longer. The Buzz’s owner got out of her Volvo a solid block from the building, removing her typical round sunglasses. She stared at the fracas around her place, eyes surveying the area. It didn’t take her long to see the mutt holding a very familiar looking hat.

That soon?

“Hey, poochie, whatcha got there? What, Timmy fall down a well?” she asked, walking toward the mutt.

At the sound of Hanna’s voice, the dog suffered an immediate and visceral reaction. In what seemed like a single motion, the Chihuahua--or, perhaps, Papillon--went bounding over to meet Hanna, it’s feather-duster tail violently thrashing in every possible direction. At her feet, the cuddly canine let out a low whine of excitement, before zipping and zooming in between Hanna’s ankles.

Strangely enough, Salvatore’s dog exhibited none of the filth or fleas one might expect from a stray. Instead, the Papillon’s coat of long white and orange fur was stainless, and--strangely--fluffed. It was the kind of pet one might’ve expected to see riding around in some baroness’s purse, and certainly not the kind to be slinking around dodgy, vampire bars. Still, Salvatore’s ride didn’t wear a collar, or anything else that might’ve marked it as someone’s pet. It was just one in the ever-growing list of oddities that seemed to be appearing on the Houston streets as of late.

After a few moments of predictably canine affections, the little dog froze mid jump, and it’s frantic leaping suddenly ground to a halt as if by some invisible pressure. The Papillon froze where it landed, and then, as if lost, it began to rapidly examine its surroundings. After a moment, it’s gaze settled on Salvatore’s hat, which the dog had hurriedly abandoned on the street corner not a moment before. With a frustrated, but comically high-pitched growl, the little Papillon strutted over to where it lay, and picked the headpiece back up in it’s jowls. When it returned to the Brujah’s side, it paused only to regard Hanna with a pair of distinctly cold, and altogether different set of eyes, before trotting on past her.

It didn’t go far: the little Papillon ducked into the first alley behind the building opposite the Buzz, picking up its pace as it did so. When at last it came to a stop, the little dog sat back on it’s haunches, and the cold rigidity that had overcome it’s features moments before seemed to melt away again: despite remaining in a seated position, the dog’s eyes softened again, and it resumed its carefree tail wagging with just as much gumption--if not more--than it had just minutes before.

“Picked a cute dog to be piloting around. Lucky it didn’t get picked up,” Hanna stated. She had followed the dog, fairly certain she knew who exactly was summoning her attention at this hour and so close to her own abode to start. Her eyes pored over the darkened interior of the alley, feeling the weight of blood loss and stress start to take a toll.

The Beast was shrieking to dominate, to assert that this was her territory he had come into. She managed to wrestle the paranoia down to an uneasy rumble.

“Didn’t expect to hear from you that quick. If you don’t mind, I’ve got an entire bar flocked by cops, for reasons I don’t exactly understand.”

A moment of silence passed, and then, on the far side of the alley, a lone figure staggered into Hanna’s point of view. It was Salvatore alright, but nothing about the Nosferatu in that alley bore little resemblance with the one Hanna had shared drinks with the night before. Even before he spoke, there was a visible rigidity, and yet also a quickness, to each of his steps. It was as if Salvatore was withholding an urge--the urge--to lunge forward in each and every small motion of his. Still, Sal’s steps were hardly the most interesting thing about his appearance in that alley. As Sal stepped into the edge of the dim light, he made no move to hide his left arm, which hung exposed at his side without a sleeve. Vicious grooves of black and red ran down the length of that arm, the work of Lance’s last lightning bolt which Sal still had neither will nor vitae enough to heal.

Still, as a former Primogen, he made no efforts to hide either his thirst or his wounds: to do so would be an admission of shame and--by extension--weakness. Besides, scars troubled Sal little, and at least it would lend credibility to his side of the story. Unsurprisingly, when Salvatore spoke, his voice sounded just as taught as every one of the muscles in his body, straining every-so-slightly to maintain the same cool and composure he had shown Hanna one night prior.

“Yeah,” he croaked, “Murder in your alley, look’s like.” He paused, wrinkling his nose involuntarily for just a moment. “Don’t worry--smelled like Kine to me.” With his good hand, Sal gestured to the front doors of the Buzz. “Detective types went on in just a minute ago.” Sal said, the edge of his lips curling ever-so-slightly into a smile. “Guess I’m not your only surprise guest tonight.”

Salvatore glanced back at the little dog he had found, half-expecting it to have wandered off. Instead, it had laid down where he’d left it, its fluffy tail still thumping up and down against the stone. Sal met the creature’s beady little eyes with a starved look of his own--his attention just temporarily diverted as the fangs of his Beast sunk deeper into his mind. The kindred battled back, sharpening his focus on Hanna once more.

