Dead of Night: Tales from the Big Easy

CHAPTER SEVEN: Playing Hell

The Truth is coming...

12._Chapter7_PlayingHell.jpg

It is 2005. Foucault is being driven down a road he cannot see. He is talking to his sire, Marcus, who has someone else’s eyes. Within his own mind a voice talks to him. The packing knife he picked up at the insistence of this voice sits comfortably and hidden in his hand.

Foucault has a sense that he is responsible for his sire’s condition but he has no memory of it. The last thing Foucault does recall is the realisation that Azazel of Belial’s Brood was his grandsire; the sire who Marcus was so desperately searching for.

The boxes and crates that surround Foucault creak and slide. The trucks poor suspension allows Foucault to feel every bump and flaw in the road.

From the length of time that the vehicle has been deriving Foucault guesses that they are near the outskirts of New Orleans.

“I have been starved by Donovan, can you spare something?” – Foucault

Marcus closes someone else’s eyes for a moment. He takes off his jacket, lying over a crate before unbuttoning his shirt sleeve. He rolls it up purposefully.

His expression is one of disdain as he stands over his childe.

Marcus bites his wrist, allowing the blood to pool before letting it trickle into Foucault’s mouth. Foucault lets none spill, it fills his mouth, nearly overflowing at the corners.

As the potent vitae of his sire hits his tongue, Foucault looks up and becomes entranced with the regal air and grace that Marcus suddenly exudes. The blood has a rich flavour, cool and syrupy, it tingles as it touches Foucault’s tongue.

In his sire’s presence the burden of the Requiem lightens. He feels safe as Marcus’ blood slides sown his throat. His gorge, however, suddenly rises at the cold copper tang of the blood. Foucault retches, unable to keep the blood down. He vomits crimson fluid onto the sawdust floor of the truck, suddenly filled with revulsion.

“Let me. I will feed for you” – Foucault’s other

“I don’t need your help” – Foucault

“We shall see…” – Other

Blood_Trail.jpg

Cross’s feet pound the deserted pavement of New Orleans. The world around him is a blur, the sky is black with navy highlights. He can hear the car alarm fade into the background as he puts more and more distance between himself and the car crash. Sirens are approaching, Cross darts sown an alleyway, turning left and right… full tilt into a figure standing in his way.

The figure is dressed as an old style preacher, white collar visible under black cloth. Hi gaunt unshaven face is immobile but his eyes look wide and feverish. It is the same Kindred who was in the car before it crashed. The same Kindred who caused an insect to turn to dust in front of Cross, before telling him to tell the truth as he knows it.

Cross’ Beast spikes, clawing at his mind at the preacher blocking his way. Through a red mist of growing anger, Cross notices a newspaper tumbling in the breeze down the alleyway. Its headline reads:

“Hurricane Katrina: City to be Evacuated”, underneath is a picture of a blonde haired girl, high and sharp cheekbones give her beauty an edge. Her eyes are wide and sharp, seemingly to have a colour despite the black and white photograph. The sub headline reads: “Diana Cross to inherit Mayfair wealth”.

Blood_Trail.jpg

Where exactly are we headed?” – Foucault

“A safe place. Where the Brood cannot reach you. Then we leave the city. For what is coming we should not be around. You should not be around.” – Marcus

“You mean… the Prophecy?” – Foucault

“I mean the birth right. It has been 23 years since Diana Cross was born. We should not be here for her choice” – Marcus

“A choice?” – Foucault

“The curse of Les Enfants Diablique is that they always have a choice. We have taken the darkest path less trod for a glimpse of enlightenment. Or we choose our jobs, our families, our existence. Our memories. Hat is the choice she faces. Whether to accept her birth right or refuse it. Either way it will not be good for us” – Marcus

“I am intrigued how we came to this. You a member of the Brood. I a former member of the Brood and Les Enfants Diablolique who we have been working towards. Why would she have any quarrel with us?” – Foucault

“Les Enfants Diablolique are an affront to nature itself. Our will of the Adversary made manifest on Earth. That does not sit well with the Demiurge. It will strike back.” – Marcus

“By Demiurge… would you be referring to my son?” – Foucault

“Your son is another reason to leave New Orleans but that is not what I refer to” – Marcus
Foucault’s eyes unfocus.

_An image of a baby’s medical cot, Foucault’s distorted reflection in the glass of the viewing window. He sees a baby sleeping, peaceful, calm, something about the small figure makes Foucault want to know what the baby means. Uncover its secrets.

The memory expands. The last name reads Mayfair. Foucault takes a step back, horrified. Something clicks into place. Something connected to Aaron Mayfair. One cot becomes three cots, become 9 cots, becomes 18 cots, and becomes over 30 cots… all holding sleeping babies.

Foucault looks above the observation window. The plaque there reads ‘Mayfair Medical Family Unit’.

He turns and sees a tall man, his height and build. His eyes, the fine curved face of a Mayfair. He flicks the dark hair from his eyes and turns down the collar of his coat. He smiles, gesturing at the babies.

“So what do you think father?” – Ash_

Foucault’s mind races. Those were Ash’s children, of his bloodline. A child of a demon of lust and a Kindred of Shadow.

Foucault looks Marcus in the eye.

“I’m slowly coming to the realisation… that we are fucked”

Marcus sits back.

Surely, being a part of the Brood, this something that Brood has been working towards for years why wouldn’t you want to be a part of it?” – Foucault

A flicker of emotion crosses Marcus’s face.

“We are a part of it. We always will be. Even if we leave town. It is the eternal battle between Good and Evil. And we have chosen our side. We live forever but I’m just a little bit more concerned in self-preservation right now” – Marcus

“So it’s not the coming of the anti-Christ but what comes with it. Or in retaliation. That is what you fear?” – Foucault

Marcus’s face is impassive.

“My son…” – Foucault

“If only we knew then what we know now” – Marcus

“Indeed” – Foucault’s face betrays no sign of his ignorance, “I remember something of Ash having an extended family”

“He fucked his way through the entire Mayfair family. From the moment he hit puberty until the moment he died” – Marcus

“You must forgive me. My torture and incarceration by Donovan has left me somewhat addled. My memory is fractured, somewhat” – Foucault

“He didn’t want you to be involved” – Marcus

“He doesn’t want me to stop what is happening?” – Foucault

“He doesn’t want you to do anything. Either. He wants neither your help nor your hindrance” – Marcus

“A proud Kindred. Floundering in his powerlessness” – Foucault

“Yes. That’s why you can’t remember anything” – Marcus, a hint of sarcasm in his voice
“So does that mean that Donovan is a major player? Or is he just a tool of the Adversary?” – Foucault

“A tool? No. The creature that is now Donovan is not a tool. He is a hand. The thing that grasps, that uses. He has been doing this for over 1000 years” – Marcus

“He is a demon. Isn’t he?” – Foucault

“He is more than a demon. He is the First.” – Marcus

“So what’s your end game Marcus?” – Foucault

“I started out with such noble intentions… then I realised that nobility is an illusion. I want to follow my Pursuit. I want to follow my Beast… even into the gates of Hell” – Marcus

“I assume at this stage we are not talking in metaphors?” – Foucault

“Someone once said that it is the struggle that defines us, it is the struggle that destroys us. We all have a purpose. That is what I want to find.” – Marcus

The truck suddenly slides 90 degrees, both Foucault and Marcus are thrown into the side of the truck.

Marcus’ eyes narrow on his expressionless face. It is clear that they have not arrived at their destination. He pushes open the doors and strides along the side of the truck to the driver’s side. Foucault follows his sire and sees the dead body of Marcel, his driver pulled through the driver’s side window, his head shredded by glass. The seat belt hangs in tatters, the breeze catches it and it becomes a black ribbon reaching for Foucault.

There is a glow in the sky above and beyond the wagon. With heavy footsteps, Foucault follows Marcus around the front of the truck, not filching at the flames that envelope the Warehouse before them. The red fingers reach up to the sky as if to pull something down.

The heat from the blaze buffets Foucault but causes no fear, no frenzy.

Within the flames are two figures. The flames around seems concentrated in a supernova of brilliance. It has a female form but her face is obscured by the light. The other figure walks through the tunnel of flame, the fire parting as he walks.

He is tall, 6 foot 6 and very thin, wearing grey suit pants and a matching waistcoat. His eyes seem to burn with brilliance and around his feet small homunculi surge forward in a mockery of human animation and flesh. His hand reaches out, a knife glints in the fire’s light. He cuts deeply into his palm, a drop of blood swells and falls.

Marcus sighs, “That. That was our haven. It is the Lucifuge”

The ground around Foucault’s feet cracks, the blood from the Lucifuge’s hand drops, even at this distance Foucault’s Heightened Senses can make out every facet of this ruby red jewel as it hits the ground.

The tarmac splits open further, the heat from the blaze has no comparison with the heat from below. The cracks split and travel covering both Foucault’s and Marcus’s feet.

A voice carried in the breeze coming from the figure in grey, “Nothing but Hell spawn.”

Foucault’s eyes widen, the figure in grey’s aura explodes into colour. A bright calm blue spreads out with sharp spikes of dark purpose. The ground shakes around Foucault’s feet and he thinks back.

A child’s cry comes from down the hospital corridor as the figure in grey steps out of the shadows, “It always has a choice Foucault, just as you have”… he holds out is hand.

A moment of silence, then the ground shakes and splits open wide. A fiery glow emerges from beneath. Black hands, callused and webbed sporting the same cracks and glow through its skin grabs at Foucault’s leg. Marcus barges him out of the way, throwing him to the floor. The hand clutch at Marcus pulling him down into the earth.

The last thing Foucault sees of his sire is his expressionless face… with an arm outstretched and reaching towards him… before he is dragged down to Hell.

The ground knits back together, steam dissipating into the air.

The figure in grey stalks forwards, waving at the incandescent female figure. She flies forward screaming at high pitch. Her white hair withes around her face, chiselled cheekbones stretch in agony.

Its Stella’s, weeping tears of fire.

Blood_Trail.jpg

Cross’s anger dissipates as the preacher tilts his head to the side. Cross sees the street lights flash yellow in the preacher’s eyes.

“Jacob are you ok?” – Preacher

Cross’ mind races. The last thing he can remember is his Embrace. He has no clue as to what is going on, where he is and the fact that this is his Kindred childe, Joseph Rieger.

His blood tingles telling him he is related in blood to this preacher man. Cross is dirty and stained. His impeccable suit is frayed and torn. It sports blood stains. He smooth’s out his clothes staring at the preacher.

“Ah. It’s you. Excellent. What is your plan?” – Cross

“My sire, Foucault has betrayed you” – Rieger

“Cross’s mind breaks through the fog for a moment and bares his fangs. He remembers Foucault and the wrath of the Beast shakes its cage.

“He’s leaving town. Right now.” – Rieger

“Where?” – Cross

The preacher point. The yellow glints in his eyes again.

“As the crow flies” – Rieger, smiling

“We’ll need transportation” – Cross

The preacher smiles. He gestures to an antique 1950s motorcycle, leaning against the wall. Chrome polished, with traces of rust.

Another ‘cycle, less impressive leans behind it.

“Our steeds await, sire” – Rieger

“Are they the chariots I would have chosen?” – Cross

He guns the engine, letting the preacher take the lead.

The preacher takes a direct route, preferring alleyways and paths to the main roads that are eerily deserted.

A line of stationary traffic, headlights on and motors running blocks their path causing the preacher and Cross to jink between them. Cross sees flashes of white and black scared faces, trapped behind sweat condensated glass. Cross looks back realising it’s the main road out of New Orleans.

The preacher draws to a halt in front of a large truck that blocks both lanes. There is an odd glow on the horizon as Cross pulls up next to him.

Rieger giggles for a moment and climbs off. He points to the wagon.

“Just beyond that truck” – Rieger

Cross pushes out with his Majesty, urging Rieger to take the lead but Rieger stands impassive. His head is silhouetted against the red halo in the sky. His eyes shine yellow.

His expression softens for a moment and the fold of one corner of his lips arch up.
At that moment a burning figure screaming, punches through the rear of the truck past the preacher sliding to a halt before Cross in a cloud of dust and smoke.

Cross’s eyes narrow, his hand guns the engine and he pulls the bike around using his legs as a pivot he hurls the bike at the preacher. It strikes him fully in the chest throwing him backwards. Cross leaps forwards to help Foucault put the flames out.

“I almost hit you with a bike” – Cross dryly

The preacher lies on the floor pinned by the bike. He screams. His mouth open wide shrieks, his arms are thrown wide and his body convulses. Black smoke oozes from his mouth, nose, ears, eyes and mouth.

The smoke fills the air seeming to mix with the smoke of the blaze and forms the shape of an owl, wings outstretched. Its yellow eyes narrow.

A cold grip tightens the pit of both the Kindred’s stomachs.

Blood_Trail.jpg

It is 1956. Cross lounges in a tattered blue leather armchair in a room with peeling wallpaper and damp rotting skirting boards. The floor has no carpet, only dark wooden floorboards. Its only covering is a urine stained dark red rung in the centre of the room.
Cross knew his needles were in his teeth as lazily surveys the opium den and it inhabitants.

