SAINT IGNATIUS CHURCH
The next night, Scout wakes in the rectory. In Cantor’s room. She’s still a long moment, assessing. After years of practice, she’d trained herself to wake up before him, but sneaking away without disturbing him took careful planning. Slowly, she slides from under the thin covers and pushes to sit up–
The mattress springs shriek.
She freezes, expecting a cold hand on her exposed back at any moment. Carefully, she turns to see the other side of the bed.
She sits up, eliciting another metallic squeal, and scans the room. Cantor isn’t here. His suit hangs neatly on a hanger behind the door. Her own ruined suit is crumpled unceremoniously on the floor. The few decorations and possessions dotting the cramped space are the littered remains of the previous tenant.
Except one thing. A set of women’s clothes–neatly pressed and folded–sits on a chair near the door. The clothes the woman was wearing the night before. The woman at the altar.
Her unease sinks deeper as she gets out of bed. Cantor waking before her is rare enough, but to leave her without specific instructions is even stranger. She checks her phone for messages but it’s empty too. Anxiety gnaws, whispering that this is some test or game of his, and she should contact him to be sure of his wishes….
Instead, she calls Rabenholz.
“Ms. Scout, what may I do for you?” the Ventrue answers in his smooth voice.
“I seem to have found myself without other engagements this evening and was wondering if perhaps you have endeavors you needed assistance with?”
“I do in fact,” Rabenholz replies. “Would you meet me at the Sir Francis Drake in thirty minutes?”
She hesitates, glancing at the time. “…Yes, although I may need to stop along the way.”
“Then a little later perhaps. An hour let’s say.”
“Very well.” She hangs up, staring again between the dead woman’s clothes on the chair and her ruined clothes on the floor.
She picks up her dirty suit and blouse, shrugs into them, then grabs her knife and phone and strides out the door.
A few salespeople eye Scout oddly as she walks into Neiman Marcus, but with one flash of her onyx-black credit card, a personal shopper is summoned and sent to find something in her size.
Ten minutes later, Scout steps out of the dressing room in a new suit set, the old shoved unceremoniously into a bag. “Would you mind just getting rid of these for me?” she asks as she hands it out to the shopper.
He takes the bag with a wince and looks her up and down. Instantly, he brightens. “I know you asked for Tahari but we have some new blouses from Theory that would look just great on your frame.”
“No, thank you. This will do.” She digs the black card out of her wallet.
The clerk eyes the card and grins. “Just take a look, I insist. Getting you to look your best is both our jobs, after all.”
She stops. “What do you mean?”
His expression turns coy. “Girl, please. Anyone under thirty with a card like that didn’t get it from the office account, especially when they look like you.”
Her stomach twists. The card has her name on it–or, at least, one of her fake names–but like every card she had ever been given, the account it pulls from is Cantors.
The clerk throws up his hands. “No judgement! Just saying! You can do a lot better than a plain business suit.”
She sets the card down on the counter with a snap. “I need the clothes for a business meeting, which I am almost late for.”
Instantly, the clerk’s enthusiasm evaporates. He nods wordlessly and disappears to make the calls necessary to run the private card.
Scout catches a glimpse of herself in a mirror behind the counter. The outfit is sharp, neat, built of tight lines fit with knifelike precision. She’d started gravitating toward such tailored styles not long after her embrace, finding comfort in their aura of power and control.
Just another mask to hide the truth, a mean voice within her whispers.
She eyes Cantor’s card as the clerk brings it back. “No need to sign, miss,” he says as he hands it out with a subtle bow.
After a moment, she accepts it, then leaves the store.
The evening is wearing on, but crowds of shoppers still throng across Union Square. A few soldiers are scattered about as well, patrolling on foot and surveying the area from atop humvees. None pay her mind as she slips up into the plaza and cuts across it.
Halfway across, her phone rings. “Yes, Lord Rabenholz?” she answers.
“Ms. Scout, how far away are you?”
She looks up. The Sir Francis Drake stands above the surrounding buildings just a few blocks away. “Not far, I’m in Union Square.”
