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[AP] Dying Young: A New Calais Chronicle

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    started a topic [AP] Dying Young: A New Calais Chronicle

    [AP] Dying Young: A New Calais Chronicle

    "The good die young. That is why immortality is reserved for the greatest of evils." - Daniel Baldwin


    New Calais, 1991
    It’s said that the South is haunted by its own landscape and nowhere is that truer than in the bayous of Louisiana, where cities only just keep the natural world at bay and the dead refuse to lay beneath the soggy earth.


    New Calais is the second largest city in Louisiana, as well as one of its oldest; founded on the western bank of the Mississippi River by French architect Philippe du Lac in the early part of the 18th century and its oldest families date back just as far.

    The city is known for its ties to industry, with Northridge Industries, an aerospace manufacturer and the two pharmaceutical giants, White Heart and TS Pharmaceuticals having their American headquarters here, but like many industrial cities, New Calais has fallen on hard times. The collapse of the auto industry hit the aero-space industry just as hard, and Northridge nearly closed in the mid-eighties.

    Then there’s the crime; gangs are a serious problem in New Calais, as is the drug trade, though the majority of violence can only be found in the Green Lawn, Midland and West Clay neighborhood of the city. Drugs aren’t held to any such boundaries and the city’s Coke, Crack and Heroin consumption is thrice the national average, even as newer, stranger drugs such as Solace and Pigment hit the market.

    And there are stranger things still.

    Blood Cults, ritualistic murders, unsolvable mass killings, a rash of disappearances back in 1984, the haunted riverfront, the packs of wild dogs that watch people conspiratorially as they go about their business.

    The city is a dark place, its shadows are full of secrets.

    And then there is Bishopsgate. The recently annexed city turned suburb has fallen on hard times with the near collapse of Northridge, who employed nearly the entire town. Full of old glory, ancient, rotting plantations and lost hope, the near-dead satellite of a dying city is no place to call home. Bishopsgate's population has dropped precipitously from nearly 300,000 in 1960 to just over 150,000 today and things aren't looking good for it.


    I'll let the characters introduce themselves...


    Episode 1 – The White Ball

    Chrissy looked around the twin bedroom with stars in her eyes, the muted peach and pink wallpaper, the matching white vanities and wardrobes, even the matching white bedspreads, all of it was both saccharin sweet and wholly perfect.

    She had a good feeling about this year. Rush week had been a wild ride, and now she was being inducted into the Mu Sigma Chi Sorority, one of the most prestigious sororities at Talbot University, and one of the most mysterious.

    Tonight, to end rush week, she was going to the infamously mysterious White Ball, a welcoming party held jointly by the Mu Sigmas and their sibling Fraternity Tau Delta Alpha. She’d heard about it when she came to the school, no one knew where or when the party took place. All anyone knew for sure was that it existed at all, though there were rumors of a secret ceremony that took place, that there was an elite even among the elite.

    If it was true, Chrissy’s new friends, no, her new sisters, AJ, Erica and Gemma would know. They were so cool and beautiful and everything that Chrissy felt she wasn’t. And they said that she was those things too.

    AJ was beautiful, her skin dark and shining, and her hair was a kinky mass of curls that rose and fell around her face like a mane or a queen’s headdress. Her eyes were the color of honey and she had the body of a dancer, which was currently sheathed in a tight white dress trimmed with tulle.

    Gemma, AJ’s roommate, was her opposite in nearly every way. Tall and built like a cat, the statuesque blonde moved with the grace of a predator even in her mermaid gown with its plunging neckline. Her burnished gold hair was pulled up into a French twist and, as always, she wore her strand of pearls.

    “They’re heirlooms, they’ve been in the family for generations.” She said as she plucked a stray hair from her eyelashes.

    “But you could wear anything else,” said Erica, who herself was rocking a white sequined A-line cocktail dress, her naturally curly pale blonde hair was pulled up to give it even more volume. She could have been Gemma’s sister, they were so similar, though she was smaller than Gemma. They were both cheerleaders and it showed in their physiques. “Hold still.”

    Erica was currently trying to tease Chrissy’s pixy haircut into something fuller.

    Chrissy was, herself, wearing an A-line dress, not a short one like Erica, and without the sequins. She liked the way it accentuated her athletic legs and back, while making her feel feminine.

    “Now, this is a party, but only recently have they dropped the White-Tie rule, so we’re all dressed appropriately,” Gemma said, eyeing Erica’s characteristic rhinestone white tennis shoes. Erica smirked at her friend’s faux ire.

    “It’s important to remember that this party is for you, so you’re not there to sit and look pretty, but you’re also there to represent us, so don’t go too wild,” AJ added, remembering that Tau Delta that almost got kicked out the year before. Ah, to be a legacy.

    “And no one talks about where it is held,” Erica added, “we never talk about it.” She didn’t sound particularly convincing.

    There was loud banging at the door and it burst open, revealing the sorority president Annie Hoover. She was tall and severe and beautiful and was currently violently red.

    “What the hell is this!” she demands, chucking a balled up piece of blue paper at Gemma.

    “I don’t know, Annie,” Gemma said, unfolding the blue piece of trash.

    Her eyes grew wide as she read it.

    Tau Delta Alpha and Mu Sigma Chi

    Presents

    THE WHITE BALL

    The Fairway Plantation
    Friday, Oct. 5
    9pm

    Featuring
    The Ark of Creation
    and
    Abby Sweeney & the Sweetmeats

    All are welcome | 9pm | $10

    Gemma didn’t make a sound as she passed the flyer to AJ.

    “Oh…oh no.” AJ said, passing it off to Erica and Chrissy.

    “I… I don’t understand,” Chrissy said.

    Erica just read it quietly, staring.

    “They’re all over campus!” Annie screamed.

    “So much for a secret,” Gemma said

    “Someone’s in trouble,” AJ added before looking at their pledge, “I hope this wasn’t you.”

    “I didn’t know where it was,” Chrissy said, still not entirely sure where it was.

    “Is it some kind of joke?” Gemma asked the room, but when her eyes fell on Erica her heart leapt into her throat.

    Erica, the girl with the best chance, after AJ, of drawing the White Ball this year, one of the two girls she’d voted on as a member of the Ashwood Society, was sobbing quietly.

    “What were you thinking?” Annie asked accusingly.

    “Why?” AJ demanded.

    “You. Idiot!” Gemma said.

    The girl broke into sobs.

    “I don’t know, I just thought… what did I do? Oh God, I thought it would be a good idea, Annie and you are always talking about fundraisers and I thought it would be a way of making some money,” she wailed, never taking her eyes off of the flyer. “Oh god, oh god what did I do? What did I do Gemma?”

    “I don’t know, Erica, what did you do?”

    “Whose idea was this?” AJ asked her.

    “Mine!”

    “Are you sure,” she asked incredulously, “because this doesn’t seem like one of your ideas.”

    “It was your idea to make a flyer to make our party public?” Gemma asked.

    “I just thought,” she trailed off, her voice becoming very small, “the parties are always so tame, I thought it would give us a breath of fresh air.”

    “I’m never going to get the White Ball now,” AJ said to no one in particular, “never, you ruined it.”

    The White Ball wasn’t just a party, it was a ceremony in which two girls (and two guys from Tau-Delta) were chosen each year to join the elite few. No one talked about it, but at exclusive functions those chosen wore a special pin instead of their sorority pin, a pin like the one Gemma was wearing right now, a stylized A that reminded AJ of those funny decals that the Freemasons put on their cars.

    Gemma had been chosen the year before as a freshman, the youngest to draw the ball in 17 years. And she evidently felt that there was something about AJ and Erica that made her believe that they should draw it too.

    But maybe not.

    “In the entire 54 year history of our chapter this Ball has been utter secret!” Gemma said.

    “Didn’t you just remind Chrissy that it was important to keep the ball a secret?” AJ demanded, “and you made a flyer? With a cover charge!”

    “I forgot!” Erica exclaimed.

    “How do you forget something like this?” AJ demanded.

    “I don’t know!”

    “Whatever drugs you’re on,” AJ added, “you need to not be on them anymore.”

    “Just for clarity: how did you forget you made a flyer?” Chrissy asked,

    She was convinced that the older girl truly didn’t remember but for the life of her couldn’t fathom how.

    “It just slipped my mind,” Erica said, getting control of herself, “I’ve been so busy and…”

    “How many flyers did you put up?” Gemma asked

    “Uh…”

    “Oh, god.” AJ said putting her face in her hands.

    “fifty-four, one for every year the sorority has been on campus,” Erica said, “I thought it was poetic. You said we needed a fundraiser I thought this was a good way to do it.”

    “So we throw a bikini car wash, we don’t make the Ball public!” Gemma was getting angrier.

    “No one is supposed to know, Erica,” AJ yelled, “No one is supposed to be there but us!”

    “I don’t know what the council’s going to do, Erica,” Gemma said

    “What if we just shaved her bald now and called it a night?” AJ quipped.

    Gemma didn’t see the humor, “there are going to be serious consequences for this, Erica.”

    As if on cue, the door swung open with a perfunctory knock, it was Annie again.

    “The ball is still on, but she better not be anywhere near it.” She said to Gemma.

    AJ was still fuming, “Everything’s ruined.”
    ***


    The ER had been packed and Aaron’s name had meant nothing to the petty bureaucrat in the puce scrubs. He’d been at the old Sheridan retreat, on the edge of the Bayou Plaquemine north-west of New Calais at the very edge of the so-called “College Town” neighborhood, and of the city itself. The ancient plantation house had belonged to the family since before the civil war, and hadn’t been given away by Julian Sheridan, unlike the far more famous Green Lawn plantation. Instead it had been allowed to die ignominiously, slowly being devoured by the bayou.

    Aaron wasn’t sure he’d ever forgive his family for letting the house fall apart, but that didn’t mean that he knew much about fixing it either.

    Oh, sure, he was an architecture student, but he was just getting started.

    Luckily Cap, one of the men who was working on his place, and a fellow student at Talbot University, had been there to pick him up when he fell off the ladder.

    Kapueo “Cap” Ka’ana’ana was a Hawaiian military brat whose dad had been grooming him to join the Marines like his father before him, but who had decided to go into engineering instead. He stood nearly six inches taller than Aaron and looked like Captain America if Captain America had spent his life on a beach. He’d been removing a hapless tree from the floor of the second floor of the mansion when he saw Aaron slip off the ladder, slamming his head into the top rung and falling eighteen feet to the ground before the ladder fell down on him as well.

    “Finger check.” Cap said, holding up a hand in front of his boss-cum-friend.

    “Fuck, man, I don’t know,” Aaron said, “Gimme a second to think about it.”

    Aaron was, in many ways, the opposite of Cap. Small, wiry, and pale enough to freckle in the Louisiana sun, the two looked like an odd pair. Cap was dressed in work clothes, while Aaron was dressed for the classroom, though he too was wearing a great deal of denim, cotton and leather.

    The curtain pulled aside to reveal the patriarchal doctor in glasses, his name tag was covered by his coat.

    “Alright, Mr. Sheridan, I’m going to prescribe you some medicine for the pain. I don’t want you drinking anything stronger than a glass of wine for the next few days while you’re taking this, okay?”

    “So… would you say that LSD is stronger or weaker than a glass of wine, doc?” Cap asked.

    The doctor narrowed his eyes.

    “I didn’t do drugs!”

    “I mean, are mushrooms technically drugs, Doctor?” Cap asked.

    “Dude, you are not helping.” Aaron said, “My name probably already made him think I was bad news.”

    It was true: the Sheridans were professional rich kids, coming from money that went all the way back to before the revolution, who had a reputation for being particularly hedonistic in their hobbies and habits. And Aaron was no different in this regard. But he also loved that old house and dammit, he was going to fix it up right.

    “Sorry, I’ll cut it out,” Cap said.

    “Son, I understand you were trying to have some fun with your friend here,” the doctor glowered at the larger man, “but if your shenanigans get in the way of my patient’s diagnosis, I will have you removed from this hospital, do you understand me?”

    “Yes, sir,” Cap said, “I understand.”

    The doctor turned to Aaron and, in the same frank brutal tone said “you got a good friend here, trying to keep you distracted from what must be a great deal of pain.”

    Aaron agreed, and decided that maybe having someone like Cap around might do him some good.

    “You’ve been here a bit longer than you should have been in my opinion,” the doctor said, noting that they’d spent the better part of four hours in the hospital, “check out at the front desk, and enjoy your weekend.”

    They were walking towards Cap’s truck when Aaron noticed a flyer.

    “Hot damn!” he said to Cap.

    “What?”

    “The White Ball” he said, “my brother was a Tau-Delta, and they had that party every year. I always wanted to go, then junior year he was “chosen” for something and wouldn’t talk about the party anymore. I’ve still never gone to a party.

    “Cool?”

    “It’s always been private.” Aaron said, thinking about how nervous his brother got whenever it got brought up after getting chosen, “we need to go!”

    “To what?”

    “The Ball, man it’s a party! Booze, women and music.”

    “I’m up for scoring some chicks.”

    “Then let’s get going, we gotta change.”
    ***


    Ashley enjoyed doing her own thing. She enjoyed the freedom of her job as a graphic designer at Dulac Designs, being able to freely create what she wanted (within reason, of course). She’d been working diligently on this project all week and she’s doing okay with it. Nothing that Robbie would be mad over, but she wouldn’t be particularly proud of either. Robbie was reasonable as far as reasonable taskmasters went.

    When lunch came, Robbie and a few of the other girls asked her if she wanted to go to Barrister’s for a slice of pizza but Ashley declined, like usual. She did her own thing and headed over toward Zvi’s deli. She could smell the deli a block over when she nearly slipped on something. It was a blue piece of paper that had been walked on to the point of being almost illegible. But she could make it out well enough.

    The White Ball. Assuming it wasn’t something racist, which she doubted, it probably meant she should wear white. She wouldn’t mind seeing Abby Sweeney and the Sweetmeats or the Arks of Creation and a $10 cover charge wasn’t bad for a couple of great bands.

    The rest of the day went by in a blur as Ashley imagined rushing home to shower and slip into something a little more “High Class”.

    She got out of work just as the sun slipped below the horizon and she glanced up as she waited at a stoplight at Pershing Boulevard and Spaniard Street. She didn’t usually notice sunsets, but the sun had slipped behind the trees of Dulac Park and the high rises that surrounded it and as she watched the sunlight bathed the world in a swirl of gold and red and violet before snuffing those lights out and leaving her in autumnal twilight.

    A chill seemed to creep down her spine and Ashley, in that moment, felt more alone than she ever had in her whole life. For the first time she wished she hadn’t gone her own way. That she was with friends or family… and then it was gone. She was just waiting for a long overdue green light during rush hour.

    She settled for an oversized white sweater and white leggings she’d bought for a Halloween costume. Some white sneakers and pale makeup pulled the costume together and she was ready to go. She even grabbed a white scrunchie that she wore as a bracelet.

    By the time she’d left for the Ball it was full dark and she was nervous about getting lost. She’d never been so far north of the city, and still hadn’t even mapped all of it out since coming here at the beginning of the year.

    She was startled by how just 10 minutes on the road and passing under an underpass could be like night and day but as she approached the town of Bishopsgate the state of decay was startling.

    The underpass for one was decades old, and exposed rebar could be seen like exposed bone in the broken and graffitied stone of its structure. The town, or city as it called itself, was a near-wasteland. She only passed down Main Street and what appeared to be a major thoroughfare called l’Evêque Avenue and all she saw were fast food places and shuttered storefronts. Even the Burger King was shut down.

    She’d gotten directions to the old plantation house from a neighbor, and an city atlas in case those turned out bad, but still she was getting nervous when the old state road sign that read “Fairway Drive” and then almost drove past the dirt road it had been warning her about, on the left.