The wretched and the meek lie listlessly on decaying armchairs and cots, scratching at things that aren’t there, rubbing their unblemished necks at an irritation of the soul.
Cross’s vision blurs as the drug laced blood creeps into his body. He allows his mind to wander with fantasies of wealth and power. Even in his stupor he is aware that the political spectrum has shifted and is certainly Cross coloured to a degree. Pinpricks of light explode into colour wheeling gracefully in his vision. A voice breaks the reverie

“No child. You are too young”

A shape in the corner starts crying, turning over towards the light, tears streaming down their face. Abruptly they start to laugh.

A rhythmic tap creeps up the staircase. The door, missing a panel, is pushed open. A young man with a cane stands in the doorway. His shadow splits into two across the floor.

He walks slowly towards Cross, who blinks blearily. He sees, for a moment, two men identically dressed in fine Southern clothing. A white linen suit with an embroided waistcoat.

One of the men is young, virile, about 18 – 19. In his hand he spins a large gold coin, almost a gold doubloon. It catches the wan light. The other is an old man, old beyond measure. Lines of worry and care crease his face. His neatly trimmed beard matches his white hair, pushed back away from his face.

It is Aaron Mayfair. Cross notes the familial resemblance between the two men, almost as if he sees them at the start and end of one man’s life.

Cross burns his blood to shake the effects of the opium. He stands, giving a short bow.

“Mayfair” – Cross

The young man, alone now without the drug, flicks the coin in the air before pocketing it in his waistcoat.

“Jacob. I can call you Jacob, can’t I?” – Mayfair

“Of course” – Cross

“May I sit?” – Mayfair

“I typically prefer to know the names of those I sit with” – Cross

“My name is Junior” – Mayfair

“Aren’t you all? May I get you something to drink? They are all mine. Take your pick” – Cross

Junior sits, putting the cane between his legs learning his chin on the hands that hold it in place.

“I owe you” – Mayfair

“It’s always nice to find oneself owed… tell me exactly what you owe me?” – Cross

“You killed Aaron Mayfair” – Mayfair

“Guilty” – Cross, eyes flickering to the absent figure of the old man.

“You freed me” – Mayfair

“What can I say I hate to see anyone suffer needlessly. Confinement must have been so dull for you” – Cross

“It wasn’t dull, it was more of ‘I didn’t want to do it’” – Mayfair

“Tell me Junior, what do you want to do?” – Cross

“I came to you because you are a man… sorry, Kindred who appreciates the finer things in life BUT understands that family is everything” – Mayfair

“Go on” – Cross

“I think there is an opportunity for a partnership. I would much rather repay my debt to you and I think it can be beneficial to both” – Mayfair

“What you are proposing… isn’t a partnership but indebted service. As long as you accept that then we have a deal” – Cross, standing Entrancing the demon.

For a moment Junior looks confused, he then bows and reaches to kiss Cross’s ring finger.
Jacob uses the hard edge of this ring to cu his flesh, willing the vitae to surface. Junior kisses the ring, Cross’s blood staining his lips.

“May I now offer my proposition?” – Mayfair

“Proceed” – Cross, licking his knuckle

“After the death of my father…” – Mayfair

“And captor” – Cross

“Of course. You will have opportunity…” – Mayfair

“I imagine I might” – Cross

“I am one of the Mayfair’s. I have access to resources and one or two talents that can prove useful. My family has been poisoned by your kind. Not your blood. The blood of your kind. Pierpont McGinn. I don’t like him.” – Mayfair

“McGinn? A little robust for my taste.” – Cross

“Indeed” – Mayfair

“And I presume you want my permission to act against him” – Cross

“I am not flesh and bone. I am insubstantial. In order to touch him I need something tangible, something with strength. I thought I could repay my debt by ensuring his fall.” – Mayfair

“What do you have to offer? I’m talking practically here.” – Cross, sitting forward

“I understand your kind is status focused” – Mayfair

“We do love to be seen above others” – Cross

“I would like you to use your talents to seize control of the Gage family and turn them into something that could stand against the Mayfair. I understand my family can be hurt in this endeavour but family is bigger than just one person. The only thing I request is for Julianne not to be harmed” – Mayfair

“If it comes down to it, she is hardly a threat. No, I’m not interested in harming the innocent. I’m certain we could bloody the Mayfair’s noses” – Cross

“How I propose to do this…”, Aaron reaching to the side of his chair out of view and pulls out two brown manila envelopes and places them on the floor before Cross. One is labelled Mayfair, the other is labelled Gage.

Cross picks up a folder and flicks through the swath of paper sheets. All white. All empty.

“Do we have an agreement?” – Mayfair, pulling out his gold coin

Cross is annoyed. This is a joke.

“What the hell is this?” – Cross

“Jacob, I’m sure you of all people…” – Mayfair

“I think under the circumstances. Mr Cross.” – Cross

“Of course Mr Cross I can’t give you what you need. I can allow you to take it. My resources are limited without an agreement on your part. All you have to do is say yes” – Mayfair, coin in the palm of the hand he extend to Cross.

“So as it stands… you owe me. You’ve given me nothing and you want something. That’s bad business sense.” – Cross leans back shaking his head.

“I don’t want anything. I need you to agree” – Mayfair, an edge of desperation edging in to his voice

“Then bring me something of value” – Cross

“What would you want?” – Mayfair

“Something I can use to destroy my enemies. Something…physical” – Cross

Junior, his manicured hand still outstretched reaches over with his other hand tapping Cross on the head, Cross sees

_Rebecca, his wife born. Dominic Gage stands over her nodding his head, he walks past Donovan, a smile breaking on the Kindred’s face.

Dominic and Donovan together in an attic, looking at countless newspaper clippings nailed to wooden beams. On the square table in front of them sits a book. The leather bound Papa Iblis’ journal. Donovan turns the page and taps the bottom of the page. The glyphs and scratches reform, shifting on the page as Donovan taps the paper, “The Emperor becomes Prince, when his family dies”. Above that line sits the familiar prophecy…

A series of events that Cross is more familiar with. Photographs and sounds of Rebecca growing. Then she meets Cross.

The romance plays out… but at every stage Donovan whispers in her ear. She gets out of Cross’s car… Donovan is there. The cinema date, Donovan appears from nowhere when Cross stands and leaves before vanishing upon his return.

Rebecca holding Thomas Cross and in the distance, outside the window stands Donovan

Cross paler and static, pleading with Rebecca to eave New Orleans. Rebecca makes it clear she has to think about it. Cross leaves. Donovan whispers in her ear “Do it”_

In a daze Cross shakes Junior’s hand. There is a sensation of fullness in Cross for a moment and small tendrils of white smoke rise from his hand accompanied by the sound of bacon on a griddle.

Cross releases his hand, a burnt outline and markings of the coin in his palm. The open folders… now full of writing.

Junior Mayfair smiles warmly.

Blood_Trail.jpg

The Keepers of the Ninth Gate meet on a second floor of an ‘abandoned’ warehouse. A ring of people form around Foucault, spotlighted by an industrial lamp hanging from the wooden rafters. In his hands he carries a mahogany box, he hands it to one of the circle

“I need you to hold on to this until I have need of it. No one can look inside. Store it somewhere safe” – Foucault

Foucault thinks for a moment

“And cool”

A pudgy man in late middle age steps forward hesitantly, taking the box with shaking hands.

Foucault surveys the room, “What progress on the Whisperers?”

Five people step forwards into the circle of light that surrounds Foucault. One of them speaks.

“We have found that the Whisperers are demonic in origin, they are as all demons. Not made from Hell but made from people. They are born from the sins of humanity… including yourself Master”

“If you could care to elaborate on that?” – Foucault

“Master, as I am sure you are aware… you have a Whisperer” – Cultist

“Do we know what they want?” – Foucault

“We are still looking Master. As far as we can tell the Infernal force is one that promotes sin. That is how they feed, the darker the sin, the greater the bounty. They are products of people’s psyche. Hell was created by humans. Not for them. In a very real sense, the sins of the Father will fall on each generation” – Cultist

“What happens of a demon born of a will worker’s mind when the will worker dies? – Foucault

A woman with auburn hair cascading over one shoulder steps forward. Her face proud.

“Master, we have discovered that the demons manifested through goetic ritual are different from those created through ignorance. Knowledge plays a part. These demons are not inherently evil as the product of Hell are but they are focused on the vice that created them. When a will worker dies they are free… If I may be so bold? I have also taken the initiative to see if there is anything recorded similar to what you have described. There is nothing about a demon being encased in a mortal body… This is my best guess Master but a demon knowing no other existence… if that physical vessel were to die then… the demon would die too” – the woman breaks and runs from the circle

“The nature of Ash Mayfair?” – Foucault barks

The pudgy man, still holding Foucault’s box, raises his voice. His eyes are wide behind his horned rimmed glasses. He bows low, a trickle of sweat rolls across his forehead.

“The Dampyr we know by ancient Romanian lore are not warriors but poison. It is not clear in the texts Master but their blood is death. By some mystical means they coerce the vampire into drinking their blood. They are a vampire bear trap. You bite them, they poison you.” – The man steps back

A young, impatiently waiting coughs nervously

“That is not the whole story Master, I have also been researching but taking the tact of offspring of demons. The common traits are an ability to be very persuasive. None can resist their will. Very often the focus of their life is the demon that made them”

He steps back into the circle.

“That is promising work but I want MORE in all these areas” – Foucault

The circle bows in unison and then files out.

Blood_Trail.jpg

It is the night of the Lancea Sanctum’s Gran Ballo celebration of the death of Aaron Mayfair. The Harpies have been whispering for nights about the theme of ‘masquerade’.

Foucault decides to go in the clothes of Aaron Mayfair, the white suit and cane of a Southern gentleman. His mask is a death mask of Aaron Mayfair, eyes removed for sight. A red cloak is thrown over his shoulders.

Cross arrives in black, a silver pin in a Templars cross on his suit. His mask is a lion, its mane draped over his shoulders.

They walk into Carnivale. It is Sundown’s premier nightclub in Fauborg Marigny. They travel through the bar full of mortals. They can feel their blood pumping, the heat from their bodies envelopes them.

Cross nods at the bartender who tilts his head to a large bouncer, who opens the door he is guarding. Cross reaches out to pluck a beautiful woman, pushing out to dazzle her with his Majesty.

“You’re coming with me my dear. What is your name?” – Cross

“Celeste” – She whispers

“A beautiful name” – Cross

“You’re beautiful” – Celeste, breathlessly

“I’ll carve it on your tombstone personally” – Cross smiling

She shivers and shakes her head. Cross notices her nipples tighten through her dress
Cross and Foucault walk past a thick red curtain and enter the Gran Ballo, they are lauded by everyone there. A spontaneous round of applause breaks out amongst the crowd. The floor curves down to form a shallow bowl. In the far corner are three crosses lit by candlelight.

On them are nailed Christ and the two sinners. A Kindred in the costume of a Roman Centurion, wielding the Spear of Destiny is miming around the stage enacting the passion play of Longinus, the centurion who pierced the side of Christ, proving his divinity and damning himself for eternity. The Sanctified are tasked with spreading his message.

The figures on the crosses are human, their wounds and suffering very real. Gags around their mouths stop their screams of horror and pain.

(to Celeste)”Pay attention my dear. You won’t see this again” – Cross

Celeste gasps and moves closer to Cross.

Foucault becomes aware that the Kindred are not looking at him, paying him no attention. He hears no mention of his name, everyone who talks talks of the death of Aaron Mayfair but only Cross’ name is passed around. The auras of the Kindred reflect a telling flow of green love, yellow fear and red hate. Foucault is nothing more than an occasional orange spike of curiosity.

In a distant corner lounges Pearl Chastain, away from everyone. She wears an elegant swan mask that contrasts with her ever-present faded print summer dress. She half-heartedly waves at Cross.

Marcus and several members of the Ordo Dracul cluster near a pillar in a small group. Foucault notices that the ones on the outside are subtly deflecting passers-by from entering the circle or getting too close. Their faces smile and emote banal pleasantries and random tangents. Their hands however move in the familiar code of the Order. Important business is being discussed.

Marcus is under threat, suspicion and yellow fear flare through his aura. The others are pale auras of transparent grey with red points of frustration forming and disappearing.

Maldonato stands near the stage, his arms folded and his brow creased with concern. He wears flowing desert robes and a fez. He catches the attention of both Cross and Foucault, inkling his head in greeting. He turns and walks slowly out of the room, ensuring that they see him leave through the door on the far side.

The coterie follow, Cross half holding, half dragging Celeste with him through the door that leads outside to the rear of Carnivale.

Maldonato turns at the bottom of 3 wooden steps. The door closes behind the three and a tall figure, dressed in the clothes of a preacher steps in front of it baring their exit. He clicks his knuckles, tattoos read LOVE and HATE. Rieger shows no sign of recognising his sire, Cross.

Beyond Maldonato at the corner of the alley stands a Kindred woman, quite short with a practical bob wearing a dark knee length fastened jacket. Dark stains are visible on her cuffs as she folds her arms. The Beast howls at this strange predator but both Cross and Foucault keep their cool.