“I must run an errand shortly. I await you at your earliest convenience.”
“I’ll be there presently.” She hangs up and walks faster.
A creeping sensation suddenly crawls down her neck. She slows. Someone is watching her. She keeps moving toward the intersection at the top of the square, then idly turns to scan behind her. A hooded figure in dark clothes is there, moving in her direction, disappearing and reappearing through the crowd like a predator through long grass.
Scout freezes, all senses locked into assessing the threat. The figure is female, but her movements aren’t the same heavy bustle or lazy meandering of the crowd around her. Her stride is smooth, each step light with barely-restrained power. The stride of a fighter.
Scout quickly checks the street around her. Too many bystanders. If a fight breaks out it’s going to be bad–
When she looks back the figure is gone.
Scout drops her hand toward her knife, her entire consciousness scanning the street for sudden ripples in the air….
Moments pass. No attack comes.
The crossing light changes and the people around her surge forward. Scout hesitates another moment, then hurries toward the hotel.
SIR FRANCIS DRAKE
Scout announces herself at the hotel and is politely directed to the top floor. She walks calmly through the halls toward the elevators, while inside her mind races.
Cantor has many enemies, but the reason they’d remained enemies and not piles of ash on the floor was because they knew better than to move openly against him, often learning from the examples of those who tried. Getting at Cantor by going through her was the obvious alternative, but Cantor had kept her insulated from his…associates…for as long as he’d had her. He’d always told her it was for both their protection, but deep down, the real implication had always been clear: no one was allowed to damage her but him.
As she steps into the elevator and it begins to rise, the thought she’d tried to avoid finally shoves through: If he knows I’m being hunted, will he kill me to keep me from them?
She scowls at her reflection in the elevator door: the suit she can’t afford, the hair dyed dark to attract less attention–from enemies, from Cantor–
–And under the hair her eyes, blue as a desert sky. Just like her brother’s.
She straightens as the elevator arrives at her floor, then steps into the hall and slides out of sight.
A tall black woman answers the door of Rabenholz’s suite and steps aside to let her in. Scout admires her cream-colored skirt and pauses to tell her so, but the woman eyes her with a strange intensity. Scout frowns, then moves on into the room.
Rabenholz is there, standing as she enters. “Thank you, Ms. Tyler,” he says firmly.
The woman finally pulls her gaze from Scout, then nods to him, leaving them for a different room in the suite and closing the double-doors behind her.
“Ms. Scout,” Rabenholz says, settling himself in his chair again. “What may I do for you this evening?”
Still standing, Scout inclines her head. “It seems the question is what I may do for you.”
Rabenholz nods and gestures to the chair opposite him. A decanter of blood is set on the table between them. “I thought you might be here on such an errand. As it turns out I have a number of projects I could use assistance with. You have proven yourself a master of certain skillsets and I wonder if you might prove yourself suited to others. Do you have any experience with lupines?”
Scout hesitates as she settles in the chair. “No, and even if I did, I doubt I’d want more.”
“Indeed. Well then I have some names I need checking up on. You are familiar with a Dr. Corwin Everton?”
Scout nods, eyeing the bottle. By habit, she’d always refused offers of unknown blood, but considering how she needs to be in his good graces, and considering how he appears to be of a less-potent generation than herself….
She leans forward and pours herself a small glass of blood. “I am familiar with that name, yes.”
“I will be meeting with him two nights hence. That is of course information given to you in confidence. Would you be up to the task of discovering his whereabouts? And find out what he does the next two nights?”
She tastes the blood. As expected, it’s laced with vitae, but fairly weak. “I can certainly try, but from what I’ve heard of the man, he is one who appreciates privacy.”
“No doubt. I have a few more names that are perhaps even more elusive, but would appreciate any information you can dig up. Is the name Oliver Thrace familiar to you?” Scout shakes her head and Rabenholz continues. “He was a Tremere regent in Hong Kong. He’s no longer, but allegedly he’s in San Francisco.”
