It Is Always Three O'Clock in the Morning

Episode 4: Personal Jesus

Music: Depeche Mode – Personal Jesus

On a cold night, Anthony stares pensively at a crumbling old cathedral hemmed in by skyscrapers. He climbs the steps, beckoned by the looming shadows of the place, and passes through the doors. Inside, he is drawn to the closeted dark of the confessional booth, recites the words learned as a child. Through the lattice, a reply comes. “Hello Anthony,” says Arianne. This confession has been coming for a long time, but it will neither will learn anything and nothing will be absolved.

Earlier that evening

Elysium, dark and early on an increasingly biting November night. The decaying art deco bathhouse in the shadow of Central Park’s Belvedere Castle hosts a procession of the damned. Angel, Penny and Anthony float separately around the building, presumably seeking the company of the only people in the world who now share their unique perspective. As Angel broods, his attention is caught by Marcel, appearing from around a corner to greet him in his usual chipper fashion. Angel begs off, not in the mood to deal with Marcel right now, and Penny and Anthony are even less tolerant. Angel wanders off away from Penny and Anthony, when Nora calls out to Anthony from across a room. She greets him and Penny in a saccharine, overly friendly way that foreshadows her bad news: the sheriff called in a favor from Nora, and Nora rolled shit downhill onto the head of Anthony and his companions. Nora tells Anthony she has no idea what it’s about, but that after he fixes it, she and he can “be friends again.” He is understandably sardonic in response.

A couple of hours later, a lower east side community center basement is populated by a handful of circled chairs and fidgeting, nervous Kindred. It’s time for Therapy again, and Penny as the ostensible therapy leader is visibly tense as Edith flits about the room checking in on other “therapy participants.” These include taciturn Donald, dressed in filthy scrubs, and twitchy Matthew, dressed seemingly only in filth. The therapy session is called to order and proceeds through normal support group steps: introductions, confessions, and affirmations. It is quickly apparent that though Penny is theoretically in charge, she runs things simply to keep Edith quiet and happy, and any deviation from this plan results in shouting and not so subtle threats of punishment for Penny from Edith. Donald, a former pediatric nurse, confesses to having taken a child from a local hospital pediatric ward “to heaven” in order to protect him, though the child’s crying voice still echoes in his mind. Matthew is surprisingly recalcitrant to confess, which enrages Edith. Edith in turn confesses that someone had broken into her haven in the last week and stolen something of value to her. In her rage at this, she admitted to having embraced a new bloodsucker, only to consume them to calm herself.

After confessions, there is a snack – that is, a moaning half-conscious woman in a body bag at the center of the circled chairs – which Penny notable abstains from much to Edith’s aggravation. Then affirmations occur, and the session is over. But Penny’s situation is not immediately improved, as shortly after the session Matthew insists on speaking to her, hysterically citing “Doctor-patient confidentiality! Doctor-patient confidentiality!” when Edith draws near to listen. Penny at first attempts to sell Matthew out to Edith, fearing her sire, but then changes her mind (for reasons of conscience? Who knows?) and protects him from Edith. This enrages Edith, but not in her normal shrieking fashion. She simply pointedly informs Penny that this week’s snack was a psychiatric nurse and that next week’s snack could be a therapist, before stalking off. When she is gone, Matthew tells Penny that he has discovered “the cure – the cure to being a vampire,” but that to make it work, he had to get something very special: opening his hand, he shows off a lock of blond hair. Penny recognizes this as Edith’s, specifically a trophy she had kept from the last therapist she embraced to “run” the support group.

Shortly later that evening, Penny meets Angel and Anthony at their flophouse in Harlem to discuss the situation with the sheriff. They’re not sure what the sheriff wants, other than that he wanted Nora to complete some kind of task, which Nora foisted onto Anthony. This is seemingly how favors work in this new society of monsters they travel in. Penny suggests that if things go south, they could possibly sell out Jo and Tiff to save their own asses. Anthony argues angrily against that idea, wanting to keep them as allies of sorts. Angel is non-committal. In the end, they simply agree to go together to hear what the Sheriff has to say.

The trio walks along the Highline, the former elevated train line turned swanky park, a testament to urban renewal on Manhattan’s west side. This is where Nora told them to meet the Sheriff, and as they walk along they discuss the upcoming situation and possible plans. There is, as normal, a fair amount of bickering between the three. They first spot the sheriff leaning against an outer railing on a grassy strip, ignoring the park in favor of staring out at the urban maze beyond. Penny pauses for a moment, absorbing the sheriff’s aura with her vampire eyes, and sees in his pale hues that he is frustrated yet calm. She also spots small black veins traversing his aura, though she is unfamiliar with what that means.