“What is she doing here?” – Maldonato, pointing at Celeste with two fingers.

“Keel” – Cross shouts out to his ghoul handler, who pushes open the door and indicates his presence with a furtive head. Cross hands Celeste over to him and Rieger shuts the door over her protests.

“Congratulations” – Maldonato looking straight at Cross

“Thank you, fortune favours the bold it seems” – Cross

“Indeed” – Maldonato, a smile briefly flashing across his face. “As you are probably aware you are to receive the Warehouse District”

“I’d heard whispers” – Cross

“But there is the matter of the rent” – Maldonato, emphasising the last word he nearly spits it

“Go on” – Cross, a hint of weariness in his voice

Maldonato hands over a folded piece of paper. On it, copied out, is the Prophecy as written in Papa Iblis’ journal

“A little wordy for a mission statement” – Cross

“Jacob. That is your rent. I want… need you to find out about it” – Maldonato

His eyes look at Foucault for the first time. Then back to Cross

“I have seen that before. But I do not remember it.” – Maldonato

He pulls out another copy of the Prophecy this time with notes and references.

“That is my handwriting but I don’t remember writing it” – Maldonato

Silence

“The line that unsettles me the most is ‘the idealist slays the righteous’, obviously some kind of attack against our Prince. The most righteous of them all.” – Maldonato

“Undeniably” – Cross

“The Prince does not know of this” – Maldonato

“Nor should he. It is the duty of loyal subjects to remove the threat and then present him with assurances of his safety” – Cross

“I knew that you would understand Jacob” – Maldonato

“Trouble yourself no further Maldonato. It is taken care of” – Cross

“Joseph, behind you, is the new priest of the Warehouse District. Make use of him” – Maldonato

“I thank you” – Cross

There is a move of Maldonato’s head, a flick of an eye but Cross misses its meaning. Maldonato is very used to hiding his expression. He is after all second only to the Prince.

“Report to me in one month” – Maldonato

“Very well” – Cross

“I want to know the truth of this paper. Who is behind it? What does it mean? In need every line scrutinised” – Maldonato

With a curt nod Maldonato enters Carnivale. The woman in front of them gives a throaty growl, she walks away, her hands deep in her pockets and a scowl on her face.

Joseph Rieger bows to them both. A meaningful glance is given to Cross… that doesn’t escape Foucault.

The coterie walk back inside as a scream of pain breaks out. Rieger quickly shuts the door.
The spear tormenting the mortals on the Cross is hollow and at the bottom of the shaft is a glass that fills slowly with blood.

‘Longinus’ proffers the glass to Cross

“Drink Jacob?” – Donovan’s voice is neutral behind the mask.

“Don’t mind if I do” – Cross, he turns and raises his glass high to the room. “Prince Augusto Vidal”

The entire room stops for a moment.

“Prince Augusto Vidal”, echoes around the chamber, heels clicking and glasses clinking.

Foucault weaves through the upraised goblets and masked Kindred. No one pays him any attention. Their auras are clear though.

People are afraid of Cross.

Marcus nods as Foucault approaches, pushing his way through the first ring of Kindred that keep non Ordo Dracul back.

Marcus stands dressed as Death, the sharpness of his scythe shows that this is a weapon. His companions are Andrea Oulette, Priscus of the Nosferatu and Guardian of the Ordo Dracul and Tobias Grout, Grand Wyrm, another Nosferatu. On the surface conversation seems to be nonsensical and simple. Bland phrases and esoteric ramblings.

Underneath however, communicated through the finger tap code of the Ordo Dracul both Nosferatu are pressuring Marcus to reveal the location of his Wyrm’s Nest… Warehouse #9, usually these two are hostile to each other but something has caused them to unite.

Foucault taps a greeting. A finger flurry gives a tense reply.

“The ley lines are shifting, centring on one spot. Storyville”

Tobias says something complementary to Marcus. “The only line that hasn’t been affected so far is Warehouse #9”, his fingers slow and methodical

“Thank you for this honour. I can only hope that my resources can be of use” – Marcus (fingers: fuck off. I found it. It is mine.)

“The strength of our Order is in our united approach to the mysteries of the world. You should respect my sire’s research and his desire to keep it secret. Should it fall into the wrong hands” – Foucault’s finger are both bold and subordinate as he talks about new avenues of research that he has discovered.

“Know your place Scribe. However, we should meet” – Tobias Grout finger are blunt

A flutter of fingers between Grout and Oulette. Marcus and Foucault exchange a glance. If the Warehouse is revealed and they discover what they are doing there Marcus could be expelled.

The fingers give Marcus 10 years to complete his research and allow access to his Wyrm’s Nest. 10 years before they ask again. Vigorously.

Donovan drives the spear up into the heart of Christ. The dying scream of the mortal fills the chamber.

Maldonato takes the stage.

“Kindred. Tonight marks an important night as we recognise that those who are not full members of our church still do the work of Damnation that God intended” – Maldonato

He holds up a Bible.

“Does it not say in scripture we should kill the witch? The Prince has authorised me to speak, he will not be in attendance. He is dealing with other matters of state but he passes on his prayers to Jacob Cross. Who I now ask to join me.”

Cross waits a moment and steps on stage, bowing to the audience.

“Jacob Cross is an example to us all. Valiantly, with some small aid by others, he slaughtered the thing that has stopped us spread the cause of Damnation. He has not only lived up to the ideals of his own covenant but he has also fulfilled the virtues of the Church to reveal that all of us can be Sanctified” – Maldonato, holding up his glass of human blood.

Cross shifts his weight subtly, a heroic pose that allows him to move quickly if needed.
“I ask you all to raise you glasses in honour of the contribution that Jacob has made to Kindred society and under the Prince’s auspice I grant him the Warehouse District” – Maldonato

He tips his glass to allow a single drop of blood to fall to the floor. Two ghouls, one with his mouth sewn shut, the other with his eyes sewn closed drive their spears into the two thieves. An echo of human suffering reverberates around the room as the gathered Kindred call out:

“Jacob Cross”

Foucault’s hand clenches and relaxes, quickening in speed as his Beast rages in jealousy. These honours, this recognition, the reward is his not Cross. His vision clouds. His fangs extend. A low hiss escapes his clenched teeth.

The last thing Foucault is aware of is Donovan removing the centurion’s helmet and mask… and smiling.

Cross surveys the raised glasses and cold smiles of the assembled Kindred. The centre parts as Foucault stalks forward, his mouth moving quickly, spewing nonsense, his eyes unfocused. His movements are jerky and mechanical, his fingers hooked.

Foucault snarls. Cross feels steely invisible fingers grasp at his chest and hurl him backwards in to the wall behind him. Foucault advances spitting.

Cross forces the blood into his limbs as his feet touch the floor and he blurs forward, arms outstretched at Foucault.

Foucault reaches out towards the blurred figure in front of him. The nonsense still audible but no longer coming from Foucault’s mouth. Glasses shatter in the hands of the Kindred around him.

Cross, moving faster than the eye can see, grabs Foucault arm and hurls him to the floor.
“Look at me” – Cross

The Kindred of the room are aware of Cross’s sudden Majesty, all taking a step back.
Cross gazes into Foucault’s face, the mask of blood and flesh barely containing the fury within… but it is transfixed by Cross’ eyes.

Certain he has control, Cross slowly turns his back on Foucault, taking a few steps away from his coterie mate before turning back. He lifts his chin, looking down on the ragged figure.

“Kneel”

Foucault’s mind snaps back, the frenzy of the Beast broken by Cross’ Entrancement but Foucault feels no affection, only the cold certainty that his coterie mate is attempting to exploit the situation.

“Cross. You despicable coward. You try to take the credit for my own works. You saw me kill him with my bare hands, you saw me drain the blood from his broken body. I am in possession of Aaron Mayfair’s head” – Foucault

“A mad dog, ladies and gentlemen. Nothing more than a rabid animal” cries Cross, playing to the crowd. “No better than a Beast on a chain. Do you see how he flouts the rules of our society? How he disdains us? Yes I used him to get the job done. I used him to keep us safe. And he is a useful tool. Maybe he should bear this in mind”

“An interesting interpretation of hanging on my coat tails when I took down Aaron Mayfair. What was your rationale behind it? What was your particular reason? Or was it in fact my reason?” – Foucault

“I don’t know Foucault. What was your reason when you killed Rhett Carver?” – Cross

“I believe only one of us in this conversation has diablerised another Kindred” – Foucault

“The things I have to do to … rectify your indiscretions” – Cross, scanning the crowd, pushing out with his Majesty

There is a growing murmur amongst the Kindred. Cross catches Maldonato’s eye. The Seneschal steps forward.

“Listen to Jacob Cross he speaks the truth” – Maldonato

“With a due respect, Maldonato, you are a credit to Kindred society but were not present. How can you say this is truth?” – Foucault

“You’ve all been present when he tried to tear me from the stage. You are demonstrating your gratitude to us. To us! But he shows no respect. I don’t wish any harm Willem Foucault, I think you are a pillar of this society but you must know your place” – Cross

The murmurs of the crowd reflect the general consensus. Perhaps Foucault did take part in this achievement. Perhaps the accolades should fall on both.

A single figure, misshapen head, one good eye staring balefully at the scene steps forwards. It is Gutterball, the Master of Elysium.

“Jacob is right. Whether or not the noble Willem killed Aaron Mayfair he has broken Elysium rules. I propose that this party is ended and at the next Mass, the Prince will decide the appropriate punishment” – Gutterball

“I will plead mercy for you Willem” – Cross

When no one is looking Cross mouths “well played” to Foucault

Foucault glares at Cross through the mask of Aaron Mayfair as the assembly leaves quickly. The place is emptied. Only Nathaniel Blanch and Pearl Chastain linger.

Foucault turns and approaches Blanch. His cloak of feather envelops his ratty PI suit. They are owl feathers. His face make up is a stylised Native American owl totem.

“You’ve turned up for an event that was slightly more eventful than I anticipated” – Foucault
“Well son… I think it went very well. You handled that just fine.” –Blanch, his face rippling as he squints at Foucault… almost looking past him.

“You remember our last meeting?” – Blanch

“Indeed I do” – Foucault

“10 years ago now” – Blanch

“I still recall it vividly. You were most supportive… at a time when we were still establishing ourselves.” – Foucault

“Do you have any idea what I said to at that time?” – Blanch

“If I remember correctly, ‘Careful of what you’re getting yourselves in to’” – Foucault

“That was the general gist of it but do you remember my very kind offer to you?” – Blanch
“Are you ready for that meeting with the Baron?” – Foucault

“I’ve been ready for a hundred years, son. How long you been ready?” – Blanch

“Well… it has only been in recent weeks that I have made some breakthroughs in terms of connections” – Foucault

Blanch suddenly smiles.

“Well you certainly know how to paint a target on your back, don’t you? Spirits ain’t happy with you killing Aaron Mayfair”– Blanch

“I’m sure they’ll get over it” – Foucault

“Some of them will. Ones I’ve been talking to, well I been saying what a nice fella you, an agreeable sort you are. Y’know, now that you are going to get that meeting with Baron Cimitiere for me” – Blanch

“When will it be amenable to your ends to meet?” – Foucault

“Let’s say I am a Kindred of leisure and I wait upon your telegram” – Blanch

“Indeed. I will accelerate matters” – Foucault

“It would be most appreciated. A very nice costume by the way” – Blanch, hand outstretched

“Thank you. I wear him well.” – Foucault, shaking Blanch’s hand. There is a firmness to his grip. He lets go after making sure Foucault knows that he is stronger.

Blood_Trail.jpg

The Kindred are exiting Elysium, panicked faces beneath their masks. Ghouls start stripping down the crucified corpses and removing evidence of the gathering

Cross kneels before Pearl Chastain, lounging sideways on a comfortable chair, who head resting on her hand.

“Mr Cross! You have done me proud. I knew that you would sort out the situation” – Chastain

“As ever I do what I can to assist the Invictus. I had hoped that it would be slightly less messy than this.” – Cross

“I would watch that Foucault. He is a bit of a ‘one’ isn’t he?” – Chastain

“He is at that my lady. But, as long as one knows how to control him” – Cross

“As long as he remembers the Invictus are to be respected” – Chastain

“And feared” – Cross

“Fear and Love, Cross. Fear and Love” – Chastain

“Hearts and minds, my lady. I was surprised to see you linger. I imagine you have all manner of interesting diversions to attend to. Is there something you wish of me?” – Cross

“I have eternity. Except for the sun, fire.” – Chastain muses, puffing on her cigarette and nodding to behind Cross.

Pierpont McGinn smile fades as Cross turns, his mask gone, he ushers out a young man of 21. Fresh faced but Kindred.

“Pierpont has become an unpleasant distraction of late.” – Chastain

“It is a shame what some Kindred will do, well, don’t worry yourself my lady. I wouldn’t want you to worry about anything.” – Cross

“You have done very well, Mr Cross. Very, very well. If I only had you on the Invictus Inner Circle. A voice of reason. Out of interest, do you know what you need to be invited?” – Chastain

“I’m in the dark” – Cross

“Well that is good. You need to gather power and influence. Pierpont is too protected and I can’t act directly. If he were to be embarrassed, strip him of his arrogance piece by bloody piece… He could be made an example of. As I’ve said my position, Primogen, Priscus, Domain holder I can’t act against him. What I would need is a loyal servant… who would I trust to remove this stone from my shoe?” – Chastain

“I would strive to remove any obstacles, my lady. Leave it to me.” – Cross

Pearl holds his eyes for a moment before proffering a hand. A slow smile spreads across her face. Cross bends to kiss it maintaining eye contact.