    Fairway Drive went on for nearly 2 miles and a part of her was pretty sure she’d nearly driven a full circle toward Bishopsgate again. Five long, winding miles of wilderness, with almost no stars to light the road. She’d been forced to slam on her brakes twice, once for a possum, and once for what turned out to be a shadow, but eventually she came to what she must have been looking for on the right side of the road.

    It was a pair of brick posts, each lit with an old-fashioned lantern, though the closest was set apart with an old iron sign that read, simply, “Fairway, 1848”.

    This drive was more of a trail and she worried about bottoming out, but it seemed that someone had recently come through and tamped down and oiled the old dirt road, making it a little easier on the chassis.

    By the time she’d gotten half a mile, yes, half a mile, down the driveway she could hear the beat of the music and could see lights ahead.

    By the time she drove onto the lawn she could recognize the sound of the Arks of Creation doing a cover of some heavy metal song she didn’t recognize.

    She pulled her shabby blue Volvo up next to a sporty white Porsche, in fact, most of the cars were white.

    “THEY’RE TIRED OF BEING PUSHED AROUND/ AND TOLD JUST WHAT TO DO/” Sang the sultry lead singer of the Arks of Creation.

    Even an hour before the party was supposed to officially start, the yard was already almost full of cars. With a few exceptions, like her own 240, the cars were all just cleaned and high end. The nicest of which were the kinds you only saw in movies, and never parked on someone’s yard. A few of the cars had professional drivers, but most were left alone, save one black Cadillac that was rocking at quite a pace.

    The plantation itself was old and broken down, and though it was, no doubt once very beautiful, its current state was one of extreme disrepair. Its overgrown garden had begun to die, giving the house the look of a captive beast. Its dingy gray paint showed hints of having once been a pale, robin’s egg blue, its vast wraparound porch still showed places where the white paint clung stubbornly but was otherwise exposed to the elements. The porch was as ancient and, frankly, dangerous as it was populated by numerous beautiful people, all of them holding flutes of wine or tumblers of dark liquid. Just as she expected, they were all dressed in white.

    Ashley smiled at herself as she approached the doors, which were similarly ancient, but were manned by two members of the Tau-Deltas, if their lapel pins meant anything.

    “Welcome to the White Ball,” said one of them, a handsome man with penetrating green eyes and long black hair.

    She smiled at him as she slipped past him, flattered that he didn’t take her cover.

    “AND LOVE COMES FLOWING THROUGH” the song was coming to an end and Ashley was gob smacked.

    The inside of the plantation was nothing like she expected.

    Most of the interior walls had been removed, with a few replaced with exposed wood columns to transform it into a single massive dance club. Large staircases lined the walls on both sides of the floor, curling around to reach the upper floor, which had been converted into a balcony stage where the band was starting another song. Beneath the staircases sumptuous couches and benches had been aligned to create dimly lit booths for more private parties.

    The entire back wall, which had probably once been the dining room, had been converted into a massive open kitchen and staging area where a chef, crew and waitstaff were working double time walking trays of hors d'oeuvres and flutes of wine and other drinks.

    Ashley kept on the move. She was normally quiet and adept at going unnoticed, but here, despite blending in, something seemed off enough to draw eyes and more than a few people gave her strange looks.

    Around the time that the party started in earnest, a tall, athletic man with spiked hair and a white tux approached her.

    “Hey, how you doin’, girl?” he asked jocularly but the smile didn’t touch his eyes which were cast grimly in the low light of the house.

    “I’m doing well” she said, cheerfully, flashing a big smile, “how are you?”

    “Oh, I’m doing really good!” he said too quickly, “Can you believe all these hangers-on they got coming in here?”

    She looked around and immediately noticed what he was talking about, many of the newer guests were dressed in garish colors or street clothes, apparently they didn’t get the hint of the party’s name. Strange that he would take such offense to it.

    Then a thought started to form in the back of her head. Maybe she wasn’t supposed to be here, maybe none of them were. Maybe she was crashing the party.

    “Oh,” she said under her breath, pulling the flyer to her pocket. “Someone gave this to me, I thought I was invited. I mean it thought it was weird that no one wanted my money, but I’m not crashing or anything am I?”

    He smiled at her patronizingly, “Yeah, we don’t know who put those up but this is a private party. We’re going to have to ask you to leave.”

    “Oh,” she looked down at his chest as she thought of her next move and noticed that in place of a Tau-Delta lapel pin he wore a strange “A” pin.

    She furrowed her brow at the sight of it, and then it dawned on her.

    She began to cry. Not big heavy tears, just a few, but enough. The big guy scoffed at first and then thought better of it.

    “Look, hey,” he said, his hand going to her shoulder protectively, “I wasn’t trying to make you cry, it’s not personal and we know you weren’t trying to crash, but it really is a private party.”

    She shook her head as if she were trying to clear the tears.

    “How about this, how about this, you promise to pledge to the Mu-Sigmas and I’ll let you be my date,” he said, pulling a white silk handkerchief from his breast pocket and wiping away her tears “I mean, I’m technically working the venue tonight, but I can’t stand the thought of making you cry so… uh… hi, I’m Dane.”

    Dane was charming in a simple sort of way. She didn’t follow football, but everyone else seemed to and Ashley quickly learned that he was a bit of a celebrity.

    She wanted to simply watch people, but he was a little more outgoing than that and she was quickly introduced to most of the people at the party.

    “Yeah, this is Ashley,” Dane would say to one friend, “we met at the Baron’s game, I threw her my jersey and she threw it back.”

    “This is my friend Ashley,” he would say to another, “we met at the roller derby. Yeah, no, she totally took this bertha out and sent her flying into me. Totally worth the pain.”

    Everyone they met got a different, often bizarre story, and before long Ashley was doing his thing. Telling stories about how Dane had helped her find an obscure text in the library or came into model at Dulac Designs, which was odd because there was no need for models there, or the time they met when she saved him from a shark at Fort Lauderdale and just like that Ashley was having the time of her life.
    ***


    Gemma parked her white 325i convertible next to a similar vehicle. She and AJ walked into the party arm and arm, the taller blond propping up her shyer and more reserved friend, reminding her to exude the confidence she felt.

    AJ for her part was rocking the tulle dress she’d worn, and needed little help in that department, even their pledge Chrissy, who insisted on walking two steps behind them, walked in like she’d owned the place making the two roommates smile.

    “It’s a shame so many outsiders crashed,” Gemma said, “the council will probably insist we change venues going forward.”

    “That sucks,” AJ said, “I liked it here.”

    “Welcome to the 90’s, where nothing’s sacred,” then Gemma brightened, “but then again, it might give us an excuse to use the Fairbanks.”

    “Ooh,” AJ said, giggling at her friend’s innate sense of extravagance before adding, “But it won’t be the same as having a ‘SECRET. PLANTATION. HIDEOUT’.”

    The three girls laughed together at AJ’s surprisingly deep baritone before breaking into the crowd.

    They were on their way to the bar when they were intercepted by a young man in a brown raincoat and wraparound sunglasses. His face was deeply tanned, and his features were sort of pinched, like a bulldog’s. His hair was straight but clipped short and he had it so lacquered that Gemma thought that she might be able to see her reflection. Underneath his brown coat he wore a black suit, tie and shirt but she could only tell because of his collar since his coat was tied tightly around his waist, and finally he wore a pair of black leather gloves that seemed to just make the ensemble pop.

    “Hello ladies,” He said, his voice as greasy as his hair.

    “Good evening,” Gemma said, “I’m sorry but I don’t recognize you. May I have your name?”

    The man took her hand in his own and shook it gently, his thumb rubbing over the back of her fingers.

    “Name’s Zachariah!” he purred, as she pulled her hand back. “Got your flyer, couldn’t help but come and catch a peek, and I gotta say, it’s a cool party, girls, real cool.”

    The way he leered at her made a shiver run down AJ’s spine and she shuddered.

    “Why thank you, Zachariah,” Gemma said, “But there seems to have been a mistake. There’s a strict dress code for this party.”

    “Oh,” he demurred, theatrically pulling the flyer from his raincoat, “but I didn’t see that on the flyer.”

    “You could have inferred it from the flyer,” AJ snapped.

    “Oh, I just assumed it was a bunch of racists.” Zachariah said quickly.

    “Wow.” AJ said.

    “You would think that,” Gemma said, “Wouldn’t you.”

    AJ pulled Gemma close and whispered rather loudly “Don’t we have a bouncer for this sort of thing?”

    “We’ve never been in this position before.” Gemma said back through clenched teeth.

    “Well,” AJ said to the creepy little man, “I have to be going, I have more important things to do.”

    “But there’s so much I want to talk to you about.” He purred back.

    “Creep.” She said, storming off.

    “If you’ll excuse, we have things to attend to,” Gemma said, making sure that Chrissy followed her.

    “See you later, girls.” He drew that last word out into a hiss.

    “Oh God.” Chissy said as she fled.

    “We might have to kill Erica for this, AJ,” Gemma said.

    “Slowly.” She agreed.

    As they walked away Gemma saw Dane Baker, the linebacker for the Talbot U. Barons and a fellow member of the Ashwood Society, moving to intercept the creep. She flicked her Ashwood pin and he brushed his own in response. A curt nod between fellows.

    She was surprised to find him with a date, like her he always chose to go stag to Society functions. Especially the White Ball.

    “Good for him.” she thought, noting that the girl was rather pretty.

    “Its people like you that fed my uncle to the ovens!” Zacharia called out as he was pushed toward the door.

    A few members of the Tau-Deltas began chanting “Attica! Attica! Attica!” as he left.

    “I’m going to find Annie, meet back up later?” Gemma asked

    “Yeah, see ya,” AJ said, kissing her roommate on the cheek, “I got the kid.”

    It didn’t take long for them to reach the bar, even through the din of people that were growing as the night went on. There were nearly 200 people at the party tonight, far more than would normally be in attendance.

    The bartender was another member of the Ashwood Society, an alumnus who volunteered to make drinks along with his two barbacks who were caterers. “What can I get you two young ladies?”

    “Anything without alcohol would be nice,” Chrissy said, softly,

    “I want all of the alcohol, garcon,” AJ said, “get her a shot.”

    “No, thank you,” Chrissy said, “I have practice in the morning.”

    “Oh, yeah,” AJ nodded, “I’ll take hers too.”

    “You’re going to have to specify the kind of alcohol you would like me to get you,” the bartender said wryly, “this isn’t a movie.”

    “Champagne will do.”

    The bartender glanced up at a tray of flutes sitting on the bar not a foot away from the sophomore.

    “Oh,” she laughed, “right.”

    “You said you have to swim tomorrow?” the bartender asked Chrissy, pouring her a tumbler of water.

    “I do,” she said, realizing that he recognized her.

    “Good luck,” he said, the sincerity written on his face.

    “Thanks.”

    While AJ got drinks, Gemma tracked down the sorority president. She found her talking to her date, Louis, a tall thin man with long black hair and piercing green eyes.

    “So, a certain element has been introduced to our little party,” Gemma said.

    Louis looked at her with those piercing eyes, eyes that were oddly red this evening before stretching “What” into two syllables.

    “I’m not talking to you tonight, Louis,” She responded before turning to look solely at Annie.

    “You sister’s rude, Annie.” Louis said trying to turn the chapter president’s attention back to himself.

    “Shut up Louis,” She said, causing Gemma to laugh. “Oh, it’s not so bad, Gemma, we have a few Tau Deltas acting as bouncers for all the worst elements, over all I think it’s gone splendidly. I mean, Louis here has thus far been the worst part of my night.”

    “Hey,” he said, rousing the energy necessary to be insulted. “I didn’t need to be here with you. You asked me out.”

    “You tell her, Louis.” Said a random Tau as he walked past.

    The girls rolled their eyes.

    “So, just steer the worst of them towards the Tau Deltas?”

    “Pretty much,” Annie said, “as long as they’re all out by 1am for the ceremony I’ll be happy. Though some members of the Ashwood Society are very displeased.”

    “So we will be going forward with the ceremony?” Gemma asked.

    Annie nodded, “the ritual will move forward and by the witching hour the Ashwood Society will have four new members.”

    “As it was foretold.” Louie said.

    Gemma grabbed a glass of champagne from a passing tray and swallowed the contents in one pull before setting it back down on another passing tray.

    “How many is that, Gemma?”

    “I don’t know, two, maybe three.”

    “It’s showing,” Annie said. “This isn’t your fault, Erica just isn’t ready. She proved that with this stunt. There’s no reason to ruin your reputation in mourning her future.”

    That was about as warm and cuddly as Annie got and Gemma appreciated it.

    “Well I might as well make the best out of it.” She said, noticing her own slurred speech.

    “Make sure you’re ready for tonight.”

    Just then the doors burst open.

  • Gnomish American
    replied
    Yeah, I figure there's no reason why any one vampire should have all the answers when Bloodlines are a thing (especially when a member of a bloodline may not even know they are one).

    Leave a comment:


  • Live Bait
    replied
    I like how even Lancaster doesn’t seem to know exactly how being a vampire works, really keeps the feel of being thrust into the unknown.

    Leave a comment:


  • Gnomish American
    replied
    “Are you stupid?” Gemma asked the younger woman as they drove toward the Crossroads bookstore.

    “We were told not to go back there,” AJ added quietly, holding her head like she was in physical pain.

    “I forgot! Give me a break!” Chrissy yelled, “I died a few days ago!”

    “So did we, you don’t see us forgetting the part where if we go back they’ll kill us!”

    “But I didn’t, I’ll probably be dead if I do it again, but I got away with it this time. It’s no big deal.”

    “No one saw you?” Kapueo asked.

    “Well, I had planned on stopping by my dorm but a black guy with fancy shoes told me to leave,” Chrissy said, “the thing is I think I recognized him. I think he’s the University’s music director.”

    “Dr. James is vampire?” AJ asked.

    “I know, right?” Chrissy said, “But he told me to leave because you were meeting with the Regent and I needed to get back before he came home so he got me a taxi and I fed on the driver. It’s been a weird night.”

    “We’re here,” Aaron said as the car came to a stop.

    The Crossroads was a tiny building with low ceilings that shared a parking lot with a rundown strip mall whose only surviving storefronts were a hardware store called “Big Ed’s” and an adult video store called “Adult Video”. Three of the building’s walls were made up of windows that hadn’t survived the fire that had scorched the signage and the glass had been replaced with particle board. The double doors that made up the front entrance ended up the same way and had been boarded shut. Graffiti tags marked it as belonging to the Sangres Azul’s territory, whoever they were.

    They sat there quietly looking at the tiny building and its scorch marks before Aaron unceremoniously opened the door and stepped out, leaving the door open so that anyone who wanted to could get out. AJ and Gemma stepped out just after and shut the door behind them. Kapueo got out the other side and Gemma walked around to the trunk and got out her pool-cue case. Opening it, she removed what was clearly two halves to a spear and connected them with a twist.

    “No Trespassing,” Aaron said, reading the graffitied-over sign at the front of the building, “Does it bother anyone that Lancaster had this place on the tip of his tongue like this?”

    “I’m not sure you should be here,” AJ said to Gemma.

    “Why not?”

    “Gemma, that guy said Tina and Hugo were lovers.”

    Gemma shrugged.

    Kapueo came from around the other side of the building, “the back door’s busted but I get the feeling we don’t want to use it. I also called out, but there was no response.”

    “Hey, you see this?” Gemma asked, nudging AJ.

    AJ looked up to see that one of the large boards used to cover a lost window was casting an odd shadow.

    “Huh,” she said, moving over to it, “Give me a hand.”

    It didn’t budge. The car door slammed shut and Gemma saw that Ashley and Chrissy had joined them.

    “Let me try,” Chrissy took hold of the board and lifted as she pulled, causing it to slide along some unseen track. “Easy. Oh, Aaron, do you have your keys?”

    “Yeah, why?”

    “I locked the car,” she said, stepping into the store.

    “Cool, thanks.”

    AJ followed, then Aaron and Gemma.

