Chapter LVIII: PreparationMy dark-minded reverie ended as the taxi pulled up outside Strauss' building, the purple sun burning gaudily in the lightening sky. I squinted, looking up. Dawn was maybe an hour away. Well, if necessary, I'd spend the day in the Chantry. The sole comfort of my position was that if I died in the morning light, it would really ruin more than a few people's evenings. I was at once too dangerous to live, but too important to kill. It perhaps gave me more leeway than most other kindred, particularly neonates, would otherwise afford. Yet this was far from a heartening thought; my death, once I was no longer useful, would probably be used to scare fledglings for decades. Pushing open the door, I made my way to Strauss' room.
'Gargoyle is neutralised. You won't have any further problems with it.' Not until the Camarilla decide to get into the movie business, anyway. 'Your secret is safe, I've handled it.'
Strauss broke off, eyes closing, head cocked slightly, as if listening to a distant voice.
'I agree.' He responded to that voice, nodding his head. He opened his eyes once again, filled now with paternal respect where once there had been grudging tolerance mingled with contempt.
'You mean I'm one of the worthy now Max? I get to be part of the cool club?' Then why was it Nines' voice that was raised in my defence at my execution, and not yours?
Play the game. Smile. Make them believe you will do whatever they want you to. If they think you malleable, they're less likely to break you. If they think you loyal, they won't keep you muzzled.
A flash of momentary panic hit me.
'Uh, there was someone staying at my place in Santa Monica, and...' I tailed off weakly, unsure how to broach the subject. Max shrugged, turning to the fire, a slight smile playing across his features.
'Thanks. I appreciate it.' I genuinely did. If she could somehow be protected from all this...I felt responsible for her in a way. I had ensnared her in this dangerous relationship in the same way my sire had done for me. I had saved her, and I had ruined her. Corrupted and tainted what was there. I walked up the stairs to my new apartment, that lethargic feeling slowly overcoming me. Dawn was not far away.
She stood there, in my opulent new suite, her eyes feverish, full of adoration as I entered the room. I walked over to her, seeing her quiver at my smile.
Her voice was breaking, her need obvious. I saved her from death, and gave her a junkie's life. With deep, deep regret, I wordlessly held out a wrist, breaking the skin, letting her press the pallid skin to her mouth.
'Heather, don't you think of ever going home? Returning to your old life?'
She looked at me, uncomprehending, her eyes hurt, desperate. I sighed.
'I thought not. Well, stay here. It's not safe outside during at night, not for you. I really need some sleep.'
'I'll watch over you my master...my love...'
My love? Oh, you've broken this one. Doesn't it feel good? Knowing she'd fulfill any sordid desire you have, no matter how depraved. That is, if you had any left.
When I awoke, Heather was curled up on the bed next to me. The heavy drapes blocked out the sunlight perfectly. I left the woman sleeping, walking to the computer. Another email from this mysterious friend, talking of the black priest. I didn't understand. Didn't care. Another email, this time from Mitnik. He wanted me to go to Santa Monica, to the Megahertz building behind the Asylum to set up one of his security cameras. Use the password 'schreknet' to activate it, and get out without being seen. This will really fuck LaCroix!
I deleted the email, just in case. I rummaged through the drawers, finding a spare change of clothing. It occurred to me that I'd be less conspicuous in clothing that wasn't ravaged by fire, torn and full of bullet holes. The heavy leather jacket remained though. I was growing fond of it. I quietly opened the door, making sure not to wake Heather. After all that I had done to her, a few hours sleep was the least I could give back.