Rabenholz eyes her significantly. “There are few ‘former’ regents in the Tremere. Either you move up or you die. Thrace appears to be an aberration in that regard. If you can discretely discover his whereabouts, I’d be very curious to know what he’s up to these days. The same applies to Dr. Everton. You do not need to speak directly with either of them. In fact, it is better if neither of them knows you even exist.”
Scout nods slowly. “I understand.”
“Of course, there is also the matter of payment….” Rabenholz falls silent, waiting.
Second quickest way to a Ventrue’s heart…. She inclines her head. “Lord Rabenholz. Simply having a place and a purpose is frequently payment in and of itself.”
Rabenholz nods and folds his hands. “Then let’s say an even $100,000.”
Scout blinks. It’s not much by vampire standards, but it would be money earned by something other than death. And it would be money earned on her own.
She nods graciously in acceptance, then lifts the glass to sip at the blood.
Rabenholz nods back, then lifts a hand. “Oh, there is one other name. Are you familiar with Cantor?”
Every shred of self-control leaps into action, muscling past anxiety and fresh memories from the night before. She consciously articulates every muscle movement necessary to keep her hand relaxed and steady enough to finish her sip and slowly place the glass back down on the table. “I believe I have heard the name, although the context escapes me at the moment,” she says evenly.
“Captain Anstis has mentioned him before. He’s an Assamite elder of sorts, taking residence at St. Ignatius Church. Cantor seems content to keep a low profile, and I’m entirely fine with that. But if you could quietly observe and confirm that is the case, I would appreciate it.”
Scout twists the glass on the table, watching the light refract through the cut crystal. Being hired to spy on Cantor was definitely a new one. The very idea sends her gut twisting uncomfortably against the force of her blood bond.
“I’ll see what I can do,” she says evenly.
Rabenholz nods. “Excellent. So. The whereabouts of Corwin Everton, what he has been up to, what actions he is taking. The whereabouts of Oliver Thrace, who should be somewhere in San Francisco. And of course confirmation that Cantor appears to be up to nothing apart from his own interests, and that those interests do not involve trouble for others, namely myself.”
Scout sits back and nods. “Are any of these men I should be worried about?”
“Well, Dr. Everton has already proven himself quite quick on the draw, though none of us seem particularly aware of his skills. I would say you should consider him extremely dangerous. Oliver Thrace, a former Tremere Regent, likewise is likely more dwimmer-crafty than anyone else we’ve met and likely is also extremely dangerous.”
Scout nods. At least he’s not trying to send me blindly to my death.
“Cantor,” Rabenholz continues, “Is an Assamite elder. A clan known for devouring the souls of others to enrich their own vitae. And also a member of the Sabbat Black Hand.” Rabenholz nods. “He is, of course, exceptionally dangerous as well.”
Scout meets Rabenholz’s gaze a long moment. Memories break through her internal mask, sending echoes of his touch and aches from his attentions crawling across her skin. “…Anyone of a lower profile you’re looking for at the moment?”
“Ironically, the least threatening thing you might do is visit Berkeley and try to identify the werewolves coming and going from campus.”
Scout falls silent, weighing the risk of spying on the werewolves against spying on her master. Rabenholz lifts an eyebrow. “Are you still content with your payment?”
Finally, she smirks. “Will there be any per-diem?”
He eyes her seriously. “Ms. Scout, I am a man of many means and I can make many things happen for you if I so desire. Bring me useful information and I’m inclined to reward you. Bring me nothing, and you’ll find I’m less inclined to offer you token payment. Now…do any of these tasks seem like something you are able to do?”
She stares out the window a moment, then sighs. “Well, of the lone Tremere regent, the Black Hand agent, and the pack of werewolves, then it seems the historian is the best option for a quiet evening.”
Rabenholz nods, pleased. “The last time I saw Everton he was at that terrifying house that smells like blood and has zombies under the floor. Hopefully his lodgings have improved, but if not, that would be a good place to start. The address is [ADDRESS]. Report again tomorrow evening,” he finishes firmly.
Taking that for the dismissal it is, Scout stands, bows, and sees herself from the room.