“You’re gonna hear some things ‘bout me soon Hanna. I came by to try and get ahead of all that. I want to offer my help to you and yours. This… task Washburn put us on--it’s a death sentence. I want to know why, and I’m hoping so do you...” Sal trailed off, his features contorting into a look of anguish as he fought back another surging hunger pang. The Nosferatu glanced back towards the mouth of the alley, his eyes narrowed in the dark.

“Don’t s’pose you’ve got someplace more private to discuss particulars? I could meet you there if you wanted to deal with your... ‘cop problem.’”

Hanna had remained quiet, watching the Primogeniture struggle. He did look like he’d been up Schitt’s creek without a paddle. Not an easy feat, to oust the sitting Nosferatu so bad he looked even more like roadkill. Her eyes did sharpen, and she nodded her head. She had hidey-holes all over the place.

“Yeah… You know where the old Ironco Heavy Industries warehouse is? It’s abandoned now but plenty still frequent it for… community meet-ups of a mind-opening kind,” Hanna stated. “It isn’t far from here, maybe another three blocks east. Can’t miss it— giant friggin’ sign there. I’ll bring something to drink. Probably be a minute or two though. If you want, you can hide out there… have Poochie here tail me.”

The Polish Kindred grinned wide at that.

“I’ll just tell ‘em he’s mine. I’m sure that this is probably related. Murders don’t happen at my bar every day. At least, not this brazenly,” Hanna stated, knocking a pack of cigarettes in her hand.

At Hanna’s suggestion, Salvatore shared a look with the Papillon pup still laying between where the two of them stood. The dog, perhaps aware that it had stolen Salvatore’s attention again, flipped over onto its back, and began profferring its exposed belly up for either kindred to pet. Salvatore fought back an immediate urge to rip it into it for every drop of blood it was worth, and then he fought back the less intense--but perhaps more enticing--urge to give it the belly-rub it deserved. The kindred broke his gaze with the strange little creature, and gave Hanna a curt nod.

“I know the spot. I’ll make sure I’m not followed. Doo the same, if you’d please. As for the dog…” Salvatore swallowed hard, remembering for just a moment the sheer chaos he’d had to grapple with inside the puppy. Even if he wasn’t running on empty, it would be a hell of a bumpy ride trying to pilot such a creature.

“You can take him, or leave him. Not worth riling the Beast anymore just to keep him close to y’all.”

Salvatore bowed low, and scooped his hat off the floor where the Papillon had dropped it. The Nosferatu patted down the rim, wiping off as much dog slobber as he could, before gently situating it back on top of his head.

“Guess I’ll see you when I see you.”

And with that, Salvatore ducked back into the gloom of the alley, and disappeared.
 

Applo

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Retribution for obstructing the door came swiftly for Wesley and in the form of one of Isabel's sneakers landing squarely but gingerly in the middle of his shins. An answer to the Toredor’s question came slightly more slowly as the new-blood gulped down several deep breaths; the smell of stale fryer oil was a massive improvement on the rank, rancid smell that had surrounded the club.

“I thought I should look more ya know, like I go to raves or something. If I’m gonna be trying to score drugs I should look more like the girls I knew at school who did and this is pretty much how they dressed so…”

Isabel’s eyes looked Wes up and down as she took in his outfit for the first time.

“You know you look like Carl Sagan right?”

As she pushed through the swing doors that lead from the kitchen to the bar, the first thing Isabel noticed was the flash of the dishwasher. Without thinking or missing a heartbeat the thin-blood opened the machine's door, breathed in a face-full of steam and started to haul out the baskets of glassware.

“What the hell curled up and died out there Wes.”

Dumping a a stack of glasses on the bar, Isabel wiped a bead of steam from her brow and turned to the impeccable dressed Toreador.

“It stinks worse than a garbage dump out there.”​

@Lillian Gray
 
  • Bucket of Rainbows
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Kuno

Django Jane
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The Big Payback


The tailor closed in precisely nine minutes. For that reason, and that reason alone, that section of Almeda was virtually empty as the Tremere vampire pulled up. A good thing, too; with no street parking out front and limited parking slots on the side, Amélie would have had a troublesome time finding a park during the store's busier hours. Not to mention all the potential eyes on her in her particularly eye-catching outfit. Tonight was a party of two only - no audience needed.