Pearl stands and with a little incline of her head leaves.

The room is empty, save for the ghouls zipping up their body bags. Cross and Foucault face each other across the back room of Carnivale.

“Well. That all went according to plan. Didn’t it?” – Cross

Foucault’s blank face breaks into a wicked smile.

“With some… alteration”

The ghouls are busy striping Carnivale of any Masquerade breaking signs. Cross and Foucault are alone. The only Kindred left in the large hall.

Save one. Sundown.

He sits on a stool at the bar he’s watching them. The 19 year old’s face is smooth and wan with only a hint of his Creole heritage. His eyes however seem to hunger as they move from Foucault to Cross and back again. Both get a tingle up their back and an involuntary shudder.

He nods, “You guys should play nice. Otherwise one of you is gonna get hurt”

Cross smooths his jacket down, “Did you… enjoy the show?”

“Kindred politics isn’t my flavour”

“What is your flavour?” – Foucault, stepping forwards

“I like”, fiddling with a cuff link “I like to taste. I got forever… there’s plenty of ways to enjoy it” – Sundown

“What is it that you are hoping to taste here? Now. Or are we going to spend the rest of the evening dancing?” – Cross

“Just wondering when you are going to repay that favour?” – Sundown

“I assume there is something you want me to do?” Cross, almost impatiently

“I’m opening a new place. It’ll be good. Different.” – Sundown

“You want someone to handle the PR” – Cross

“Matter of rent. I’m opening in your territory” – Sundown

“Do you have any objection of me having a presence?” – Sundown

“Yes. I would. See I’ve made my way on my own. Making my own business my own business. I’m unattached. I’m impartial. I don’t give a shit about your gravy train of blood that’s missing half the wheels. All I want to do is enjoy whats mine and make a little scratch on the side” – Sundown

“So long as you keep it quiet now. We can stay out of each other’s affairs. But we’ll keep an eye” – Cross, turning to Foucault, “any objections?”

“Well. As we are on the topic of rent. That seems like an open lease. No rent would be, any information that could be of interest to us.” – Foucault

Sundown grins, with teeth “That would mean me knowing your affairs. You want me to know your affairs?”

“May I take some with my friend here?” – Cross

“You take all the time you need”, Sundown turns a little on his stool and looks down at his chess game. Foucault notices that the pieces are arranged in a way that is incredibly unlikely to occur. This game involves three kings. There is no particular side, clumped together in unusual patterns. One has a lot of bishops… another has a lot of knights… the final one is a bit more bland except for the number of pawns. Cross follows Foucault’s gaze. Just from looking he can tell one is the Prince, one of the other Kings is a queen, Pearl Chastain. The third one is Baron Cimitiere. This piece Sundown taps thoughtfully.

Cross and Foucault keep their faces flat but Sundown notices their gaze. Looking at Cross he flicks the queen over.

Cross pulls Foucault to one side, “Sundown’s survived by being unaligned. By existing on neutral ground. He hears things. Even if he doesn’t volunteer anything he could be a source of information”

“Do you buy his ‘I don’t care about politics’?” – Foucault

“No. He’s picked a side. I just don’t know which side he has picked” – Cross

“He has a reputation for being neutral. Perhaps he is neutral? That chessboard maps out the covenants. Sanctified, Invictus and the followers of Cimitiere. I think there is more going on here than just a conversation. He has come to us in Elysium and set out this board. Is he trying to impart a message? We just have to figure out how to play” – Foucault

“I think Sundown is faking, using misdirection. He is a much more dangerous person than he makes out” – Cross

“Do you have an objection to me saying that anyone comes to our domain is to be relayed to us?” – Foucault

“I’m not sure he will go for that. We have to ask for something” – Cross

“What of this favour?” – Foucault

“Technically. I owe two”, Cross reflects, “he would be a dangerous Kindred to cross”

“Again. An unknown variable in our affairs” – Foucault

“I am more suspicious of him than I am of any of the other players” – Cross

“So, keep our enemies closer.” – Foucault

“Perhaps Krieger. Yes” – Cross

Foucault and Cross walk back to Sundown, who smiles politely as they approach.

“We feel you could be an asset in our domain.” – Cross

“You flatter me” – Sundown, one hand going to his heart

“I pay my debts. Don’t overstep the mark” – Cross

“I wouldn’t dream of it” – Sundown

“Now the rent. Anyone comes into our domain. Anyone. Anything. That seems hostile to us in some way you will tip us off. In return you will set up your bar in our area and we will protect your interests in our domain.” – Foucault

“That’s a carefully thought out and worded proposition,” Sundown smiling broadly “But I have a counter proposition. I set up a bar in your domain and I don’t pay squat”

“Well. Let me think about that.” – Foucault

Sundown begins to fade from sight. Cross snarls and blurs forward but meets resistance as Foucault’s ghostly companion appears in front of him between Cross and the almost faded Sundown.

Soon Foucault can only just make out a blurred shape where Sundown was sitting.

“Restrain him” – Foucault to his pet ghost, Aldous MacArthur.

Sundown moves quickly to the door.

Cross seeks control and manages to pull his .45 before the red mist overcomes him and he pushes past MacArthur, who disperses, and leaps at the blurred shape of Sundown. Cross’s fingers sink into flesh that isn’t quite there. Then it’s gone out the side door.

Foucault becomes aware of the four ghouls behind them. They’ve stopped. Foucault pulls his gun own gun and aims for where Sundown is but he’s gone. Foucault runs to the door.

He hears the sounds of weapons being drawn behind and unintelligble shouts.

Cross is blocking the side door, his Beast struggling with its mechanism. He is completely silent but blinks from place to place, moving faster than Foucault can see.

Foucault quickly opens the door and Cross blinks out. Foucault can see the blurred form of Sundown running down the alley way.

Cross blinks and is at the alleyway. He starts beating the wall in frustration. Sundown is gone. Foucault careful not to get too close to Cross reaches the end of the alley way.

Foucault starts talking, attempting to calm Cross down. His voice is steady and rational.
Cross suddenly stops and stares at his bloody hands. Foucault is talking, “I think this night has been enough of a disaster. Get in the fucking car”

He waves at Marcel to bring the car over. He pulls round in a big uturn, sidewalk to sidewalk. This part of Fauborg Marigny is quieting down at this time of night, some drunken revellers stagger across the street.

A rattle of gun fire breaks out behind them. One hits Cross in the back and another two hit Foucault. One in the leg and one in shoulder

As Cross steps into the car pushed by Foucault “Drive”, the heat from Marcel’s body hits him, stirring his Beast now starving of Blood. He drags the driver backwards out of the driver’s seat and fastens his fangs on the pulsing jugular of Marcel.

Foucault steps backward and pulls the trigger of his pistol, hitting him in the head at point blank range.

Cross collapses, dazed.

Foucault ensures Marcel is not in danger and jumps into the driver’s seat. “I think we came quite to lose it all there. We’ll get you patched up and talk about this tomorrow night.”

“I need a whore. Now” – Cross, his voice thick.

Gun fire hits the back of the car as it peels away. Foucault spots Sundown on the corner, immaculately dressed unfastening his bow tie. He leans against a red brick wall and blows them a kiss.

Foucault elaborates to Cross what has just happened.

“Yeah yeah yeah. I get it. I lost control. But that doesn’t change that I am going to fuck him so hard.” – Cross, through gritted teeth.

“Oh I will gladly be of assistance”- Foucault, driving into the distance.

Blood_Trail.jpg

Cross opens his eyes in his well-appointed haven apartment, in the French Quarter. On a chair waiting patiently is Junior Mayfair.

“Do you know an individual named Sundown?” – Cross

“Yeas” – Junior

“I want everything he has” – Cross

“Everything?” – Junior, raising an eyebrow

“I want his networks, his contacts and his power base. Then I want his head. The last part I can deal with myself. This will help me further your goals” –Cross

“That is going to take some juice, I am going to need you to do something for me. For something like this I’m going to need sacrifices. Do you have a strong stomach?” –Junior, musing

“I‘ll do whatever needs to be done. But I expect you to assist” – Cross

“I’ll do whatever I can to help” – Junior smiling

“I think given the circumstances that a gesture of good faith on your part might be in order” – Cross

“I deal in practicalities. I cannot give you what you want unless you do something” – Junior

Cross gestures for him to continue.

“I need three sacrifices. They need to be given over to me, body and soul. Consenting but not necessarily informed” – Junior

“I know people. And… I can be very persuasive” – Cross, not blinking.

“These sacrifices need to go out and kill one innocent person each that is wealthier than them. It’s the only way to get the juice for this” – Junior

“Then I’d better get started. The night is young” – Cross

“Then we have an agreement” – Junior, standing and holding out his hand

Cross reaches out and as they touch the lights flicker and Junior Mayfair looks like something made of gold. In the corner in the shadows is the figure of an old man, his head in his hands.

Junior smiles.

“Congratulations, you are now the richest man in New Orleans” – Junior

Blood_Trail.jpg

Warehouse #9 looms above Foucault. It may be the light or where he stands but the shape seems distorted somehow…

Foucault examines what he is seeing. He isn’t sure but the building is bigger. Only by a few metres. The distance from the chain link fence and the rusted staircase are longer. The walls of the house are higher.

As he passes the security cabin and the sleeping security guard, he sees the table covered in dust. The wood of the rusted stair case creak loudly. They seem older and more rotten.
The lightbulb above the door flickers. For a moment there is the shape of a man, stooped and hunched over at the edge of Foucault’s vision. He looks but it is gone, a simple trick of the light.

Foucault knocks. And the door creaks open. He glances at his watch. Its five past ten.
He walks along the gantry overlooking the warehouse floor. Marcus’ study is wrecked and torn to pieces. Shreds of paper, the protection marks stripped from the walls.

Down in the pit of the warehouse floor is the giant summoning circle, scorched on the ground. Marcus sits on the chair with the manacles in the centre, the blood stains are still fresh. He is slumped in defeat. Around him are human bodies. Not dead but twitching.

There are bags of spilt white powder all around them, their arms and legs seem to be lightly tied with fine, gossamer threads of cotton. Needles are stuck in the seven bodies that are scattered around the chair.

The office has been wrecked in anger and frustration contrasting with the stillness from below. On the chalk board are two words GIVE UP. Foucault glances at his wristwatch. It is five minutes past ten.

“Marcus?” – Foucault’s voice is flat and dead in the cavernous warehouse.

His sire doesn’t respond. Doesn’t even stir.

Foucault looks around. Despite the wreckage of the office everything here looks like it was done years ago. Decades even. As he reaches out with his senses he feels nothing. Before this place was electric, moans and screams filled the cold air. Writhing shapes pressed out of the wall.

But now? Nothing. Completely still.

From down in the pit a child sobs softly. Foucault walks back out to the gantry and slowly down the metal stair case. His foot hovers over the concrete floor, the summoning circle darkly etched into the fake stone.

His foot travels back to the staircase. His hackles rise.

The sobbing comes from a young boy easily under the age of 10, lying on his side. His skin is heavily tanned, almost Arabian. He is only wearing a dirty white man’s shirt, one sleeve rolled up. 3 needles are stuck in his arm. Tears roll down his face, his eyes frightened.

Marcus is slumped on the chair, his eyes cast down.

“What is happening here” – Foucault to the boy who looks up.

“Help. Help me” – the boy’s voice is weak, his eyes speaking volumes.

“And how can I do that?” – Foucault

There is a patina of sweat across the boy’s forehead, he is very pale. He weakly paws at the needles in a futile gesture. They are jammed in almost to the glass.

The syringe plungers are slowly being drawn down by the force of the boy’s pulse.

Foucault looks around. The warehouse lights are on, the wiring is shoddy causing them to flicker and buzz. He spies a fuse box across the warehouse floor… across the summoning circle.

Foucault knows that he shouldn’t cross the summoning circle. It is clear that SOMETHING is happening or has happened. The boy is perhaps the last sacrifice in a ritual. Demonology suggests that demons do not follow the three dimensions of the physical world. If he could circumnavigate the circle, not literally cross the line, he should be fine. Should be. Foucault stares at the warehouse rafters.

He turns and walks back up the staircase. The boy sobs in the background.

Foucault climbs onto the rusted and rotten rafters that interlace the ceiling of the warehouse. Taking his time and watching his footing he makes it halfway across until he reaches a gap which will require a leap of faith. He can use the light fitting to bridge the distance, using his momentum to swing across to the furthest rafter.

He launches himself into space grabbing hold of the light fixture. He swings across. Then the bolts give. Foucault’s hands reach out for the rafter but it is greasy, wet with slime and mould. His finger tips slide off.

He falls…

And lands in Azazel’s bookstore. On Azazel’s armchair. A plume of dust is thrown up into the air. The bookshelves are empty, only dust lines them.

