Friday, 23 August 2019

Vampire the Masquerade V5 - Session Forty Two - Blood Money (Part Five)

I'm currently running a Vampire the Masquerade chronicle using the 5th Edition rule-set for a small group of fellow role-players. These are the chronicles of their adventures.
Our campaign is set in Los Angeles and features a small group of Camarilla agents sent into the 'Free States' to search for ways to once again bring the Ivory Tower to dominance under the pretence of being disillusioned neonates looking for the freedom of the Anarch way of life. Now with a barony of their own it's time to consolidate their position and then plan their next move.
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The now obligatory warning bit - Unlike my other RPG write-ups this one will contain swearing, sexual references and other references that might offend. If you can't tell the difference between real peoples opinions and grown-ups role-playing predators who crave blood then this probably won't be for you. I've also used actual photographs to represent some characters which I'll give acknowledgements to at the end if I've any idea who they are.
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The introduction to this campaign, the first story and all the other parts can be found at the following links and are in chronological order. If you'd prefer a summary of each session rather than read everything then there's a more detailed link page HERE as well as links to the first episode of each story in the blog sidebar.
'Infiltrate LA' Chronicle
Welcome to L.A. - Introductory Session
Story One - 'Three Murders' - Part OneTwo, ThreeFour and Five
Interlude Session - One
Story Two - 'The Pasadena Problem' - Part OneTwoThree, and Four
Solo Session - 'The Neillson Library'
Story Two Continued- 'The Pasadena Problem' - Part FiveSixSeven and Eight
Story Three - 'Becoming Baron' - Part OneTwoThreeFour and Five
Solo Session - 'The Gather'
Story Three Continued - 'Becoming Baron' - Part SixSeven and Eight
'Foothold LA' Chronicle
Solo Session - 'Hostile Takeover'
Story Four - 'Countdown' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Five - 'The Missing Chantry' - Part OneTwoThreeFour and Five
Solo Session - 'The Anaheim Assassination'
Story Six - 'A Meeting of Barons' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Seven - 'The Carmelita Situation' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Eight - 'The Blount Sisters' - Part One and Two
Story Nine - 'Blood Money' - Part One, Two, Three and Four

The PC's
Player controlled characters
Michael Tomassio - Toreador, Baron of Pasadena
Vincent 'Vin' Ghast - Brujah, Sheriff
Dr Daniel Matthews - Banu Haqim, 'Fixer'
Hope Romero - Gangrel, Scourge
Mr Hertz - Nosferatu, Mob Accountant
The SPC's
Storyteller controlled player allies
Johnny 'Roach' West - Malkavian, Seneschal
Marie - Clan Carna, Occult Advisor

The player characters stats and backgrounds can be found HERE should any-one be interested. There's also some minor 'house-rules' HERE that have occurred as we went along.

As I have written out introductions and dialogue for certain NPC's and some location descriptions I'll post these more or less as I wrote them so they'll be in a 'reading to the group' style and they'll also be in blue so you can tell them apart from the more traditional write-up sections and occasionally an obscure Malkavian premonition will turn up in purple. If I think something needs a bit of out of character explanation then those will get a storytellers note that will helpfully be in red. Anything covered via player handouts will also be in blue as they're written in the same style as introductions and the like. Where particular NPC's have a mention in a faction profile you will be able to reach it by clicking on their name beneath their picture.

Introduction
The coterie has discovered that their embezzler quarry had not been working alone and that whoever they are fronting for is connected to a company called Maynard Finance. They are also now sure that Marcel Emery was assassinated by agents of the Baron of Whittier, Gloria Martinez in retaliation for some slight or insult that was bought up during his meeting with her several weeks ago.

Scene Seventeen - Maynard Finance
Dr Daniel Matthews - Banu Haqim
Or Brujah if Anyone Asks...
According to the coteries research, Maynard Finance's principle shareholder is currently a Francisca Alvarado apparently the daughter of Yasmine Alvarado though with kindred involved it's more than likely that the two are one and the same.

Mr Hertz has suggested that a legitimate visit could easily be arranged by Daniel in the guise of an investor. The Nosferatu pointed out that most financial firms would be willing to meet outside of normal working hours for some-one with money to throw at them and this would also give then the opportunity to look around. Daniel who was a big fan of reconnaissance before acting thought this was an excellent idea. Michael however wanted him to have some back-up so suggested Hope go along too. Mr Hertz turned out to be correct and Daniel was informed that one of their investment advisers could be made available to them the following evening if necessary to fit around Daniel's 'unusual working hours'.

