Smoke rises from the burning wreckage of the Mayfair house. Foucault carries the still body of Ash, wrapped in a blanket down the path to the iron gate.
Cross and Bobby are several paces behind him, purposefully not looking at the burlap sack that swings from his belt. Bobby eyes the child in Foucault’s arms cautiously. There is something disturbing about the kid.
“The fire? You?” – Cross
“No evidence” – Bobby, nodding
Cross smiles as flashing lights fill the street; the police he arranged have arrived. A small victory over Foucault but a victory none the less.
A NOPD patrol car stops in front of Foucault, his face lit by the staccato red and blue light. Two officers step out with their weapons drawn on the Mekhet.
“Put down the kid” – The closest shouts
“He’s my son” – Foucault
“Well it won’t hurt to put him down then” – the second officer says as he moves around the car to flank Foucault.
Foucault puts Ash gently down on his feet. The child is wide eyed and sucks his thumb. He looks around dazed.
“Ash, it will be ok” – Foucault says, on one knee. The surroundings fade from his awareness and he is struck suddenly by a vision. Ash, older and taller stands over him. He flips a gold coin and smirks at his father. The Mayfair house is rebuilt behind him.
Foucault looks down to the floor and sees his slowly decaying corpse on the floor at his son’s feet.
The closest officer snaps on cuffs, breaking Foucault’s reverie. He feels his Beast spike in anger as his arms are pulled roughly behind his back in front of his son. Three heartbeats creep into his hearing, other sounds fade to nothing.
Cross and Bobby hug the shadows, making it to Bobby’s pickup without being seen. As Legba’s sight fades, Bobby sees the cluster of murder spirits he created flee the fading carcass of the angry leviathan. There are fewer of them now but they appear bigger and stronger. They head straight to Foucault, flocking around him like vultures waiting to fall. Their beak like heads have closed into a pyramid like shape without eyes or mouth, bloody scratches are visible over there short bodies.
“We need to help Foucault. He looks… troubled. This is the Garden District… Elderville. If he loses control we have a major breach of the Masquerade, with a swarm of NOPD all around” – Cross
“It is a problem. But the main thing about this problem is that it’s not our problem. It’s his problem” – Bobby
“There will be consequences. Our compatriot has himself in police custody with a human head in a sack. That’s problems amongst the kine” – Cross
“Why does our ‘compatriot’ have himself in police custody, with a head in a bag AND a small child?” – Bobby
“I try not to ask these questions. Foucault has been a little more erratic of late” – Cross
“So he’s a fucking liability” – Bobby
“That would be one way of looking at it. Perhaps we should try and intervene?” – Cross
Bobby surveys the scene. More NOPD are arriving and they are in the process of closing the street. Bobby estimates at least 15 officers, with more on the way.
“Can I remind you…? I’m black and you’re black enough for them to hate you” – Bobby
“True” – Cross
“We’re in Louisiana” – Bobby
“What you’re saying is we should let him sort this out himself” – Cross
“What I’m saying is; were we to get involved it may get worse” – Bobby
“Point. You’re a persuasive man” – Cross
“We could try and put a bullet through his head from here” – Bobby
“Wouldn’t help. We would need to burn him” – Cross, with poorly disguised relish
“We don’t need to kill him. We just need to persuade the police. Wrap him up for us and take him to the morgue” – Bobby
“Not a bad plan. You still have the problem of us trying to outrun a dozen cops” – Cross
“You could go to the top of that building. I could leave” – Bobby
“Or we could chalk this one up to experience” – Cross
“We could sit here and hope they don’t notice us” – Bobby, laconically
“Two black guys sat in a truck…” –Cross
“… outside a burning house” – Bobby
There is a pause.
“I imagine this thing makes a racket when it starts” – Cross
“Like the hounds of hell are chasing your heels” – Bobby
Jacob swings his body into the pickup, his decision made.
“Uh oh” – Bobby
Foucault breaks his chains a shower of links fly out in burst of metal rain. Where before he was stooped over slightly, now he stands bolt up right.
Bobby pushes Cross back into the seat and grabs a bottle of rum out of the glove box and smashed the top off the steering wheel, jamming the shards into his mouth twisting and taking a pull of rum. He spits the vitae and rum out with a load of gibberish.
“Legba Hisil” – Bobby
Cross sits still, staring at Bobby, his mouth wide open. The windscreen and cab is covered in blood, rum and broken glass.