At the door, the shop sign is turned to closed. Outside is night. Foucault glances at his watch. It still reads five minutes past ten.

The Arab child lies over the counter, his head resting next to the cash register. He snores gently. There are no signs of plungers.

Foucault opens his mouth but no sound comes out.

I hate demons of Sloth –Foucault’s thoughts are clear as crystal

The boy raises his head. His eyes are still shut. His face is calm.
He smiles.

“Why… are you… here?” – a voice whispers in Foucault’s head

“I want to know what has happened to Marcus” – Foucault

“Nothing” – is the cryptic response

“He is in a warehouse, slumped in the middle of a summoning circle, surrounded by the bodies of dead junkies. The warehouse seems to have aged years in a matter of weeks. I don’t buy that nothing has happened to him” – Foucault

“He’s … not… there.” – the voice replies slowly

“Where is he?” – Foucault

“Why … should… I …tell … you? What… are you… going… to do… for… me?” – the voice

“What do you want?” – Foucault

“Nothing” – the voice

“I’ll spend the rest of the evening counting the dust motes on that desk” – Foucault

“(chuckles) sounds … like … a … lot … of … work” – the voice

“This chair is rather comfortable. I’ll just have a rest” – Foucault

“Close … your… eyes” – voice

Foucault does so and hears the light footsteps of a child moving around him. The voice now comes from behind his ear.

“That is good. Good!” – voice

Hands that appear to have six fingers gently creep to Foucault’s shoulders, massaging softly

“So… what can I do for you?” – voice

“Well, sorry I can’t seem to remember” – Foucault

“Good! I appreciate the modicum of respect. It is more than your kin ever showed me.
They expected me to … do things for them. I mean, really! That. Is. Not. The. Way. It. Works.” – voice

“Yes, I’m afraid Marcus has rather overreached recently” – Foucault

The massage stops suddenly. A gentle kiss starts at the back of his neck.

“What do you care about?” – voice

“Perhaps against my better judgement, I do care about Marcus, I care what happens to him. He seems to be rather lost.” – Foucault

“I’ll tell you what I’ll do” – voice “if you agree not to help him. I’ll give you something”

“What would that be?” – Foucault

“What do you want?” – voice

“I want Marcus to be saved” – Foucault

“Two words. Free will” – voice

“Tricky. Tricky. The way you can save Marcus… This warehouse. Burn it and Marcus will be saved.” – voice

“Freeing you in the process” – Foucault

“I am already free. In all the ways that you are not” – the voice, the kissing travels to the other side of the neck. What feels like a tentacle begins wrapping itself around Foucault’s head, it is slimey but oddly comforting pulsations running through it are relaxing.

“Basically, putting an end to his experiments to try and control you and your kind” – Foucault

“Oh he is not trying to control my kind. Just me. I don’t like that” – voice

“I imagine it has something to do with Azazel.” – Foucault

“Ah. Daniel. I knew him when he knew his own name. Funny… Do we have an agreement? Or do I have to sweeten the pot?” – voice

“Out of curiosity. What is your current relationship with Daniel?” – Foucault

“He currently doesn’t do things for me. I like that. It took a little time. But he got the message” – voice

For a moment Foucault feels weightless. The chair seems to disappear. Then it feels like he is in bed. Sheets over him. They are warm and very comfortable. Soft and velvety, with some kind of down over them.

Foucault mind works hard. Desperately reviewing what he knows so far, working out whether this deal is worth it. It is dark inside his own head. Dark except for a white dot that appears to grow in size.
_
It forms into an old man, nearly bent over double. He wears the white suit of a Southern gentleman…

“Aaron?” – Foucault

“Vampire” – Aaron Mayfair

“Good to meet you again. Sorry we never really met did we? My name is Willem.” – Foucault
“I know what you think your name is. So this demon is free. He wants you to burn this warehouse because this is the last Wyrms Nest. The last nexus point that will focus all the occulted energies of N’awlins on to Storyville” – Aaron Mayfair

“Interesting. So the demon is trying to prevent the Prophecy from coming to be” – Foucault

“The destruction of the warehouse would change the leylines of N’awlins. It will focus. If you want to save your creator. That is what you are going to have to do.” –Aaron Mayfair

“See, unlike you Aaron. Family is rather important to me” – Foucault

“I resent that. My family was VERY important to me too” – Aaron Mayfair

“Oh yes but your definition of family was very conditional” – Foucault

“That was because our blood was poisoned” – Aaron Mayfair

“Since we are finally having a little chat… what DID that vampire do to you?” – Foucault

“He made me fuck my own daughter” – Aaron Mayfair

“And how did he do that” – Foucault

“(long pause) he took advantage of my weaker impulses and gave me (choking) what I wanted” – Aaron Mayfair

“And what was that?” – Foucault

“Stella” – Aaron Mayfair

“Oh and poor poor poor pathetic little creature” – Foucault

“I don’t want your pity. I’m in your head. You are still my tool. You all are” – Aaron Mayfair, nearly spitting with cold rage_

The light fades leaving Foucault in blackness once again.

“Demon” – Foucault

“If we are going to speak to one another Willem, my name is Meserarch” – Mesearch the Demon

“I think that the more interesting exchange to be made… Marcus is an individual of resources. I’m sure he’ll find a way to look after himself” – Foucault

“That is the spirit” – Meserach

“Someone who has been working very hard, for a very long time to stop something that you want to happen and I don’t care either way about… burning down the warehouse will rearrange the leylines of New Orleans…” – Foucault

“WHO TOLD YOU THAT?” – Meserarch, suddenly angry

“I know quite a lot more than people give me credit for. I had a mage problem. We may have had the same problem. A Mr. Aaron Mayfair?” – Foucault

“I only knew his Shadow name but that is very useful to know thank you” – Meserarch

“Well I…” – Foucault

“don’topenyoureyes” – Meserarch, interrupting

The sensation of the bed and the velvety covers fades away. Foucault is now standing. He concentrates on keeping his eyes shut.

“You will be aware that his corporeal form is destroyed” – Foucault

“Yes” – Meserarch

“His blood now courses through my veins” – Foucault

“Blood. Such an inefficient lubricant” – Meserarch

“He thinks he is playing the long game. He has used various different devices to control me and other figures and trying to prevent the Prophecy from coming into being and…” – Foucault

“… What… Prophecy?” – Meserarch suddenly curious

“I can tell you more if you can find a way of removing him from my mind. You see he died but he is still inside me” – Foucault

(a long pause)

“THERE he is!” – Meserarch

Foucault is struck by an excruciating head pain, searing his mind with white hot fire. And Aaron Mayfair is gone.

“It’s in the blood… his grand sire had it… his sire had it… now he has it…” – Meserarch

“Aaron Mayfair thought he could control me. That backfired upon him” – Foucault

“I don’t want you to do anything” – Meserarch

The six fingered hands move across Foucault’s face. To his eyes, resting on either side, stretching them slightly.

“So what do you mean it’s in my blood” – Foucault

“For some reason your line seems to have a connection with me. I like it. Keep it in the family. Very useful” – Meserarch

“What are you trying to show me?” – Foucault

“Nothing “ – Meserarch

“So given that I have assisted in the Prophecy coming to pass…” – Foucault

“What. Prophecy?” – Meserarch, firmly

“Now that’s interesting isn’t it? That I know something you don’t” – Foucault

“TELL ME” – Meserarch, his words vibrating through Foucault very being

“So…” – Foucault

A pressure is applied to Foucault’s arm.

“As I have said… so many times… to so many people I’m much better as an ally than an adversary. You can break my arm. You see…” – Foucault

“If only there was a way to get to you. Do you like things?” – Meserarch

“Yes I do” – Foucault

“Would you like to keep them? TELL ME” – Meserarch

“Now then. This isn’t very slothful is it? We’re having a conversation. I will tell you. I believe something of great significance is to happen in New Orleans and that the request you made of me, which I am rather puzzled by, to help me put the pieces together. I thought it was because of this Prophecy but seemingly there was another reason. I’m just wondering if you. Like me. Have been played by someone else” – Foucault

“I’m not played. Nobody plays me, maybe once. A long time ago but not now” – Meserarch

“I…” – Foucault

“Shhh… I’m bored” – Meserarch

Foucault wakes up in the middle of the summoning circle surrounded by dead bodies. Marcus is not there. The child is not there.

Foucault stands, adjusting his suit and walks out. He makes a cursory search for Marcus on the way noticing that the writing on the chalk board is still there: “GIVE UP”.

As he opens the warehouse door, the flickering light bulb bursts in a shower of sparks and broken glass. The Beast stirs for a second at the flash of light. Foucault suddenly feels a sense of oppression, there is something here. Something is with him.

“How can I burn the building down when I have neither fuel nor source of fire? Really?” – Foucault

A voice from below, at the foot of the wooden stairs calls up.

“Who exactly are you talking to?” – Azazel

Azazel, dressed in his dusty great coat up looks at Foucault with an arched eyebrow.

“A friend. Who is that?” – Foucault, feigning ignorance

Azazel climbs the steps. He is in physical form.

“Anyone I know?” – Azazel

“Maybe in a past life” – Foucault

“It’s time” – Azazel

“Time for what?” – Foucault

“You’ll see” – Azazel

“Lead on” – Foucault

Azazel turns and walks back down the steps. A dark green sedan pulls up in front of him. Rust etches the welding seams but the engine sounds strong. Behind the wheel is a round faced woman, blonde hair pulled back in a loose pony tail. Her eyes are hard and cold, staring at Foucault without blinking.

She leans behind her seat and pops open the rear door. Its faint but there is a resemblance to Dominic Gage in this woman.

“(to Azazel) Where are we headed?” – Foucault

“We got two stops to make. One is a place you’ve been before and the other is a place Mr Cross has been before” – Azazel

Foucault’s face is non plussed and he makes no move to the car.

“I’m not going to lie to you. I have no intention to hurt you.” – Azazel

Azazel gets into the car, sliding across to leave enough space for Foucault.

Foucault stands in front of the idling car, the door open.

“Why not?” – Foucault

He climbs in, shutting the door behind him. The thunk of the door has a sense of finality to it. The car roars into life, heading north. They pass through the Central Business District completely quiet and deserted. The only sound is the occasional hum of a street light.

The car pulls up outside a burnt out shell of a townhouse. Most of the structure is still there but whenever the fire happened it happened a while ago. Azazel gets out the car, the woman stars into the rear-view window at Foucault.

“Well it has been a pleasure to meet you” – Foucault before he climbs out the car.

The car pulls off.

“Will you… follow me?” – Azazel

“Lead on” – Foucault

Azazel pulls out a key to the smoke stained red door in front of them, he opens it reverently and crosses the threshold turning to face Foucault. The sign over the door says that the building has been scheduled for demolition but that has been since 1946. This place still remains standing.

Foucault senses tingle, his Beast restless but not angry, hungry or afraid. More expectant. There are two parts to him warring inside. The Beast, compelling him and The Man, his remaining humanity, telling him to get the fuck out of here. Foucault has the growing realisation that if he crosses the threshold of this house, everything will change. Nothing will be the same again. And he will not be able to go back.

“Before I go any further. I think you are going to have to tell me about what this is all about. Or I’m going to have to call it a night.” – Foucault, his voice betraying the conflict raging inside

“Well, it is a night. Recognise this house?” – Azazel

“I do not. Should I?” – Foucault

“You burnt it down. Ten years ago.” – Azazel

“And?” – Foucault

“You did it to get what you wanted” – Azazel

Foucault remembers three Negros. A bar. A wad of cash provided by Cross. Foucault making a deal. Coldly talking about the need for no one to escape.

“A lot of people died here. A lot of suffering.” – Azazel, with a strange intensity

“So… what? Now you are the ghost of Christmas past? Why have you brought me here?” – Foucault

“It is not easy for us to speak of what we are. I thought it best if I show you. What you have done, what you have ended. What you have begun.” – Azazel

“Nothing that you have not done a thousand times over, I’m sure” – Foucault

“I’m not here to judge you. I’m not here to make you… feel guilt. I am trying to show you what it is you are. Truly. Now. That you are a vampire” – Azazel

“Well… I’m sure for those among us that need such lessons, this would be fascinating. But I have had a trying night so far. I’m afraid that I’ll have to bid you a good night.” – Foucault

“Really?” – Azazel

Foucault tips his hat. He feels something grow heavy over him. He stares at Azazel as his expression changes from blank to utter hate, a sneer twisting his mouth as he slams the red door in Foucault’s face. The bang has an edge of finality. His Beast rages within.

Foucault walks the streets of New Orleans deep in thought. His feet lead him back to the bar where Marcus first met him. Where he turned him, Embracing him into his Requiem.

The streets are deserted.

A scratching noise seems to follow him as he climbs the steps to the bar. It sounds like a quill on parchment.

The concerns of that night 11 years ago feel like someone else’s issues. The hitman and the bloody politics of the Mafia are a million miles away.

There is no bartender. The bar is completely deserted. Foucault searches but he is alone. The juke box plays Presley. Drinks stand half drunk on tables. But there is no one there.