The three approach and they speak. The sheriff begins the conversation by asking their opinion of the park. He is unsure of how to respond to it himself, he says, unsure of how to deal with the change to the landscape. “I suppose we don’t deal well with change,” he says with a small cynical chuckle. “I wonder what that means when everything has changed from how we originally experienced it? Well, anyway.” The Sheriff introduces himself as Nathan Raymer, and then asks if they had heard of the blood heist a few weeks back. (Of course they had, being the ones who committed it.) That hospital fits within the Prince’s domain, he explains, and the Prince, well, she demands it be solved. That names of culprits be produced. He seems disinterested, like he has more important things to worry about than this, but he tells the three that since the Prince has ordered it be done, it must be done. And in this case, it must be done by them. They ask what evidence there might be – was there a surveillance tape? Raymer says that there was, but it was stolen. For more information, they could go speak to a doc at the hospital, a “pawn of Annete’s” who is “clued in to us.” Regardless, he tells them, he wants results. At this, he vaults over the edge of the railing and is gone into the night below. Anthony, Penny, and Angel stare at each other, not entirely sure what to do next. In order to think about it, they split up for a time.

Anthony drifts into a nearby subway entrance. Standing on the platform, he feels a strange pull from a disused tunnel down one end. Responding to this pull, he leaps down from the platform and steps off into the dark. He wanders for an hour, maybe two, before coming to another station elsewhere in the city. Climbing back up on the platform and heading upwards to the city streets, he finds himself standing outside of Trinity Church, a place of worship stretched tall and compressed thin between the looming skyscrapers to either side of it. The pull has not subsisted, and he walks inside. For the first time in a long time, Anthony feels a need for confession, and he makes eye contact with the priest on duty in these early morning hours, who is momentarily busy with a homeless woman on a pew. He steps inside the confessional anyway to wait for the priest, where he is to his shock greeted by Arianne.

Anthony and Arianne speak for a while. Their conversation is theological, philosophical, and at turns almost tender. It lacks some of the subtext of anger and competitiveness of Anthony’s other interactions with the damned, but it is simultaneously colder and less “human.” Anthony seeks to know why he was made. Arianne replies that she found him in her own image, that she was struck by their similarity, and thus she molded him further in her own image. Anthony tries to pry from her why the damned exist. Her response is mystical and religious, and seems to place the monsters they have become as part of the order of nature set in place by God. Anthony accuses her of vague equivocations and bullshit, and she simply tells him that he is not yet capable of understanding the true answers, though the ones she has given him are true enough.

But, she promises, there is a path that he can undertake in order to understand them. Anthony is skeptical, but curious. “Murder a living human being,” Arianne explains. “This man or woman can deserve it, if that makes you feel better, but do not drink from them. Murder them – kill them intentionally. Further, do not hide what you have done. There is no shame in what we do, and you must not hide what you have done from those you spend your nights with. In fact, you must tell them. If you do this, you will be one step closer to understanding. And you will have pleased me, and I can reward you with things earthly as well as spiritual.” Anthony responds that he will consider it, but he soon feels an emptiness in the booth. The shadows have lost the solidity they had moments before. The confessional booth opens, and the priest steps inside, greets Anthony. Anthony pauses for a moment, but then says “Sorry Father, I don’t think I’m up for it anymore.” He then gets up and leaves.

An hour or two before daylight, the trio sits at their regular diner in Harlem, pushing forks around plates of garlic bread ordered by Penny. Angel looks up and sums up Penny and Anthony, announcing flatly, “You guys both look like shit.” They don’t argue much, drowning in their own thoughts. Eventually the conversation drifts to what to do about “solving” the blood heist, and the conversation inevitably turns to who to fuck for this one. Penny helpfully suggests Jo and Tiff again, or maybe Edith? Anthony says he might like to get Nora for what she did to get them into this. Angel brings up the missing tape, and how Roman himself might have it, giving him powerful blackmail material over them in the future. They are mulling this over, when Penny’s phone vibrates with a text. “Seen any black squiggly auras? I’m hunting diablerists,” reads the screen of Penny’s phone, a text from Edith. Diablerie, the drinking of another Kindred’s blood and possibly soul, is the worst crime to Kindred society, and sudden comprehension rushes over Penny’s face as she explains what she has just now learned about Nathan and Edith’s plans. An egg of a plan hatches in Penny’s mind, but no one is fully sold on it yet, even Penny. The group decides not to worry about who to try and fuck over quite yet, wanting to find just who holds the tape and therefore the secret of their involvement in the blood heist.

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