Henrique 'Hank' Boyd - Brujah
Baron of the Crypts Sons
Mr Hertz meanwhile was becoming more and more keen on experiencing the potential new challenges that Los Angeles had to offer. He had therefore decided to see if his services as a freelance accountant to those with the unique problems experienced by kindred with money were likely to be in any demand in the city. As he had heard from the coterie that 'Hank' Boyd of the Crypt Sons was expanding currently he made arrangements through various contacts to meet up with him and explain just what talents he had to offer.

Vin had returned to the hotel to ensure that the arrangements for Gloria Martinez's guest had been completed. Three of the brothel's most skilled 'entertainers' had been provided and one of Roach's gang had dropped off a significant quantity of recreational chemicals to help their evening go smoothly. He also checked in on his ghoul Sarah who was busy making sure Vin's security people were doing their jobs properly and that all the money they were due from the girls drop-off points had been collected.

Hope and Daniel's meeting with the companies representative whose name was Klay Sharp was for eight in the evening which gave them some time to get ready. Daniel had no shortage of expensive suits though of late he had been dressing more casually due to the fact that he was pretending to be a Brujah and the Anarchs of that clan tended to favour more of a rebel look. Hope on the other hand tended towards practical clothing and there was little need to do ones hair and make-up when patrolling the outskirts of a barony kicking the shit out of poachers.

Hope Romero - Gangrel
'In Disguise'
Hope therefore took a little more persuading to dress up and pretend to be what Daniel was now calling his 'Trophy Girlfriend' in an effort to annoy Hope as much as possible. Hope subsequently spent the journey to Maynard Finance complaining about the impracticability of the dress should she need to beat any-one to death while Daniel wound her up by telling her how pretty she looked, and telling her she should make an effort more often.

Maynard Finance is located at the edge of the financial district in an area yet to experience the gentrification that has engulfed most of downtown. The majority of the buildings have metal shutters, barred windows and alarm systems, presumably due to the area's proximity to a number of areas infamous for high crime levels. No doubt the Maynard Finance building was there before the downward economic spiral suffered locally and is too valuable a piece of property to abandon.

The office building with the 'Maynard Finance' sign across the front is a six story, solidly built, square structure that looks to be stone rather than the prefabricated materials that most of the surrounding buildings are built from. The entrance is a set of glass double doors that lead into a reception area.

They were met in the lobby by the aforementioned Mr Sharp or "Just call me Klay..." as he introduced himself. Daniel was using his own name as his identity as a Dr was virtually ironclad. He introduced Hope as his wife rather than girlfriend as they'd earlier agreed, mainly to get on her nerves as when working together they had a well established routine of sniping at each other almost habitually.

Maynard Finance - Downtown
Hope managed to disguise her grimace just in time as they were escorted to the elevator to the top floor. The office was luxurious and it was evident that the company was doing rather well for itself. Daniel's heightened hearing also indicated that some-one else was having a meeting on that floor though they were too far away for him to be able to eavesdrop. Hope had to admit that Daniel was actually surprisingly adept at deception though had to resist the urge to punch him in the base of the skull when he started talking about how they were looking at "Starting a family..." In an effort to give himself some time to explore he kept turning down the investment opportunities offered until 'Klay' was forced to go and see "What else he had to offer..."

"You stay here and look pretty dear..." said Daniel, knowing he'd pay for it later "...and I'll try to find a toilet..." "Don't get lost dear..." replied Hope with a wink as Daniel strolled down the corridor in completely the opposite direction to the facilities to try and see who else was about. The other meeting was taking place in a larger room at the end of the corridor. It had opaque windows facing the rest of the offices but Daniel could see that the window adjacent to the corridor was ordinary glass.

'Francisca' Alvarado? - Ventrue
A woman is having a meeting on the top floor with what looks like several senior partners of the company and is trying to persuade them to accept several investments whose origins she is attempting to keep to herself. She is claiming to be Francisca Alvarado, the company founders daughter and has documentation backing her claim as inheritor of her mothers shareholding. The company is reticent to accept the twenty seven million dollars without any indication of it's source as the government currently investigates such quantities of untraceable funds due to money laundering and terrorism.

Noticing Daniel walking past the window he heard the woman say "This meeting was to be private..." and one of the men inside asked him what he was doing. He made his excuses about looking for a washroom and was directed back the way he came. After a brief pause, Daniel heard the woman say "You will except the funds and you will find a way to make this work..." and heard the partners almost immediately change their tune and start to discuss how best to invest her money as if the previous conversation hadn't happened at all. Sure now that the woman was the person behind Marcel as he knew a use of the Ventrue's supernatural ability to dominate others when he heard one, he and Hope made their excuses to Klay and left to decide what to do next.