On her way out of the hotel, Anstis calls her and asks to meet. She hesitates, but agrees, and goes to wait in the very middle of Union Square, where she can see clearly in all directions. The crowds have thinned as the night wears on, but there is no sign of the shadowy woman from earlier.
Suddenly a parrot drops out of night sky, landing next to her on the granite step. She watches him waddle closer dispassionately. And to think Cantor thought this pirate a threat…. She scoops him onto her arm, pauses for a few awkward pictures for tourists, then takes him to a nearby alley, only relaxing once she feels the shadows close in around her.
Anstis hops off her arm and instantly turns back into a person. He smooths at his coat and nods a greeting. “Scout. It’s come to my attention recently that the curse of my clan has become rather conspicuous.”
Scout stares at his brocaded coat, coiffed wig, and tentacled-face. “I’m not sure what you mean,” she says flatly.
“I find myself in the market for a tutor.” Anstis leans close and grins. “You have great skill in remaining hidden,” he growls. “I wonder if you might be willing to teach me.”
She lifts an eyebrow, assessing him again. “What do you have to offer?”
The last word sends a shiver through her. She’d never attempted an even trade of vampiric abilities before, but she knew what was involved. Sharing her blood, though, could inadvertently share more than just a few tricks.
She folds her arms. “What skills?”
“Strength, stamina.” His grin widens. “Other things.”
“What other things?”
“Necromantic arts. Animal arts.”
Scout watches him a long moment as he waits eagerly for her response. New tools would be useful, especially tools Cantor didn’t know about, but with the risk of discovery….
Keeping her face even, she nods. “I will consider this. But, so long as we are discussing partnerships….” She glances up and down the alley. “…Our would-be prince has asked me to locate some people for him. I was wondering if you might have any information to help?”
Anstis strokes his beard. “Depends, who are they?”
“The first is Dr. Everton, whom I believe I met when we investigated the Costco some nights ago.”
Anstis nods, then pulls a rock out of his pocket, already scribed with blood. Clutching it, he mutters to himself, then looks up. “Everton is in the house of horrors, on hill of telegraphs.”
She nods. “The second name is…Oliver Thrace?”
Anstis shrugs. “Haven’t heard of him,” he mutters, shoving the rock away.
Scout opens her mouth to ask about Cantor, but the force of her bond suddenly chokes her throat. Fighting back a stutter, she hesitates, willing calm over herself, struggling for a loophole: I’m not betraying him, I’m discovering what others know about him—
–The bond’s grip eases. She takes a breath and continues, “The last name I am looking for is someone by the name of Cantor.”
Anstis freezes, then growls, a real growl that echoes primally through the shadows of the alley. “St. Ignatius Church,” he says without drawing a rock, “But don’t go alone. I engaged in battle with him awhile ago. It went…poorly.”
Scout eyes him a moment. “Why were you engaged in battle with him?”
“I was investigating the disappearance of another Kindred.”
A chill settles over her. “…Another Kindred?”
“Aye. An Assamite. Her trail lead me to him.”
The chill turns to ice.
Anstis gestures dismissively and continues. “Cantor is a member of the Black Hand, an immensely powerful Kindred. I recommend you not engage him alone. But if ye seek Everton, he at least can be reasoned with. I haven’t yet found a way to reason with Cantor.”
She eyes him a moment. Neither have I…. Before her composure can break, she bows and turns to leave.
“Think on my offer, Ms. Scout,” Anstis calls after her. “Think of what I have to offer.”
She stops to glance at him. His eyes glow ferally in the dark. She nods once, then slips into invisibility as she leaves the alley.
Scout’s mind churns as she approaches the weathered house at the edge of Telegraph Hill. People hunting for her master was only to be expected, but if word of her has gotten out….
Her back crawls and she glances behind her. The cul-de-sac is quiet, the only movement breeze blowing through the trees, but she scans the shadows for shadowy figures before continuing.
Despite her nervousness, the closer she gets to the house at the end of the street the slower she walks. Something about it itches at her mind. The sense of being watched comes again, but this time it’s different. Deeper. She reaches the foot of the front steps and hesitates a moment. A faint scent drifts on the breeze, and the longer she sniffs it, the more it smells like blood.