There were five slots in the lot. All were empty; so, too, was the inside of the tailor's sans the clerk, and the Tremere clicked her tongue. Any time now. With a quick turn of the wheel, she pulled inside the lot, backing into the final spot on the end. From behind tinted windows she stared, keeping an eye on the scant traffic that streamed down the street.

She only had to wait a few minutes. A clack clack clack heralded the arrival of an old beater; Amélie could hear it a solid 30 seconds before the vehicle appeared. And it did appear: a beige minivan wearing tired years of wear and tear, with dings and scrapes displaying a storied history. A poor man's car. It slowed to make the turn off the main road before committing, bouncing and creaking as it navigated the transition into the parking lot. It came to a stop near the building entrance, and the car door popped open. Joe stepped out, brow furrowed and eyes downcast. His old t-shirt was wrinkled, and his jeans looked as worn as his minivan. Indeed, the only thing nice about his appearance was his shoes: baby blue and white Jordans. Silently, he slid open the back door and began the slow unloading of his cargo into the dry cleaners to the rhythm of the steady clack clack clack of the car's engine.

Amélie's watch went on moments longer. She could spy the man's baggage from her vantage point. It was enough laundry for two, perhaps even three trips. No - only two. As the man gathered the last of Sigurd's things from the van, the Tremere exited her car at last. She didn't really care if he saw her from within the store - it didn't matter. There was nowhere to go.

Her nose twisted up in disdain at the sad-looking vehicle. She would've thought Sigurd would pay him to drive something more fashionable but -

Ah. That's right. That was more Madame's style. The ostentatious woman couldn't help herself.

Slowly, Amélie eased down to sit upon the hood of Joe's van, careful not to touch anything that looked like dirt. She fiddled around in her coat a bit for a cigarette as she waited.

The muted red of the tobacco ate into the paper, consuming it slowly but inexorably. It spat black smoke into the thick atmosphere, which in turn curled up to join the permanent smog blanketing Houston. On the street, traffic was inconsistent. A single vehicle, sometimes a pair, would drift past, actually minding the irritatingly slow speed limit.

Half her cigarette was gone when the door finally opened again. A folded piece of paper in his hand, Joe stepped across the threshold.

"Naw, he didn't say. Just- don't be late again." He was still speaking back into the cleaners, conversing with who Amélie could now see was a tired, worn old woman of Asian heritage. Her lips moved in reply, though the Kindred outside couldn't hear anything more distinct than a mumble. "Yeah. Yeah, thanks."

Joe turned, the skin about his eyes taut with stress. Of the five steps back to the minivan, he managed only two before pulling up hard. He blinked, staring dumbly at the woman perched on his hood.

"Uh- I ain't looking for that tonight, thanks," he began, eyes narrowing a touch in the vague recognition one has when they can't place where they've seen someone before.

Amélie didn't respond right away. She exhaled, smoke pouring from her nostrils like a dragon. Minutely, she pointed her pinky at Joe.

"You sure? You came looking for it last night."

The reply was as casual as it was frigidly cold. Icy grey eyes cut at Joe, traveling from head to toe, then back up to his eyes.

"Merde. You make me sad to look at you. I liked the suit better monsieur...Joe, yes? Have you brought the last of your Master's clothes inside?"

After another drag off her cigarette, she blew a ring into the air.

There was no longer any confusion on the ghoul's face. His weight had shifted to his back leg during Amélie's greeting, and his face was a deathly pale.

"You." His jaw was tight, his lips pursed. "What do you want? Looking for another clandestine trip or something?"

"I suppose. We will take a trip, yes, but only to tie loose ends. No more...unless you continue to irk me. Then we will see." There was a deliberate pause. "I would...advise against refusing me. Or running. Necks are so easily broken, non?"

The Tremere vampire patted the hood of the van before hopping off, dusting off her backside lightly. She smiled at Joe, her fangs showing at the edges.

"Come. I'll drive. My car or yours?"

The last gesture was not lost on Joe. Somehow, even more blood withdrew from his face, and he looked far more dead than the Kindred before him.

"F-fine," he managed, swallowing hard. Eyes wide, he shifted his gaze from his car to the parking lot about them. "C-can you leave m-mine here? So- so they can find it once I turn up- m-m-missing?"

His brief scan had located Amélie's own ride, and he began to drift towards it, shoulders slumped.

Pleasant laughter sounded from behind him. Amélie did not deign to answer him; only her steps followed him, and as she settled into the driver’s seat, she glanced aside only once to confirm his presence.

"Hope you don't mind," She mused, starting up the car. "I wanted to surprise you. Like you and your friend surprised me. You see, we vampires are very keen on returning favors."