“That’ll help” – Cross
Bobby’s eyes turn white as his rapport with his loa grows stronger and he feels Legba’s presence fill his mind. He captures the attention of the murder spirits with a whisper in a language never heard by men.
“Subdue his Beast” – Bobby, whispering
The world around Bobby moves like molasses, police securing the scene, Foucault’s head swivelling, his eyes locking on something unseen. Cross is frozen in shock and horror, his hand moving to his pistol.
The murder spirits drift towards Bobby.
“There’ll be a party in it for you” – Bobby
A collective voice comes in answer, echoing in Bobby’s head.
“Know not party” – Murder spirits
“Celebration. Murder. Blood” – Bobby
“Murder. Blood. Like” – Murder spirits
“Subdue his Beast” – Bobby
“When” – the Murder spirits gather around the pickup
“Soon” – Bobby
“When” – Murder spirits
“Soon” – Bobby
“When” – Murder spirits
“One week from tonight” – Bobby
“Good” – Murder spirits
They move around and through Foucault, as they do his expression changes, a semblance of life returns.
For Foucault sound returns gradually, the three heart beats come from Bobby, Cross and Ash Mayfair. He becomes aware that his chains are broken…
“Hey, what you two think you’re doing?” a heavy set man in a shabby suit steps out of a brown sedan, flashing a badge.
The patrol men snap to attention, blathering excuses. The detective sneers at them before leaning into Foucault
“I’m here master, as you asked. My car is available to you”
“Excellent work Alastair” – Foucault walks towards the sedan with Anton, who respectfully opens the door for him.
“Bring the child”
“Yes master” – Alastair, quick stepping to intervene with a woman from child services who is on her haunches talking to Ash. He puts Ash in the car with a rough pat on the head, Ash leans into his father, still sucking his thumb. Foucault puts his arm around him.
“Alastair, takes us to the Hotel Montelaire in the Quarter (to Ash) we’re going to see your mother. (to Alastair) Make sure we’re not followed” – Foucault
Alastair pulls out onto the street.
“This isn’t procedure detective” – a young patrol officer at the end of the road shouts at Alastair
“Like I give a damn! I’m taking my witness to safety” – Alastair shouts back.
The sedan drives off its lights flashing.
Bobby starts plucking glass from his face, the cuts healing quickly.
“When you’ve quite finished being strange. What was that supposed to accomplish” – Cross
“Exactly what it did accomplish” – Bobby
“How are WE supposed to get out of here?” – Cross
Bobby shrugs, lighting a cigarette carefully. He looks at the windshield for a moment and starts wiping it down.
“Where do you reside?” – Cross
“The bayou” – Bobby
“If someone recognises this pickup in such an opulent area… they could track you. How long have you been in the bayou?” – Cross
“A while” – Bobby
“Someone knows you then. We should go to the office, we have facilities there” – Cross
“You suggesting someone in the bayou would tell the police about me?” – Bobby
“I’m suggesting that a lot of prominent people are OUR kind of people. Might know what happened here. If you live in the bayou, against the Prince’s edict… perhaps you should stay out of the bayou just for tonight” – Cross
“We still got to get out of this street. I have a plan…” – Bobby, getting out of the pickup and walking towards the cops with his hands very obviously up.
“Don’t shoot Massa” – Bobby
Cross calculates for a moment and gets out quickly drawing his .45.
He levels it at the back of Bobby’s head.
“I got him!” – Cross shouting at the police.
The police are too busy in the chaos and confusion to notice exactly what is going on. The closest react to Bobby, going for their weapons. A hammer is drawn back.
“Hold on” – Cross pushing out with his Majesty
Cross stands strong and tall and proud, his hair lifted slightly in the breeze.
But the breeze fades, his stance shifts, a slight slouch now evident and his pistol waivers.
Bobby drops a wink at Cross before turning back to the police.
“Help me boss. Help me! The man crazy, he came running out that burning building…” – Bobby
Cross pulls the trigger three times into Bobby’s back. Two rounds punch into Bobby and he falls to the floor squealing like a stuck pig, a small pool of Vitae oozes out at his command.
The sounds of gun shots reach Foucault at the end of the street, glancing behind him briefly.
“Step on it” – Foucault
Cross babbles quickly relaying the events of the pickup, rum, glass and blood.
“He was tryin’ to kill the kid, that other guy stopped him” – Bobby gasps from the floor, milking the attention.