    “I’ll stay out here,” Kapueo said as Ashley followed the others, her shirt tearing on a loose nail as she crawled through the opening.

    The inside was a single large room. Though there might have been a storeroom once, the fire must have taken out the dividing wall. The walls were an ugly smoky yellow color where they weren’t charcoal black and upon each hung a fire extinguisher. Trash and the corpses of animals littered the ground, piling up in the corners of the room. The soft flickering light that filled the claustrophobically low-ceilinged room was coming from near the front of the store, where a bare and filthy mattress lay surrounded by half a dozen tealight candles.

    On the bed, sitting in a lotus position, was a young girl no older than Chrissy in dirty jeans and a weathered leather jacket two sizes too big. Her hair was black and held back by cutesy barrettes revealing a face that was once wholesomely beautiful but was now warped by what looked like poorly healed third degree burns so bad that her left eye didn’t fully close and wept blood-filled tears.

    The girl’s eyes shot open and the left one was clouded over and discolored.

    She smirked or perhaps smiled, though only the right side of her mouth seemed to move, revealing unsettlingly perfect teeth. She let loose a short staccato laugh that almost sounded like a sob.

    “Of course, you’d be here,” she laughed, “fuck Juggler and his plan at least I got to ruin you.”

    She was staring at Chrissy as she stood, and as she stood her joints popped with a painfully wet sound.

    No one said a word.

    “What? We here to kill the freak? Is that it? Do you want to finish what you started with Hugo, bitch?” she asked Gemma, “or are we just doing what that old fucker wants?”

    “What?” AJ asked, “No?”

    “What’s going on in there, guys?” Kapueo shouted into the building.

    “Why don’t you just come in and find out?” AJ shouted back.

    “Okay so I’m starting to understand who the Juggler is,” Chrissy said, “but what plans?”

    “We just want to talk,” Aaron said sympathetically, “we heard what the Modius did.”

    “You don’t have any idea what the Modius did,” the burned vampire hissed.

    The girl took a step forward and when she did her whole body seemed to contort with the motion, as if her spine was somehow more elastic and less rigid. Her hair fell away from her head revealing a bare, horribly scarred scalp.

    “Okay, so I don’t know what the Modius did,” Aaron agreed, “but what did Chrissy do? Why are you mad at her?”

    “She didn’t do anything to me.” Tina said.

    “Then, what did you mean?” he asked.

    “I mean I damned her,” Tina cackled in that same weepy voice, “I did what Juggler asked and picked one and I couldn’t find anyone more perfect than little miss gold medal over there.”

    “Wait,” Chrissy said, “what?”

    “You had everything money could buy, and now you have nothing,” Tina cackled, “and that’s all you’ll have, for eternity, or until your sorority sisters hunt you down and burn you to ash.”

    “Juggler wouldn’t let me make anyone from the Ashwood Society, whatever the fuck that is, so I picked the one with the brightest future, and lo and behold, here’s a girl who’s not only a member of the most prestigious sorority in the one of the most prestigious schools in the south, but she was also on the front page of the Newspaper. Oh, I can’t wait to watch the curse take you.”

    Chrissy didn’t seem to understand what was happening, she just stood there quietly, a look of confusion etched onto her face.

    “Who else was involved?” Aaron asked, trying to distract the wretched kindred.

    “Fuck if I know. I just knew Zachariah and Franks.”

    Ashley counted off the names they now knew, “Juggler, Tina, Gabe, Zachariah and Franks”

    “You did this to me?” Chrissy asked quietly.

    “Oh, yes.” Tina said, smiling a horrid smile that showed way too many teeth and stretched impossibly across her face, her scars cracking and tearing to make room.

    Chrissy roared inhumanly and charged, her teeth wickedly sharp, her fingers bent as if they were claws.

    Gemma appeared as if from nowhere in front of her friend, spear raised across her body to block her, but Chrissy blew past her.

    Aaron too seemed to apparate into her line of attack, wrapping his arms around Tina and using his body as a shield as she gouged out the flesh of his scalp.

    “Thanks,” Tina said, her voice sibilant, her teeth a row of tiny needle like fangs.

    “Stop, Chrissy!” Ashley screamed, “we just wanted to ask questions!”

    AJ charged in to grab Chrissy only to be pushed off by the furious girl. She felt the beast in her rush forward to take hold of her, to drag her into the dark, but she forced it back down.

    Chrissy lunged past Aaron toward the vampire that ended her life only for her to be pulled away at the last second. Gemma had come up behind her and pulled her close, using the spear to hold her arms down.

    “She ruined my life, Gemma!”

    “You need to calm down,” Gemma said calmly into her ear, “we can’t get any answers if she’s dead.”

    “She killed me, why can’t I kill her?”

    “You’re still standing here!” Gemma said as Aaron began dragging the other Kindred toward the back door only for her to slip from his grasp. Her limbs, now bent in illogical and unnatural contortions, pulled her along the floor and up the wall with in an improbably fast crabwalk.

    Ashley screamed.

    “Get out of my house!” Tina growled.

    Chrissy lunged only to be held fast by Gemma.

    “Get her out of here!” the vampire hissed from the wall.

    “She’s yours,” AJ said.

    “It was make her or die, those were the options.”

    “You should have chosen death!” Chrissy screamed as she thrashed against her friend.

    Kapueo grabbed Chrissy’s face and locked eyes with her, “we’re leaving,” he told her in no uncertain terms and the fight went out of her.

    “Fine,” She said petulantly.

    Gemma let go of her and she stomped toward the back door.

    “No, wait!” Kapueo yelled before Chrissy opened the door. She jumped back in time for a bucket of broken glass and rusty nails fell on the ground harmlessly. When the dust settled, she picked up the bucket and held it up. “You’re going to need a new bucket!” she yelled behind her.

    Aaron was still staring the vampire down on her perch near the ceiling when the shadows seemed to try to swallow her.

    “Stop that!” he said as she tried to scuttle away.

    She stopped dead, looking at him incredulously.

    “Can you just come down here and stop acting like a psycho?” he asked her.

    “Who’s he talking to?” AJ asked.

    “I’m guessing Tina’s doing the same thing that Gabe did.”

    “I didn’t attack,” Tina hissed, “she did.”

    “And I stopped her, I protected you with my own body,” Aaron reminded her, “Talk!”

    She thought about it for a moment, “what do you want to know, freak?”

    “Who’s Zachariah? Who’s Franks?”

    “Franks, Hugo and I came up from Florida together,” She said, “Hugo’s dead, and I look like this, but Franks came out of the fire unharmed.”

    “Okay, so how do you all know this Juggler?”

    “Zachariah and Franks knew each other, Zachariah promised Franks that Juggler would protect us.”

    “Who the hell is Zachariah in all of this?”

    “He was our first contact when we got here,” she said, shuddering, “He’s a real psycho and I don’t want anything to do with him.”

    “That’s fine, that’s fine,” Aaron said calmly, “we’re just trying to find out where we come from.”

    “It was all Juggler’s plan,” she said, uncertainty crawling back into her voice, “I just know that I had to embrace someone at the party, and that they couldn’t be wearing the raven pin, people who belonged to the Ashwood Society.”

    “So wait,” Aaron said, easing closer to the door and further from the vampire, “was Juggler there?”

    “Yeah, how else was he to make sure we did our part?”

    “Who are you talking to, Aaron?” AJ asked, “Is she still here?”

    “Okay, we’re walking out” Aaron said as he shooed everyone out of the building, “I kept my word, we’re walking away.”

    “I’m gone too,” she said to him as she crawled onto the floor and then stood up, her joints popping wetly as her posture corrected itself, “Tell whoever you can that I’m out of Bishopsgate.”
    ***

    “There was a creepy guy at the party called Zachariah,” AJ said, “he kept rubbing on our hands and leering at us.”

    “Oh my god, I remember him!” Chrissy said, forcing her laughter.

    AJ looked at her askance as Aaron said “well, at least we can put a face to one of the names.”

    “A face I wouldn’t have minded never seeing again, though,” Gemma said.

    “Where are we going?” Kapueo asked, noticing the turn onto St. Charles Avenue.

    “To the most powerful vampire we know,” Aaron said, “we need to tell him what’s going on.”

    “Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Kapueo asked, “I’m not really cool with the idea of him finding out about her after what Lancaster said.”

    “So you want to let her walk free?” Aaron asked, “because we have evidence of her breaking the masquerade and she’s also the one who murdered Chrissy.”

    “I’m aware of that,” Kapueo said, “but torture?”

    “I’m okay with that,” Chrissy said, “really, I am.”

    “Lancaster said we could bring her to him.” Gemma reminded him.

    “Fine,” Aaron said, sounding defeated “I’ll leave it to the group.”

    “Lancaster’s the better offer,” AJ said.

    “I can’t condone torture,” Kapueo said, nodding.

    “But,” Chrissy said, “she killed me.”

    “Are we talking about taking her to Lancaster so that she goes free?” Aaron asked.

    “No.” AJ and Gemma said together.

    “Because he just promised to make sure we never saw her again.”

    “He said he’d deal with her more humanely than the Modius.”

    “Oh, okay,” Aaron said, “so he won’t torture her.”

    “Or kill her,” Gemma said, “remember he said killing her would be a bad idea.”

    “But she needs to be put down,” Aaron said.

    “That’s what I’ve been saying!” Chrissy said.

    “Why?” Gemma said, “Because she scared the shit out of you?”

    “No,” Aaron said, “she needs to be put down for breaking the masquerade.”

    “She did what she was told by a vampire more powerful than her,” AJ said

    “So if I overpower you,” Aaron said, “You’ll do what I say no matter what?”

    “No,” AJ rejoined, “but do you remember when we first met the Modius, we literally had no choice in what we did.”

    “Not to defend her,” Chrissy said, “but she did say that Juggler gave her the choice of dying or doing what he said, I don’t think that’s much of a choice.”

    “And this is a guy that elders thought they had destroyed. Someone who could come back from all of that!”

    “I don’t like the idea of her running around and potentially hurting someone else,” Gemma said, “but at the same time I can’t have her torture and death on my conscience.”

    “Okay fine, we’ll take her to Lancaster” Aaron said, “oh wait, we don’t have her.”

    “I don’t think we could take her.” Kapueo said.

    “I’m pretty sure he can track her.” AJ added.

    “Fine.” Aaron said as he turned the car toward the Union Hall.
    The front door was unlocked. And they couldn’t help but notice the almost churchlike design to the building. After passing through a small vestibule they found themselves in a large room with old tile floor and rows of folding chairs pointing toward a stage on the far wall. A podium was set up there, the kind used by politicians rather than priests.

    Collier stepped out of the back room as the door shut, “What’s going on?”

    “These meatheads picked a fight with Tina.” Kapueo said.

    “You found her?” he asked, his eyebrows raising, “did you destroy her?”

    “No.” they said, almost as one.

    “You sound upset.”

    “No, we just decided to do as Mr. Lancaster instructed us.” AJ said.

    “That’s not why I’m upset.” Aaron said.

    “So you have her with you?” Collier said.

    “No.” they said together again.

    “She did some weird spider-man stuff.”

    “Apparently she sired me,” Chrissy said sullenly.

    “So, you have answers at least.”

    “Yeah,” she said, “not really thrilled about it, though I guess there’s no way I would be.”

    “At least it’s a start.” Collier said, “I’m sure we can track her down.”

    “Telling you this won’t get her killed will it?” Kapueo asked.

    “No.” Collier assured him, “there are laws against destroying our own kind. It’s why the Modius is considered mad by so many, he has no problem burning his political enemies out, quite literally. You’re very lucky that I found you when I did, had you been introduced to him any other way he might not have been so magnanimous.”

    “Thanks.” Kapueo said.

    “Hey, wait,” Chrissy said, “Have you ever heard of a kindred called Zachariah?”

    “Never heard the name.” Collier said.

    “How about Franks?” AJ asked.

    “Franks? Yeah, he’s a friend of Tina’s. He’s a biker from Florida.”

    “I’ve got a biker connection, guys.” Kapueo said, proudly.

    “Did you know where we can find him?” AJ asked.

    “No, no, he was never as interested in the movement as Tina was.”

    “Well, Franks was Tina’s connection to Zachariah and to the Juggler” Aaron said.

    “Good to know.” Collier said, shaking their hands “I’ll inform Lancaster of this too. You guys did good work. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must feed.”

    “I got a biker guy I can call.” Kapueo said as they left the building.

    “Good plan.” Aaron said, as Collier locked the door behind them.

    Leave a comment:


  • Gnomish American
    replied
    Episode 4 – Crossroads

    Much like the rest of the city, the Bishopsgate Mall has seen better days. While it once had over a hundred stores under its cross-shaped roof, now even the theater was closed, and rumor had it that the arcade wasn’t far behind. There was still an Aladdin’s Castle next to the Montgomery Ward, but the food court was all but gutted.

    Most of the stores were mom and pop shops just barely able to stay afloat selling crafts, a small Walden’s and a Gap. Hidden in one of the less used wings of the mall were the only places to find books, and Suncoast was just hanging on.

    Of the five ‘tentpole’ stores, J.C. Penny and Sears were the only ones still “going strong.” Though Montgomery Ward was still struggling away, Macy’s was rumored to be pulling out any day.

    Aaron hadn’t even known there was a mall in Bishopsgate until he mentioned that he was buying everyone clothes. Then, suddenly, the girls were demanding to be taken there. Well, Ashley and Chrissy were, AJ seemed almost ambivalent about the whole thing and Gemma actually wrinkled her nose at the idea.

    After a quick stop to use the phone outside the 7-Eleven to get in touch with the family lawyer to set up a meeting, they’d gone to the mall. Kapueo and Gemma had decided on simple black clothes that highlighted their physiques, and Gemma’s grandmother’s pearls, were the way to go, with him shopping at the Brass Buckle and she at the Limited exclusively. The rest of the girls decided that they’d needed to take the shopping trip more earnestly so as not to waste Aaron’s family’s money or their time. Chrissy spent some time at MC sporting goods to buy a new bathing suit and swimming gear, and she and AJ had bought clothes at the Limited as well. They also shopped, quickly, at Macy’s. Kapueo vanished into a changing room along with one of the clerks, a prettyish woman in her twenties. He came out dressed in his new clothes and with a blush of life he was quickly becoming accustomed to and she came out blushing and giggling to herself and completely unaware of the little spot of red on her faux-silk collar.

    It was half past eight and the mall was getting ready to close when Ashley decided to stop at Claire’s for some costume jewelry. Gemma put her foot down and excused herself to go make a phone call while the others shopped. It was also there that Aaron decided to chat up the lone clerk, a young girl with blond hair and a big smile.

    As he spoke to her, he felt something inside him wake up and evidently, she felt it too because she was looking at him with stars in her eyes. It took almost nothing for him to get her into the stock room, and she was on him before he could close the door. She tasted of lip gloss and youth and then his teeth were inside her and he began to drink.

    Just a little.

    He felt her heartbeat in the gouts of blood and felt the beast keeping time.

    Buh-bump, buh-bump.

    He felt his own heart begin to quicken, beating in time with hers and then he felt the beast recoil. The pace was wrong.

    Buh-buh-bump, buh-bump, buh-huh bump, huh-huh bump.

    It was weak and thready and he pulled away on instinct, closing the delicate wounds he’d left her with a flick of his tongue as he did.

    Her skin was pale and waxy, and her eyes were rolling up into the back of her head. What was wrong with her?

    On instinct he whipped off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves.

    “Oh god, don’t seize on me!” he hissed as he forced her jaw open and, biting his own wrist, lowered it into her mouth.

    She bit down immediately, and he cried out in pain. Blood poured out of his wrist in a torrent and she drank most of it. Some spilled out onto her clothes, her chin, her neck and the floor, but most of it seemed to go down her throat and he quickly realized that she’d taken back all the blood he’d taken from her.

    “Come on, come on, come on!” he whispered as he willed the blood to heal her the way that it had healed him… and then he felt it.

