Chapter XXXIII: Trouble Comes in Many FormsI stepped into Venus' nightclub, ignoring the acrid smell of sweat laced with ampethamines, and walked towards the bar. The woman there was dressed in a tight fitting corset with a revealing cut, cut-off jeans and fishnets. Her makeup was overdone, making her eyes seem wider, more alien. I could see intelligence there however, and a hint of wariness.
'Evening miss', I said amicably, taking a seat.
Nice performance, but you don't fool me, honey.
'And who am I confessing to?'
So this was Venus.
'I need to confess that my friend was a weight problem, poor son of a bitch. Did he confess about a handyman coming your way?'
'The one and only.'
'I've been interested since your lips started moving', I crooned. Venus however was not playing. I was momentarily stunned, unsure how she so neatly sidestepped my charisma.
'That's it? Sounds easy enough, I'll do it.'
'I'm making no promises. See you in ten.'
I walked out of the club, heading towards the hotel. I wasn't sure why I was playing messenger for a mortal whose taste in makeup bordered on 'drag queen', but it made a tolerable diversion from being LaCroix's lackey. The longer he stewed over the sarcophagus, becoming more agitated, more prone to mistakes, the better my position would be.
The russians were big men, heavily built with no hint of fat. They stood at attention at my approach, hands reaching for the guns at their sides. I stopped short of the men, waiting for them to speak.
Charming. Unconsciously, I was already determing the method of the man's death. A curious detachment, feral and distant, yet somehow part of me.
'Venus sent me, yes.'
The world would not miss a monosyllabic grunt and his pack. The voice murmured, persuaded, coerced. How long since I had last fed?
'There is no money. Venus said she doesn't have it. Got it? Run to your master and let him know like a good dog.'
The russian swore, raising his gun. He opened fire, yet I had expected as much. Moving to the side, I drew my knife, driving it deeply into the throat of the man on his left. Letting go of the knife, I pulled out the Glock, not bothering to aim as I fired once, the bullet penetrating the second guard's head. He dropped to the floor twitching, as their boss looked at me with shock. Slowly he seemed to think, trying to understand this reversal of fortune. His indecision gave me the time to pounce, gripping his shoulder roughly, sinking my teeth into his hard skin. The body crumpled, falling to the floor, my lips red with his life. Wiping my hand on my sleeve, I pointed the Glock at the teethmarks, firing twice. Flesh splattered the wall, mixing with the blood from the stabbed man. I picked up my knife, wiping it carefully clean, licking the blood from my fingers.
That will cover at least some of your tracks, purred the voice, sated. Unfazed, I walked back to the club. Why was I so unconcerned with this petty murder? Why had I planned my words to cause the maximum rage in the man? Was I adjusting to myself, or losing myself?
Too soon to tell, I thought, verbally shrugging. Maybe you just don't mourn the loss of human predators. Human cannibals, feeding on the weak of their own kind.
I sat by the bar, looking at Venus.
'Job's done', I mouthed, not bothering to talk over the heavy music, the yelling and the laughter.
'I can't hear you', Venus yelled back. 'Let's talk in my office!'
Locking the door behind me, Venus spoke with a giggle, her cheeks flushed. Something had excited, her, and I had an idea what.
Club business? 'I'm listening.'
'Let me guess', I replied. 'You don't want to pay the late fees anymore.#
I considered it. Regular income would make life that little bit more bearable. It might even help divert my attention once I was finished with LaCroix.
'Alright, I'll do it. What's the catch?'
I shrugged, unconcerned. 'Mafioso die, just like everyone else.'
I took the key, nodding shortly to Venus. I flicked the catch on the door, unlocking it, and stepped out. I'd already annoyed the Tong and the local thugs this evening, it seemed trivial to add another sybdicate to the list.
Walking into the hotel, I used the lift to reach the top floor.
I checked the doors in front of me. Locked. On the other side I could hear voices speaking in Russian, the sound of glasses clinking together. Turning to a door on my left, which was unlocked, I proceeded through an expensive-looking hallway, thickly carpetted, offering additional stealth to my movements.
At the end of the hallway stood a burly man in an ill-fitting suit, his posture relaxed, but his eyes alert. I didn't want to cause trouble yet, not before I had Boris, and so I walked up confidently, my manner businesslike.
I smiled, my tone professional. 'Evening comrade. I bring a message from a business contact of Boris', it's important.'
I had expected this, and so replied, exuding charm, charisma, knowledge.
'I'm afraid it's for his ears only, but I don't think there's a problem if you accompany me in. I'd hate for Boris to get angry that I'd let something slip when the message was for him, wouldn't you?'
The man looked at me in disgust, trying to reach a decision. Throwing his hands up, he swore in Russian. 'Fine, follow me.'
The guard opened the double doors, leading me into a dark, tactlessly decorated office. The furniture was expensive, yet utterly lacking in aesthetic value. Much like Boris himself. Almost amusing, that such an unassuming man, pasty, gaunt, brutal stupidity in his eyes, had risen so far. I almost pitied him.
'Boris my friend. I have a message for you.'
Boris won't be able to move before I have your face in my hands, your blood on my lips, I thought darkly.
'It's from Venus', I said calmly, keeping Dema in my peripheral vision. 'She says she's not paying the...interest...any more. Deal's off, comrade.'
You're not a man, not any longer. What are you now? The inner voice taunted me, whispering with poison-laced tongue.
'What does that make your guards? Not one was able to stop me on my way through.'
'And what would that be, Boris?', I asked, my voice cool.
