It Is Always Three O'Clock in the Morning

Episode 6: Burn

Music: The Cure – Burn

GM’s note: The last three episodes (6, 7, and 8) were written down months after the game happened, an unfortunate result of procrastination. As a result, these accounts are pieced together from my notes during the session and my foggy memories of what went on. Compared to the previous write-ups these will be shorter, feature less dialogue, and they may or may not fully reflect what actually happened in the game.

Piercing winds, the calling card of a newly-arrived winter as November turns to December, howl outside of a dim wood-paneled bar in midtown Manhattan. Inside the bar, Penny sits across a table from her sister Jane. They sip their drinks, and their conversation is as strained as their relationship has become since… well, since. Penny glances over her sister’s shoulder, and shudders at what she sees: Angel and Anthony entering the bar, locking eyes with her, walking over. She stiffens as Jane turns to see what Penny’s staring at, and Angel and Anthony are now just a few paces away, standing there awkwardly. Anthony closes the distance and puts his hand on Penny’s arm: “We need to talk.” Suddenly, all of the tension in Penny’s body releases at once and she tumbles backwards out of her chair, screaming “Shut up! SHUT UP!” to both Anthony and her sister’s questioning face, getting to her feet and retreating to the bathroom. She climbs through a window in the bathroom and is gone.

Later in the evening, Anthony walks down a lower east side street, passing but not seeing the identical-looking brownstones to his left and right. He meditates on Arianne’s task – to kill a human being, without drinking from them. He reflects on the blood he has taken previously, from assholes and abusers and fucks. Some of them deserved to die, and he took something from them, but kill them? He had always pulled up short of that. Anthony is about decided, that he would tell Arianna she could go to hell and that he wasn’t going to play her mystical bullshit game, he wouldn’t kill, when suddenly he is snapped out of his trance-like concentration by a soft crying sound nearby.

Looking around, Anthony doesn’t recognize the neighbor. “I must have wandered pretty far,” he thinks. But he can recognize the source of the crying, down an alley. He stalks toward the noise, realizing it’s coming from a window near the ground. This close, he hears another noise: low mumbling, repetitive words under the now-sharp child’s cries. Crouching low, Anthony can see inside the candle-lit unfinished basement. A large man sits on his knees chanting something nonsensical in front of a crude chalk circle. Inside the circle is the child, bent doubled over and sobbing, cradled by a spreading pool of shining crimson-black blood underneath.

Anthony feels the beast explode within him, and before he knows it he is on the floor of the basement, holding the big man in the air. “What have you done here?,” he furiously demands of the man. The large man, his eyes shining eerily, mumbles out an explanation obsequiously: he learned of a ritual from “Jackson, a man in a blue suit,” a ritual to call the “Dark Masters,” who in exchange for proper payment would make miracles happen. The man’s response is more than obsequious, he is manic and joyous, because here is a “Dark Master” himself! The miracle? He is dying, and he is willing to trade his son’s life for his own. Anthony drops him onto the floor, and just stands there looking at the child for a moment. Finally, he reaches down and forcefully grabs the man’s face, forcing him to look into Anthony’s eyes. He speaks quietly and grimly: “So you denied God’s plan and killed your son, seeking help from something unnatural?” The head in his hands wags up and down enthusiastically, yes. Anthony continues: “You found something unnatural, then. And you took your son’s life to pay me. But what you don’t seem to understand is that the right to take a life isn’t yours. The right is mine.” With a quick twist of Anthony’s hands the man’s thick neck is twisted right around, but suddenly an image of Arianne flashes into Anthony’s mind. And as an act of deliberate rebellion, Anthony lowers his mouth to the man’s neck, drinking deeply of that blood before life has completely left the body.

Several hours later, Angel waits in a trash-strewn gap between two abandoned buildings within sight of the hospital, a squat and stained building two steps away from slumping in on itself. He waits for Anthony, who shows up only slightly late but looking vital and refreshed, and Penny, who shows up late and looking bedraggled. “Okay,” she says irritatedly, “you said we needed to talk, so what’s so damn important?” Angel and Anthony explain their new lead, and the three of them debate how to approach “The Ghost,” how to get the incriminating tape back. After several failed suggestions, Penny has an idea: “Let’s just set the place on fucking fire.” The others stare back at her, dumb-founded. “No, I mean it!” she says, “We bring gasoline and set the tapes on fire! V-v-v- things like us are terrified of it, so no matter how tough he is it’ll let us get the job done.” Angel and Anthony consider the idea, and Penny expects them to behave as they have in the past, vetoing the plan. Instead, they agree to go with it. (Privately, they are both surprised as themselves, but after their most recent feeding experiences each of them feels alive, capable of anything. Powerful.)

And so they find their way to a back stairwell in the hospital, seemingly mostly disused. They climb the stairs, and Penny carries in her hands matches and a can of gasoline. At the top, they find a door to access the attic, surprisingly open. Inside the long, low attic is the detritus of years of abandoned hospital equipment, and at the far end of the space a nest of sorts, a tangled mess of wires surrounding dozens of screens and computer and electronic equipment. And all around this, piles of tapes and CDs. But as they stand there, momentarily surprised, suddenly a shot ricochets out of the labyrinth of furniture in their direction and voice screams, “Who the fuck are you people?!”

Diving for cover, the trio spots the shooter. He stands between two piles of furniture, a short slight man who just happens to have no face. Just a completely smooth expanse of skin where eyes, nose, and mouth should be. Voice seems to work okay somehow, though, as after another bullet rings out he yells, “If you’re Arianne’s thugs, I won’t let you take me!” A third bullet explodes a screen nearby, and Angel bursts out from behind cover toward the faceless thing, claws rapidly extending as he charges. Penny, finding herself near the piles of tapes, takes her opportunity while the others are busy to splash gasoline, setting it promptly ablaze. Before too long, as Angel wrestles the faceless shooter toward a broken window at the edge of the room, the long attic is wreathed in roaring flames. Anthony realizes how screwed they will be very soon, and tries to scream at the other two to get them to realize this. Penny hears, and they both scramble out of the broken window and onto the roof, seeking a fire escape. But Angel is absorbed in the brawl for several more minutes, until he feels the wall of flame licking his back as he struggles. Finally noticing the danger, Angel responds to it in a direct and efficient fashion: he grabs the faceless thing and bull-rushes straight for the broken window, shattering the remaining panes of glass and falling five stories straight down in a sharp arc. He lands heavily, falling into unconsciousness (again), but at least the faceless shooter was underneath him to break his fall.

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