Chapter LXII: The GiovanniAs the taxi turned into the downtown district, I got out at the old hospital. It was time to talk to Pisha. Better to get unfinished business out of the way before heading after the sarcophagus. Once it was retrieved, I was out of here. I had no intention of hanging around to see what was inside. Doomsday would be bad enough. If LaCroix opened it to find it empty...well, I didn't want to be around for that. I criss-crossed through the dilapidated hospital corridors, backtracking where age and neglect had caused ceilings to collapse, floors to give way. Eventually, I found Pisha, her face and body as stained as when I had first been here. Obviously, she had waited until having her next meal. I looked at her with barely-contained hostility and anger.
'That doesn't make me like it', I spat back at her. She had sensed my distaste over the matter, and dismissed it as unimportant. 'What are you doing here, anyway? Hiding this far underground, I get the impression you don't want to be found.'
'You would be right, Kindred', she replied in her infuriatingly complacent tone. 'I do not wish to become involved in the petty disputes of the Camarilla or the Anarchs. I am merely here to find some arcane artifacts that I have been researching.'
'And those would be?'
'One is a fetish, and the other a book of power.'
'So where are they? I'm guessing they're not in the hospital building.'
'What is this fetish exactly?', I asked, wondering if it was the strange item I'd picked up from the museum on a whim. It had somehow resonated within me, and I had absent-mindedly thrown it in my pack.
Pisha trailed off, looking at me in consternation as I pulled the fetish out of my pack. 'Something like this you mean?'
'How did you get that?' Her voice was strangled, her usual superior tone bemused.
'Oh, I heard you'd be in town and thought I'd get you a gift', I responded, mimicking her calm, assured way of speaking. 'You may have it, if you so wish, Kindred.'
'Thanks, I think. So what about this book?' The sooner you are out of town, the better.
'Funnily enough, that's exactly where I'm headed', I responded. 'I'll see what I can find.' I knew I wasn't helping her out of any scholarly altruism. I felt stained, corrupted by her presence, by what I had done for her, and for the Masquerade. Once her presence was gone from LA, then maybe I could, if not forget, at least move on. While she lurked here, the star-eyed spider in her gruesome den, I would feel that nausea as keenly as when I had sent the man to his violent death.
I returned to the taxi.
'You know where the Giovanni's are?'
'Good, I think I might introduce myself.'
The drive took us through the downtown district, and up into the more exclusive suburbs of LA, a place of high gates and classical white mansions. The taxi stopped outside the gate of one which bordered upon palatial, a long driveway leading up to a fountain surrounded by a roundabout that went past the front stairs before returning to the road. I got out of the taxi wordlessly, wondering how to bluff my way in. I had the feeling the Giovanni weren't a family to take head-on.
'Good luck.' With that, the taxi driver span the wheel, turning back towards the main precinct.
Security was tight. Men in suits patrolled either side of the building, with a very large man standing at the front door. If I wanted to get in without a fuss, I couldn't be seen as hostile. It was while I was determining the best course of action that I heard the woman's raucous laughter from the other side of the fountain. I circled it, seeing a man gripping the woman tightly by the arm, murmuring heatedly to her. She laughed again, swaying. I smiled.
'Excuse me miss?'
She attempted to focus on my face with blurred vision, her cheeks flushed and her voice slurred. Her husband looked as if he was about to speak, but a hard glance from his partner stopped him.
'You're here to see the Giovannis?', I asked, obvious derision in my voice. The woman, in her severely inebriated state, missed it completely.
'Yeah, my name is Anthony Giuseppi from the North-East.' The woman giggled, swaying again, her handbag sliding from her shoulder.
'Unfortunately not. I seem to have lost mine.' I looked at her husband from the corner of my eye, raising my eyebrow slightly. He returned the look with embarrassment, shrugging his shoulders.
'I can't imagine how. What's your name?'
I looked at the slight hint of drool appearing from the corner of her mouth, then turned to look at her husband again.
'Are you sure you should take her inside in that condition?'
'Are you sure you want to take that risk? This is the Giovanni family we're talking about. Powerful men.' The man looked at his wife, his expression concerned.
'Awww God! I think I've wet myself!' The woman began to cry, sinking to her knees. The man cringed, aghast.
'Right, that's it, I'm taking you home!' He grabbed her roughly by the elbow, dragging her to a car despite her protests.
'Let me go you fucking bastard!', she squealed, hitting out at him with her handbag. As he deflected the blow, something fell unnoticed from his jacket pocket. I waited for them to get in the car, her slumped against the passenger seat window, him yelling at her as his hands gripped the wheel. The car slowly left the drive, the left indicator flashing as they turned out of the gate. I walked over to the dropped item.
'Victor Rosselini', I said, looking at the invitation I held in my hand. 'Better than sneaking through the back.'
I walked back to the front door, and nodded at the man guarding it.
'Good evening', I said familiarly, stopping in front of him.
'Of course, sorry.' I handed him the invitation, watching as he carefully read the name. I could tell how carefully by the way he read each line aloud, following it with his finger. He straightened, handing the invitation back to me.
'I certainly will', I responded with a grin. 'I certainly will.' I straightened my jacket, pushing my shoulders back as I strutted through the now open door. I had a feeling this whole pointless saga was coming to an end.