He twists on the floor as if his body is wracked in pain and lets out a theatrical last gasp. A part of Cross can’t help but admire his showmanship.
“Drop the piece” – an officer to the left of Cross shouts.
Foucault’s Beast raises its head, scenting violence and blood. The rational part of his mind hears the alibi given by Bobby’s “last words”. With an effort of will, Foucault resists its subtle temptation, gritting his teeth as Alastair’s car leaves the scene of devastation.
Cross uses his connections in the police to disappear, evidence tampered with, the case spoiled.
Bobby is bagged and tagged as a John Doe after being shovelled ingloriously off the asphalt. Those who care wring their hands at the tragic death of an innocent black man but do nothing. Those who don’t care clap their hands and reach for another beer.
Foucault pulls up outside the hotel, driven by Alastair. It’s just past four am and it’s the night of the Mayfair Summer Ball. Everyone who is anyone in the Mayfair Family is collected at this hotel, in a party known for its excess. It’s been months since he saw Stella last, if anywhere she would be.
He takes Ash Mayfair by the hand and enters the lobby. The place is deserted, there is a strange lethargy that tugs at Foucault’s limbs and a hint of perfume hangs in the air.
Foucault suddenly becomes aware of an aura stain that seems to be leaking from a minor member of a Mayfair socialite who staggers around the corner in a state of extreme dishevelment. He recognises from society columns.
The Whisperer seems on the verge of escaping the socialite’s aura but seems very weak. The sight of the Whisperer trips something in Foucault’s mind…
… a sudden sense of pressure throws him to the floor; a great weight sits on him. Not of one thing but a thousand things all popping in to existence around him.
Foucault is quickened for a moment, his heart beats, his pores sweat and his head spins. He holds on tightly to Ash’s hand as an awareness of life fills his mind. All around Foucault life is being created, here and now, in this hotel. But this life will come at a cost.
At the heart of this explosion of life, through his mind’s eye Foucault senses Stella.
The feeling passes and Foucault stands brushing himself down, ignoring the questioning star of the socialite, the Whisperer now gone from his vision. Ash says nothing but looses his Father’s grip that has left marks on his small hand.
Foucault heads to the elevator and presses the button for the penthouse. The lift passes through the hotel, stopping at occasional floors to let party goers on and off. It is clear the Mayfair family has booked the entire hotel.
Hints of disturbing bacchanalia can be made out down corridors and past slightly open doors. The entre hotel seems to vibrate at a different energy as the light relentlessly moves up. It hums and throbs; the smell of perfume grows stronger, sickly sweet and overpowering. Its intoxicating Foucault stamps out the siren call of his Beast to succumb to his instincts.
The lift pings and doors slides open concertinaing itself into nothing. Foucault steps out into an orgy. Every surface of floor and furniture is covered with naked, rutting bodies. The sweat in the room is a visible haze that hangs in the air. It shimmers with heat haze. Stella sits on an antique chaise long, her legs spread, naked but buried in people. Men, women and children. All of them sucking and kissing feverishly.
Foucault covers Ash’s eyes with one hand and guides him across the room to Stella. She smiles gently as they approach. She is different. Her hair seems lighter, it was a deep black but is now a dirty blonde.
“Stella” – Foucault
“Willem, why don’t you join us” – Stella pants softly.
“I’d love to but tonight I have some things to show you.” – Foucault takes the sack from his belt and removes the head of Aaron Mayfair.
He gestures to Ash, now free to see sights no 10 year old should see. His eyes are glazed and dull.
“I keep my promises” – Foucault
Stella’s eyes focus for the first time.
“That. That is incredible” – Stella, leaning forwards.
She stands and holds her arms out. Two men stand hypnotised and place a white silk robe on her and then fall back into the sea of writhing flesh.
She wraps it round herself before embracing Foucault. She kisses him on the cheek.
“Well done” – Stella
It is clear to Foucault that she simply doesn’t care. He frowns, lowering the severed head.
“I can see you are otherwise occupied tonight. I will see you tomorrow.” Foucault whispers in her ear before kissing her on the lips.
He turns and walks away, Ash struggling to keep up.
“Willem. Wait” – Stella
Foucault turns and Stella kisses him passionately back. She hugs him tightly and then pushes him away.
“Get out of here” – Stella, emotion in her voice.
“I’ll see you soon Stella” – Foucault
Foucault walks to the elevator, glancing back once.