    His blood, his will, his beast, all of them were coursing through her, permeating her every tissue. He felt the potent life force that kept his undead form active mixing with her own waning life and bolstering it, he felt her heart, arrhythmic and dying, beating weakly as the vitae assaulted it.

    “Please work, please work.”

    The girl bucked as if in a seizure and he knew it was because his vampiric blood was working its dark magic on her heart. The girl, whose nametag he noticed read Lily, jerked and pulled out of his grasp, gasping through the mouthful of blood and rolling away from him.

    Buh- buh- BUMP!

    He felt her heartbeat.

    Buh-BUMP! BUH-BUMP!

    All the way from here he could feel her heartbeat as she croaked out a wet and thick cry of pain.

    He didn’t need to look down to know that the neat little wound he’d left on his wrist was gone.

    The door slammed open then and the others, save Gemma, ran in.

    “What are you doing!” Chrissy shrieked.

    “Shit went wrong, I reacted.” He said as he stood up off the ground.

    “Oh my gosh!” Chissy said, seeing the anemic look to the girl.

    Kapueo came in after her and snapped his fingers, “Hey!” he barked.

    The girl looked up at him and he scowled.

    “What the hell was that?” AJ asked him.

    “I was trying to… I couldn’t get ahold of her,” he said, “she’s too dazed I think.”

    “What are you talking about?”

    “Don’t worry about it.” He said.

    “What did you do?” the girl asked between coughs, “why is my mouth full of blood?”

    Chrissy kneeled down next to her, “You had some sort of seizure, hon, I think you’ve bit your tongue.”

    “I’m so sorry,” Lily said, looking around the room, “thank you.”

    “It’s not your fault girl,” Kapueo said, looking her dead in the eye. He felt it this time, the sensation of something passing out of him and into her. Her eyes, which were just beginning to clear clouded over again.

    “Alright, we need to get a story straight, so pay attention.” He said to everyone in the room and then to the girl he said “Okay, Lily, you had some sort of seizure and we heard you fall, when we came in here you were on your side throwing up blood, you should really go talk to a doctor about it.”

    “Yeah.” Aaron and AJ said.

    “Oh, wow guys” she said, as Aaron helped her up, “Thanks.”

    “Store’s closing guys, let’s get out of here and let her do her job.” Kapueo said to everyone else.

    “This is why I feed on animals,” Chrissy said.
    ***

    “Hello, Mu Sigma Chi, this is Erika speaking!” came the chipper voice on the other end of the line.

    “Erika!” Gemma said.

    “Gemma!” Erika squealed, “Where have you been?”

    “Are you okay?”

    “Yeah, they said you weren’t coming back, why aren’t you coming back?”

    “Something happened at the party, Erika,” Gemma said, “and it’s just best for everyone if I keep my distance for now. I’d explain it to you but I don’t actually know how. I was hoping you could do me a really big favor.”

    There was a long pause.

    “Erika?”

    “It’s just…” Erika hesitated, “I’m not actually supposed to be talking to you.”

    “This is just between two friends,” Gemma said, “this has nothing to do with the sorority. I’m trying to straighten some things out and was hoping you could bring me some stuff.”

    “What stuff?”

    “Well, you know, I left my purse in my room, and”

    “Oh, you just need your purse?”

    “Well, yeah,” Gemma said, “that and maybe pack me a bag? I’d be grateful.”

    “Oh, sure…”

    “And I know it’s weird, but could you bring my pool cue?”

    “Your pool cue?”

    “I told you it would be weird.”

    Erika laughed.

    “Oh, and one more thing…”

    ***

    “I’m sorry sir, but we’re closing early tonight,” Lily said dreamily as she lowered the cage on the front of the store.

    “No, yeah,” Aaron said, “I was just hoping to get your number.”

    Lily blushed.

    “Uh…okay, but you should know I’m only sixteen.”

    The others began laughing from across the mall corridor.

    “What did I miss?” Gemma asked AJ as she came across the corner.

    “Aaron fed on a little girl and she had a seizure,” AJ giggled, “turns out we can heal others with our blood too, but she ended up throwing up a lot of it. Now he’s asking her for her number.”

    “Why?”

    “He said he could feel her earlier,” AJ said more seriously, “like he could feel his blood in her.”

    “Gross.”

    Aaron walked over.

    “How did you know it would work?” Kapueo asked.

    “I don’t know, I just thought if me taking blood could do that to her heart than maybe feeding her some of mine would heal her…” Aaron said, “and it worked!”

    “While you guys were doing this, I got ahold of Erika,” Gemma said. “I was able to get her to bring your purses, and some of my clothes. I’m meeting her in front of Macy’s in ten minutes, it would probably be better if you guys stayed out of sight.”

    “Good idea.” AJ said.
    ***

    “Erika is off limits,” Gemma was saying to Kapueo as they walked out of the Macy’s exit of the mall. AJ and Chrissy had gone out in front of them, insisting on waiting in the car despite Gemma’s warnings.

    “I get that.” Kapueo said, before suddenly grabbing Gemma’s arm as a car came to a skidding halt in the rain.

    The car’s headlights had Chrissy and AJ dead to rights when AJ dropped to the ground and vanished into it as a wisp of smoke.

    “What the fuck was that?” Gemma asked as she rushed forward.

    “Hi, Erika!” Chrissy said to the blonde jumping out of the car, “Gemma’s over there.”

    “You’re alive too?” Erika bawled as she rushed around to the front of the car, looking under it. “I thought I saw AJ but…”

    “Oh no,” Chrissy said, picking up the packages laying on the ground, “she’s at the car.”

    Gemma wanted to scream, but hugged Erika instead.

    “I thought you were all dead,” Erika said, “Oh, my god, I thought you were all dead! This is the best day of my life!”

    “Erika, Erika!” Gemma said, “something happened at the ball. Something I can’t explain to you right now.”

    “Annie’s out to get us!” Chrissy screamed suddenly before running at a full sprint away from the other two girls.

    “We don’t know what’s going on, Erika,” Gemma said frankly, “but we need to keep you and the other sisters safe. That’s why we are hiding out right now.”

    “Okay,” Erika said, “But what’s wrong with Chrissy?”

    “Chrissy hasn’t been acting right since the party,” Gemma said.

    “Why’s this happening?” Erika asked.

    “I don’t know.” Gemma said, “but I think that we can find out, that we should find out. But I need you to go back and stay safe.”

    “Okay, but if you need anything you call me.” Erika said, hugging her, “I’ll be here.”

    “I love you, sister,” Gemma said, “but you need to get back before you’re missed.”

    “Okay, let’s get your stuff out of the car,” Erika said.

    Someone honked a horn and they turned to discover that there was a small line behind Erika’s silver Acura.

    “Oh!” She cried “Sorry, sorry, sorry!”

    Erika fished a duffle-bag and a pool cue case out of her car and handed it off.

    “Remember,” she called out as she drove away “Call me, any time, I’ll be there!”

    Three minutes later a small patch of asphalt began to steam. The steam coalesced into the shape of a prone young black woman wearing fashionable but sporty clothes. Unfortunately for AJ she hadn’t detected the car’s approach and when she attempted to roll out of the way failed utterly to do so.

    She felt the beast inside her rush into her flesh and bones. She felt her body harden to the attack, and as the car hit her, it didn’t hurt as much as she knew it should, though she was sure that her right shoulder was dislocated, and her ribs were broken.

    The car slammed on the brakes and a short black woman jumped out.

    “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!” the woman screamed as she rushed toward AJ.

    Kapueo and Aaron heard the collision from Aaron’s car and ran toward it.

    “Why am I cleaning up everyone’s mess?” Kapueo asked no one in particular.

    ***

    They’d almost gotten lost on the way to the Union Hall where they had met with John Collier a few nights before. The building was low and had a bowed ceiling like an aircraft hangar, and its parking lot was currently closed and gated by a chain-linked fence. The three angry dogs they’d seen before were still there, and they were clearly still angry.

    Ashley growled out a low, distinctly canid, sound and all three of the dogs stopped growling and sat down.

    “That’s a neat trick,” Kapueo said appreciatively, he’d never been particularly fond of dogs.

    Ashley shrugged as they approached the back door.

    Aaron knocked and checked the door and found it locked.

    “I think we need to schedule an appointment with this guy,” Kapueo said.

    “Yeah…” Aaron began to say as the door opened.

    “Oh!” Said the familiar voice of John Collier.

    “How are you tonight,” Kapueo asked, “sir?”

    “I’m well, thank you for asking.”

    “Would it be possible to ask you a few questions about things that have been happening to us?”

    “No, please, come in,” John said, “I was just talking about you.”

    John opened the door to reveal the same worn out looking office as before, though this time a young man no older than 19 or 20 leaned against the desk.

    He was tall, standing nearly a head over John and just a few inches short of Kapueo’s immense height, but where Kapueo and Collier were both larger men, this new figure was slim, though he tried to hide it under layers of stylish, if anachronistically warm clothing for the Louisiana swamps. He wore his blond hair in the slicked clean cut Ivy League look that Kapueo’s own father wore in his high school pictures and had wide bright eyes and an open expression that seemed to ooze naivete.

    “This is Sean Lancaster,” John said, “the Kindred Regent of Talbot University and the de facto leader of the Movement of New Calais.”

    “Hi” Sean said, waving.

    Aaron couldn’t help noticing the heavy fabric of the boy’s coat and the fact that he had a scarf on, nor could he shake the feeling that he knew him.

    “Hi,” Kapueo said, shaking the man’s hand “I’m Kapueo Ka’ana’ana, it’s nice to meet you.”

    “I’ve heard so much about all of you.” He said as all the introductions were made. His voice was thick with a Boston accent.

    “So,” Kapueo asked, “what does ‘Regent of the University’ mean?”

    “As Regent of Talbot University and its environs,” Lancaster began, “I was tasked by Prince Barbosa with overseeing his territory and may treat it as my own so long as my decrees do not defy his own.”

    “So, you are the one I would go to for permission to retrieve my possessions?” Kapueo asked.

    “Unfortunately I cannot grant you that, Mr. Ka’ana’ana,” Lancaster said, “If I were to learn of your presence in my domain I would be honor-bound to inform the prince immediately, and in this political climate I can assure you that you would be executed. Barbosa’s edict is clear.”

    Kapueo nodded.

    “Well,” Aaron began, “let’s just start here: we picked up information that we would like to discuss, how do I put this? We’ve got potential information on who did us in and we were hoping to get the lay of the land here. Figure out if our descriptions match up with anyone you may know.”

    “Maybe I can be of help,” Lancaster said, “I’ve heard about what happened to you all so, please, go on.”

    “We’re looking for a Kindred by the name of Tina,” Aaron said. “Our description of her is pretty thin, but she and a few others, including one dressed in a tweed jacket with elbow patches who goes by “the juggler”.”

    Lancaster and Colier both reacted, and Aaron stopped talking.

    “Was it ‘Juggler’ or just ‘the juggler’?” Collier asked.

    “That’s not possible.” Lancaster insisted, “This Juggler, he was described as being well dressed and having long blonde hair?”

    “Yes,” Aaron said, “but we don’t know his name.”

    “You misunderstand,” Lancaster said, “Juggler, or rather Jongleur, was his name. The vampire called Juggler was a Frenchman, or maybe an Italian, no one was really sure, but he was one of the first vampires to settle in the region. He was a constant thorn in the sides of the Modius and Barbosa alike. It’s said that he is the reason that the Modius has abandoned his name. He was the first leader of the Carthian Movement in these parts, but he was destroyed 40 years ago. Back before the two elders declared their enmity of one another, allied themselves against the agitator, and destroyed him.”

    “Our source isn’t one that we want to make public,” Aaron said, “but I know that the individual was introduced as the Juggler to someone that I don’t believe has deception in their heart.”

    “Being deceptive and being confused are two different matters.”

    Aaron looked at Gemma.

    “Should we tell them that it was Gabe?” AJ asked Gemma as quietly as she could.

    “Your source is Gabriel Lavoie?” Collier asked.

    “Who?” Kapueo asked.

    “Shit.” Aaron said, glaring at AJ who had buried her face in her hands in embarrassment.

    “Gabriel Lavoie is a Kindred of stunted mental acuity embraced by a madman 20 years ago. His sire fled after his “experiment” failed,” Collier said. “The Modius, in an uncharacteristic fit of charity, refused to destroy him.”

    “But that’s why I don’t think that the boy was confused,” Aaron said. “Confusion doesn’t drop words into someone’s head. I believe that someone introduced themselves to Gabriel as Juggler.”

    “Did he name anyone else?” Collier asked.

    “Yes,” Aaron said, “woman called Tina.”

    “And Alice,” AJ added.

    “No,” Aaron said, “he said that someone called Alice brought him blood.”

    “That makes sense,” Collier said, “Alice is the Modius’ childe.”

    “Jesus,” Kapueo said, “It’s like a Sam Spade novel.”

    “Tina?” Lancaster asked.

    “That’s the name that kept coming up,” Aaron said, “Yes.”

    “Pretty, young looking, black hair?”

    “That’s how she was described, I think” AJ said, “She visits him sometimes.”

    “I know her.” Lancaster admitted.

    “Do you have a last name we can put with it?” Aaron asked.

    “Gicquel,” Lancaster said, “And she was once very pretty, even beautiful, until the Modius burned her haven to the ground a few months ago.”

    “What?” Kapueo said.

    “He believed that she and her lover, a Shade called Hugo, were spies for Barbosa. They were young and didn’t know to ask for permission to take a haven in the city.”

    Kapueo shuddered.

    “With that in mind,” Aaron asked, “could this Tina have aligned herself with this Juggler, or whoever it is portraying themselves as him, I mean, how do you know that he really was destroyed? Collier made it clear that we’re almost unkillable.”

    “He was staked, dismembered, and burned to ashes before his ashes were scattered to the wind at dawn by trusted ghouls.” Collier said.

    “He was one of the Gangrel Clan,” Lancaster added, “even for the Damned, they do not die easily.”

    “What the hell is a Gangrel?” Aaron asked.

    Lancaster ran his hands over his thighs like a cat scratching at a bit of carpet, sighing heavily as he did.

    “We come in different flavors, we Kindred,” he said, “I belong to the Serpent clan, what some call Degenerates, Snakes, demons or, rather archaically, Daeva. We are said to descend from Levantine Gods and Demons, we’re strong and fast, even for the damned, and we can make people love and worship us. The Gangrel are said to descend from the Draugr of Viking myth. They’re shapeshifters and, according to legend, almost impossible to kill. The Juggler was one of those and was, in fact, incredibly hard to kill. I was part of the, uh, war party that was sent to put him down.”

    “And you are sure he was killed,” Aaron asked, “you’re sure the job was done.”

    “I can’t imagine how else we could have made sure of it,” Lancaster scoffed, “we fought him into torpor, staked his corpse, removed his head and limbs, burned him to ash and left Algernon and a few other trusted ghouls to scatter what ashes remained into the Mississippi at dawn. I can’t imagine even one of the Savages, even one as old as Juggler, being able to pull himself together after that.

    “Algernon’s been around almost as long as I have. He’s canny as hell and I can’t imagine anyone we could trust more than him to get the job done.”

    “Wait,” Kapueo asked, “People can be kept alive that long?”

    “Yeah,” Collier said, “we call them Ghouls, or retainers, but they can be made by feeding a still living human our blood and willing them to live. The curse reacts differently inside living vessels, they don’t have all of our powers, and their immortality is borrowed, but they don’t burn in the sun either or crave human blood.”

    “Sorry for cutting you off, sir?” Kapueo said, “You were telling us about the two kinds of vampires.”