Oh, how the pettiness twisted, curled, and flourished within her. Such vindictiveness was unwarranted for a mere pawn as pathetic as him, but her chafed pride relished how the man squirmed in fear.

"Now tell me, Joe: do you think I am an evil woman?"

He didn't answer immediately. Indeed, Joe had taken his time entering Amélie's car, as if shifting his body was a major endeavor. Now, he stared ahead, simply breathing deeply.

"I'm not- stupid, Amy." His voice was still hesitant, but he no longer trembled. "Evil? Good? Shit."

Minutely, his head turned. A last look at his minivan. A last look at the hazy dusk of Houston.

"Do- just- just do what you're gonna do. I know how that- how the vampire game works. How ghouls are just tools, like they used and tossed. Just get it done already." A deep breath exited his nose, and his voice dropped to what he must have thought to be an unheard whisper. "Sorry, baby girl."

"Baby girl? You have a daughter? That's cute."

The driver window was down. Amélie dangled her cigarette just over the edge betwixt her fingers. The other rested loosely on the steering wheel, the metallic black of her nails reflected under the street lights.

"Listen, child. You're right, ok? Ghouls mean shit to me. You're just as annoying as pets, and that's why I don't keep them. So high maintenance." She sighed evenly, glancing down at her hand on the steering wheel. There was slight movement at the nail's tips. "But that doesn't mean killing you is my goal...mm? That in itself is too much work, and I'm on a schedule tonight. Unless you push me."

Second by second. Millimeter by millimeter. The blackened claws grew longer.

"You will repay me two things tonight. What you stole...and what you damaged. Understand?"

She received no answer. Joe's face was stone, betraying nothing. Obsidian, it remained rigid, resilient but lifeless, and the deep brown of his eyes shown with naught but the light of the reflected street lamps. His head lay against the seat, angled so slightly toward the window. Freedom, sweet freedom, was just beyond it. But by the limpness of his limbs, it was clear the ghoul had no interest in pursuing it. Instead of flirting with the idea by proximity to the car door lever, he kept his hands folded in crossed arms. He blinked, his only expression of life.

The silence engendered more than just a tense environment. Gone was the sly, two-faced charmer from last night. The role of captor and captive, and so Joe's evidently manufactured bravado and wit had gone. Whether his silence was borne from fearful compliance or sullen defiance was unclear; but prey without feeling, without resistance, was unquestionably more foul to the predator than the ghoul's hubris from before. Something far uglier than pettiness unfurled within her.

The Beast.

"Here we are," Amélie said a few minutes later. She was no longer smiling.

Around them, the cityscape of downtown Houston had bled into the greenery of Brays Bayou Park. The overarching metal beams of the Coats bridge could be seen over the trees canopy, and a smattering of late night joggers and pedestrians dotted the roadside trails. To their right, the walls enclosing Houston Zoo sat, shrouded in some regard by the foliage about it. Amélie continued on the road between the two areas for some time before abruptly slowing. She leaned forward, her eyes scanning. Searching. For -

There it was. A small gravel road just off the street leading off behind the zoo. At a slow crawl, they traveled down it, stopping just before a tall wire fence peppered with trash and leaves. Amélie pulled off from the gravel into the grass.

Darkness fell upon them. What little light that cut through the trees from the main street filtered through the rear window wanly. Amélie finally turned her head to look at Joe, her eyes ghoulish and bright in the gloom.

"How much blood did you take last night? Do you remember?"

"Don't matter." Joe hadn't moved, apparently resigned to whatever fate was given him. Nothing he could feasibly do would change any doom the dame had already decided. At any cost, he'd been commanded. Do what you must. They had. And true to vampiric form, the ghoul had become the whipping boy for the master.

No, perhaps Joe could change his doom. He could always make it worse.

"You was a bitch to carry; now you're a bitch to die to. Just do it alre-."

Three black talons were driven into the socket of his left eye.

His body lurched away, pure instinct driving his limbs to seek safety, to escape the burning blindness. At first, he made no sound save for a choking intake of breath; his diaphragm had seized, the body's emergency response channeling every ounce of energy into escaping. There was a scream, to be sure, but it caught in his throat, raging to get out even as he smashed his right arm against the door. He did so repeatedly, bruising badly his upper arm before fracturing it from his adrenaline-fueled panic. But the door didn't budge.

It did loose the scream. The cacophony ruptured from a face taut with agony. The corners of his mouth stretched to nearly tearing as his jaw strained against the skin to escape. His left hand clawed at the oozing hole in his head as it filled with a mixture of ruined flesh, blood, and tears, and his legs pushed his body away from the deadly predator beside him.