Stella walks into a sea of people. It rises as one organism and swallows her whole.
The elevator descends, Foucault deep in thought. He is aware of the gears cranking and they seem to externalise the sudden inexorable logic that fills his mind. Wheels turn in motion. People, places and things become cogs in a machine, turning independently but part of a greater whole.
This wasn’t a random orgy. Perhaps Aaron Mayfair knew what was coming and took precautions. A lot of life was being born in that orgy. Stella was made not for Aaron’s own pleasure but for breeding. Was the mage building an army?
But a cog is missing. He needs more information. Ash squeezes his hand.
Cross sits alone in the office. His suit has been dry cleaned and he toys with a small, loose thread on the sleeve. He reaches for the scissors to deal with the problem and becomes aware of a loud din approaching. For a moment he thinks it is a pack of baying dogs.
He looks out the window and sees Bobby step out of his ramshackle pickup truck. He’s changed into another sharp suit; nobody could think this man lay dead in a pool of his own blood the previous night.
“We have a visitor, let him in” – Cross, to one of his bodyguards reading a newspaper.
Bobby lights a cigarette and checks the neighbourhood. It’s bland in its slightly run down appearance; the neon signs of small bars break the anonymity of the crossroads.
A side door down the street opens and a rough looking youth in a cheap suit steps out. The shop front is a taxidermist, recently closed for the night. The glassy eyes of the stuffed owls match those of the heavy on the corner.
Bobby saunters over; the bodyguard pats him down quickly.
“Watch the threads” – Bobby
The body guard leads Bobby into the hallway and the narrow dusty staircase. Cross stands at the top of the stairs.
“Come in. Have a seat” – Cross, leading Bobby into the office.
“Uh huh” – Bobby, looking around the office.
He sits in a chair to the side of Cross’ desk. He purposefully puts one polished shoe after another on the desk and flicks ash on to the floor.
“Sorry about that” – Cross
“Uh huh” – Bobby
“It was the only way. I’m sure you see” – Cross
“Uh huh” – Bobby
“A businessman of my stature can’t be implicated in something unseemly” – Cross
“Uh huh” – Bobby, taking a drag from his cigarette, the ember lighting his eyes.
“It comes down to this. We have just solved a rather major problem for the city and there will be spoils. You can share in this wealth. I think the best way would be to introduce you to my patron” – Cross, all business and smiles.
“Use your phone?” – Bobby, pointing at the telephone on the desk.
“Go right ahead. Miss Chastain would love to meet you” – Cross
Bobby dials quickly, not reacting.
Sweet answers after half a dozen rings. Her voice is groggy. She’s pleased to hear from her childe but asks why he’s phoning so late.
Bobby tells her that Mayfair has been removed and he’s about to be introduced to Pearl Chastain of the Invictus.
Sweet wishes him good luck, Pearl is old news. She’s slowing down in her elder years.
“I’ve been busy too honey. I’ve made a deal that’ll ensure our future is plain sailing from here on in. I’ll fill you in on the details when I see you lover” – Sweet
Her voice fades for a moment.
“I’ve got to go” – Sweet
The phone dies suddenly, leaving only the dirge of the disconnected tone.
Cross reads Bobby’s expression but the Daeva has a solid poker face
“I love you too baby” – Bobby
Cross stumbles a little, a lethargy seizing his limbs. He clutches the desk to steady himself.
Bobby puts the phone down, a hint of an eyebrow raised at Cross’ sudden change.
“Take more water with it” – Bobby
“Those things you brought to the Mayfair house” – Cross
“Things?” – Bobby
“You’re not doing any of that stuff in this office are you?” – Cross
“No. Why?” – Bobby
“Right. You don’t feel anything?” – Cross
“Hungry?” – Bobby
“I could eat” – Cross
A bird starts singing outside.
As Cross’ eyes flutter heavily, Bobby realises that this is the sleep of Baron Samedi, where the guardian of the Carrefour must give over to another force.
Bobby leans back in his chair and tips his hat over his eyes after pulling the wooden shutters across the window.
Cross locks the door, shooing his bodyguard to the street.
“In the back?” – Bobby, from under his hat.
Cross keeps his eyes open, studying his guest. He’s pretty sure Bobby is Daeva and quite a proud one at that. His suit is well cared for but obviously a hand me down, however stylish it might be.