    “Oh, oh, no.” Lancaster laughed, “There are dozens, but there are five major lines that the others branch off of, we call them clans. The Serpent Clan and Savage Clan I told you about, but there are others. The Ven, the Lordly Clan, are self-styled lords of the night, they can make others, mortal and immortal alike, do their bidding, they claim descent from ancient Germany and are said to be almost as hard to kill as the Savages. The Shadow Clan is said to hail from ancient Africa and are called ghosts and shades because they seem so ethereal. I was told by one that they aren’t really Kindred, like the rest of us, just ghosts trapped in a body. And then there is the Haunted Clan, the worms, the Nosferatu. They’re nightmares made flesh, few are pleasant to be around.”

    “How do you tell which one you belong to?” Kapueo asked.

    “Usually a sire explains these things upon the embrace, they are taught the ways of their kind and are shown the ways of the other Clans,” Lancaster said. “But there are markers, each of the five has affinities for certain aspects of the curse. The Gangrel have a harder time controlling their beasts, the Ven are colder and more aloof than the rest of us. We Serpents are a bit whorish in our feeding habits and the Shadows seem to cling more desperately to the darkness than the rest of us. The Haunts are marked by horrors of the curse, making them feared even among the damned.”

    “I’m probably a Snake,” Kapueo said, “everyone loves me.”

    AJ rolled her eyes and then turned to the elder, “What exactly is the Beast?”

    “It’s the thing that gives us our power, but it also is the source of our hunger for blood and in times of stress it’s capable of taking more direct control over us,” Collier said.

    “Something tells me we aren’t going to find a self-help group for this,” Kapueo said sagely.

    “We’re never going to be able to go back home, are we?” Aaron said.

    Lancaster put a hand on the young man’s shoulder. “That’s not true, if you can prove yourselves here and the Modius acknowledges you as more than some caitiff freak in need of being put down than the Prince will have to acknowledge you as true Kindred. My suggestion, find your sires, be able to name them, and learn the laws and customs of our kind by aping the ones here in Bishopsgate. Or, move on, there are cities other than New Calais, New Orleans is far more forgiving of young, unacknowledged Kindred, though I would suggest catching up on your catechism.”

    “Thanks, but our fear is that we’re too green, that we don’t belong,”

    “I hate to hard sell you, but I am the nominal leader of the Carthian Movement. We are a political faction amongst the dead that believe that the draconian and outdated laws of Kindred Society are just that, and that there has to be a better way.” Lancaster said, “if you join us, I can guarantee that between Collier and myself we can get you up to date on the rules of the city.”

    “That being said, despite Bishopsgate being off the beaten track, the Modius has surrounded himself with a number of good Kindred who want the best for his domain. Gabriel, for all of his… quirks, is not a bad man.”

    “He’s quite endearing, actually,” Gemma said.

    “So’s a dog before it bites your face off,” Collier added, an eyebrow raised.

    Kapueo laughed awkwardly.

    “As for Tina,” Lancaster said, shooting Collier a look, “you have to promise me that you’re just going to talk to her for your own sakes and not on the word of the Modius. The poor girl has been through enough.”

    “And if she attacks us?” Aaron asked.

    “Then put her down,” Lancaster responded, “but the Modius won’t put her down, he’ll torture her until she confesses or until she falls into torpor and then he’ll raise her and do it all over again until she finally expires. He won’t accept that she doesn’t have the information that he wants.”

    “So don’t go to the Modius.”

    “I can’t tell you what to do.”

    “Let me put a question to you, Mr. Lancaster,” Aaron asked, “If you were in our position, if you were going in knowing that you’d been turned against your will and left to your own devices, what would you do?”

    “What she did, if she was involved, was wrong,” Lancaster said, “if she can lead you to the others who were involved, then by all means, question her, find out what you can.”

    “Do you know what she is?” Aaron asked, “Is she like you, or like the Juggler, or what?”

    “I have no idea, I’m sorry,” Lancaster said, “I’ll tell you this, she’s got scars, both physical and emotional. Her home was burned with her inside and she survived.”

    “And her lover?” Aaron asked.

    “Hugo’s not in the picture.” Gemma added.

    “So, she has a few chips on her shoulder,” Aaron said, “So the question becomes, do we do this ourselves or do we take her to the Modius or…”

    “If you bring her to me,” Collier piped up suddenly, “I can guarantee she will never darken your doorstep again. To destroy another Kindred… look, I know where Lancaster is coming from, and what you are all going through is hard to cope with in decades or centuries, let alone just four days, but the destruction of one of our own kind is never the answer. So, I ask you, again, please, bring her here, and I’ll make sure you’ll never see her again if that’s what you want.”

    “But sometimes, like he said, you just need to put someone down.” Gemma said, coldly.

    “Oh come on, Gemma!” Kapueo added. “We don’t need to go around putting people down!”

    Gemma looked at him, surprised by the outburst.

    “I don’t think we should kill her,” AJ said, “why can’t we just talk to her?”

    “I don’t want to kill her either,” Aaron said, “I just want to know what’s going on. The only reason I brought it up is if she attacks us, I’m not just going to stand by and let her kill me or one of my friends.”

    “Ah, well,” Lancaster said, “you will find that killing one of ours isn’t something you do accidently or in the heat of the moment, it takes concreted will and effort. We are ageless and inviolable.”

    “I’m not going anywhere if we’re going there to kill someone.” Kapueo reiterated.

    “Same.” Aaron agreed.

    AJ nodded, and then Gemma too, though she did so hesitantly. Ashley just stayed in the shadows, watching.

    Lancaster, satisfied, pulled out a memo pad from the desk and wrote an address on it.

    “You can find her here, it’s a bookstore called the Crossroads,” he said. “Or it was, it was abandoned after a fire swept through it a few months back.”

    Aaron and Kapueo both flinched at the implication.

    “Can I ask a question?” Gemma said, “if any of us had need to go into the city, would you be willing to act as an escort for us?”

    The boy shook his head.

    “I would be honor-bound to escort you directly to the Prince.” Lancaster said. “So long as Barbosa holds praxis in New Calais, I must obey his edicts.”

    “One more stupid question?” Kapueo added, “is there a book of laws I could look at? Something tangible we could see that would tell us what exactly the rules are?”

    The two elder kindred smiled.

    “As good an idea as that seems there is not. It would be too dangerous, too much risk of the Mortal population discovering it,” Collier said, “but the gist is: Do not make new Vampires, do not destroy vampires without explicit permission, and, most importantly, do not reveal your nature to mortals.”

    “Did you know your sire?” Ashley asked Lancaster, suddenly.

    “I spent 15 years under his tutelage and another decade working beside him before I came to New Calais chasing after a girl,” he said.

    “What was he like?”

    “He was strict, dedicated to his principles and to the protection of the masquerade. He was the prince of Boston at the time, and a member of the Invictus, another political organization amongst the dead that doesn’t see eye to eye with the Movement.”

    “The movement, is it like a religion?” AJ asked.

    “More like a political party.” Lancaster said, “we believe that just because we’re immortal doesn’t mean that we must completely disregard mortal institutions and laws. Most Kindred acknowledge the meritocratic view of Might Makes Right that defines the Invictus, but unfortunately in a world where the eldest only grow more powerful and more entrenched as time goes on that view is faulty. Barbosa has held power for nearly 200 years, and the Modius for 10 years longer than that, and both are overwhelmed by paranoia and delusions of grandeur.”

    “Okay,” Gemma said, “Lets go find Tina and find out what the hell is actually going on.”

    “Shouldn’t we find Chrissy first?” AJ asked.

    ***

    The Talbot University Athletic Department’s swimming pool was like a second home to her, and Chrissy knew the trick to getting in late at night, even without a key. She’d hitchhiked to campus, it wasn’t hard, she was pretty and young and naïve and lost. Who wouldn’t want to help her?

    Now, swimming for the first time in what felt like a lifetime, she lost herself in it. A part of her, the part of her that had hoped to go to the Olympics next year, knew that she’d been in the pool for over an hour, that she was risking so much more than getting yelled at if she got caught, that the sun was coming up soon, but the other part of her, the little girl who all but lived in the water, the part of her that strove to be the best in everything that she did, the part that seemed indelibly linked to that other, the thing that had awakened in her the night she died; that part of her simply enjoyed the act of swimming.


    When she finally began to pull herself from the water, she felt more herself, more real, than she had since she died.

    “Thank you,” she said as she took the towel from the tall black man with impeccably manicured hands.

    “You’re welcome.” He said, his voice a melodious baritone.

    She looked at him again, for the first time really. He was tall, nearly six feet, and was built like a dancer under his charcoal gray business suit. His vest, a silken magenta, was the only color other than charcoal gray or white on his person. His hair was cut short with twisted curls, and he wore a pair of gold-rimmed spectacles. She hadn’t heard him come in, she hadn’t heard him waiting for her, and yet she’d known he’d be there.

    Chrissy was rocked by a sudden realization that this man, whoever he was, knew exactly what she was. On instinct she began to back away toward the women’s showers.

    “Thanks for the towel.”

    “If you walk through that door,” The man said, “I won’t be able to help you.”

    She stopped.

    “I know who you are, Ms. Kentwood,” he said, “and I am aware of what happened to you.”

    “Lots of people know who I am.”

    “But not what happened four nights ago.”

    “No.”

    “Walk with me” he said, though he kept a small distance between them as she dried herself. They made one lap around the pool when he finally began to speak, “The Regent of the University, a man called Lancaster, hates the laws set forth by our dark lord, but will obey them to the letter. Which means that you will be destroyed should he learn of your presence in his domain.”

    Chrissy stopped walking.

    “I am not the Regent of the University, Miss Kentwood, though I am very fond of him,” he said, “I understand that this place is very important to you. I imagine it is even more so now that you’ve joined the all-night society, but I’m going to have to ask you not to come back.”

    “Do you know where I can find a pool in Bishopsgate?”

    “That information can be found in any yellow pages directory,” He said, and Chrissy hid her face in her towel. How had she not thought of that?

    “That would have been smart,” Chrissy said.

    “The Regent has just left a meeting with the other children. I would suggest you leave, do not stop at your dorm, do not sightsee or reminisce about what was or whatever it was that you had planned, simply get home as fast as you can. I have a cab waiting out front, though you will have to pay the fare.”

    Chrissy looked at him.

    “Go, Miss Kentwood.”

    And she ran to the women’s shower and changed her clothes, grabbed her bags and then was out front into the waiting cab. The cab driver was short and stocky, his head bald with a horseshoe of coarse iron gray hair. He had a wiry mustache and a hooked nose and a large paunch underneath his sweater vest behind the wheel. His ID read “Victor French”.

    The whole way to Bishopsgate Chrissy had been trying to figure out how to get away from the guy. She didn’t have any money on her, and she sure as hell wasn’t going to have him drop her off at the house. Finally, she’d told him to drop her off at the 7-Eleven and now she could see its bright green and white sign in the distance.

    “Don’t even think about it, miss.” Came a nasal but stern voice from the driver’s seat. The first words he’d spoken since she’d gotten into the car.

    She looked at him, saw the anger on his face, how had he known that she was going to walk? Who did he think he was?

    “Well, then do you want my student ID or my bus pass? I didn’t know the busses didn’t run this late?!”

    “Not my problem, you called a cab, you pay for it.” The man said in a thick yat accent, “that’s how these things work.”

    She heard the doors lock.

    “No, it’s my problem.” She said and, on instinct she dove toward the passenger seat, her powerful legs launching her toward and through the glass partition. The sensation of passing bodily through a solid glass was the worst and most amazing sensation she’d ever experienced and then she was squatting in the seat, body coiled and ready to strike.

    “What the fuck!” Vic screamed as he swung at her with what looked like a sawed-off baseball bat.

    The swing went wild in the cramped space and she pinned his arm to the still solid glass wall before rushing forward and biting him and gorging on the most exquisitely sweet thing she’d ever tasted.

    She drank more than she should have, but not too much, and then she remembered what Aaron had done earlier in the night and, having licked his ragged wound closed, she bit her tongue and spat blood into the screaming man’s mouth, kissing him to force him to drink it.

    When the deed was done, she looked him in the eye and coldly, showing him his own business card, said “You’re on call with me,” and stepped out of the cab.

    She was almost out of the city when a familiar classic car pulled up next to her.

    “Get in.” Aaron said.

    “Race you!” she said and began running.

    Aaron looked over at Ashley who had slid into the middle of the bench seat and said, “If this wasn’t my car, I’d run her over.”

    He gunned the engine and pulled ahead of her, cutting her off, “We found one!”

    “Oh, okay!” She said, jumping into the passenger seat next to Ashley.

    ***

    Leave a comment:


  • Gnomish American
    replied
    Yeah, lets go with that. , and as we haven't played in the last month (The UAW strike is kicking our collective asses) so do I.

    Leave a comment:


  • Live Bait
    replied
    So they managed to steady themselves, looking forward to seeing what they do now that they’re in a position to dictate their next move.

    Leave a comment:


  • Gnomish American
    replied
    Ashley dropped the boys off at the impound lot but kept Kapueo’s van. They drove around until they found a bar that didn’t look too bad; they all agreed that they could think about nothing but blood.

    The Candlelight Tavern was a flashy cocktail bar that had seen better days, but it was the first one that they had passed that still had its lights up and running. The inside smelled of cigarettes and body heat, a dozen different colognes and perfumes vying for supremacy in the dim, neon-lit darkness. The bar was run by two pin-striped men, one older the other younger who seemed to be going through the motions of someone having a good time. A cocktail waitress the same age as AJ’s mother sauntered by in her short skirt and barked. “Seat yourself, I’ll be with you in a jiff.” But her yat was so thick that even AJ, the only local in the pack, had a hard time understanding her.

    The pack split up before they’d even entered the bar, with Ashley and Chrissy choosing not to enter. Gemma naturally sidled up to the bar next to a good-looking young man with two martini glasses in front of him, and AJ hit the small dancefloor on the other side of the bar.

    She soon had the attention of two men, each vying for her affection and more. One was a big guy in a pin striped shirt not unlike the men behind the bar, though his was obviously more expensive. He looked like someone who had gone out on the town directly after work. The other was lean and dressed to impress, no doubt he had come here to find someone to go home with.

    AJ had always been shy and forgettable despite her looks. She’d never had trouble getting attention, it was keeping it that had always alluded her. Now that didn’t seem like such a problem as the Beast rushed through her veins growling for blood to slake itself.

    She demurred and slinked off the dance floor towards the bathroom and wasn’t surprised to find that the big guy, the one who looked as if he did everything with an easy overconfidence that probably made him a powerful man somewhere in the mid-level management of whatever firm he claimed to be an executive in, had followed her and pushed her up against the wall of the women’s bathroom gamely.

    “Hope you don’t mind.” he said as he slipped his hand under her cut-off peach shirt.

    Algernon had made at least some effort in buying clothes, at least for the women.

    “Not at all,” she purred, running her hands through his salt and pepper hair and bending to kiss his neck.

    She returned to the club to find her other Lothario sulking quietly alone in a booth and thanked whatever it was she should thank that he had chosen one in which there was no neon blaring from the wall.

    “Hey,” She said, feeling more alive than ever, “I said I’d be right back.”

    “Oh, I thought that when the other guy followed you…”

    She put her finger to his lips and said softly, “he must have gone to the bathroom, because I haven’t seen him.” and replaced her finger with her lips.

    “You’re cold.” He murmured between kisses.

    “Not for long.” She whispered back and went directly for his throat.

    The boy’s warmth filled her, rushing through her just like before but then, just like Kapueo described, she felt it begin to settle into her heart, and with a thought she willed it to meet his heart’s pace. And soon, full of stolen blood from the young man whose ardor had filled her more than the other, larger man, she pulled away, licking the boy’s neck clean of blood and of sign of injury. She returned to kissing him.

    “I’ve got to go find my friend,” She moaned, feigning sadness as she finally pulled away.

    “Okay, can I see you again?” he asked.

    “Absolutely,” she said.

    He pulled a pen out of his pocket and wrote a number on a cocktail napkin.

    AJ found Gemma in a booth brushing the hair of the man she’d met at the bar with her fingers as his head lay upon her lap.

