Chapter XVII: The Warehouse
Bertram Tung was hiding out in an unused watertank on the edge of town. Infuritating, that I'd spent so much time running pointless errands when it seemed a little more detective work would have led me straight to the Nosferatu.
'Betram', I said, stepping through the crack in the tank, facing the hideously deformed...malformed...creature in front of me. The others had spoken of disfigured mutant vampires in tones ranging from unease to open hostility. Faced with one myself, I wasn't quite sure what to feel. Animosity? Or pity, perhaps.
'I see news travels fast around here', I muttered. I was not sure I trusted the man. His tone was too knowing, too smug. 'Everything that happens, I know about', his smirk said. 'When a butterfly flutters it's wings in China, I know before South America even feels a ripple.'
I dismissed this line of enquiry. If the sneak wanted information from he, he'd have to work for it.
'The warehouse. Care to fill me in?'
'I thought the Sabbat saw humans as nothing but cattle.' The confusion in my voice was apparent. 'They're leaving humans in charge of the warehouse? Only humans?'
I paced the earthen floor, considering this information. If the humans knew they were dealing with vampires, it was likely they'd been informed of potential attack by other vampires. That would mean they'd be equipped to deal with more than just a lone 'fledgling' like me. I said as much to Tung.
'Nice term for slaughter', I said with a cold smile. 'Can you get me in undetected?'
You're enjoying this, aren't you? The suspense, the action, the bloodshed...this is you, this is what you are...
'I was born ready. Let's go.'
Tung lifted a manhole cover, gesturing for me to go down first. I did so, stepping into the dimly lit sewers as Tung replaced the heavy iron. He led me down a tunnel, gesturing for silence. I didn't think that the Sabbat would have ears this close to Santa Monica, but I was willing to play by the expert's rules.
We soon came to another exit, where Tung made me repeat his directions to get back twice, before nodding. 'Alright fledgling. Good luck.'
With that, Tung was nowhere to be seen. I looked quickly to either side of me, but the Nosferatu had disappeared. Obviously some kind of talent was at work here. I dismissed it from my mind and stepped onto the ladder rung.
I had stepped into the foundations of what appeared to be a derelict building. I made my way towards the light, crawling up through a collapsed waste pipe, and onto the floor of a maintenance room. Carefully I opened the door, hearing movement on the other side.
The man stood at the urinal, coughing wetly as he undid his zip. So preoccupied was he that I was able to sneak up on him across the gritty and pockmarked floorboards.
Can't allow him to alert the others. You know, he'll turn around before you can reach the door out of here, and he'll see you. He'll call out, and then they'll be waiting.
I stood up quickly, looming over the man. Before he could register my presence, one hand was over his mouth, the other brandishing the serrated knife. Effortlessly, feeling the skin part under the edge of the blade, I opened the man's throat, holding his mouth until he no longer made a sound. Dropping the body, I made my way across to the door.
Now I had my bearings. The building I had exited was an old railway sideroom, now used as a makeshift shelter for the vagrants of Santa Monica. They watched me uneasily, but didn't say a word. It appeared that they were able to ignore much, if ignoring things meant they had another night inside away from the bitter sea winds, another night spent warm, unharrassed. I pretended I could not see the men as I dropped onto the traintracks. If they would prefer I was invisible, then I was invisible.
Two men loitered between the trains, talking loudly. If they had been sent to guard the area, they were doing a terrible job of it.
'Something big happening tonight', one of them commented.
'Yeah. Seems like the boss is ready to move. You see how many guns they've got stored in the warehouse?'
'Fuckin' beats me man. Seems like they're preparing for a fucking war.'
The voices fell silent. Moving silently, a cat amongst the birds, I stayed carefully out of their field of vision, out of the flickering lamp-light. As I loomed out of the darkness, one man's eyes widened in shock. He looked over his friend's shoulder, unable to move. The other man turned, starting to ask a question. Firmly, I turned his head back to his friend. Then, with a quick flick of my wrists, I turned the man's head back to face me. Dropping the body, I pounced on the other man, my teeth burrowing deep into his throat. I drained the man, throwing the body to the floor. His blood had been sickly-sweet, reeking of something fizzy.
Drugs, perhaps. I moved on between the train carriages, trying to ignore the tingling on my tongue. As I came closer to the warehouse, I began to avoid rather than attack the lax patrols. I could not afford a slip up, could not allow the main warehouse building to be alerted to my presence before I arrived. Those that I could not avoid, I used my innate abilities to stun, leaving them in stupefied trances. By the time they wore off, I had gone again, and they were none the wiser.
At last I came upon the warehouse. Two men played cards inside a derailed carriage, so immersed in the game that I was able to walk easily past, to pick the lock on the side door. Stepping inside, I closed the door behind me, surveying the area.
Men worked in twos, lifting heavy crates into piles, talking and laughing loudly, passing around cigarettes and talking in gruff voices about the previous night's conquests. One man, laughing so hard he couldn't keep his grip, dropped his end of the crate, spilling guns all over the floor.