'Hmmmmm'. I pretended to consider the offer, greed playing across my face. A condescending smile played across Boris' guileless face, his eyes burning. I moved closer, smiling. His head craned forwards, waiting for my response.
'Fuck you', I said, smiling even wider.
Boris swore, lifting his revolver. Grabbing Dema, I used him as a shield, his body jerking in my grip as the bullets penetrated, blood gurgling in his throat as he dropped to the ground. Boris stepped back, reloading his gun as I strode towards him, looking down dispassionately as he returned my look with terror. I picked him up effortlessly with one hand, holding his shoulder as he kicked me, trying to get away, swearing and gibbering in his native language, a stream of urine leaving his trousers soiled. My other hand reached forwards, taking his temples between my fingers. With a quick twist of the hand, his head lolled to the side, the bone partially exposed. Letting his body drop to the floor, I quickly opened the door, looking out. It appeared the room was soundproof. No shock troops came to investigate the noise, no hotel staff stood watching in terror. Closing the door, I dragged Dema's body to lie by Boris'. The two had an argument, and Boris, being the vile man he was, had shot his second in command. Dema, being more muscle than man, had survived the inital volley, staggering towards his ex-boss, using his last strength to almost tear the man's head from his shoulders. At least, that's how I assumed it would be seen. Taking the money clip from the filing cabinet, I left the room, closing the doors behind me, heading back to see Venus.
She caught my eye as I entered, watching me cautiously. I pointed upstairs, and she nodded.
'Many thanks', I replied. 'I'll see you next week for my share. Don't be a stranger Venus.' I walked out of the building, and towards the cab. Before I headed to Hollywood, I thought I should check in on Heather.
Arriving in Santa Monica, I crossed the road to the apartments above Tripp's Pawnshop, and opened the front door. Walking upstairs, I could hear the TV from outside my door, and unlocked it carelessly.
'Honey, I'm home.'
I stepped forward, looking at Heather, who turned from the window.
I looked towards the door, noticing the beating on the bathroom door that I had ignored on my arrival.
'Heather', I gasped. 'You didn't!'
Trouble, it seems, comes in many forms.
'Yeah, you fucked up. Big time.' I looked at the door, unsure how to proceed. I had thought that the ghoul might cause problems, but abducting people, no matter how annoying they might be...I sighed.
'Never, ever do that again. This isn't some game!' I opened the bathroom door, looking at the man standing there.
'I'm really sorry about this', I said, my voice worried. I reached out with my charisma, my ability to make people believe my words, want to believe my words.
'It's my sister. She's not right in the head. God knows how she got here, but I better call our parents, and let them know. I'm so so sorry.'
'Please, forget it ever happened. I'm gonna let you go now.'
'Fuck that man, second I'm out of here, I'm calling the fucking cops. That bitch needs locking up!'
I looked at the man, unease, a hint of shame coming over me as I considered my next words. They were cruel, perhaps, but dictated by a cruel necessity.
'I wonder how the cops would look at a guy who was trying to rape a girl. Especially one not right in the head. Not to good to me, that's what I'm thinking. I mean, I come to my apartment to find her there, crying, you on top of her...who'd convict me for beating you across the head, huh?'
I nodded to the man, opening the door wide. He ran out, not looking back, his footsteps hitting the stairs heavily, followed by the front door slamming shut. I felt bad. Felt worried. Heather was a problem, one I knew was going to come back to haunt me, again and again. I cursed my earlier weakness, my desire to help. In helping, I'd made things infinitely worse. Heather looked up at me, her eyes feverish, wild, panicked.
'From now on Heather, stay in the house. You're not to leave until I say so.'
Heather nodded, eager to please, a demure smile coming to her lips. I sniffed at her, my nose wrinkling.
'And for God's sake, have a shower and change. You don't need permission to use the damned shower.'
I left Heather undressing, her face red and embarrassed. I turned to my latop, checking for new email. There were two messages. One from LaCroix, requesting that I scupper a new restuarant opening in Hollywood, and another mysterious one, from an uknown sender.
A gambit is played. The king leaves himself open. Frowning, I left the apartment, not bothering to say goodbye to Heather. I locked the door from the outside, hoping to keep her in, at least for now.
The king? Would that be LaCroix? If so, who is sending me these messages?
I brooded over it on the way to Mercurio's, determining that as of now I lacked the information I needed to be able to make an educated guess. I opened the door to his apartment, looking around in surprise.
Although Mercurio was fit and healthy, his apartment was still a horrific mess, dried blood staining the couch, the carpets, his bloody handprint still on the lightswitch.
'Jesus Mercurio, couldn't you clean this place a little?'
'I wasn't expecting company', he replied. 'Besides, I can't get a cleaner to fix this up, they'd ask questions. I'll get around to it when I've got time.'
'Fair enough. So, you got anything for me? I'm going game hunting in Hollywood.'
'Always', I said, taking the gun from his hands. It's weight felt good, reassuring, in my hands. Better than the .38, which I left on the table.
'So, what's new? Got any information for me?'
'Pity I am', I muttered. 'Speaking of which, I better deal with it before his Highness starts issuing a bloodhunt. I'll be back later Merc, I still want a flamethrower.'
'Good luck kid, and be careful. Hollywood isn't Camarilla territory, it's run by an Anarch. They're rough with any of us they find on their turf.'
'I'll be as careful as I can Merc, don't worry. See you later.'
'Where to?', asked the cabdriver as I closed the door behind me.
'You know what, mate? I've always wanted to be a star.' Chuckling, the cabdriver indicated, pulling out onto the street.
(Minor edit due to lack of gun knowledge: thanks Veen! )