The scratching sound grows louder. It’s all around him. For a moment he gets the impression of someone telling him of something. Something very important. That he needs to remember.

Foucault blinks involuntarily.

He is back in the chair in the warehouse.

“Meserarch?” – Foucault’s voice echoes back to him in the cavernous warehouse.

“Marcus?” – A thousand voices of Foucault answer him with his own question

Foucault extends his senses, searching for any presence. His watch says 11 o’clock. Around him is stillness. Utter stasis.

The scratching sound overwhelms him, the voice becomes audible for a moment, only one word “Cross”. Then the sound and voice is gone.

Foucault looks around and sees the fuse box. Poor wiring. A fire hazard waiting to happen.

“So just to show I’m a man of my word but we have much more to discuss” – Foucault making his way to the fuse box.

“Discuss. Discuss. Discuss” – Foucault’s voice echoes around the warehouse

Foucault quickly ensures an electrical fire will start and leaves hurriedly, his Beast urging his movements.

As he opens the warehouse door, the flickering light bulb bursts in a shower of sparks and broken glass. The Beast stirs for a second at the flash of light. Foucault suddenly feels a sense of oppression, there is something here. Something is with him.

An insubstantial form appears next to him, weak and transparent. Aldous MacArthur eyes narrow.

“What is it?” – Foucault

“I know not. I am only now aware” – MacArthur

“We have much to discuss. That bulb. Was that you?” – Foucault

“But we are not alone” – MacArthur

“Who else is here?” – Foucault

MacArthur points

“Who exactly are you talking to?” – Azazel

Azazel, dressed in his dusty great coat up looks at Foucault with an arched eyebrow.

“A friend. Who is that?” – Foucault, feigning ignorance

Azazel climbs the steps. He is in physical form.

“Anyone I know?” – Azazel

“Maybe in a past life” – Foucault

“It’s time” – Azazel

“Time for what?” – Foucault

“You’ll see” – Azazel

“Lead on” – Foucault

Azazel turns and walks back down the steps. A dark green sedan pulls up in front of him. Rust etches the welding seams but the engine sounds strong. Behind the wheel is a round faced woman, blonde hair pulled back in a loose pony tail. Her eyes are hard and cold, staring at Foucault without blinking.

She leans behind her seat and pops open the rear door. Its faint but there is a resemblance to Dominic Gage in this woman.

“(to Azazel) Where are we headed?” – Foucault

“We got two stops to make. One is a place you’ve been before and the other is a place Mr Cross has been before” – Azazel

Foucault’s face is non plussed and he makes no move to the car.

“I’m not going to lie to you. I have no intention to hurt you.” – Azazel

Azazel gets into the car, sliding across to leave enough space for Foucault.

Foucault stands in front of the idling car, the door open.

“Why not?” – Foucault

He climbs in, shutting the door behind him. The thunk of the door has a sense of finality to it. The car roars into life, heading north. They pass through the Central Business District completely quiet and deserted. The only sound is the occasional hum of a street light.

The car pulls up outside a burnt out shell of a townhouse. Most of the structure is still there but whenever the fire happened it happened a while ago. Azazel gets out the car, the woman stars into the rear-view window at Foucault.

“Well it has been a pleasure to meet you” – Foucault before he climbs out the car.

The car pulls off.

“Will you… follow me?” – Azazel

“Lead on” – Foucault

Azazel pulls out a key to the smoke stained red door in front of them, he opens it reverently and crosses the threshold turning to face Foucault. The sign over the door says that the building has been scheduled for demolition but that has been since 1946. This place still remains standing.

Foucault senses tingle, his Beast restless but not angry, hungry or afraid. More expectant. There are two parts to him warring inside. The Beast, compelling him and The Man, his remaining humanity, telling him to get the fuck out of here. Foucault has the growing realisation that if he crosses the threshold of this house, everything will change. Nothing will be the same again. And he will not be able to go back.

“Before I go any further. I think you are going to have to tell me about what this is all about. Or I’m going to have to call it a night.” – Foucault, his voice betraying the conflict raging inside

“Well, it is a night. Recognise this house?” – Azazel

“I do not. Should I?” – Foucault

“You burnt it down. Ten years ago.” – Azazel

“And?” – Foucault

“You did it to get what you wanted” – Azazel

Foucault remembers three Negros. A bar. A wad of cash provided by Cross. Foucault making a deal. Coldly talking about the need for no one to escape.

“A lot of people died here. A lot of suffering.” – Azazel, with a strange intensity

“So… what? Now you are the ghost of Christmas past? Why have you brought me here?” – Foucault

“It is not easy for us to speak of what we are. I thought it best if I show you. What you have done, what you have ended. What you have begun.” – Azazel

“Nothing that you have not done a thousand times over, I’m sure” – Foucault

“I’m not here to judge you. I’m not here to make you… feel guilt. I am trying to show you what it is you are. Truly. Now. That you are a vampire” – Azazel

“I think it’s time I made my own way” – Foucault

“Really?” – Azazel

Foucault tips his hat. He feels something grow heavy over him. He stares at Azazel as his expression changes from blank to utter hate, a sneer twisting his mouth as he slams the red door in Foucault’s face. The bang has an edge of finality. His Beast rages within.

“The night is young” – Foucault, his face hardens

Blood_Trail.jpg

Cross returns to the office to find Foucault standing in darkness looking out of the window. Cross approaches behind him, looks around.

“People are going to start to talk” – Cross

“About what?” – Foucault

“About you” – Cross

“What about me?” – Foucault

“This isn’t normal friend. What’s wrong?” – Cross

“You know what I am” – Foucault

“Yeah. Listen we have to move against Sundown” – Cross

“I have more important things to attend to. Much more important things” – Foucault

“Go on” – Cross

“Though it pains me to say this, I think I might need you” – Foucault

“It’s always been my assessment of the situation. What in particular” – Cross

“It turns out that Stella is dying” – Foucault

“My commiserations” – Cross

“My aim, my question is how do I correct this from happening?” – Foucault

“My question is how she would die. She’s not human. Right?” – Cross

“That is correct” – Foucault

“This is more your bailiwick than mine Foucault…” – Cross

“It is. I need to expand my operations” – Foucault

“I’m listening” – Cross

“As you are aware my interests in the occult run rather deep. I have resources. I have people. I need to expand. I don’t know how much time we have and I need to take it up a level.” – Foucault

“It just so happens Foucault that I have just come in to a degree of money so I might be able to help you out with that” – Cross

“Intriguing and obviously we have to McGinn issue to take care of” – Foucault

“Sundown first. Then McGinn” – Cross

“Well the night is young” – Foucault

Blood_Trail.jpg

Keel pulls up outside the office with another car. 4 men, dressed in cheap suits step out. Foucault and Cross walk out the office. Foucault hands Cross an old ring.

“Keep this on you. If he runs use it” – Foucault

“So. I just throw it at him?” – Cross

“No. Just get it near him. It will do the rest. Trust me” – Foucault aware of the ghost of the young woman with wild hair and bruising around her throat. It glares malevolently.

“Yeah. Yeah I trust you. I’ve set up a meet through some proxies of mine. Sundown won’t see it coming” – Cross

Blood_Trail.jpg

They pull up outside a renovated shotgun house in Treme, behind the skeleton of the Iberville Project is taking shape, the cranes casting dark shadows against the sky. The new sign above the porch says ‘Carrefour’ with a stylised cross running through the middle.

Across the door is a large FORECLOSURE notice.

Keel barks sharp commands to the cheap suits. They move to cover the exits. Keel rips open a fuse box, the few electric lights in the block cut out.

“It’s time we paid a visit” – Foucault

“It’ll be fun” – Cross

“I’m sure it will be” – Foucault

The two Kindred walk quietly through the front door. They step into a large room, styled like a hounfour with a bar around the peristyle wooden pole in the centre. The floor is painted in a black and white checkerboard. Stairs lead up to the second floor.

They climb the stairs as quietly as they can. Creaks indicate movement upstairs and Foucault can hear the faint murmuring of voices, one of which is Sundown. They see burly men stacking crates in the forward room. Upstairs is a lot less polished. Cross struggles to see in the gloom but Foucault can make out the dust and straw that covers every surface.

Foucault moves quickly and silently. It is clear that he has done this before. Cross follows more slowly.

The two men stand in the shadows out of sight of the doorway where the men are working. They exchange a glance before stepping towards the opposite closed door. A flicker of candlelight can be seen under the door. Foucault listens.

“… don’t worry about it. Black outs are common in Treme. I don’t know Andrea, you know I wouldn’t reach out if I didn’t need to. My money has gone. My people have gone. All I’ve got is the leeches outside, the shirt on my back and dirt on half of New Orleans. Enough to shake a few trees” – Sundown

There is a softer murmur. A woman’s voice.

“I’ve been fucking good to the Worm’s in this city. I need some help” – Sundown

Foucault holds up his hand, two fingers. His mind races. This Andrea could only be Andrea Oulette. Nosferatu Priscus since Miss Opal went into torpor. She is also a member of the Ordo Dracul… Foucault’s covenant. She is a Guardian, one of the ones pushing Marcus to reveal the location of his Wyrm’s Nest.

“We let her leave?” – Cross whispers

Foucault shakes his head.

“We make a better offer. I am not jeopardising my place in the Order.” – Foucault whispers back

He pushes open the door and steps in, the Beast crosses both their faces for a moment.
“He’s yesterday’s news Andrea, if you want power and allies you should talk to us” – Foucault, his fingers moving quickly, communicating a little of what Marcus has been researching to wet her appetite and offering more if she doesn’t support Sundown.

Foucault studies her face as he taps out the finger code.

“I don’t know, you are a Shadow. Sundown is my clan after all. I have a position to think of” – Andrea, her face showing her indecision

Her fingers tap a single response. “Done”

“Sundown you have my full support but I’ve got to talk to others. You have snubbed a lot of monsters in the past. It won’t be easy.” – Andrea

Foucault’s fingers starting tapping again. “Can you make sure the ghouls stay out of this business?”

Andrea pushes past him. “You forgot to say please. The ghouls are your problem” her fingers tap.

Sundown pushes his chair back.

“I’m sure we can resolve something. Mr Cross and I are reasonable creatures.” – Foucault, Cross walking in behind him

“I completely appreciate that” – Sundown his hand moving slowly and purposefully, opening a draw and placing a .45 on his desk

“You don’t mind do you?” – Sundown

“Not at all” – Foucault

“Just the last 24 hours, my situation has changed somewhat” – Sundown

“Mm mm well I know you’ve said that you are not interested in Kindred politics. Sometimes it pays to remember this phrase ‘If you don’t turn onto politics, politics will turn on you” – Foucault

“Very… apt. Wise words” – Sundown

“And it seems that maybe what’s happened” – Foucault

Cross places a single gold chess piece on Sundown’s desk. A king. He catches Sundown’s eye before deliberately knocking it over.

Foucault uses this distraction to grab a hold of Aldous MacArthur’s anchor and whisper to his ghost.

The ephemeral form of MacArthur appears behind Sundown. Both Cross and he are unaware of the phantom in their midst. Foucault smiles.

“Hold him” – Foucault

MacArthur grabs a hold of Sundown. To Cross Sundown suddenly looks tense, straining against something that isn’t there. He glances at Foucault.

Foucault reaches into Cross’ jacket and pulls out the old ring he gave him. A breeze rises from nowhere as the ghost of the strangled woman materialises.

Sundown stops struggling for a moment and then kicks out with his feet. His desk shatters as it is hurled across the room at the two Kindred. Foucault and Cross jump out of the way, peppered with wooden splinters.

Cross watches as the sly grin on Sundown’s face drops as he is buffeted violently by something that isn’t there. Foucault sees the murdered woman, her bruises a vivid red contrasting with the washout ephemera of her form. Her voice is a constant scream as her long nails tear into Sundown’s flesh.

MacArthur holds Sundown in place.

Cross leaps forward in a blur, his fangs out. He goes for Sundown’s throat sinking his teeth into the Nosferatu’s cold flesh. Sundown’s vitae resist but Cross tastes the sweetest sin on his tongue before a sense of camaraderie blossoms in his mind.

“Boss?” – ghoul’s in the other room, alerted to the disturbance.

Foucault grabs a piece of shattered desk and drives it into Sundown’s chest. It is deflected by his rib cage. Sundown howls, his face rippling with the insane savagery of the Beast.
Sundown’s face changes, his features distort. Cross sees his own face, savage and deadly staring back at him. Foucault sees the dead but alive face of Aaron Mayfair. His eyes flickering points of light in a waxy, pale face.

“I’ll tear you apart” – Sundown’s words are deep and resonant, chills creep along their spine and the hairs on their flesh rise.

They both bolt for the door, fighting each other as they clamber over the ruined desk, past the ghouls who shoot in blind surprise, the coterie barely aware of the cold punches in their bodies as the bullets tear into them.

They clatter down the stairs, eyes bulging and mouths open.

They compose themselves at the bottom of the stairs. Upstairs come the sound of intelligible grunts, shouts and the sound of breaking glass. Foucault feels the presence of the ghosts dissipate.

Cross shakes the image of himself as a Nosferatu.