The severed eye was fixed on its former master in a mirrored state of agony, forcibly widened by the three-pronged cage digging into its sclera. The taunting hold continued as Joe screamed, and the Devil watched on, a slow hiss emanating from her lips.

She hadn't moved. Amélie was statuesque; cold, rigid, and inhuman, the Tremere remained still, only her eyes tracking the frantic thrashing of her insolent quarry. But even she with all her controlled poise could not abate the molten rage seething within her. It shook her to the core: hatred, in its purest form, seeping throughout her mind. A scream much like Joe's was building in her throat, and she fought against it, fought against the anger and the utterly repulsive, human humiliation rising in her. The Beast roared, and she seized the ghoul's throat, holding him in place.

His wild eye met hers. There it found what so few humans had seen before: a teeming pit of malice, hate, and barely bridled bloodlust. The eyes of a monster.

It was the last thing Joe saw before she tore out the remaining eye.

First, do no harm. The Hippocratic Oath is by no means the guideline by which the Caineites live their Unlives. Nevertheless, it is a good metric. Or perhaps Do unto others what you would have them do unto you is better. To give harm to those who do you harm, but no others. To avoid unnecessary violence. To cling to the dying vestiges of human empathy above all but rote survival.

A Kindred balances precariously between their fading humanity and the Beast, for while the latter maintains survival in the primitive sense, the former guarantees it socially by hiding them among both their prey and their political rivals. Become too soft, and you chance losing the predatory respect of your peers, leading to ostracism and a drear eternity alone. Become too violent, and you will be killed unceremoniously, either by human Hunters, or by the Camarilla, for breaking that guarded guise known as the Masquerade.

As Joe's blood filled his eye socket, sweet vitae streaming down his face and throat with every beat of the man's heart, Amélie lost a touch of her restraint. The Beast lunged at its cage, which seemed perhaps the less strong now, gibbering wildly to drain the fool dry. She had already, it reasoned, enacted violence on the man far in excess of her wounded pride. And Sigurd had already given his blessing. What was a bit more? Why not

DRAIN

HIM

DRY


So tantalizing. So enticing. So charming, this bloodthirsty companion of hers. Violence suited her. It always had - and the Beast knew that. It was, perhaps, their one singularity of mind. The bloodlust weighed on her mind as she watched Joe's body be painted crimson red. She could end the man's pathetic life in a moment. It would be so easy.

She almost listened to that primal inclination.

Almost.

Except Amélie had a rabid need for something more, something that the petty meatbag within her grasp had denied her and that the murderous thing inside her stood in the way of: Control. She wanted it. Needed it. And she would have it her way, on her own terms. It was difficult, but she seized it, wrenching away from the Beast's grasp with a mad pull of her head.

She breathed her fury against Joe's skin.

"Bitch."

Civility, diplomacy - what little use Amélie had had for the human constructs had far outlived their purpose. A man did not waste words on the ants beneath his boots. So, too, the Tremere chose to let that be her last word to her victim. It was Joe's fault. Her earlier inquiry into her status of morality hadn't been for idle chatter; it'd been a warning for what was to come.

See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil.

Accommodations had been made for his sight. Now only two offending senses remained.

She began with the left ear.

 
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Doctor Jax

Lord of the Mice
Invitation Status
Posting Speed
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Online Availability
3PM CST - 9 PM CST
Writing Levels
  1. Intermediate
  2. Adept
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Preferred Character Gender
  1. Male
  2. Female
  3. No Preferences
Genres
Fantasy, Scifi, Urban Fantasy, Horror
Murder At The Max
collab with @Red Thunder

Her business concluded with Sal, Hanna gave a salute and began out of the alley. Now, for the absolutely disgusting business of trying to speak with the fuzz. She had never tried to mask her distaste for law enforcement. Quite simply, they represented a lot of the things she hated about government, the very same instruments her father had touted in her youth. “Authority keeps everyone in line.”

Too bad Hanna never cared for dancing to the choreography.

As she walked, her eyes cast over the yellow tape fluttering like fake leaves. A flapping noise easily mistaken for bird wings on flight filled the air near the Buzz. She lit her cigarette as she walked closer. She could leverage this. Sure, it’d hurt business at first-- well, for Kine, anyways. But even bad publicity is publicity, and she had no problem spreading intrigue on little feet scuttering into the ears of those who loved the macabre, the dangerous, the profane.

She couldn’t avoid it forever. There were no doubt pigs snuffling the floor of her bar in there, reading to flash bright silver in her face and shine a light in her eyes to see if there was anything human in there. They wouldn’t find anything, but not for the reasons they believed. The Anarch finally opened the heavy metal door to her own bar, nodding to one of her Kindred bouncers. Walking up towards the office, she could already see someone was there, three silhouettes on the ground floor.