    “Is he?”

    “Shhh, no,” Gemma whispered, “I think I just drank too much.”

    She too seemed to have taken Kapueo’s suggestion to heart, as her perfect white skin was now kissed with the faintest hint of pink at the cheeks and AJ could hear faintly a beat matching the man’s own coming from her chest.

    They slipped out of the bar and waited for the others who wandered up a short time later.

    “I can’t believe I’ve been hunting animals longer and she still gets the better prey.” Chrissy said as they got back into the van and Ashley restarted it the way that Kapueo showed her how to.

    “I found a big dog,” Ashley added cheerily, “she got a rat.”

    ***

    Kapueo got tired of waiting for Aaron outside the impound lot and walked over to the payphone. He had exactly 45 cents in spare change. Hopefully enough to call and talk to his dad in Kalapana.

    The phone rang only once, just as Kapueo had expected.

    “Yeah?” Came the rough, agitated voice on the other end.

    “Aloha, dad.”

    There was a long pause followed by the voice, which was now softer, as if it couldn’t keep the sleep at bay. “What’s up?”

    “Just calling to see how you’re doing?”

    “Not bad,” the voice said, “Just sitting here, reading the paper.”

    “Sorry it’s so late.”

    “Are you kidding? It’s after four-hundred.”

    “We’re good,” his dad said, “you okay?”

    “Yeah, I got a job restoring an old plantation house.”

    “Cool.” His dad said. There was the sound of a paper being slapped on a desk.

    “Yeah, I’m taking some night classes,” Kapueo said, “Sorry I haven’t called in a few days, uh. You’re not mad?”

    “Why would I be mad at you?” his dad asked gruffly, “You got a life to live. That’s why you moved all the way out there. What’s this about night classes, I thought you got into Talbot.”

    “I’m doing the night classes at Talbot so that I can work during the day.”

    “Hey!” His dad said, the agitation returning, “If you wanted to work your whole life you would have become a Marine, take it a little easier.”

    “I am,” Kapueo said, smiling, “but dad, this gig is sweet, I get to restore a mansion.”

    “That is really cool!” his dad said, “send me pictures okay.”

    “No problem.”

    “Please enter 35 cents to continue the call.” Came a mechanical voice.

    “Alright, I love you.” His dad barked the way he always did.

    “I love you too dad.”

    “Please ente–” Kapueo hung up the phone to find Aaron waiting in the driver’s seat of his Bel Air looking at a particularly fine-looking watch.

    ***

    The van pulled up as close as Ashley could get to the cemetery’s side wall.

    “You’re sure he’s here?” She asked Gemma who sat sulking on the cargo van’s bare floor.

    “Yeah, I can feel him in there.” She was still pouting over having failed to pick the gate’s lock.

    “Do you need to go in alone?” Chrissy asked, “like, do we need to follow you?”

    “No, I don’t think so.” Gemma said as she stepped out of the van’s back door.

    “I’m not sure jumping over the wall is a great idea,” AJ said.

    “do you have any other ideas?” Ashley asked.

    “We could just go through the front door like before.”

    “But that’ll take forever.” Chrissy said.

    “Okay.” AJ said, jumping over the wall with a dancer’s grace. Gemma soon followed.

    Chrissy leapt up onto the van and went to jump over it only to slam into the fleur-de-lis spikes, nearly skewering herself on them before falling onto the back of the van. Her arm throbbed and she looked at it to see the ugly gaping but bloodless wound on her arm.

    “Oh, geez.” Ashley said, distracted by her friend and gouging her own hand in trying to grip one of the spikes for leverage. She turned and tried to help Chrissy up only for them to be blinded by the red and blue lights of a police car.

    Woop-woop!

    “Shit, Run!” Chrissy yelled, dismounting from the van to the ground like it was second nature and running away from the lights. Ashley followed, rolling off the top of the van down onto the hood before taking off.

    “Stop!” the policemen yelled as they got out of the patrol car and gave chase. Chrissy could hear the sound of their shoes slapping on the pavement after them.

    They ran for two blocks, Chrissy exhilarating in the fact that she wasn’t getting any more tired, when she got an idea.

    “No matter what happens, keep running.” She yelled at Ashley as she looked over her shoulder and saw the cops on their heels gaining on her shy friend. Steeling herself against the pain, Chrissy tripped over her own foot and rolled to the ground. It hurt less than she’d expected. Chrissy fought all of her training, all of her instincts that told her to roll, and went utterly limp as she rolled on the ground.

    When she was done rolling, she held very, very still, which was shockingly easy it turned out.

    Both cops gave up the chase immediately and rushed to help her.

    “Oh god, oh god, oh god,” cried one of them, “is she dead?”

    “I think so,” the other said, pawing at her throat and her wrist, trying in vain to find a pulse.
    ***

    “What the hell happened?” AJ asked.

    “I don’t know,” Gemma said, “they must have run.”

    “Do we wait for them?” AJ asked and then added, “Oh hell, the cops will take the van, won’t they?”
    “We just gotta hope they’re smart enough to walk around to the front,” Gemma shrugged, “I mean, the worst that will happen is that we’ll have to go to ground in one of the tombs, right?”

    “Lets go find the creepy guy,” AJ said.

    “I mean, we’re here,” Gemma agreed, “we might as well find him. I know that he’s always by his dad’s grave.”

    “Do you remember his name?” AJ asked.

    “Yeah,” Gemma said, “something Lavoie, which isn’t super helpful, maybe we can track down that blood from before.”

    “I’m pretty sure they’re using sprinklers.”

    “Dammit!” Gemma said, trying to clear the nervousness out of her head, trying to think back to the night before and how she’d felt Gabriel when they’d passed the cemetery.

    “Found it!” AJ said from a few rows away, “no blood necessary.”

    Gemma laughed as she walked over and then felt the presence. The power was shocking in its immediacy, and she knew without a shadow of a doubt that she and AJ weren’t alone. That her maker was close and that he was watching them with wary anticipation.

    “Gabe, it’s Gemma, are you here?”

    She turned around in a circle and the Beast roiled within her breast. Her heart, which had only moments ago been beating, stopped cold and her head turned of its own accord, no, of the Beast’s accord, and she found herself staring up at the top of a nearby mausoleum. There on its steepled roof sat Gabriel, swinging his oversized feet and feeding messily on a rat.

    The look on the tall vampire’s face was one of surprise and wonder as blood dripped down his chin.

    “There you are!” Gemma said.

    “Uh,” he said, throwing the rat over his shoulder guiltily, “hi!”

    “Hi.”

    AJ looked to where Gemma was talking and then back at her friend, not entirely sure her friend hadn’t cracked.

    “Can you come down here so I can introduce you?” Gemma asked no one.

    “Okay.” AJ heard from somewhere above them, then there was a sound of a deep thud as a large man with a mass of black curls landed in front of her. He stood at least six feet tall and was as big around the shoulder as anyone she’d ever seen. He wore a brown jacket and green shirt which was currently covered in a speckling of what could only be fresh blood. The same blood that he was currently wiping off his chin with the back of his hand in a way that was almost as endearing as it was macabre.

    “Hi!” he said, holding his massive hand out toward her with a child’s confidence.

    “Hi.” She said back, taking his hand timidly.

    “I’m Gabe! It’s nice to meet you.”

    “Gabe, this is my friend AJ.”

    “Hi AJ,” He said, “You’re very pretty. But not as pretty as Gemma.”

    “Okay,” AJ said, “Thank you.”

    “I saved Gemma’s life.”

    “Thank you for that,” AJ said, “She’s my friend.”

    “She’s my friend too!” Gabe said, speaking over her, “She save me too, from Hugo.”

    “Who’s Hugo?”

    “Hugo was the mean Kindred who kept calling me a dirty shade and saying that I was haunting the cemetery,” Gabe said, “but Gemma made him leave.”

    AJ looked at Gemma.

    “That’s right and that’s why you saved me, right Gabe?” Gemma asked.

    “Yeah,” Gabe said, “but only you, because they said I could only save one of you.”

    “I was wondering if you could tell me and my friend AJ more about that night.”

    “What night?”

    “The night you saved me.” Gemma said, “My memory of it’s really bad and I can’t remember hardly any of it.”

    “Those people in the white clothes were being mean,” Gabe said, looking off in the distance as if recalling an old memory, “they took a bunch of you guys and piled you up and then dug holes to put you in in that secret place over by the trailer park. And they buried you in the ground without a coffin and that’s really rude, because the ground’s really wet and swampy and there are bugs in it and you guys’ll get all dirty and gators will eat you.”

    AJ laughed at his enthusiasm and Gabe smiled a big cheesy grin showing his small, sharp eye teeth so much like Gemma’s.

    “And you said Tina was there?”

    “Oh yeah! And Tina was there, because she came and got me and showed me where to go. But Hugo wasn’t because you scared him away with that stick.” He pantomimed holding a spear and thrusting it, “that stick was so cool.”

    “was anyone else there?”

    “Oh yeah, lots of people, like the juggler and the juggler said I could only save one!”

    “Gabe,” Gemma asked, “do you know why they came to hurt us?”

    “I don’t know,” Gabe said, “Tina said I was really good, so I could help somebody. She took me to meet the Juggler and then they took me to where your “bunny friends” buried you. And when I said I wanted to save you they said I couldn’t and so I said I would save someone else and they believed me.”

    “I’m very glad you saved me, Gabe,” Gemma said, “what about Tina? We were hoping to talk to her too.”

    “Hmm.” Gabe said, “She brings me blood sometimes, and she brings me clothes like these and I keep them with my dad and sometimes my mom comes and visits and that’s not what you asked me. Tina’s nice and she asked me to teach her some tricks and I don’t know where she is.”

    “What kind of tricks?”

    “Well, I showed her how to hide from people and I showed her this!” he said before suddenly springing into a handstand before falling over laughing.

    AJ and Gemma both laughed with him.

    “And I showed her my card collection,” he said, “Do you want to see it?”

    “Yeah, I would.”

    Gabe ran off to his father’s casket and with a heave he lifted the lid and returned with an old worn Dukes of Hazzard lunch box.

    “And this is my Pete Rose, and this is my Cal Ripken Jr. and here’s my Eddie Murray,”

    “That is so cool.” AJ said.

    “Did Tina bring the Juggler here or did you go meet him?”

    “Uh… she brought the Juggler here,” he said, putting his cards away sheepishly. “I don’t like leaving my dad. He’s a big important guy.”

    “Oh, was he dressed nicely?”

    “Oh yeah!” Gabe said, “he wore suspenders and he had a striped blue shirt on and a teacher jacket with elbow patches, which means he’s smart. And he had his shirt buttoned all the way up so he was important, and he had very long pretty blonde hair.”

    “He sounds like a teacher,” Gemma said.

    “That’s what I said but Tina said he was a juggler,” Gabe laughed, “But when I asked him to juggle, he just gave me a mean look. He didn’t like me very much. Tina said he was a great man, and he let me save you so he must be pretty good… someone’s coming.”

    There was sound from over their shoulders and Gemma turned to find Ashley standing there. Gabe was gone.

    “Hi, guys.”

    AJ waved hi but Gemma seemed to be ignoring her.

    “Gabe?” she asked the seemingly empty cemetery. “when is Tina coming back with blood?”

    “What’s today?” asked a voice in her ear.

    “Monday.”

    “I don’t know.” And then she felt him vanish.

    “You made it!” AJ said to Ashley.

    “I know, that was nuts.”

    “Where’s Chrissy?”

    “I don’t know.”

    “I hope she’s behind you.” Gemma said, “Gabe! Come back, this is Ashley, she’s a friend.”

    “Did he go?”

    “Who are we talking to?” Ashley asked.

    “The vampire who made me.” Gemma said. “He was just here!”

    “BOO!” the big man bellowed from behind Ashley.

    Ashley screamed.

    “I scared her! Ha!” Gabe said, “Hi, I’m Gabe.”

    “That was very scary Gabe.” AJ said.

    “Hi, I’m Ashley.” She said, shaking his hand.

    “You smell good, like Tina.”

    “Did Tina save Ashley?” Gemma asked.

    “I don’t know. I don’t like the juggler so I hid while they saved people.”

    “Did you see anyone else the night of the party?” AJ asked.

    “There was a party?” Gabe asked, “Aw, man! Were there streamers and horns that stuck out and hit people in the faces?”

    He pantomimed blowing on a party horn before stopping and turning his head to the side.

    “I have to go now,” Gabe said, “I am very hungry, and I can hear rats. I dropped my blood last night and Alice won’t bring me more for a long time. So, bye.” He waved at them and then turned, hunching his great shoulders and bending down on all fours. They were amazed at how quietly he moved.

    “Wait, Gabe,” Gemma called as quietly as she could, “who’s Alice?”

    “Alice is my really good friend and she’s as pretty as you, sorry Ashley,” he said.

    “Uh, okay?”

    “She’s like us. And, um, and she tells me that her daddy’s in charge and she brings me blood in bowls. She doesn’t talk a lot, but she’s got really pretty red hair and she likes when I talk.”

    “Does she dress really nice too?” Gemma asked.

    “No.” He said matter-of-factly, “she dresses like my grandma. You know, those nightgowns grandmas wear to church?”

    “He means she dresses in empire waisted gowns,” AJ explained to Ashley who, from the look she gave her, clearly knew what an empire waist gown was.

    “You’re very lucky to have so many good friends to bring you blood.”

    “Thanks. I’m going to hunt now.”

    Ashley waited for him to vanish and explained what had happened.

    Gemma ran over to the wall they’d climbed and jumped onto a small mausoleum to look over it. There was an ambulance there, but the police and paramedics seemed to be arguing about something. She noticed that the stretcher was empty, and Chrissy was nowhere to be found. The van had been towed to the other side of the street where the yellow lights of a tow-truck were intermingling with the lights from the cruiser and ambulance.

    “Chrissy’s gone,” Gemma said as she returned to the others, “what should we do?”
    ***

    Aaron had gone hunting after picking up his car and then they’d headed back to Sheridan Retreat where they’d gotten to work on priming the well head with some water from the construction crew’s oversized water cooler. It hadn’t taken them long to get it working, though they were now both shirtless, more to keep their clothes clean than out of overheating from exertion. Really, being dead had come with some perks and not sweating was definitely one of them.

    Kapueo had gotten the pump running but the water was sulfurous and mineral laden, coming out in thick milky spurts. It didn’t stop the engineer from washing his mouth out with it and discovering that it had no taste at all had left him in a sour mood, so when he saw the three girls wandering up the drive without his van, he was quick to shout.

    “Hey!” he bellowed from beside the house, “where’s my van?”

    “It’s a funny story,” AJ said, “we went back to the graveyard…”

    “Why?”

    “To talk to Gabe,” she said.

    “Who’s Gabe?” he demanded, “and where’s my van?”

    “We’re getting to that, and Gabe is… the one who made Gemma a vampire.”

    “Wait,” he said, “where’s Chrissy?”

    “Well here’s the thing, the police have your van and Chrissy is missing.”

    Aaron came around the house, putting his shirt back on and asked “Cap, were there drugs in that van?”

    “There’s weed.”

    Aaron looked up at the sky which was, to his vampire eyes, already beginning to lighten on the horizon. He checked his watch and saw that he had maybe an hour and a half before dawn.

    “Get in the car, we have to go report your van stolen before they have time to go through it.”

    “We don’t have time for that,” Kapueo said, “I got this covered, we can deal with it tomorrow.”

    “We should at least try to get the ball rolling tonight,” Aaron said, “what about a payphone?”

    ***

    “I’m not currently close enough to get to the get to the station, can I come by tomorrow night?” Kapueo was asking the officer on the other end of the payphone’s line. “Uh-huh, yeah. Okay, I’ll come in and fill out paperwork tomorrow then, thank you.”

    “How’d it go?” Aaron asked.