Footsteps thunder towards them. Cross braces himself but Foucault’s attention is being taken by small sounds outside the door they entered through. There are one then two wet sounds. The unmistakeable slump of a body dropping to the floor.

He opens the door. Cross sees the body of one of his ghoul bodyguards. Dead. The other is facing him, a look of utter fear on his face as he struggles frantically against something on his back. When he sees Cross he screams.

Foucault sees Sundown feasting on the ghoul, his eyes flick up to meet his a look of frustration mingled with fear flicks across his face. He throws the ghoul at Foucault.

Cross is aware of his ghoul moving quickly toward him, his Beast is hungry and he fights an impulse to sink his fangs into the hot, pink flesh of his ghoul. He steps away from the flailing mortal, arterial blood spurting from the wound on his neck.

Cross blurs, his cavalry sword in his hand and he throws his body behind a flurry of blows at thin air. There is no finesse only raw brute force, the sword swung more like a bat than a blade. He feels resistance as the sword bites deep.

Sundown falls to his knees visible. The sword lies in his chest, a brutal cut running from shoulder to sternum. He spits blood on Cross’ shoe.

He looks up to see Foucault standing over him with a .38 in his hand. Without a second thought he pulls the trigger shooting Sundown in the forehead.

He collapses to the floor his body finally still. His body shrivels a little, his flesh turning corpse like.

Foucault hurls himself at the torpid body of Sundown. Cross lights a cigarette and looks down at his ghoul who is bleeding out.

“You still alive?” – Cross

He kneels down and puts the cigarette between the ghoul’s lips allowing him to take a drag. He takes the cigarette back and with mute interest he gently puts out the cigarette on his cheek, burning through flesh. The ghoul screams as Cross seizes his head and feeds on him, breaking the ghoul’s neck in his frenzied intensity.

Foucault feeds on Sundown, the rich vitae tingling on his tongue. A warm glow spreads through his body. The vitae spills out of his mouth, pooling on the floor in a dark puddle around the two Kindred. Foucault fights past the false love of the Vinculum and tastes Sundown’s soul gulping it down greedily.

_Images flash across Foucault’s mind. He sees Sundown in rags, crying in the streets of a New Orleans of the past. A cold white hand reaches down for him, leading him away to a safe warm place.

The man’s face is horribly disfigured but he speaks in calm tones. He is educated but keeps Sundown safe, warm and fed. Teaching him to read and write, to think with his own mind.

Then he drifts away becoming distant and then simply not there.

Then he is back, the sense of doom lifting as he takes Sundown/Foucault in his arms and Embraces the young boy. The world changes, while remaining the same. The dance of the dead is before him. The sire shows Sundown/ Foucault his tricks of the blood and knowledge of the impossible.

The Roxy Cinema. A room. A wall. Sketches of Kindred and mortals. The Prophecy. Around the word Beast comes a piece of string. It leads to a child’s drawing of an owl made of shadow. Wings outstretched coloured crayon black. In adult writing, in block capitals is the word ‘STRIX’.

The sire is gone. Disappeared. Sundown/ Foucault haven’t seen him in days. Weeks. Months. Years. Decades. The whispers of Elysium suggest he is dead.

Sundown/Foucault sees Cross, Hampton and Foucault across a crowded Elysium. He plays chess. One of the pieces murdered the sire. There is only anger and hate towards Antoine Savoy, Pearl Chastain, Augusto Vidal and Baron Cimitiere._

Foucault falls back from the ashes of Sundown. He wipes his mouth as he feels the weight of Sundown’s Requiem on top of his own.

The ghoul’s shouts and shots are a distant noise as Foucault stands to his feet. The Beast inside feels closer to his skin, for the first time he feels his face is but a mask for the rabid animal within.

He stands on the ashing corpse of Sundown, his foot crushing the boy’s ribcage and snarls at the ghouls as they emerge from the stairs, guns firing. Outside there is a rumble of thunder. It begins to rain. The flash of lighting illuminates Foucault’s face. A man. Then a monster. In alternating staccato rhythm.

The closest ghoul collapses, clutching his heart, eyes rolling backwards. He slumps to the floor, pistol falling from his grip. Behind him another ghoul runs screaming. A tussle breaks out in the midst. There is a flash of gunfire and another ghoul collapses as the one screaming clambers over his falling corpse.

Blood_Trail.jpg

2005. The rain hits the ground. The winds pick up. The broken shell of the truck that Foucault arrived in smoulders before Cross, Foucault lying on the ground at Cross’ feet. The owl figure, composed of nothing but dark smoke flies up from Rieger’s mouth. Its eyes burn yellow. The wreckage of the 1956 Triumph motorcycle lies before him. In the distance is a chittering sound. Only Foucault sees the ground seem to shift and squirm.

A heat haze shimmers behind the van. In the distance is a tall man, dressed in a long dirty white rain mac, shirt ruffled at the front but sporting no tie, tight black trousers and highly polished black shoes.

Foucault can see his face is lean and unshaven. His eyes seem to pierce him with his gaze.
“The Lucifuge” – Foucault whispers to himself, only the memory of his sire’s last words giving any meaning to the words.

Cross looks down at Foucault, his blank memory struggling to keep up with events.

The safe refuge of Marcus’ haven burns brightly on the horizon.

Foucault focuses on the chittering, shifting ground. Shapes, arms, legs and teeth boil towards the two Kindred in Twilight. Foucault stands and walks slowly towards the Lucifuge.

Cross shakes his head slowly doubting that this figure bodes well for the two of them. He glances at the still form of Rieger on the floor. His blood tingles signifying one of his blood but he still has no memory of his childe.

“Where are you going?” – Cross screams

“Follow me” – Foucault, calmly

“WHAT?” – Cross

The demon-owl swirls around, his eyes no longer focused upon them but looks back at the Lucifuge. It gives a shrill shriek that seems to resonate in the undead flesh of the two Kindred. Foucault continues to walk as the Twilight beings swarm around and over him.

The figure in the distance reaches out with his hand and spreads his fingers at the demon-owl. Its shape ripples for a moment before the screaming fiery figure of Stella smacks into it.

Another shriek from the demon-owl. This time in pain.

Foucault continues to walk towards the Lucifuge as Cross keeps a safe distance.

The demon-owl takes flight. Parts of its form seem caught within the flames of Stella, as it tears itself away from her ad flies at breakneck speed towards the city, back into New Orleans. The thing with Stella’s face turns and looks at Foucault, tears still streaming down her now immobile face.

Foucault stops ten metres from the Lucifuge who also stops.

“Give her back to me” – Foucault

“Not to be crass about it Willem but you can’t handle her” – Lucifuge replies in a clipped British voice

Although Foucault feels angry at the almost friendly tone he feels no boiling rage of the Beast. Only an icy calm at the core of his being.

“Look, I know the owl thing is connected to the Strix. I know the Strix is connected to the Prophecy and I will help you but I WANT HER BACK” – Foucault’s voice is calm and collected. The last phrase delivered with a punch of breaking emotion.

The Lucifuge turns to look at Stella. “Well Stella? Do you want to go back to Willem?”

She screams, only the sound of her voice conveying any feeling. None shows on her blank face.

“(to Foucault) I don’t think you know what’s going on, do you Willem? It has been a while” – Lucifuge

“I’ve not been myself recently” – Foucault

“That is not completely ‘Stella’, don’t you remember?” – Lucifuge

“What do you mean that is not completely Stella?” – Focuault, hysteria creeping into his voice

“At the moment you Embraced Stella, to stop the rot of the mage, you froze her body and brought her dead soul back. At the same time the demon that inhabited her body was rejected and destroyed, reforming in the fires of Hell… Where you sent her. What you see is the raw sin of the demon, twisted by the utter darkness of Perdition and stripped of all personality.” – Lucifuge

“I would never send her to Hell. That is ridiculous.” – Foucault

“I am not saying that is what you intended. But to borrow a phrase, ‘the path to Hell is paved with good intentions’” – Lucifuge

“Can you counteract this? Tell me… how can I heal her?” – Foucault

“You will owe me” – Lucifuge holding out his hand

“That. Is a given” – Foucault taking his hand

Only Foucault sees the tendrils of flesh break from under the Lucifuge’s cuff and burrow into his own cold skin. A chill flows through his body and a heaviness settles on his heart. Then the handshake is broken, the coils of flesh gone.

Stella’s flames go from a hot orange and red to a cool blue. Then nothing. Only her eye sockets burn, two flames flickering instead of orbs. She is completely naked. Her skin glistens with sweat.

Foucault takes off his jacket and puts it around her shoulders and holds her. He tries not to think about what he has just done to win back Stella’s sanity. As he does so his mind goes back to the Lucifuge’s words. He Embraced Stella. Sometime in the past. That means there is a Kindred out there with Stella’s original soul. A Kindred that is his childe.

“I can see you have a lot of personal issues to deal with and although I would love to be a shoulder to cry on… I have a granddaughter somewhere out there” – Cross

“(to the Lucifuge) Do you need my help now?” – Foucault

“There is a storm coming. I do not advise that we separate” – Lucifuge, his eyes resting on Cross

Foucault explains to the Lucifuge that Donovan had them imprisoned and was trying to torture some information out of them.

“For the murder of Maldonato… but seeing as…” – Lucifuge

“Did we kill him?” – Cross

“Maldonato? Possibly. I don’t know” – Lucifuge

“Fantastic. Great. That is really helpful” – Cross

“The fact that you were gone for over six months… your minds are not your own. Things that you remember might not be real. Things that you have done… might not have happened.” – Lucifuge, grimly

Cross and Foucault look at each other. Stella huddles in closer to Foucault

“I know that you are referred to in the Prophecy” – Lucifuge

“Really?” – Foucault

“The Tarot cards. (indicating Foucault) The Fool stepping off a cliff. (indicating Cross) The Emperor, the father and wielder of great material power.” – Lucifuge

Foucault glares at the Lucifuge “Really? The Fool? And what exactly did it say ‘the Fool’ does?”

“The Fool transcends the Beast, destroying his demons… The Emperor becomes Prince when his family dies” – Lucifuge

“All this occult significance I’m sure is important but if we can’t remember what happened we need to find out what happened” – Cross

“What do you remember?” – Lucifuge

“Sundown” – Cross

“Sundown?” – Lucifuge

“I ate him” – Foucault

Cross gives Foucault a look.

“Would Sundown be the Afterhours King?” – Lucifuge

“Yes. I consumed his soul” – Foucault

“(under his breath) in case you didn’t get that the first time…” – Cross

“He is ambulatory. I wouldn’t say ‘alive’ because he is dead. A vampire but he still has his bars. He still has his clubs” – Lucifuge

“We didn’t kill him properly” – Cross

“Or perhaps you didn’t kill him at all? Why did you kill him?” – Lucifuge

“It’s messy” – Foucault

“Your vampires. It always is. I know this” – Lucifuge

“There was a lack of respect and…” – Cross

“He appeared to be threatening our interests at a time it was important that we were focused” – Foucault

“Why would Papa Iblis want you to think that you had ‘eaten’ Sundown” – Lucifuge

“Papa Iblis?” – Foucault

“You know him as Donovan” – Lucifuge

“Perhaps to make us think he was out of the game” – Foucault

“Possibly” – Lucifuge

“When I drained him, I saw things. I saw his sire, he went missing. I saw the owl in connection to the Strix. If that was an implanted memory perhaps Donovan wants me to assume that he was out of the picture, so was his sire and that the Strix and the owl were in allegiance” – Foucault

“Do we know what the Strix is? What it means?” – Cross

“I only know a small amount. Legend. They have not been seen for thousands of years. The last reported sighting was at the Fall of Rome.” – Foucault

“Do they feed on vampires?” – Foucault

“They feed on nothing. They prompt despair, they promote obscenity. They are insubstantial beings, jealous of our flesh and wanting to indulge its every mystery. No moral code. There are rumours that these things were responsible for the first vampires in some ways. They do gather at catastrophe and something similar is going to happen here.” – Lucifuge

“The birth of the Anti-Christ” – Foucault

“Les Enfant Diabolique. I am here to ensure that she makes the right choice” – Lucifuge

“Which would be?” – Cross

“Use their infernal heritage for the right reasons. I believe that Diana is a child of the Seventh Generation. If she were to make the wrong decision I am instruction to kill her. I just want to be up front about it.” – Lucifuge

“I appreciate your candor” – Cross

“You’ll just have to make sure that she makes the right decision then” – Foucault

“Given that my mind is not my own, I don’t know how much pull I have over hers but people can always be persuaded” – Cross

“Perhaps that is how we can help?” – Foucault

“I believe we all have something at stack here. We have worked well in the past. I will ignore some of your more less than ethical approaches and I believe that we have a chance to stop what is happening in New Orleans. It’s not just the thousands that will die. It’s not just the effect of Diana making the wrong decision. We cannot have another Les Enfants Diabolique making the wrong choice.” – Luficuge

“Has that happened before?” – Foucault

“Many times. Some of them survive.” – Lucifuge

Foucault looks at Stella, eye lids closed over the flames, her slender body huddling in to Foucault.