Without preamble she walked in, seeing Omar and Dylan and… the Cowboy.


MURDER THE SUMBITCH--


She suffocated the Beast in a heavy grip, hard as she could manage. A look of concern crossed her face.

“Hey, Omar, Dylan… What’s up?” Hanna asked casually, nodding to the cop. “Did, uh… did something happen? I didn’t hear anything from you guys last night.”

Omar merely tipped his head toward her in deference but otherwise remained silent. His was to wait upon; his was to serve. Dylan was the manager, so it was his job to wrangle this particular fallout.

Dylan was, for his part, handling the situation poorly. His weight shifted constantly if minutely as he rocked on his feet, and his hands seemed to find no rest. His wide eyes had flicked over at the creak of the door, and he had given Hanna the polite smile of greeting one gives a boss they're not entirely pleased to see but nevertheless don't mind for all the authority they bring with them.

"The cops, Hanna. They- he wanted to talk to you. Only got here a bit ago.

"Uh, Ranger?" His voice, formerly conspiratorially low, raised to more polite levels. In doing so, he turned to indicate their guest. "Ranger, this is our owner: Hanna Kowalczyk."

"Bill Travers, ma'am. I'm with the Texas Rangers." He was nicely if plainly dressed: a white Stetson hat to match his white collared shirt, a black sport coat to match black slacks, and worn brown boots of cowhide. Stepping forward, he offered his hand for a shake. "I'm assisting the PD with a murder investigation. Was wondering if you'd spare some time for me; maybe you could help us out at all."

“No problem at all, Ranger.”

Hanna crossed the room and shook hands, playing nice even as she resisted the urge to yank him forward, bite out his throat. Her smile seemed genuine enough, if tainted with nervousness— expected, given the circumstances.

“So, what’s with the yellow tape? Something happen in the alley? It wasn't another knife fight, right?”

Of course not. Last time it was just Houston PD doing a “check the boxes” routine, and he’d left. This seemed… nastier if they were involving boys in Stetsons.

"Kinda, ma'am. I've got some questions about it." Hanging at his waist was a leather satchel of similar appearance to his boots, save that it bore less wear. From it, Travers extracted a pad of paper and a tape recorder. It was hand-held, perhaps the size of a cell phone, and a tape was obvious within. Automatically, he moved his thumb to activate the machine before pausing suddenly.

"Uh, you mind, Ms. Kowalczyk?" The name rolled easily off his tongue. A small smile tugged at his mouth, and he indicated the recorder with a shake. "I can't always get everything on paper, so the tape helps."

“Nah, I don’t mind it,” Hanna stated. She pulled a stool from the wall, easily sitting down. Her eyes were keen, careful. “Go on and shoot. I’ll answer whatever you need.”

"Wonderful. Thanks."

Travers' stance opened up, his feet planting themselves into the floor a little beyond shoulder-width. A fighting stance, in any other scenario, yet the silver revolver hanging from his hip was never touched. Instead, he activated the recorder, placed it carefully in his breast pocket, and leveled his paper. His pen tip hovered at the top left corner, poised to go. Omar and Dylan gave each other a glance and drifted away from the interview: Dylan, eyes half-lidded in tired fear, and Omar, eyes laser-focused on the Ranger, unblinking. If Travers saw them ease away, he gave no indication.

"Texas Ranger Bill Travers, interviewing Hanna Kowalczyk, claimed owner of the Maximum Buzz. October 15th, approximately 6:50pm." He made notations on his paper as he spoke. Finally, he gave his attention to Hanna. "So, Ms. Kowalczyk; some establishing questions first. How long have you owned the Maximum Buzz?"

“Can I ballpark that one? Lemme think…. Started it up before Cobain died, so had to be around 1995, maybe a little before that,” Hanna answered, watching him carefully. Despite the nerves, she maintained her cool. “It’s been my baby since then, and it keeps me up like a baby too, you dig?”

"Given what I know of your hours of operation, that doesn't surprise me."

Stoically, he made a few notes on the paper. The Ranger's movements were slow, deliberate. Perhaps he didn't wish to startle or frighten the subject of his interview. Or maybe he rather felt himself the prey subconsciously, and sought to give his predator no reason to pounce.

"So about four years then, give or take a few months. In that time, have you had any break-ins? Any assaults or robberies?"

“We had a robbery only the one time, around when I started, but we get the occasional bar fight every couple a’ months. It’s a club, it happens, but that’s what I got Omar for,” Hanna said, gesturing to her employee. “Otherwise, we stay fairly chill, man.”

