14: DON’T GO IN THERE
Charlotte huddles in her jacket and looks around Valia’s bar warily.
“So, what do we tell Alvarez...?” Pavel asks.
“... that his driver hasn’t already told him?” Arthur adds.
“And we have to tell the Circle.”
“And the Sanctum.”
“Hey, I’m happy to tell Reno if they can offer any help.”
“Do they seem like the type?”
Valia looks at Charlotte’s trembling hands, and passes her some water in a plastic cup rather than a glass.
“What do you remember?”
“Chanting... she was calling something... the sound of wings... blood... and smoke... lights like burning embers... eyes...”
“Wings?” Pavel asks. “Like... owls?”
“I’m not sure. Maybe.” She shakes her head.
“I just want to sleep. Wake up when the sun rises. Might be safer then?”
“Where would you feel safe?” Arthur asks.
“Where I was.”
The apartment used by other possible escapees is still to let. Which in this area is unusual.
Having fixed the lock, they have the key.
“Don’t go in there...” Charlotte whispers. They lead her inside.
Charlotte steadies herself against the walls as she moves, stops as she reaches the doorway where the scent stopped.
“She was... alive, but not alive. She crossed the threshold. Went... somewhere. Nowhere. She wasn’t... a person any more.”
“One of us?” Pavel asks warily.
“One of them.”
She backs away.
“The dead decay, faster than they should. The living wither away, like we do without blood past our lifetime. They can’t keep them alive for long. You... you’re ideal. But there’s already a monster in there. It’s not so easy to take you.”
“That’s... comforting.” Dr. Barrow laughs weakly. The shadows around him start to stretch like he’s trying to vanish then and there.
“Why don’t we know about this?” Arthur asks.
Valia contacts Leonetti. He meets her on the way out of a crime scene, throwing away a cup of coffee.
“I couldn’t drink that even if I still drank coffee...”
“So is this to do with us?” she asks, gesturing to the police.
“Oh, no, just a regular ARV. I have to show face at crimes that don’t involve my night job too.”
She leads him to a restaurant across the street.
Pavel hands over a report.
“We brought Ms. Donnelly back to the city. Something about burning eyes... things that can possess people or vampires.”
Dr. Barrow looks around the restaurant, into the eyes of everyone there. He’s sure he sees light and reflections.
“And she’s a credible witness?” Leonetti asks.
“We took her to the house. We didn’t tell her about the door. She went straight to it unprompted. Said a woman ‘crossed the threshold’ there.”
“This sounds like it’s a little above my pay grade.”
Dr. Barrow flinches. Did an owl just fly by?
“Your family can possess people, right?” Arthur asks quietly.
“We like to mention it, but it’s not that common.”
“But it’s possible.”
“I’ve been in this business longer than I should have been alive. I’m prepared to concede a lot of possibilities.”
“Do we have an evacuation plan?”
Which is when someone screams “rats!” and a table clears, then another.
“Sorry, you mentioned evacuation and...” Dr. Barrow shrugs lightly as the restaurant empties.
“Well, it works.” Arthur chuckles.
“Glad we didn’t meet at my place,” Valia mutters
“So, if the Ventrue can possess people... can they possess vampires? And can the Lance or the Circle exorcise them?” Arthur thinks out loud in the car.
“Er... possibly.” Pavel shrugs. “Are you volunteering?”
“If. Mr. Alvarez can do it...”
“I would like to speak to the girl.”
“We’re about the let her go back to rehab in the city,” Valia says. “She was very cooperative.”
“Ghouls usually are. Still, I want to know what these... ‘Strega’ are. Tiberia says ‘evil spirits’ destroyed Rome. But while she can trace her family back to it, she wasn’t actually there herself. I’ve seen ghosts, shapeshifters, seers... but nothing that could possess a vampire except that vampire’s sire in a few cases. I don’t like not being the apex predator. So I want to know what they are. And how to stop them?”
“So you couldn’t possess me?” Arthur asks. Alvarez gives him a look.
Dr. Barrow returns to the fatberg and finds that someone has carved a pair of large round owlish eyes into it.
Dr. Barrow ‘bleeding’ Nightmare when nervous is something his player started spontaneously.