A small leather pouch hangs from his belt with vodoun script tattooed on it. He’s voodoo alright but not connected.
“You’re going places Bobby, I’m going to take you there” – Cross
Bobby opens one eye and quietly takes the pouch from his belt. He sprinkles powder over Cross’ shining .45 pistol, lips moving silently.
Bobby leans back in the chair, smiling.
Back at his suburban haven, Foucault tucks Ash into bed. He reassures Ash that everything will be fine. He pulls out the boy’s favourite story, ‘Masque of the Red Death’.
“Why did you kill granddaddy?” – Ash, removing his thumb from his mouth for the first time.
“It’s complicated. Get some sleep and I’ll tell you tomorrow night” – Foucault
“I want you to tell me now daddy” – Ash, his voice resonating inside Foucault’s head.
“Quite simply because I hated him. He put hooks in my mind and made me do things that potentially could have destroyed me and my reputation. Then he took my family away from me. He gave me no choice. It had to be done.” – Foucault
Ash is quiet, looking into distant darkness.
“Ok. Goodnight daddy.” – Ash, snuggling down.
“Goodnight son” – Foucault leaving, his hand on the doorknob.
“Can you keep the door open? I’m scared of monsters” – Ash
Rumours and whispers circulate amongst the Kindred of New Orleans. The unthinkable has happened. The Mayfair patriarch is dead. Harpies preen and pluck their feathers sensing a gathering in the air. It is not long before they are proved correct. Gus ‘Gutterball’ Elgin spreads the word. Their will be a Gran Ballo to be held at Carnivale, to honour the neonates that put an end to a powerful witch. It will be held on Saturday, one week’s time.
Foucault spends his week recruiting occultists to the Keepers of the Ninth Gate, taking advantage of the improvement in status of Ordo Dracul after delivering Aaron Mayfair’s head to Marcus. He takes time out to leverage his notoriety in the Kindred court to postpone his funeral indefinitely. Father John Marrow’s smile is strained.
Cross works to solidify his business holdings, several of them are risky but have high returns. He makes a killing.
Bobby spends time working on expanding his haven, convincing people from the bayou into helping. The extra rooms smell of sawdust and swamp but it is a good build.
Foucault hits the occult texts, supported by his naïve cultists, to aid Marcus in his efforts to locate the demon that knows the whereabouts of his grandsire, David Wilkes Cassidy.
From what Marcus knows so far, it is a powerful demon of Sloth with a sigil of a three quarter broken circle. The summoning ritual at the Wyrm’s Nest at Warehouse #9 is missing a name.
After three solid nights, one of Foucault’s cultists finds a name in an ancient Islamic text… Meserarch the Oath breaker.
The sigil had been irritating Foucault for weeks. He had seen it somewhere before. Foucault leaves the Warehouse, walking back to his haven. His footsteps echo through the Quarter, the full moon peaks through the clouds.
The symbol. The demon Meserarch. Marcus and his sire. The fact that he was a Civil War deserter. A grey great coat covered in dust…
bq). “There is an interesting prophecy in there that relates a little to the Brood” – Azazel
Foucault stops in the street. The last time he saw that symbol was on Azazel’s dusty grey coat. Azazel IS Marcus’ sire. Is Marcus part of Belial’s Brood?
Bobby is cautiously hunting in the French Quarter; he spots Foucault standing in the middle of a crossroads, the epiphany written on his face. He takes a step forwards. The expression clearly shows that this Kindred has been blessed by Papa Legba with understanding. The Kindred has knowledge.
“He is still a dick though” – Bobby with a flash of fangs.
Bobby stops at a street market near the ruined Storyville, getting ready for the morning rush. He picks up incense, fresh meat and sugar. He passes a busker playing guitar.
The Daeva is overcome by a sudden memory from a past lifetime. He is very young, 2 or 3 years old. His father, head in the clouds bestrides the kitchen floor like a colossus, barely missing the faded wooden bricks Bobby plays with.
There is the slam of the front door as he leaves; a sense of disappointment fills Bobby. He has the feeling that isn’t important. A guitar riff comes from the porch, something simple but beautiful. The music touches Bobby deep within. Nana runs past, the only one who really pays him attention, tells him to stop that infernal noise.
Even at that young age Bobby doesn’t think that she means that it’s loud. She thinks it’s literally evil…
The busker is playing the same music, the same guitar riff.
Bobby turns to face the musician.
But there is no one there…