Chapter XL: Scythe, Rage and Toreador RosesNot bothering to knock, I stepped into Isaac's office, dropping the tape on his desk.
'The creatures are real Isaac. I've just killed a few of them. They die like vampires do.' Isaac closed his eyes, his expression pained, as he delicately picked up the tape and placed it in the machine.
'Then this is no doubt the work of a fiend', his cultured voice murmured. 'There might be something on this tape that will give us some insight into what its motives are...'
The tape drew to it's grizzly conclusion. I grimaced, rubbing the holstered Colt. Absently, I considered with amusement my luck in meeting no patrolling officers in Hollywood. With the Colt, the automatic shotgun, the katana, I looked prepared for a minor war. Isaac turned from the screen, his face drawn, and even more pale than usual for our kind.
'Great', I responded. 'Always something. How will I be able to track them down?'
'Fine. I'll see if I can find where the rats nest.'
'And who do you suggest I trust, Isaac?'
'You're so informative. Thanks.'
Isaac chuckled. 'You remind me of Ash.'
'Ash? Who is Ash?'
'In what way?' I had no idea why I was getting involved in this conversation. I should have been heading to King's Way. The words poured out of Isaac however, as he bared whatever remnant of a soul he had left.
'So you embraced him.'
Isaac's tone became pleading, entreating me to understand his whim, his folly. Toreadorean pain, open-faced, an almost insulting caricature, a parody, of human emotion.
'Does he hate you for it?'
I felt a twinge of regret. Would I have had that bond, that mutual feeling of companionship, with my sire? Had LaCroix not ripped her from this life in a display of childish retribution, would I have had a presence to rely upon?
'So where is Ash these days?'
The Asp-Hole. Witty. I turned, leaving the building, walking towards the taxi cab. About to open the door, I paused. I turned, looking down the street, towards the clubs. I felt a presence lurking by the doors of the Asp-Hole nightclub, a feeling of purity. No, not so much purity. A righteousness, but one corrupted by zealotry. A man stood leaning against the wall, his hair tied back from his face, his clothes functional. He murmured quietly into an earpiece, looking at the doors of the club. I had a suspicion on who the man might be, what he might be. Perhaps King's Way could wait, if only for a moment. I stepped towards the club.
I pushed open the door, the deep sombre drumbeat making the floor vibrate. More of the men stood inside, oblivious to the music and the revelry around them. Drunk men and women swayed and swaggered in the desperate dance of the living, seeking a moment's bliss to escape a lifetime of drudgery. These men moved slowly, with purpose, all eyes on the stairs leading to an upper level. I walked up, intending to see what they found so interesting.
The item of Hunter interest was apparent. A good-looking, brooding vampire stood morosely in the centre of the room, ignoring the lustful glances sent his way by barely-dressed women. I walked up, smiling effortlessly.
The vampire looked up at me, rolling his eyes, an almost imperceptible sneer on his lips.
I inwardly sighed, cursing the sheer-minded self-absorbed nature of the Toreador. All scythe, rage and roses, graceful death walking effortlessly amongst their food, affecting feelings of dismay at what they had become. After seeing what I had witnessed in the DMP buildings, I was rapidly losing any interest in humans I might have had, beyond nourishment.
'You know, you look different from in the movies. More pale. Thin. Guess the camera really does add a few pounds.'
I bared my teeth, frustration showing. 'Just what is your problem?'
'Sun's gone down.'
'Yeah, it does that a lot, pretty boy. You know, just listening to you makes me want to yank out a yard of your intestines and strangle you with it.'
'You sound like a man just waiting to die.'
I looked at him, my eyebrow raised.
'Is that your poetic, artistic way of saying there are Hunters outside? I saw them.'
I sniggered darkly, causing Ash's brow to furrow in indignation.
'Don't flatter yourself. You wouldn't make it past the door.'
Maybe because you're a passive-aggressive egotist that doesn't know when to shut up...
'If you could stop enjoying your own pain for a second, I could help you out.'
Ash's eyes flashed angrily, his voice harsh, the first real emotion I had seen from him.
'Nope, just one Kindred helping out another, pretty boy. I don't need any more motivation than "because I felt like it." Now stop whining, and get ready, we'll take the sewers and avoid their main patrols.'
The bloodrage danced within me, the desire for human blood and destruction calling me.
'Ready as I'll ever be. Let's go.'
After climbing down into the sewer, I glanced at Ash, who looked around distastefully, mourning the damage to his shoes by the stagnant water. I sighed, feeling like the babysitter to the undead.