Omar nodded respectfully at the indication. The Ranger dropped a sir his direction before turning back to Hanna.

"Bar fights. Not unexpected. Do they ever get violent? With alcohol and-" he cast a keen eye her way, as if he knew good and well what else was available on the floor, even if not officially sold, "other things, people rile up. Have you had instances of what they call 'aggravated' violence? People using weapons, in other words."

“Nah, we don’t let people have weapons when they come into the bar. We see anything, they end up out the door, ya know? Their business isn’t worth the headache. People come here to relax. They harsh the vibe,” Hanna answered back, fishing a pack of cigarettes out of a pocket. She tamped them in hand, fishing one out.

He nodded, notes in fine but illegible handwriting appearing on the page to the irregular rhythm of his pen.

"And how was the vibe last night?"

Hanna shrugged to herself.

“Not really any weirder than the norm, you know? Yeah, there was an argument early on, but some kid tried to get in without a kosher ID, and he got a little bit hot under the collar about it. Other than that, everyone seemed to have been minding their own biz,” Hanna said. “I left halfway through the night to catch up with a friend of mine, so maybe somebody got their knickers twisted while I was gone. Omar?”

"Things were- quiet, Ma'am." He hadn't stepped back up, opting instead to remain separate from the interview. Indeed, Omar shifted his weight from one foot to the next, as if he wished to be anywhere else. "Nothing unusual on the floor or the bar. I- don't know about outside."

The Ranger's attention had shifted with the redirection, and he watched Omar carefully. There was a pregnant pause, only broken by the faint scratching of pen on paper.

"And was anyone with you the whole night-" he glanced at his notes. "Mister Omar?"

"I was, sir." Dylan raised his hand minutely. He appeared distracted and exhausted; he still had a mountain of paperwork.

"The entire night?"

"Well. Had to inventory the pantry at one point. About- I dunno, 2 o'clock? Wasn't more than fifteen minutes though."

More notation. Travers gave a small grunt before turning back to Hanna.

"You don't happen to have external security cameras, do you? Facing the alley?"

“We do, but it only faces the bay doors for delivery. Not down the whole shebang. Angle’s not quite right for it,” Hanna said. She was slowly getting the idea that something definitely happened. And from the egregious smell of blood, it was a grisly something.

“Mister Ranger… what exactly happened? I see tape at my place, you’re here… All I’m thinkin’ is something went down while I was out,” she said.

His eyebrows raised first, followed soon by his head as he looked up from his notes.

"I'm surprised you haven't been told, Ms. Kowalczyk. There has been a murder, basically at your back door. Given the… state of the body, I'm inclined to think a psychopathic killer not seen since HH Holmes."

The Ranger capped and stowed his pen; the notepad followed soon after.

"I think that'll be all for now, Ms. Kowalczyk; I appreciate your time." He pulled a white business card from his breast pocket and offered it to her. "If you see anything suspicious or think of anything that could be relevant, please contact me at this number."

Hanna took the card, hand shaking slightly. She digested his words, did her best to appear as a shaken bar owner. A hand went through her hair, nodding as she thought.

“Yeah, man. Um— I’ll call you, I think of anything. Hey— drink’s on us, alright?” she said, gesturing.

This was a doozy. First getting a hold of Cut, then Sal having come toe to toe with the Camarilla, and now someone ending up dead at her bar in a million pieces.

What a world, what a world.
 

Red Thunder

A Warrior in a Garden
Original poster
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October 15, 1999
8:00 pm

∆∆∆
the Maximum Buzz main floor

The nightlife. It was- exhilarating. And hypnotic. And freeing. The pulse of the music. The aura of the patrons. The closeness of bodies against one another. Hedonism at its finest.

It was great fun, watching the kine move like they did. The Kindred too, of course. They stalked the crowd occasionally, seeking the most vulnerable with whom to spend an exhilarating moment of rejuvenation. The gentleman watched with a toothy smile. He could go for a Drink.

It would have to wait; his visit was for business, not pleasure.

"Ravnos," he whispered, metabolizing the precious vitae stored within him to activate his Cainite gift of Presence. For their subtle volume, the word weaved its way through the ears of every person inside the building. For most, it was ignored; the name, the summoning, was not meant for them. He waited a moment, then five. No one came. Yet she was here; he'd made sure of it. Surely she hadn't slipped away. Indeed, though he didn't know it, the name of her Clan had tickled Isabel's ear subconsciously, no matter the distance. Then again, "Childer of Ravnos."