She stares up the stairs, trying to remember why she agreed to come. After a few moments, she takes a breath, ascends the stairs, and knocks. There’s a shuffling behind the door, then a small peephole opens and an eye peers through.
Scout nods. “Dr Everton, I presume?”
The peephole closes. There’s a cascade of lock turning, then the door creaks open, revealing the Toreador scholar, dressed in a tweed smoking jacket and smiling amiably. “Why…Ms. Scout, wasn’t it? How may I be of assistance for you tonight?”
She nods again in a half-bow. “When we met, I mentioned I was new in the city. I’ve heard word you are a good person to connect with in terms of finding out more of the local happenings.”
“Well, I’m flattered you should think so. These aren’t my normal domains, but I have taken an interest in the going-ons of this city recently. Why do you ask?”
Her face slides into an open, warm smile. “I am simply trying to understand the local situation better so I might avoid stepping on any toes.”
He eyes her a moment, then nods. “Aren’t we all, Ms. Scout, aren’t we all. Please come in.” He steps aside and gestures her through.
The cloying scent of blood intensifies the moment she crosses the threshold. Inside, the house is soaked in gloom, the only lights at the moment in the front parlor. Even in the dim light, gashes and bullet holes are visible all along the lower hall. “Your place seems a little…worn,” she says carefully.
Everton guides her toward the parlor. “Yes, there was an unfortunate set of incidents that transpired in this location. Something to do with the minions of a certain Gnaius Perpenna. Or such is my understanding.”
Something inside her crawls uncomfortably at the name. “…Yes, I’ve heard his name tossed around since I’ve been here.”
“And is it Perpenna you wish to know more of?” Everton asks, gesturing toward a dusty armchair.
She sits, poising herself stiffly on the edge of the seat. Within sight of the door. “I wish to know of any of these figures who may be a threat.”
“That’s a rather large list at the moment, this city crawls with a vast number of dangerous Kindred. Some quite obviously so, some perhaps not.” Everton retrieves a silver tea set from a side table and brings it over. He sets it on the coffee table and takes a seat across from her. “Tell me, what are you doing in this city, Ms. Scout?”
She hesitates, pretending to admire the fixtures of the room. It was one thing to brush off inquiries in mixed company, but it was quite harder to avoid pointed questions over tea. For a moment, she considers outing Rabenholz’s plan to spy on him, but the malaise still lingering at the edge of her senses convinces her not to burn any bridges just yet.
Finally she turns to Everton and smiles. “Well, I’ve found in my time, information is something that can always be banked upon.”
“You regard yourself as an information broker, then?” He takes a cup from the tray and sets it in front of her.
She raises a hand in polite refusal. “Not as good as some, but it is a discipline I am branching into.”
“Well then you’ll forgive me for the impertinence of this question, but if you intend to sell information, why would you ask me to give it to you for nothing?”
She hesitates. That…is a good point…. “Perhaps if I can offer something in exchange.”
“There’s a possibility.” Everton carefully lifts the pot and pours himself a cup. Dark, steaming liquid pours out with the consistency of tea, but the smell of blood in the room suddenly intensifies. “See, there’s been a great many unsavory characters about. Some of which you know and some you perhaps do not, but there was one group I was rather particularly hoping not to see. The Followers of Set.”
Scout nods absently. According to Cantor’s lessons in vampire history, Settites had been the traditional enemies of their clan for centuries. But raised as she was–alone with Cantor, stalking the edges of the darkest circles of Sabbat society–she had never truly considered herself among the followers of Haquim. Their ways and vendettas were no more tangible to her than the legends of Alamut.
Everton glances up. “If you’ve heard of the Settites, I assure you all the worst stories are true. If you haven’t, picture some form of lesser demons from a Hollywood film of the 1930s and you should get some conception. Their practices are foul, and they have made themselves quite a nuisance across the Eastern Bay.”