'Is there any point giving you a weapon? You can use a shotgun, right?'
Ash looked timidly at the offered weapon, his hands fixed by his side.
'Oh I forgot. Not much use to a movie star, is it. Fine, stay behind me.'
We moved down the sewer path, footsteps swishing in the water. I drew the katana that I had taken from the female Hunter. Steel was good for humans. They didn't heal like us. A quick cut could incapacitate, saving bullets. I might need bullets.
The first Hunters came from opposing branches in the crossroads, yelling for backup as they fired at us both. Ash ducked behind a wall, the bullets whistling harmlessly past. Snarling, I jumped forwards, the blade twisting in my hand. The first Hunter gave a cry as the well-honed blade parted his arm from his body, spraying arterial life into the air. He fell to the floor, his body wracked with shock as he looked unseeingly at the stump where his arm used to be. A second flash of the blade severed his head from the neck, falling to spread vermilion into the sewage. I turned on the second, my teeth bared, my eyes wild. He stepped back, dropping the gun, turning to run.
I quickly drained the man, feeling my strength returning, the Beast retreating. I closed my eyes, enjoying the sensation, before letting the man fall. Ash came cautiously from behind the wall, looking at me with wide eyes.
'Let's keep going', I murmured. 'The sooner you're gone the better.'
Let him take that however he wants.
Opening the door at the end of the walkway led to a dry maintenance level. Hearing the door open, the men positioned here ran towards us, one armed with a gun, the other with a stake-loaded crossbow. I focused on the gunman, pinning him to the wall with one hand, gutting him with the sword held in the other. Retracting the blade and turning, I gave out a groan of pain as a stake penetrated my shoulder. Had I not turned, the stake would have penetrated my heart from behind, paralysing me. I turned to glare at Ash, my teeth gritted.
'Won't you do something?'
Ash stood, dumbstruck, looking around.
'Uh, like what?'
I spat, ripping the stake out of my arm, feeling the wound close.
'You're fucking useless. Does Isaac have to feed you with a spoon?'
I faced the Hunter, who had watched the exchange in stupefied confusion. Irritated, with him, with Ash, with the sights in DMP, I spat.
'Time to return the favour', I hissed, thrusting the stake between the man's ribs, hearing the bones crack, feeling the heart shudder around the wood, his life spurting, cut short. He fell to the floor, that same confused expression on his face.
'Not so good for you guys either, is it?' I muttered, looking at the body. Then, my gaze returned to Ash.
'You're by far the most pathetic vampire I've met so far. Surrounded by food, and you ask me what to do.' I grabbed Ash, dragging him towards the exit.
Through a hole in the wall, we came to a maintenance shaft for the subway system. A train sped past overhead, shaking the walls and displacing plaster and fragmented bricks. The sound masked my presence as I crept up on the first Hunter, impaling him on the katana blade. He fell without a sound, and I moved towards the next. If I could take him without being noti-
The sound of wooden beams being knocked over made me look quickly over my shoulder. Ash stood in a pile of toppled construction material, his expression embarrassed. The Hunter turned, swearing, raising a shotgun in Ash's direction.
'Oh for fuck's sake!', I yelled, pushing Ash out of the way, the buckshot peppering the wall behind him. I turned, sheathing the now clean sword, pulling the automatic shotgun from the shoulder strap and fired a round into the hunter, who convulsed as the bullets hit him, dropped his gun, fell bleeding heavily, his eyes already in the vacant stare of death. The room now empty, I glared again at Ash.
'Not long, without a fucking keeper', I muttered at him, holstering the gun. 'The exit is over there. I suggest you use it and get the first cab out of town.'
Ash nodded, handing over a thick wad of notes. A cursory glance showed that he'd given me over $500. It almost made up for his sheer idiocy. Almost.
'I'll do that. People'll wonder what happened to Ash. This way, I can live on, physically and in legend...'
'Good luck with that', I said, leading him out of the door. He climbed out of an access point, onto street level. Whistled for a taxi. The sound of a door closing and screeching tyres.
He won't last long, you know. You've only delayed his fate. One such as him is not suited to this life. Doesn't deserve it.
I thought back to an earlier voice.
'They didn't matter...runaways...junkies...'
I addressed the voice directly, a voice of reason combating the voice of chaos, of primeval savagery.
That's not my choice to make.
I pulled myself up through the sewer entrance, and replaced the manhole cover. Not far from where I stood, the vampiric taxi driver waited. I walked over to him, climbing into the cab, running my hand along the barrel of the shotgun.
'King's Way. I'm going hunting.'