Scene Eighteen - Extricate/Execute
Alessandro Kaye - Clan Tremere
House Ipsissimus
Once outside, Daniel rang Michael, while Hope metamorphosised into a raven form and scouted the area. "I'm reasonably sure that the real embezzler who was using Marcel as a puppet is in the building now trying to launder her ninety percent of the money. Hope's going to get a 'birds eye' view of the area and then we'll see if we can grab her." Michael told them to be careful as Hope returned to the ground and flowed back into human form with news of some complications.

Hope had observed three groups of two people, all armed, with the exception of the blood sorcerer who the Gangrel presumed didn't really need any. They were approaching the building from three different directions and she recognised them as being the six individuals who had been with Gloria Martinez at their meeting at Club Confession.

Hope quickly grabbed her 'go' bag from Daniel's car and changed into something more suitable for kicking ass and readied her guns. Daniel then once again phoned Michael to appraise him of the situation. "It looks like Gloria has sent her hit-team to do to Yasmine what they did to Marcel..." Michael enquired about whether Daniel believed that he and Hope could extricate Yasmine without endangering themselves as six to two wasn't great odds when the six were a trained kill-team used to working together. "I leave it entirely to your judgement Daniel..." Wandering if he was about to make a terrible mistake, Daniel turned to Hope. "We're going in..."

Sarah - Ghoul of Vin
Personal Assistant
Michael hung-up and then immediately rang Vin. "I'm going to send you the address for a location in downtown, Hope and Daniel are there to extricate the embezzler and it looks like they're going to have company..." Vin asked exactly what he meant by company and was informed that it was most likely the kindred and ghouls that had been with Gloria. "If you get there in time to help, follow Daniel's lead as it's his operation." Vin grunted noncommittally. "If you need to kill in self-defence then fine but otherwise I'd like to avoid casualties." Vin put down the phone and reached for the harness that held his two-handed machete and the bag that contained his full-auto shotgun. "Sarah...keep an eye on things here...I'm going out..." It was unlikely that he'd reach them in time but if anyone had harmed his coterie they would regret it. Just not for very long.

Daniel knocked on the glass doors to attract the guards attention and mouthed that he'd left his wallet upstairs. The security man sighed and opened the door. "I'll need to accompany you up..." he said and gestured towards the lift. Once inside the elevator Hope moved behind the guard and a moment after he pressed the button knocked him out with a single blow to the neck.

Once they reached the floor where the meeting had been taking place Hope dragged the guards unconscious body between the doors so the elevator couldn't be called away. Having already made a mental map of the area Daniel double-checked the location of the fire escape and then hit the fire alarm button figuring that nothing made a kindred move faster than fear of fire, other than sunlight of course.

The woman they believed to be Yasmine emerged from the office with the three company executives guarding her like a human shield. Not having time to be subtle, Daniel got straight to the point. "A hit-team is here to kill you, we're here to get you out." "You'll need to ditch the mortals too." Added Hope. "...they'll just get in the way."

Hope took point as she was as far as they knew the most resilient of the group with their target and now protectee in the middle and Daniel taking up the rear. As they reached one of the lower floors Hope noticed that one of the fire-doors was open, she decided this was unusual as there had been no-one on that floor to use it to escape. She stopped and beckoned to Daniel to come closer. "That looks like a murder hole to me." she whispered. Daniel focused his senses on the open doorway and was sure he could hear two people though only one was breathing. It looked like their escape route was blocked by one kindred and one ghoul with who knew what firepower aimed at the gap.

Hope looked around for another way out but there was only the way they had came or the heavily barred second floor window behind them. She opened the window and then gripped two of the bars and began to pull them apart. A combination of supernatural strength and a surge of vitae to her muscles to enhance it even further allowed her to bend the bars apart enough for one person at a time to slip through. Such a drop would have been a danger for a mere mortal though less so for flesh that was already dead.

Before she herself dropped to the ground the Gangrel scourge left a fire-axe wedged in the gap so it would appear that the bars had been levered open by that. Admittedly it wouldn't fool anyone who gave it a go but to the casual observer it might be enough.

Either because she rightly didn't trust them or simply because it was her only opportunity to do so the woman chose this moment to make her escape towards the front of the building where her vehicle was presumably parked. Unusually for a Ventrue she seemed to possess speed that rivalled Daniels own and covered fifty metres in a fraction of a second. As the Banu Haqim followed at the same inhuman speed some instinct screamed at him to hit the ground just as a hail of bullets ripped into the fleeing Miss Alvarado.

As Daniel looked up from his position on the ground he could see two groups in cover between the cars in the car park and another pair using the lobby as cover. One of the two in the group by the lobby had a light machine gun set up. "Don't shoot...Were just after some answers..." yelled Daniel as he heard the group begin to tactically reload all their weapons for fresh magazines whether they had been emptied or not.