He finishes pouring and sets the pot down. “All of that is normal, actually, but I don’t understand why they have decided to make themselves quite so well known. Settites normally operate from the shadows, yet not only have they attacked rather powerful vampires, including a thousand-year-old Viking Gangrel, but they’ve continued and compounded their notoriety by launching assaults on various Anarch positions. And they’ve done surprisingly well in that regard; it’s not easy to unseat an unruly Brujah.” He smirks a moment, as if recalling from experience. “If you could lay your hands on certain information as to what exactly the Settites are up to, that would be of great interest to me. Some of us have had dealings with them in the past. And some of us know them quite well.”
Scout nods slowly. “Don’t…Settites have some sort of connection to Assamites?” she asks carefully.
“Connection, yes, in the same way that matter and antimatter do. Settites and Assamites have an active feud dating back thousands of years, back before the pyramids were even built.” He sips his drink.
She nods again and looks down at her hands, folded in her lap. This is as good a segue as any. “One of the names I’ve heard tossed around lately that seems to be connected to an Assamite–”
Everton looks up. “If you have a contact amongst the Assamites they may be of some use in this matter.”
Warning tension rises within but she waves it off. “This isn’t a name connected to myself, it’s someone else I’m investigating.”
Everton blows gently on the steaming liquid. “You’re investigating Cantor, then.”
Inside, the tension jerks into a knot, but she regards Everton evenly. “Is he the only Assamite around?”
“No, but he’s the only Assamite of record. He’s a member of the Black Hand, and the less you deal with the Black Hand, the longer your life will be. I’ve dealt with them in the past and I don’t relish the prospect of doing so again.” Everton takes a sip and frowns distastefully. “Whatever Cantor wants, I don’t want to know. I have destroyed worse things than Cantor in my time, but not many.”
Could you do so again? she aches to ask, but her blood bond bucks at the thought. She takes a breath to calm herself. “Have you met him before?” she asks.
“No, but I have met his victims.” Everton eyes her. “They were not in condition to speak too terribly well of him. Cantor has some black hole where his soul is intended to go. I recommend not prying around in it.” Everton sets his cup down. “There is another Assamite in this city. A standard Assamite, perhaps from Alamut itself. I don’t know her goals either. Only heard rumors of her.”
Scout busies herself with studying the lines of woodgrain on the table. “…Is she associated with this Cantor?” she asks carefully.
“I doubt it.” Everton sips again.
Scout suppresses a self-satisfied smirk. Perhaps Everton isn’t as good as he thinks he–
Then the realization hits. —Or what if he is? The woman in the crowd…oh god, is there a real Assamite on our trail?!
“Cantor is Black Hand, the Assamites are independent,” Everton continues. “They don’t look kindly on turncoats. But if this assassin has intentions of bringing Cantor to heel, she’d best take up another line of work. Something less dangerous. Perhaps werewolf hunting.” He smirks. “After all, there is an opening.”
Scout nods vacantly, staring at her hands to hide the turmoil on her face. “So…Settites are fighting Anarchs, and Assamites are chasing Assamites?”
Everton chuckles. “Yes, it’s a rather mad combination around here.”
Scout glances toward the door. All of her instincts tell her to finish the conversation and flee, but a yearning holds her back. I have to know….
She scans the ruined hallway. “I’ve found that the best way to understanding the current situation is understanding what got it there….” She turns back. “When we met at Costco, you mentioned a battle that had taken place there recently?”
Everton traces the floral design on the arm of his chair. “Yes, there was a rather impertinent figure of a Brujah named Thomas Lytton. He came to a sticky end.”
Scout’s heart twists. She looks down.
Everton shrugs. “I don’t know where he wound up. Most likely in someone else’s fangs. He made a series of terminally poor decisions, including associating himself with werewolves and engaging in the casual murder of a Primogen of the city. Now, he may not be the only one to have done so,” he says firmly, “But I didn’t engage in it casually. I never engage in murder casually. It’s not a casual matter.” He leans forward and smiles. “You look like someone who knows that.”
Scout looks up and meets his gaze flatly.