“Our child. Ash. What is he?” – Foucault

Stella whispers in Foucault’s ear. “Was. He is dead”

“Ash was a Dhampyr. Within his veins ran a poison that meant that if any vampire supped on him, the blood would spell his doom” – The Lucifuge

“(to Cross) Good job you didn’t feed on him” – Foucault

“Your kind is compelled, spend too long in their company and the desire to taste them would overcome you. You were lucky Foucault. You managed to resist.” – Foucault

“He was my son” – Foucault

“It would make no difference. Unfortunately someone in New Orleans with a big sign on their back that says ‘Drink Me’ will not last very long. And he didn’t” – Lucifuge

“Who drank?” – Cross

“Nobody. He slit his wrists” – Foucault

“Damn shame. Could have been useful” – Cross

“There is still the matter of the mage. That is where Stella comes in” – Lucifuge

“The mage. The mage. The mage. The mage. Please tell me he is still not alive” – Foucault
“No. Aaron Mayfair is dead. His plans continue. Ash was a Dhampyr. This was in his blood. He also had his mother’s heritage as a demon of lust. Aaron Mayfair used Ash to impregnate an entire generation of Mayfairs. Mayfairs now bear the Dhampyr curse. I would stay clear.” – Lucifuge

“He really didn’t like vampires” – Cross

“The man was obsessed.” – Foucault

“How widely is this known?” – Cross

“With what has been happening I doubt it is has made a great impact in the vampire court The Prince’s madness… With Maldonato’s death, his one stable anchor he went out and devoured his greatest rival in the heart of the French Quarter. At that moment all sanity was lost and he became lost to his instincts stalking the streets of New Orleans.” – Lucifuge

“He is some kind of monster?” – Foucault

“He is a vampire. Made worse by the fact that there is not even a shred of humanity” – Lucifuge

“Who is Prince. Now?” – Cross

“Donovan holds praxis in trust for him.” – Lucifuge

“Donovan. Papa Iblis. What is he?” – Foucault

“Back through time, the man known as Belial, the first child of the Adversary emerged on the Earth he had disciples. Papa Iblis was the first” – Lucifuge

“The first disciple of Belial. So he is a human who has become a demon that has now possessed a vampire” – Foucault

“I do not know what he is. He uses some dark sorcery to escape the vampiric curse” – Lucifuge

“Please tell that your plans involve killing him” – Foucault

“I would not be doing my purpose if I left something that evil alive” – Lucifuge

“Well we have unity of purpose” – Cross

“You need to track down your son and charm the hell out of him” –Foucault

“I could go to the source. Diana” – Cross

“A direct approach may hasten the decision but not necessarily be the most effective” – Foucault, glancing for the Lucifuge’s approval

“We need to make sure that we are not acting rashly” – Cross

“If you approach her directly and she despises you, you may push her straight into the arms of Donovan. If you go through her father, we don’t know what their relationship is… we need to find out as much as we can about Diana and decide the best approach” – Foucault

Cross looks at the Lucifuge, “Well tell me, where is he?”

“Your son is quite an influential journalist in the city. I imagine he will still be at the printing office, still printing despite the fact of the coming storm” – Lucifuge

“I’ll offer him a story. Meet somewhere remote, where I control. That I know I control” – Cross

Foucault turns to talk to Stella, to reassure her. She looks up with her eyes of fire and places a finger on his lips, shaking her head.

Blood_Trail.jpg

Cross drives without blinking. They have stopped for a change of clothes from a deserted house and they are heading into the city. The Lucifuge sits on his right, Foucault and Stella occupy the back. The Lucifuge clicks on the radio.

Hurricane Katrina will strike in the next 48 hours and New Orleans is being evacuated. Looting has begun and panicked skirmishes have broken out as the looters clash with residents and the police. The DJ calls it Hell on Earth.

The Lucifuge quickly switches the radio back off.

The roads are empty and deserted. Foucault looks out the window as the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. They are nearing the city now and what he took to be tendrils of mist in the rain are actually the spirits of the dead. He fights against the waves of raw emotion that pour from them, shaking him to the core. They are being drawn towards the city, forming a band of restless dead that gets stronger the further into the city they go. The visible ribbon of the dead seems to circle the city in a vortex that centres somewhere in Storyville.

“(to the Lucifuge) Can you see that? The ghosts?” – Foucault

“Ghosts?” – Lucifuge

“They are being drawn into Storyville” – Foucault

“Perhaps we should have a different plan. Try and disrupt it. If all the ghosts of New Orleans are being pulled to one spot, the magnitude of energy would be immense. If Diana were to encounter that much energy she could be instantly corrupted.” – Lucifuge

“We will need to separate” – Foucault

“I can meet Tommy myself” – Cross

“We’ll check out what is happening, shelter during the day and then reconvene with you tomorrow night” – Foucault

Blood_Trail.jpg

Cross waits in a small warehouse near the docks. The Mississippi is audible, strong waves crashing against the jetties outside. Crates stacked twice as high as Cross form a labyrinth of corridors inside. Naked bulbs hang from the rafters creating pools of light.

Cross stands behind a stack of crates next to the main thorough fare leading from the main entrance of the warehouse. He lights a cigarette, a familiar comfort from a distant past, as a car pulls up outside, its headlight illuminating the windows before its engine is cut off.

There is a thunk of a car door.

The warehouse door creaks open and cautious footsteps make their way towards where Cross is hiding.

A metallic chink and a waft of cigarette smoke joins Cross’ own.

“Hello Tommy” – Cross, steps forwards holding his hands out. They both stand in the

shadow surrounding a pool of light. Their faces not visible.

“It’s been a while Dad” –Tommy, a rasping voice

“Yeah… how long now? This time?” – Cross

“Ten years” – Tommy, his voice flat

“You’ve grown” – Cross

“Old” – Tommy

“Looking more like your mother every night” – Cross

“Yeah, just like Mom” – Tommy

“How is she?” – Cross

“Insane. As usual” – Tommy

“Yeah” – Cross

“Well these days are quite exciting for her aren’t they? You know, with the end of the world” – Tommy

“These are trying times for all of us Tommy. How are you holding up?” – Cross

Tommy smokes for a second, his expression masked by darkness

“Doing what I can” – Tommy

Cross scans his body language. The darkness makes it difficult.

“What do you want Dad?” – Tommy

“Isn’t it enough that I want to see you?” – Cross

“You know how dangerous it is” – Tommy

“How is the family?” – Cross

“Well, you know… if Diana would speak to me” – Tommy

“Really? She got a reason?” – Cross

“I’m a shitty father. Can’t imagine where I got that from” – Tommy

“You’re a chip off the old block for sure. You still got her number though. Right? Know where she is?” – Cross

“Yeah. Why’d you care Dad?” – Tommy

“I need to speak to her about something. Something important” – Cross

Tommy steps into the pool of light. He is an old man in his late 60s, his hair grey and thin, thick framed glasses magnify his eyes a little, the light shining against the glass. His body is stooped, shrinking his height a little. His clothes are expensive but well worn, a tailored suit with scuffed shoes.

“You’re not going to turn her?” – Tommy

“The thought hadn’t crossed my mind. No, she is mixed up in something. I just want to help her out. Maybe correct some past mistakes… made with you” – Cross

Tommy takes out a reporter’s notebook and writes on it, tearing it from the rings.

“Thanks son. I knew I could count on you. You look after yourself and give my love to anyone who is left” – Cross

“Sure Dad” – Tommy, crushing the cigarette out on the warehouse floor with his shoe. He walks away.

As he walks, Cross notices a thick tribal tattoo sneaking out from his collar. It’s not old, it’s fresh. As if just inked. It could be the light but it seems to shift as his son walks away. Cross makes an effort to memorise the pattern that he can see and a mental note to talk to Foucault about it as soon as he can.

Cross hears Tommy’s car door slam, the engine start, the car pulls away. Then another car starts and pulls away. Cross burns vitae to keep pace with it as it follows Tommy’s car at a distance.

Cross uses Celerity to appear on streets and their corners in the near deserted streets of New Orleans, sticking to shadows. The car has two passengers, faces in shadow. They both fail to spot Cross.

Tommy parks up in the suburbs. Once a family house, there are signs of disrepair and neglect. An old wooden horse lies discarded on the overgrown lawn. Tommy enters the house turning on the lights, illuminating a big open window at the front. Layers of dust and clutter cover the furniture and fixtures.

Cross catches up to the now parked tailing sedan, ducking down behind the rear. He burns another vitae to open the door and sit in the rear seat behind the two passengers before they can move.

“Don’t move” – Cross

There is a strange herbal smell in the car coming form a stained cloth bag smouldering in the ashtray.

The man in the passenger’s seat, in a dark suit is holding a CB handset, the radio is hooked under the dash. He releases the button and slowly turns to look at Cross. The driver is a younger man, dressed in a stained white short sleeved shirt with a red bow tie undone around his collar. He looks in the rear view mirror at Cross’ blurred reflection. His fast food name tag reads ‘Hi I’m Isiah Gage. Happy to be of service’.

There is no tension in their faces or shoulders. Cross makes out a bulge underneath the suit jacket.

Cross inclines his head, “Give me your gun”

‘Suit’ slowly pulls out his pistol, his eyes locked on Cross. He hands it to Cross, a flicker of concern crossing his face.

Cross checks that it’s loaded and the safety is off.

“What’s going on?” – Cross

“We’re just… driving” – ‘Suit’

“(to Isiah) Have you got anything to add? Why are you following my son?” – Cross

“Donovan told us to.” – Isiah

“He tell you anything else?” – Cross

“To protect him” – Isiah

“Keep up the good work then. I’m going to keep a hold of this” – Cross, indicating the pistol
Cross gets out of the car.

Blood_Trail.jpg

Foucault can’t help but feel as he, Stella and the Lucifuge approach the heart of the concrete Iberville Project that they are being watched. Shadows shift in windows and doorways.

At the centre of the Iberville Project, surrounded on all sides by built up apartment buildings is a small, elegantly designed chapel. It is well kept, white washed walls contrasting with the stained and graffiti tagged concrete. The restless dead are being drawn to this building.

The courtyard is deserted, relics of the recent evacuation are scattered across the road and pavements.

“Looks like we are being watched” – Foucault

“I imagine it is the Gage family, the Doulosi.” – Lucifuge

“The what?” – Foucault

“Ghouls of Belial’s Brood” – Lucifuge

“I believe I was too lenient with one of them in the past. He seemed like he could be useful at the time. They so often do” – Foucault

The Lucifuge pulls up outside the chapel.

“I can’t see anything overtly threatening but this place has to be protected. Is this the centre?” – Lucifuge

Foucault describes the vortex of the restless dead being drawn down into the chapel

“Can you enter?” – Foucault

“Usually” – Lucifuge

“What do you think? Do you want to approach? Or should we watch” – Foucualt

“Time is short…” – Lucifuge

“It feels a lot like a trap” – Foucault

“Definitely” – Lucifuge

“However, between the three of us we are considerable” – Foucault

“Perhaps. We do not know what we face though and the problem with these Prophecies is that they add the complication of not wanting to cause their fulfilment” – Lucifuge

“Well yes, essentially if we do the wrong thing. However, if we do nothing there is the chance we are fulfilling the Prophecy. Given that I think we should do what we feel to be right” – Foucault

“What I would suggest is that we send Stella in. She can hide herself in Twilight and only supernatural beings can detect her” – Lucifuge

“And myself” – Foucault

“You are a supernatural being” – Lucifuge

Stella looks at Foucault, her eyes burning flames.

“I don’t mind. I’ve done a lot worse” – Stella

“I want to go with her” – Foucault

“Willem I applaud your chivalry. How stealthy can you be?” – Lucifuge

“Pretty stealthy” – Foucault

The Lucifuge shrugs, “Don’t say I didn’t warn you that it was a bad idea”

“Stella, what do you think?” – Foucault

“Well seeing as my main source of protection is your main source of injury I would suggest that we don’t, my darling, make the best team” – Stella

Foucault gives in.

Stella opens the car door. As she does so, a ripple crosses her body, turning her into nothing. Foucault focuses his senses and sees her float to the chapel and go inside.

“Do you want me to scope the place out from the outside?” – Foucault

“It might be useful” – Lucifuge

Foucault steps out the car and moves around the building, hugging the shadows. He glides through the outlying apartment buildings. They are four or five stories high with balconies looking down over the church. Doors are left ajar, there are many signs of struggles. Some people did not leave willingly.

Foucault hears a creak in the distance. A footstep on a floorboard. He moves down the darkened corridors, the rain is a constant punctuation. He arrives at an apartment where the sound came from. He pushes open the door carefully, holding the handle to ensure it doesn’t creak at all.

There is a subdued commotion further into the flat. Someone is angry, whispering. A female voice, throaty and animal like, hissing.

“Don’t struggle. Don’t struggle” – female voice

Foucault can tell it is Kindred. The cold instinct in his head is certain. His blood vibrates. Not only is it Kindred. They are related.

“Stella?” – Foucault

Suddenly the pale, bestial visage of Stella stands before him, her white hair is wild and unruly. Her clothing is simple, anonymous and utilitarian. A denim jacket, vest top and cargo pants. Her face twists and contorts in hate.

“Foucault!” – Stella

Comments

1DT

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.