    “The report’s been filed, I said I saw a couple of girls taking off with it while I was in a 7-Eleven.”

    “That works.”

    “Thanks,” Chrissy said.

    They'd been driving toward the 7-Eleven when they saw a familiar pixie-haired teenager in shorts and a tank-top heading for the old mansion and had picked her up.

    “It’s going to be okay, man,” Kapueo said, “nothing bad’s come of it, we’re good.”

    “Actions have consequences!” Aaron all but shouted from the driver’s side as he started the car.

    “Sorry for losing the van, guys,” Chrissy said.

    “It’s fine, Chrissy, relax,” Kapueo said. “Both of you.”

    The rest of the trip was mostly one made in silence, though Joe Jackson’s “Is she really going out with him” was blaring off the radio for most of it.

    When they pulled onto the driveway the other girls were waiting for them.

    “How’d it go?” AJ asked before spotting her friend, “Chrissy! Oh thank God!”

    “We were starting to get worried, sun’s up soon,” Gemma added.

    “Yeah, well, I’m still pissed,” Aaron said, “and we still need to talk.”

    “We should wait until we get into the shelter.”

    “No, we talk about this now.”

    “About what?” she asked as she walked toward the shelter.

    “What’s going on around here?” he asked, “you know things that none of us know, you seem to have seen things we haven’t so where does it all come from? Huh? What’s really going on?”

    “At this point,” she said, “you know about as much as I do.”

    “I’m going to have to call bullshit on that.”

    “No, it’s true,” she said, “I’ve just known some of it for longer. Uh, as I’ve said before, my sorority…”

    “Which is what again?”

    “Mu Sigma Chi,”

    “And you said one of your sorority sisters caused this?”

    “No, she just put out some flyers advertising the ball, she had no idea that the sorority had, or could have, enemies.”

    “Fine, but you did, so who did you guys piss off, what exactly were you doing?” Aaron said, closing the door behind them, “I want to hear you say it.”

    “There was an organization,” Gemma began,

    “Okay.”

    “Within the sorority,” she added, “for which the sorority was a cover.”

    “Okay, shocker,” Aaron said, “and my brother’s fraternity was involved too? No wonder he was terrified of the event.”

    “Yes,” Gemma said, not liking being on this end of an interrogation, “Tau Delta Alpha also acts as a cover for the members of the society,”

    “That’s nice, what actually happens at the Ball every year, Gemma.”

    “We choose new members who join us in a hunt. Sometimes for Kindred, sometimes for other things. We protect the campus from these things.”

    “Neat. But with these flyers they knew where you would be.” Aaron said, “So who were the last people you guys hit?”

    “There was a vampire,” She said, “it was completely feral, it didn’t even look human, it was stalking people in one of the parks on the campus.”

    “How long ago was this?”

    “The beginning of the year, we’d only been back in class for a couple of weeks.”

    “Is that how you got that bruise on your shoulder?” AJ asked.

    Gemma nodded.

    “Yeah, the thing threw me against a tree.” Gemma said, “But it was only one creature, and we destroyed it, staked it through the heart.”

    “But if you haven’t noticed, we’re proof that kindred like to live and work in packs,” Aaron said, “The Modius expected us to coordinate with him, for crying out loud.”

    “We’ve never seen them in groups before,” Gemma added, “we’ve only ever seen lone predators.”

    “Right, so what happens when you kill a vampire who’s not a lone predator?” Aarons said, “My guess? You pissed off one of us, one that isn’t like us, or one that’s further along.”


    “That’s my guess too, but like I said, yours is as good as mine because you know as much as I do.”

    “Not exactly, because you talked about a park that we can investigate now.”

    “Except that we can’t go on campus.” Gemma said.

    “I’ll go if you go.” Kapueo said to Aaron.

    “No, no,” Aaron said, “we don’t need to piss off anyone else.”

    “As we’ve proven ourselves this evening,” Gemma added, “everywhere is a hunting ground for the Kindred.”

    “We exist to protect,” Gemma added, “We – they destroy monsters and do their utmost to protect the innocent, and to keep them from knowing about any of this. This knowledge is dangerous, Aaron.”

    “Y’all should have called the Ball off,” Aaron said, “the moment you were compromised.”

    “It’s – we didn’t know about it until the night of.” Gemma said, “There were too many people coming from too many places too far afield to call it off. It was too late.”

    “Yeah, people like my brother,” Aaron almost yelled, “who I ran into there right before I was killed.”

    “Is he still alive?” Kapueo asked.

    “That’s what I want to know!” Aaron said, “but I can’t figure that out until we know what exactly was going on there.”

    “My sisters were killed too, my brothers were killed too. I was killed too, and I want to know what happened just as much as you do.”

    “That’s why I’m asking for information!”

    “And that’s why I’m giving it!” Gemma yelled, “this is everything I know!”

    And, just like that, the sun took them.

    Leave a comment:


  • Gnomish American
    replied
    Episode 3: High Jinks

    “I need to use the phone.” Gemma said.

    Aaron and Ashley both agreed that they did too.

    Ashley pulled into a 7-Eleven and Kapueo was just as hungry as ever. The girls, well, everyone but Ashley, had gone into the woods and came out with a 10-point buck that Aaron, Ashley and he had drained dry and, beyond the novelty of feeding on overwhelmingly earthy gamey blood, it was not at all appetizing.

    He walked into the convenience store wishing his ashy complexion would darken, that he looked more alive again. That he was alive again.

    The guy behind the counter was a sullen kid in his late teens or early twenties wearing the t-shirt of a band he’d never heard of underneath a flannel print shirt. His hair was dyed black and hung to either side of his face limply and greasily.

    “Sup, bruh,” Kapueo said, but the kid never looked up from the Hustler opened in front of him.

    “Yep, you?” the kid said, his voice thick with… something.

    Kapueo walked up to him. “Can I get a pack of smokes, beautiful?” he asked.

    “Sure?” the guy said before doing a double take and looking Kapueo directly in the eye. The blood surged through him and he felt something inside him reach out and grab hold of something in the boy’s mind just like he had with the massive biker from the night before.

    “How about we go into the back.” Kapueo said more than asked.

    “Sure, whatever you need man.”

    The boy’s blood was everything that the buck wasn’t. It was liquid electricity perfectly seasoned with the very life and soul of the boy. He felt life and power rush through him, infusing itself into his every cell, and then he felt something else, a second heartbeat matching the boy’s own and it was coming from his own chest. The heat of the boy’s blood waned leaving behind a ruddy warmth that seemed to pulse through his body, following the old blood vessels as it did so. He opened his eyes and though the glare of the phosphorescent lights was harsh, it was not the cold intensity that it had been. He looked down at his hands and even in the relatively dim light of the back room his skin was the vibrant brown that he’d taken for granted his entire life.
    ***



    The sorority house was a mess, half the sisters and none of the pledges even returned from the White Ball Saturday morning and everyone was giving Erika the cold shoulder. The word was in and Erika was out. She was still beating herself up over it, why had she made the flyers? Why had she done something so stupid? And why did it end with her best friends dead?

    She didn’t know. It was that simple. She’d simply gotten up, gone to class, and… made the flyers.

    No. There was more to it than – the phone was ringing.

    “Hi! Mu Sigma Chi, this is Erika speaking,” She said cheerily into the handset out of pure reflex.

    “You have a collect call from ‘Erika? It’s Gemma please pick up’, will you accept the charges?”

    “Yes! Yes!” there was a pause as the line was connected, “Gemma?” Erika nearly collapsed from the elation of it, “I thought you were dead.”

    “No, no, I’m not dead,” Gemma said uncertainly, “but I can’t remember what happened after the party, I can’t remember anything after the blackout?”

    “There was a blackout?” damn Annie, why wouldn’t she just tell her what was going on? “nobody’s telling me anything! The most I’ve heard is that some drugged out gangbangers shot up the place,” Erika said.

    “I don’t remember any of that.”

    “Gemma,” Erika finally caved and began to sob, “Elle told me you and AJ were dead.”

    “I know something happened,” Gemma told her, “There was a crashing sound and all the lights went out and that’s the last thing I remember.”

    “If this is some sort of prank, Gemma,” Erika said through the tears, “I swear to god I will kill each and every one of you. I thought you were dead, Gemma!”

    “I promise you,” Gemma swore, “Erika, this is no prank!”

    “Oh my god, Gemma!” she shouted, “I have to tell Annie! I have to tell them all, they’re planning a eulogy and everything. Oh god! Is AJ with you? Did she make it, too? What about Ginny?”

    “Don’t tell Annie, Erika, not yet,” Gemma said, “I have to figure out what’s going on. Can you please keep this secret for a little while? I just wanted you to know I was okay.”

    “Why?” Erika demanded, “Why can’t I tell people, why would you want people to think you were dead? Do you realize how many people they think died? You, AJ, Ginny, that new girl, Chrissy, hell all the new girls, the Heathers, Rachael Woods, Michelle Kirkpatrick, they’re all dead, oh my god, Gemma I can’t keep this a secret. You can’t make me keep that secret.”

    “I… I’m really sorry to hear that I wasn’t alone,” Gemma said, “and you’re right, I should speak with Annie at least, can I speak with Annie?”

    “Yeah, yeah, I’ll go get her.” Erika said, setting the handset gingerly on her pillow as though it might come alive and hang itself up.

    She walked quietly through the house to Annie’s room and knocked.

    “Yeah,” Annie said. She had always been hard-edged, but her voice had become cold.

    “It’s me, Erika.”

    “You’re still here?”

    “I have to talk to you,” Erika said, “there’s someone on the phone in my room for you.”

    “Who is it?” Annie said, already done with the conversation.

    “It’s Gemma,” Erika said, “Gemma Munroe.”

    The door swung open before she finished talking and Annie charged past Erika. Annie had always been fond of warm colors: whites, beiges and blues. Preferably in satins silks and expensive cottons. Tonight, she was wearing what looked like black denim over a red so deep it was almost black.

    Her raven hair was pulled back severely and her piercing blue eyes seemed to be lit by some inner fire as she picked up the handset.

    “Who is this?” Annie demanded.

    “Annie, it’s Gemma.”

    “Gemma’s dead,” Annie said with finality, “Who is this?”

    “I swear to you, Annie,” Gemma said, “This is Gemma! What happened the other night, Annie?”

    Annie was horrified. She’d checked Gemma’s pulse herself; she’d seen the hole in her sternum from where that blond monster had put his fist through it.

    “You died, Gemma” Annie said in measured words, “I saw it happen.”

    “Then tell me!” Gemma demanded. “I heard the story about gangbangers, I know that’s not what happened. What happened to me, Annie?”

    “You were attacked.” She said, simply.

    “By who?”

    “By things that found the flyer,” Annie shot a glare at Erika and motioned for her to leave. Erika began to protest when large hands grabbed her by the arms and hauled her out of the room. “There were at least five of them, they killed almost thirty of us, including some of the best hunters this chapter has ever developed, including, until just a moment ago, you, Gemma.”

    Gemma was silent.

    “Where are you Gemma?”

    “I can’t tell you right now,” Gemma said, “I don’t have any memory after the doors burst open, I’m trying to figure out what really happened.”

    “What really happened was that I watched you die,” Annie said, “I watched that monster put his fist though you.”

    “I woke up the next night miles away.” Gemma said, talking over her old mentor, “I just want my memory back.”

    “Don’t make me hunt you down, Gemma,” Annie said, “Tell me where you are.”


    “I can’t Annie! Listen, there was a reason why I was taken away from that party that night,” Gemma said, “I just need you to trust me, Annie, please just trust me right now.”

    Annie was quiet for a long moment.

    “Please, Annie,” Gemma said, “too many people have been hurt already.”

    “Alright, we’ll keep our distance for now, but if I find out you’ve hurt anyone, I’ll find you I will put you down.”

    “I would never hurt anyone in the Society.” Gemma said.

    Annie closed her tear-filled eyes.

    “I’m not just talking about the Ashwood Society, Gemma,” She whispered into the phone, before hanging up, “Don’t think I’m stupid.”
    ***



    Gemma hung up the phone and turned only to find Aaron leaning against the wall watching her and, in that instant, she knew that he knew.

    “It’s all yours,” she said, looking away from him.

    “Sounds like your call didn’t go as planned.”

    “Well, I’m not sure if there was a cleaner way to get information,” Gemma said.

    “You mean like me going to talk to my friend on the force?”

    “My friends know more about what happens behind the scenes.”

    “Well that’s neat,” Aaron said as he stepped up to the phone. “do you mind sharing with the class? I don’t mean right now in front of a 7-Eleven, but we do need to have that conversation.”

    “She did fine, bro,” Kapueo shouted from the van, “cut her some slack!”

    “You could just come get in the van and talk to all of us,” AJ shouted from the back seat.

    “I still got to call my parents,” Aaron shouted back.

    “I’ll tell you anything you need to know,” Gemma said.

    “Good to know.” Aaron said picking up the phone and dropping some coins into the slot, turning his back on her in the process.

    “Hello, Sheridan Residence, how may I help you?” it was Alfredo, the family’s live-in manservant. A man that Aaron and the other boys had always called Alfred, sometimes even affectionately.

    “Yes, hello Alfred, may I speak with mother?”

    “Certainly, sir.” Alfred said in his clipped yat accent. “It will be just a moment.”

    The handset was picked up a few moments later. “Yes, Aaron,” came a chilled woman’s voice from the other end, “what is it?”

    “Hi, mother, I’m in a bit of trouble.”

    “I know, Aaron,” his mother said, “why else would you be calling.”

    “I’ve been hiding in the woods for three days now,” he said.

    “You’ve been doing what?” his mother sounded appalled, “I thought you got your car impounded again or you ended up in the drunk tank, why have you been hiding in the woods for three days?”

    “I went to a party and the party went sideways.” Aaron said honestly, “I still don’t know all of the details, I just know that I was in trouble and I don’t think we need the lawyers just yet –”

    “Did you hurt anyone?” she asked.

    “No, mom...”

    “Are you hurt?”

    “No,” he said, “Just a little hungry. But I can deal with that later. I just need you to send Alfred with some clothes and some money to get me through. I’m heading to the police station now to deal with the car and file a report. I just need a little help?”

    “You lost the car?” Mom’s voice switched instantly from worry to anger, “you begged us for that car, Aaron!”

    “I didn’t lose it, it was stolen.”

    “And your card?”

    “I was paying for drinks when everything went sideways, it got left behind in the commotion. Please cancel that one.”

    “You are too old for this, Aaron.”

    “Sorry, mother.”

    “I’ll call the lawyer and have everything canceled.”

    “Thank you, mother. And the clothes? I look like hell.”

    “Fine, I’ll send Alfredo to your apartment.” She said finally, “Which precinct are you in?”

    “I’m in Bishopsgate.” He said hesitantly.

    “You’re in Bishopsgate?”

    “Yes mother, I know, it’s not ideal.”

    “You better not end up in the news, Aaron.”

    “I’m getting ahead of it.”

    “Three days is not ahead of it,” she noted.

    “I just found civilization, mother, no offense, I got lost in the woods.”

    “Don’t ‘no offence’ me,” his mother hissed, “You’re lucky your father is away on business.”

    “Speaking of away, have you heard from Evan?”

    “No, he’s still in Dallas.”

    “Oh, okay. I had thought I had seen him at the party and was just curious as to whether or not he could fill me in on what had happened is all.”

    “What?” she asked a note of panic in her voice. “I have to go.”

    “Of course, mother,” he said as she hung up the phone, “love you too.”

    He hung up the phone and pressed his head against the phone’s metal case for the briefest of moments and then turned to find Ashley waiting quietly for her turn.

    “Oh, sorry,” he said, stepping out of her way.

    “So, Bro,” Kapueo shouted from the van, “how’d it go?”

    “Oh, you know,” Aaron dissembled, “Getting money, getting clothes.”

    “Excellent.”

    Ashley quickly dialed the number to her parents house and cradled the handset to her face with both hands, as if to block the world around her out.