Everton chuckles and picks up his cup again. “Tom Lytton made himself enough of a nuisance that the Justicar declared a Blood Hunt on him. Once that was done, the conclusion was more or less forgone. The pirate, the Regent of the Tremere Chantry, and Mr. Rabenholz himself tracked him down to that very Costco and disabled him. If he’s still alive, they dragged him back to the Chantry for purposes unknown. Rabenholz is calling an Elysium in a few days, I expect we’ll all be told then. Or more likely shown. But I didn’t receive an invitation….” Everton trails off with a slow, coy sip, then sets the cup down again. “If you want to know more about the pre-Blood Hunt actions of Mr. Lytton, you may wish to consult the Regent of the Tremere. They had been known to associate together in recent nights.”
Scout nods stiffly. “I’ve met her briefly.”
“Yes, interesting woman. Completely mad, of course, but she has an interesting agenda in this city that I don’t think anybody has properly appreciated yet. Still, just a thought. She is Tremere so just as likely to eat you as help you. But this city is filled with strange and wondrous creatures, both familiar and esoteric.” He gazes toward the windows–shrouded in heavy lace curtains–then turns back. “And then there’s Rabenholz. Interesting one, that one. Ventrue are all after the same thing, you see. It’s a wonder two can coexist within the same city.” He eyes her and smiles. “I wonder, will he see you as an impediment to his goals, or a necessary assistance?”
She smiles back thinly. “I do try to make myself useful.”
“Do you.” Suddenly Everton leans forward. “Then perhaps you can be of use to me in the immediate moment. Tell me, what clan is it you claim?”
She freezes. The scent of blood in the air is suddenly smothering. She shifts forward, sliding more weight off the chair and onto her feet. “…I believe…it’s not so much the clan you claim as the one that claims you. And none of them claim me.”
“Hmm. I wonder if they would say the same if I were to ask. You wouldn’t be the first runaway to head west.” Everton peers closer, stroking his chin. “Not Nosferatu, nor anything more esoteric… I wonder….” He grins. “The blood will tell, Ms. Scout. The blood will always tell.”
She stares evenly into his gaze and shifts stiffly, leaning so the knife at her back is more accessible.
He chuckles. “I myself am a Toreador, perhaps you’ve heard. But I don’t think you are.”
“I do enjoy art,” she says softly.
“One doesn’t have to be a Toreador to enjoy art, just as one doesn’t have to be a Ventrue to seek power. But I don’t see a Ventrue in you either.” He tilts his head. “Not sure what I see, to be honest.”
“I don’t see how that’s relevant at the moment.”
His expression cools. “You seem a very private person for someone who comes in here and asks me for information given various subjects.”
“Only what you are willing to give.”
“And you’re not willing to explain to me what your clan is?”
She’s silent a long moment. “I’ve found it hasn’t done well for me in the past.” She waits, expecting any moment for him to call her bluff, to reveal he’s known the whole time….
Everton blinks and sits back. “A Sabbat clan, then? You wouldn’t be the first. Tzimisce, Lasombra, some esoteric form of Gangrel? As I said, the city is host to quite a few strange creatures.” Silence lingers. “You may hold a somewhat enlightened notion of whether or not your clan matters,” he continues, “but if the Justicar, or that would-be prince, or the actual one, should demand your clan, you will have to tell them something or you will greet the sun the next morning.”
She stares back. After another long silence, he chuckles. “Well, you don’t have to tell me anything, I don’t claim praxis over this territory. But it is interesting I’ve never heard of you.” He picks up the pot and pours more. “But I’ve never heard of most vampires, I suppose.” The pour finishes and he picks up the cup. “Was there anything else you wanted to inquire about?” he asks, gesturing with it.
“No,” Scout says softly.
He smiles. “Well, then it has been so nice of you to stop by.”
Taking that for a dismissal, Scout stands. Everton nods to her but doesn’t move to get up. She leaves the parlor and lets herself out of the house.
As she reaches the sidewalk, she hesitates and looks back. Everton’s shadow moves behind the thin curtains of the parlor, but every other window in the house is dark. Still, the sense that something is watching her–something besides Everton–lingers.
She turns and hurries down the street.
END OF ADDENDUM