Isabel would find herself suddenly filled with an unspecified longing to enter the Buzz's main floor, regardless of where she might be. It pulled at her mind, a sweet pressure in her brain: a combination of Presence and Domination. In her subconscious, an impression lingered: a gentleman dressed in subtle pinstripes, with carefully combed blonde hair. With eyes only for her.

In the kitchen, Cut had finally emerged. 'Been released' might have been more accurate. The opening door had revealed Omar's scowling face; allowing this- stray to be free chaffed him badly. Even so.

"The Mistress has given me you as responsibility. As my- ward."

The smell of fresh food mixed with the tang of uncleaned surfaces, and Cut couldn't help but wrinkle his nose. Omar was behind him, but the hell did he care? He was free, and no tagalong was going to-

"And I will do what is necessary to ensure you get the training you clearly never had."

"Shut the fuck up, O. I ain't your apprentice. If anything," he gave the larger Kindred a shit-eating grin, "we're coworkers."

Omar nearly expended the bellyful of blood he had.

"You are still ignorant, and you'll get us outed. Pay attention; I will walk you through what it means to be Kindred."

∆∆∆
Ironco Heavy Industries Warehouse

The fence didn't do its job anymore, if in fact it was ever really efficient at it. The chain link was cut in several places nearly to the cross pipe, with inches of rust to show with what regard the property's owners gave it. It was a moat, dried and bridged and disregarded. An ineffective guard of a dead metropolis.

The Ironco production plant stood towering in the gathered dark. Pinnacles of water tanks and chemical pumps radiated the dead light of the moon as it peered down through an open sky, and the great open air furnaces lay quiet. Their maws gapped, waiting for prey to wander within. As if the dragon fire that once turned steel to cinders could ever be rekindled.

Clearly concerned about waking the sleeping serpents, small crowds of three to six spread about the complex. Discarded pallets of wood and old cardboard had been repurposed, furnishing the desperate or the addled with some semblance of safety from the Outside. There was a certain freedom these clearly felt; within their chain link palisade, who would ever bother them?

In one corner of the lot stood the warehouse. It was a neutral ground, too good, and too large, to be held independently by any one group. The Relaxation Room, they'd called it. Any form of stimulant or depressant could be found; you only had to ask. The more open-minded of the locals lounged about in varying states of awareness, and in various states of dress. Any entrant was greeted with curious and cautious looks of the dealers, but only in anticipation; as a rule, you only approached others to buy, and everyone knew it.

∆∆∆
the Greyhound station - Fannin and Gray

For a node of travel along the asphalt arteries of one of the nation's largest cities, the Greyhound bus station felt desolate. An emptiness pervaded it, a quietness that was more than just a Lack. Everyone felt it on approach. A disquiet, an uneasiness. Not dread, per se. But it felt wrong. The fluorescents flickered futilely, pallid yellow tinting the emptiness with lethargic luminescence. Nothing else filled it, save the bus.

The bus was for the poors, for the lonely. For the pariahs. Plenty of those in Houston. They lingered, a bad smell in the nose of the upper echelons. Like flies, they seemed to appear wherever the bus did, drifting away or drifting towards.

A figure that, at a stretch, could be called a man, watched as the latest bus rolled in, creaking and groaning, belts squealing in protest at mechanical neglect. Above violent fleshy protrusions within his skin, he watched as the transport spewed its contents onto the asphalt, sending undesirables stumbling off in multiple directions. His eye lingered a moment extra on an old woman wrapped in a full quilt who leaned heavily on an old walker before shifting again.

This was the river delta, the point of distribution into the wide world. The fingers at the end of arms too long for his body worked. No; self-control was of critical import. It was coming to a head.

"Over soon, yes, sugar."

A sweet voice drifted into his ear. He snarled.

"I lend strength to gain- mm, assets."

"The Lasombra are genuine, dear Gerald; you know that. Good on their word."

'Gerald' looked down at his companion, struggling and failing to hide disgust. The sundress on her should have drawn significant attention; the bright yellow sunflowers did not belong in that environment. Yet no one even glanced their way, hidden as they were with Obfuscation. Bobby Jo smiled back, batting her eyelashes. He grunted.

"Security is beneath me."

"Is it worth your 'assets'?"

Gerald could only lick his lips in reply.

∆∆∆

Y'all are freaking patient, and I hope this post was worth the wait. I've written up setting fluff for the scene change from when we left off, but feel free to do with your characters what you want, even making a new location if you don't like the ones I've provided. Thanks, and I promise I'll be quicker on the replies in the future.
@Kuno @Doctor Jax @Applo @Lillian Gray @Radio Jelly