    “Hello?” came the warm deep voice of her father, he’d been sleeping.

    “Hey daddy,” she said, “it’s just me.”

    “Hey button,” she could hear him grunt as he sat up, “what’s up? What time is it? Oh, geez, girl you know I gotta work in the morning.”

    “I was just calling to check in, things have been really hectic, and I missed you guys.”

    “oh, we’re doing good kid,” her dad said, she could hear his smile, “your mother and I are doing fine. There’s talk of a strike over at the docks but we’ve got savings, we’ll do fine.” There was a short pause and then he asked, “Is everything okay with you?”

    “Uh…” She couldn’t find the words, “Yeah, no, yeah, everything’s fine. I’ve just been hanging out with friends.”

    There was another long pause.

    “What’s really going on, button?” he asked, “I love hearing from you, even this late, but I know my little girl, what’s wrong?”

    “Well, um, I was at this really big party.”

    “You got invited to a party?” he asked, a flash of excitement followed by a darker, “did somebody hurt you?”

    “Oh,” she said, “No, nothing like that. Well something did happen but I just, I can’t explain it right now.”

    “Are you pregnant?”

    “No,” she almost laughed, “no, daddy.”

    “It was this hoity toity party and uh, and me and my friends are in a bad spot right now.”

    “Do you need money?”

    “No, no, one of the people tagging along has a lot of money.”

    “Oh, well, uh, what can I do to help?”

    “Oh, nothing, dad,” she said, “I was just calling to check in and make sure you were doing well.”

    “Oh,” he said, “We’re doing just fine. How about you try to get home next weekend and we can talk about your troubles then, okay?”

    “Okay.”

    “I love you button.”

    “I love you too, dad.”

    “Bye.”

    “Bye.”

    She was crying when she got back to the van, her face streaked with thin rivulets of blood.

    “Is everything okay?” AJ asked.

    “I think I scared my dad.”

    Kapueo was walking back out of the 7-Eleven holding up a short line of stamps and what looked like some change. “got it,” he said, getting into the car, “let’s roll.”

    “Is what you said about your family true, Gemma?” Ashley asked, wiping at her face with the front of her shirt, “If I look for my family, if I see them, will I kill them?”

    Gemma bit her lip.

    “I mean, I’ve never known anyone, personally, who’s gone through this, but considering the fact that every Kindred I’ve ever come across has fed on everything in sight, I’m saying it’s likely.”

    “Wait,” AJ said, “we could kill people indiscriminately?”

    “If we lose control.”

    “I don’t feel like killing anyone,” Kapueo said.

    “Every vampire I have ever encountered has become a homicidal maniac.”

    “Wouldn’t it be better to end it right now?” AJ asked.

    “I’m not going to fuck this second chance up,” Aaron said. “I fucked up my whole life, I’m not doing that anymore.”

    “I’m not ready to give up either,” Gemma said as the van moved down St. Charles Avenue, “Until we woke up I thought every Kindred, every vampire, was a raging monster.”

    “Yeah, but how many of us has your organization ever actually talked to?” Aaron asked.

    “Yeah, do you know any actual Kindred?” AJ asked.

    “That’s what I was trying to say, every single one has been a raging monster.” Gemma said, overtalking the others. “But after waking up and meeting so many who I couldn’t tell from people I don’t know what I believe anymore. I don’t feel like a monster, and, I’m not about to give up on myself or become what I hunted for the last year.”

    “Wait, so you knew about all of this?”
    “That’s what I was saying earlier, your sorority was part of some shady shit.” Aaron said pointing at Gemma, “and you’ll recall that I even said that all of this is because of your sorority’s shady dealings.”

    “We got busted because Erika’s a retard.” AJ said.

    Kapueo jumped into the van again and Ashley began to get in behind the wheel.

    “Whoa!” Aaron shouted, “I’m driving.”

    Aaron drove them to the Bishopsgate Police Station on Taylor. It was a tall, rather anemic looking building that belonged to another century, with large barred windows and an oversized front desk behind a cage that might have looked more at home in a casino than in a police headquarters.

    The desk sergeant was an overweight man in his middle years with iron gray hair that he evidently felt duty-bound to comb over his rather bald pate.

    “Hey, I’m looking for Detective Mallory, is he in?” Aaron asked as he sidled up in his torn-up Bart Simpson shirt and acid-washed shorts.

    “Oh, he’s getting dinner at Casey’s,” the old man said, “should be back in ten or so.”

    “Casey’s that…?”

    “A block or so that way,” the desk sergeant said, indicating a right turn out the door. “I can’t promise how long you’ll be, if you want I can leave a note.”

    “No, no, I’m waiting for someone anyway, I’ll wait.”

    It took about eight minutes for the tall, pudgy old man with a full head of auburn hair to stroll into the police station. He was holding a brown bag that Aaron could smell was food, it smelled like a po’boy and greasy fries. Part of him wanted to die just from the smell.

    “Hey, Michael.” He said, standing up and dropping the Highlights magazine he’d been reading.

    “I know you,” The man said, his gap-toothed smile left Aaron feeling dirtier than the clothes he was wearing. “you’re that Sheridan boy, right? Wait, don’t tell me, Alfie, Anson, Evan, Aaron. You’re Aaron Sheridan.”

    “Yep.” Aaron agreed. “Can we talk?”

    “Yeah, yeah, no worries,” he opened the bag and tossed a sandwich wrapped in wax paper to the Desk Sergeant, “come back to my office.”

    The office was a mess of wanted sheets, manila envelopes and fast food wrappers. It seemed that the detective had splurged on dinner tonight.

    “Waffle fry?” He asked as he sat down and pulled the fries out of the bag.

    “I’ll pass,” Aaron said.

    “Suit yourself,” the man said as he dipped two of them in mayonnaise and shoved them into his mouth. “What can I do for the Sheridans tonight?”

    “Okay, so a few days ago I went to a party and my car was stolen,” Aaron began, “I went to go meet with a buddy, and some shit went down with the guys throwing the party and I’m trying to figure out what happened with my car.”

    “I haven’t heard about a party being busted up.”

    “Could you at least look into the car?” Aaron asked, offering the license plate number.

    “Yeah, I can do that.”

    After a few moments of clacking at the keyboard the computer beeped.

    “Well, well, well, Mr. Sheridan.” Mallory said, “it looks like the car was found parked illegally and impounded… two nights ago, and you’re only coming to me now?”

    “Shit hit the fan and I ran, I’ve been lost in the woods until tonight,” Aaron said. “I’ve been trying to figure out where it was and realized that it must have been stolen.”

    Mallory wasn’t even listening, not really, he was still reading, his eyebrows raised.

    “When it was searched a large quantity of coke was found in it. There is currently a warrant out for your arrest.”

    “The worst part is that I can guarantee that it’s not mine.”

    “Good news is I can make this go away easy,” Mallory said, “it’s just going to cost you 1500, up front, cash.”

    “$1,500? But… fine. I need to use your phone again, please.”

    “Sheridan residence” came the voice of the cook, Frida, a Hispanic woman who spoke very little English despite being from New Calais.

    “Hey, Frida,” Aaron said, “May I please speak with mother?”

    “Si, Senor Aaron,” she said placing the phone down on the table. He could hear her feet clopping heavily on the tile followed by the sound of the much quicker clacking of his mother’s heels.

    “Aaron!” his mother all but screamed, “What’s going on!”

    “The police found my car, evidently someone stole it and left their drugs in it.”

    There was a heavy sigh from the other side of the line.

    “Are you in jail?”

    “No, but I’m going to be if I don’t pay it off,” Aaron said before adding, “and yes I will freely take a drug test to show that I’m clean. I’ve been clean for three years mother.”

    She hung up the phone. The money was on its way.

    “Moms, am I right?” Detective Malloy said between bites of his Po’Boy, “So here’s what I’m going to do for you. As soon as that money gets here, I’m going to date this paperwork saying you declared your car stolen the night before we found it, that’s a Friday. I’ll say it got left in someone’s “in” box, it’s an easy enough lie.

    “Okay, okay, okay. Wanna have some fun?”
    ***



    Aaron walked out of the station and waved at the van.

    “What the hell is he doing?” Kapueo asked from the passenger seat.

    “I’ve no idea,” Ashley said back.

    Aaron took two long steps and then stopped as the old red-headed detective they’d seen earlier came out and yelled “Freeze! Sheridon, you are under arrest!” The look on the detective’s face was one of pure discomfort.

    “Oh no! Guys! I’m under arrest.” Aaron said as he was handcuffed.

    “Should we be taking a picture of this?” Kapueo asked through guffaws.

    As Aaron was perp-walked by the keystone kop into the station they saw a powder blue jaguar pull up and an older looking heavyset man with somewhat wild gray hair wearing slacks and a button down white tuxedo shirt stepped out, grabbing an attaché case and a suit bag out of the car and walking it into the station.

    “Pimp or sugar daddy?” Chrissy asked Gemma.

    The older gentleman came back out a few minutes later without the case or the bag and drove off, his face rather tired looking.

    A few minutes after that Aaron stepped out of the station dressed to the nines in a slick three-piece black suit. The attaché was in his left hand and the coat hung over his left shoulder.

    Kapueo whistled. Chrissy declared that she’d won the game by marking the old guy who they saw with the case as a sugar daddy.

    “Well, folks, we are no longer broke,” Aaron said as he hopped into the back of the van, “I just need a ride to the impound lot.”

    Leave a comment:


  • Gnomish American
    replied
    No Game this week, so no write up. See y'all in 2 weeks.

    Leave a comment:


  • Gnomish American
    replied
    Thank you for the compliment, but coming in at ~ 9 pages and 1.5 hours per hour of play, my way of transcribing is extremely time intensive making it hard to keep up with and motivated. Knowing that people are reading and enjoying it definitely gives me a reason to keep going, though. Thanks, Bait!

    Leave a comment:


  • Live Bait
    replied
    Actually it was the repeat of certain parts of the story, I'm sure that bit about them finding water was repeated but giving how phones love moving you around when you move them in any way I didn't want to claim it was you at fault.
    As for what's going to happen I'm guessing Chrissy is a Gangral. Going to reread it now that you've edited it. Keep 'em coming.
    Also you are a great writer, if I could write up my games like this my own AP would not have been abandoned.
    Last edited by Live Bait; 08-29-2019, 05:33 AM.

    Leave a comment:


  • Gnomish American
    replied
    Is it a spacing issue? Because I don't know why its like that. If its a writing thing... yeah, I'm not great.

    Edit 1: Okay, figured it out, just don't know how to fix it, might have to go back to formula.

    Edit 2: Okay part2, Deleted it all and reposted it. Still not entirely sure how I did that. Thanks for the heads up, Bait.


    As for the ending... don't get too excited, the players chose to begin the next game in media res, so they kinda just 'ignore' it because they knew what was going on out of character.
    Last edited by Gnomish American; 08-28-2019, 02:03 PM.

    Leave a comment:


  • Live Bait
    replied
    It could just be that I'm reading this on my phone but I'm pretty sure this needs an edit.
    Your players have a great back and forth and what an ending.

    Leave a comment:


  • Gnomish American
    replied
    Algernon had been true to his word and had taken them to the Fairway plantation after their meeting with the Modius had come to an end.

    They found the house seemingly abandoned, though there were signs that the double front door had been replaced and the front windows had been boarded up.

    “Not even police tape,” Aaron said.

    “They stole your car, brah.” Kapueo said conciliatorily.

    “Yeah.”

    “We’ll find them and kill them,” Kapueo added, his tone still comforting, “don’t worry.”

    “Yeah,” Aaron said, only half listening, “That was a ’57 Chevy Bel-Air with less than 1000 miles on it.”

    “I know man.”

    “It had all of its original parts. Oh, it was so classic. It even had the classic Larkspur Blue and Polo White body paint.”

    “I know, man,” Kapueo said, his arm around his smaller friend, “and what’s worse, I had coke in that car.”

    Aaron almost choked on the laugh, “can’t wait for that to be recovered. Classic Sheridan.”

    “My car is gone too,” Gemma said, her voice tight, “and Chrissy’s wandered off somewhere.”

    Chrissy, for her part, had wandered into the woods after a large shabby looking hound that had been wandering by the Fairway when they’d pulled up.

    She’d noticed that it wore a collar which had made her feel bad, but the hunger was gnawing at her so tremendously that she couldn’t really think about that. Chrissy had never been particularly good with dogs, but this one seemed to be legitimately afraid of her. It was something else she could chalk up to her new, unliving nature. But something inside of her, that same feral voice that had cried out and been pushed down earlier when they had brawled with the bikers, took offense to the animal’s reaction to her. It took some work, and a short game of fetch, but even with its hesitancy she was quickly able to gain its trust enough to be able to get her arms around it. She hadn’t wanted to kill the dog, but its blood was so rich and vibrant and musky, and she had been so very hungry that she hadn’t been able to stop herself.

    “Where have you been?” AJ asked her when she cleared the foliage.

    “I’m sorry if I scared you guys, I just… I was so hungry.” Chrissy said, her friend trying her best to comfort her with a hug as she sobbed. “He was such a good boy, he just wanted to play.”

    Aaron stepped up, “So you’re saying you’re more willing to feed on a puppy than a rapist?”

    “Yes, Aaron,” AJ said, “She’s so hypocritical for seeing human life as more important than that of a dog.”

    Aaron scoffed and walked back to the Modius’ car where Algernon was waiting.

    “Can you take us to Sheridan Retreat?” Aaron asked, giving Algernon the address.

    “Okay, I can get you there, but after that you will be in the wilderness and unless you can find the phone you’ll have to walk to get anywhere.”

    “Yeah, we get it.” He said as he got into the back of the car.

    Sheridan Retreat was an old ruin of a Greek Revival plantation house. Once it had been the vacation home of the Sheridan family, but after the war was all but abandoned. Aaron was glad to see that work had continued over the last couple of days, as it looked to him as though the tree had been removed from the house’s foyer and second story. The work that Kapueo had been doing when Aaron had been concussed.

    The others, including Kapueo, started walking toward the house wondering aloud how they would hide from the sun in this when Aaron whistled loudly and bade them follow him. He took them around the house and toward a hilly area not far from the tree line.

    “Oh, dude, right on.” Kapueo said as he realized where they were headed.

    “What?” Ashley asked.

    They didn’t bother answering as they rounded the hill revealing that it wasn’t actually a hill but a storm shelter. An old one to be sure, at least as old as the house, though such buildings, called sod houses out west, weren’t uncommon for laborers and slaves in the years before the Civil War.

    The latch to the door’s lock was clearly broken but despite that the door was hard to open, forcing Kapueo to throw his shoulder into budging it open. The inside was overstuffed with ancient moldering furniture. That was the cause of the door’s jamming and, after an hour or so of moving things around, produced just enough room for them to scrunch down with their knees in their chests to stay low and out of the sun’s reach. Chrissy insisted that she had no need for the shelter, which worried her friends.

    Aaron left an hour before sunrise and was running to get in as the sun began to shine through the trees.

    “Where the hell did you go?” Kapueo asked.

    “I had to get something to eat. It took some work, but I was able to get some food.”

    “Dude, you killed Bambi?”

    They both laughed over their stupid little joke, and Aaron never admitted that he’d fed upon an opossum that he found playing dead.

    “Where’s Chrissy?”

    “Don’t know, she went out just after you and said she’d see us at sundown.”

    Aaron moved as though he was going to say something but then the sun took him. He looked to Kapueo like nothing more than a corpse and as he sat there, waiting for it to take him too he looked over at his new friends and wondered what was in store for them in the nights to come. Wondered at what it would feel like to live to see another century, another millennium, and as his eyes came to rest on AJ he watched as her still form crumbled into dust and ash.

    As the sun took him, all Kapueo wanted to do was scream.
    Last edited by Gnomish American; 08-28-2019, 01:55 PM.

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