Chapter LXXIII: The BloodhuntJack sped through the night, swerving at the last second to avoid an oncoming truck, the sound of Ministry's latest song 'Bloodlines' rattling the windows. He cursed, doing a hand-break turn, taking us down a side street.
'Camarilla road-block up ahead. We better get somewhere you can lay low. Things have got hot all of a sudden. Looks like you pissed someone off.'
Jack took us the back way to Santa Monica, bringing the car to a screeching halt outside Tripp's pawnshop, leaving the engine running.
'Get inside, your old haven. Wait there, I'm going to hide the car.'
I ran inside as Jack sped off, waited inside until he arrived. Taking one look at my beaten carcass, the missing eye, the claw marks, Jack winced.
'Looks like you've had a rough night. And here I am, missing all the action!' Jack laughed, pulling out a bloodpack. He tossed it to me, and I drank thirstily, draining the pack. It tasted different, more alive somehow. I felt pretty good.
'Now get some sleep, I'll keep an eye on you.'
Time passed. When I woke up, I felt like my old self. The back was healed, not even a graze. I blinked. Seemed my eye was back. I waved a hand in front of my face.
'Yep, definitely two eyes.' Was it what Jack had given me that had done the trick, or was it the sleep? I sat up, and looked at Jack. He gazed moodily out the window, watching the rain trickle down.
'Move? Move where?'
'What the fuck is going on?' It seemed that the world had not stopped turning while I was asleep.
'Fuck. That's just perfect. He managed to turn that one around perfectly. Seems the guy isn't such an ass after all.'
'Wait, so plan A didn't work? Is Nines still alive?' Hope flowed into me. If Nines was still around, then maybe LaCroix could be taken out...
'Right. So what do I do now?'
From nobody to hand of the Prince to most hated figure in the Vampire world in under a week...
'Great. Where I feel safest. Thanks Jack, you've really saved my ass.'
'I know. If you live through this, you can pay me back with a cold one. Well, a hot one. We prefer 'em warm, right kid?' Jack gripped my arm, slammed his hand against my back by way of farewell.
'Look after yourself kid, and remember, don't get caught.'
I nodded, and grabbed my weapons off the benchtop. It looked like a small arsenal, but I couldn't help but feel it wasn't quite enough. I proceeded down the stairs, and cautiously opened the exit door.
I crouched down, listening. Santa Monica was abnormally quiet. No passing cars, no sound of the usual late-nighters on their way home. I crept out of the alleyway, and took a look at the street. Just as I had expected. Vampires lurked on the street corners, barely moving as they watched all exits. How did this work for the Masquerade? A Nosferatu stood on the corner, his gimp mask not enough to hide his deformities. A Gangrel perched on a rooftop, long claws hanging over the edge as he carefully watched the street. I breathed in deeply. Couldn't be seen, couldn't get caught.
Using the shadows to my advantage, I crossed the street far behind the lurking vampires. Any hope of using the pedestrian access behind The Asylum to get to the junk-yard was dashed by the heavy bins blocking the path. They were trying to box me in. I had little choice but to carefully sneak down the street towards the car-park.
I hid behind the art gallery that I had visited so long ago, leaned against the wall and listened. A Toreador fop was talking to another vampire.
'So, do we take this guy in alive?'
'LaCroix wants him dead.'
'I don't get it', the Toreador said, kicking at a coke can that had rolled by his well-shod foot. 'After all the shit he's been through lately, you think LaCroix would be giving the guy a medal for taking out Nines. He's been after that guy's head since he moved in.'
'Kuei Jin', growled the other vampire. In his war-form, the creature found complex sentences difficult. 'He betrayed us for the asian fuckers.'
'Well, makes no difference to me. The money the Prince is offering is enough to set myself up with my own domain.' The Toreador laughed, gesturing with his shotgun. I moved down the alley-way between the gallery and car-park, and slipped in between the railings.
Another vampire stood in the car-park, looking towards the exit where the other vampires stood, machine gun clutched close to his chest. Posing, rather than standing guard.
Another Toreador then, I thought wearily. They seem to think this is a game.
I crept past cautiously, not that it mattered. The Toreador was having too much fun to have noticed if I walked past and waved. The heavy-set vampire waiting at the exit was another thing altogether. His eyes were alert, watching the main concourse, his jaw set.
Using the parked cars as cover, I edged around the side of the building, staying in the shadows. Slowly, ponderously, I was able to make my way out of the car-park without alerting the guard. I continued to move slowly, heading past The Asylum, which for the first time was closed, the building silent. I saw the cab waiting by the junkyard gate, and not seeing any patrolling vampires, ran towards it.
I leaned down by the door. The voice came from the driver's seat, dark, ominous and cultured. Quite unlike anything I'd heard before.
'The hell out of here, and fast!'
I looked at the man, puzzled. There was something about him. Unusual, and disturbing, but why, I couldn't place.
'I don't care, as long as I get out of here.'
I jumped into the back, and the taxi wheels screeched, the cab spinning as it headed out of Santa Monica.