'Better pick those up fast Mike', one of the other guys said with a cruel grin. 'If one of the bosses found out you were opening the merchandise...'
The laughing man began to turn pale, a sick look of panic spreading across his ugly face. He fell to his knees, hurriedly picking up guns, quickly inspecting them, before shoving them forcefully back into the crate. I used the distraction to make my way up the iron stairs to the second floor, up to the offices.
Slowly, carefully, I opened the door.
'Hey! Who the fuck are you?'
Unfortunately, a man had been walking towards the door as I had opened it. The man pulled a gun from his belt, aiming it at my head.
'I said, you little piece of shit, who the FUCK are you?'
There was no way I could talk my way out of this one. They could tell from my skin, my appearance, that I was a vampire. They should know, having such frequent dealings with them. They'd also know that I looked nothing like a vampire from the Sabbat.
Sometimes, actions are a better response anyway.
Snarling, I pulled the shotgun out from under my shirt, ignoring the man as he began to step back, raising his hands in the air. I ignored the man, walking past silently, while he lay on the floor, burst intestines spilling out in coils between his fingers as he desparately tried to force them back into his open stomach. His cries, and the sound of my gun had alerted the men in the warehouse, who began to race up the stairs to the office, shouting amongst themselves. Leaning down by the large wooden desk, I pulled the astrolite from my pack and placed it on the ground.
Three minutes. That should be enough time. Think you can fly, fledgling?
I stood up in time to see the first man come through the door. He began to fire with his .38, missing with every shot as he attempted to spray the room with a toy revolver. I pushed him heavily down the stairs, toppled another man, vaulted over the railing. I landed in a half-crouch, turning my head as the door out of the building splintered apart.
A monstrous figure lurched into the room, wild, hairy, talons gripping the air as it growled. It reminded me of the figure the Sheriff had disintegrated, the same feral features, the same personification of rage.
'Camarilla fuck!' It snarled, leaping towards me. I rolled under it, aiming the shotgun at it's back as it sailed past. The spray caught it between the shoulders, skin tearing, blood boiling as it splattered the ground, hit my face. It smelt repugnant, and I resisted the urge to retch. THe beast screamed in pain, falling to the ground, and I took the opportunity to lurch out of the ruined door.
Sprinting towards safety, I could hear the beast pursuing me. It's ape-like lollop covered more ground than I did, and I gave a cry as it landed on top of me, knocking me to the ground. Heavy claws raked my back, teeth digging into my shoulder. It pulled it's head back, ripping a chunk out of me. I roared in agony, struggling to pull myself away.
'I'm going to eat you, little bitch', it snarled, swallowing the flesh. 'I'm going to eat your fucking soul.'
The creature should not have wasted so much time talking. Managing to half turn, I pulled out my knife, thrusting it into the creatures groin, twisting it sharply to the right. It screamed, falling backwards, taking the knife with it. I staggered to my feet, turned to face it.
'You'll pay for that', it hissed, lurching towards me. It's gait was wide though, it's movements hindered, blood dripping from between it's legs. Seizing upon the initiative, I ran forwards. The creature opened it's mouth again, whether to talk or to bite I wasn't sure. The barrel of the shotgun fit easily inside it's gaping maw, however. The eyes widened for a split-second, before the entire head exploded. The body followed, collapsing, until only my knife was left behind. Picking it up, I turned and ran. Time was running out. Jumping up onto the rungs built into the side of a carriage, I took a shorcut back to where Tung had left me. Secrecy was no longer an issue. Fortuituous, as I was sure that the sight of a figure running, shotgun in hand, would have been fairly visible on the way in.
Landing on the platform, I watched as the warehouse exploded, glass and brick fragments launched by billowing orange smoke into the night sky. The shockwave caused me to stagger, and I leaned heavily on the shotgun for support.
I looked up as I heard the call, trying to determine it's source. There. A wolf ran across the top of the carriages, it's clawed feet making an echoing rythym on the metal frame.
The large beast landed on the platform in front of me, regarding me with calm, intelligent eyes. I carefully watched it for signs of attack. Feeling this weak, I somehow suspected even a wolf would be a tough opponent. Imagine my surprise then, when it began to stand, shimmering, taking on the form of a man.
The man regarded me with eyes quite unlike any I'd seen. They glowed eerily in the night sky, the catlike pupils boring deep into me. I hesitated, then decided that there was no point denying my involvement.
'Yeah, it was me.'
No shit, tell me something I don't know. I watched the man suspiciously. Was he Sabbat himself? 'And who might you be, wolfie?'
The man obviously knew more than he was letting on. But could I trust him? The memory came to be unbidden...the man on the couch, the lone wolf...nobody else.
Was this the lone wolf?
'Well, I've seen a ghost?'
'Well, the thin-bloods on the beach seem to be causing a bit of a stir.' At this, Beckett looked up, eyes sharpening.
The vampire trailed off, lost in his own thoughts. Abruptly, he looked back up at me.
Before I could reply, the man shimmered back into the form of a wolf, cantering into the night. I watched him go, confusion and amazement vying for control of my expression.