Daniel Matthews - Unerring Aim
Rather than accept that this meant they were willing to listen and were merely taking reasonable precautions against betrayal as they hadn't immediately opened fire, Daniel instead took aim at the large biker who seemed to be leading the group and shot him in the face removing a chunk of his lower jaw. Caught by surprise at the impetuous and totally ill-thought action Hope ran from the side alley and put herself in between the team and Daniel, hoping that she could withstand the concentration of fire long enough for them to have some chance of escape.

Storytellers Note - Well...Yeah...So that happened, not what I was expecting at all so. Fortunately for the character concerned his fellow players Gangrel killing machine had a speciality in Oratory that I'd forgotten about...

Josie Parrish -  Brujah
One of Gloria Martinez's Assassin's
Hope wasn't a negotiator by nature but she did have some skill at oratory and decided it was worth a try at least if only to buy them some time to think. Her mental calculation of the time since their call to Michael and the distance from the gallery made it next to impossible that Vin would arrive in time to even the odds. "We just want to question the woman..." Hope began. "That's what your friend said just before ambushing one of us like a fucking coward..." interrupted the young female biker from one of the other pairs of assassins "...so why shouldn't we kill you both now and take her anyway?" Looking at the firepower now pointed directly at her she had to admit that their negotiating position wasn't great. Figuring she now had nothing to lose she continued. "Just out of interest, are you here to kill Miss Alvarado?"

"Yes." Replied the biker girl. "But not straight away if that's any consolation. However that's not really your main concern right now. Your main decision is whether you leave immediately or die three seconds after I've finished talking when my colleagues open fire." "I think..." said Hope "...that we'll be going now." As she helped Daniel to his feet to she backed away as two of Gloria's people moved carefully from cover, slapped manacles on Miss Alvarado's hands and feet and dragged her back to one of their vehicles. "Michael is going to be pissed..." observed the Gangrel as they drove away.

Interlude Five - Past Sins
The Asp Hole - Hollywood
Though there were a number of places across LA where kindred could arrange private meetings with understanding hosts, there were few kindred who were aware that 'The Asp Hole' club in Hollywood was one such place. An old cellar beneath led to basement room which was in turn attached to an old office connected to the sewer network. The basement room had been turned into a functional meeting room and was sound-proofed, electronically shielded and furnished well enough to enable a dozen or so kindred to meet comfortably.

It's primary benefit however was that it was easy to access from the Hollywood Warrens which made it a useful place for Nosferatu to meet above ground contacts in a mutually convenient location. It's common use by the Sewer Rats had given it a certain reputation as a place that only the lowest of the low clans would meet in which is why it's two current guests were sure that absolutely no-one would suspect them of have being anywhere near the place.

Sir Ralph Hamilton
Brujah Idealists
Sir Ralph Hamilton, leader of the so-called Brujah Idealists was sitting across from Dawn Cavanagh, sole representative of 'The Ministry' formally known as the Followers of Set in LA and current darling of whatever health club fad the mortals of Hollywood were paying exorbitant fees for. "So Fiorenza Savona's former rival Yasmine Alvarado isn't a pile of ash after all." Began Miss Cavanagh. "That was a surprise in of itself but the real shock was that you'd point her in my direction to invest some of her newly acquired wealth with. We're not exactly friends now are we?"

Sir Ralph explained that Yasmine arranged a meeting with him at Club Zombie through a proxy named Marcel Emery as he'd known Miss Alvarado briefly in London. She had expressed a desire to embed herself in Los Angeles as completely and quickly as possible and as Dawn had her fangs into most of the movers and shakers in LA he had recommended her franchise of health clubs as a good start."I also thought it might be a good way to encourage you to keep indiscretions from my past related to your clan to yourself. A boon for a boon if you like."

Dawn Cavanaugh - The Ministry
Dawn smiled in a manner that immediately made Ralph uncomfortable and spoke once more. "Unfortunately it seems unlikely that the Ventrue will be investing with any-one as Gloria Martinez has sent a hit team to capture, brutally torture, then decapitate her. They've already taken out her 'proxy' as you called him. So I'm afraid your referral has gained me nothing and therefore I owe you nothing. However knowledge of your past dalliances with corruption and degradation are safe with me...for now at least..."

Sir Ralph Hamilton quietly cursed himself for ever having anything to do with the serpents and left Dawn alone in the meeting room. Dawn began to laugh cruelly to herself as soon as the Brujah had left. She had enjoyed letting the arrogant fool believe he'd ingratiated himself with her only to rip that hope from him.

Yasmine was no better in her opinion. Attempting to blackmail Gloria Martinez with the rumour that she was placed in Los Angeles by a Justicar and was a sleeper agent was a ridiculous idea. Even if true no-one would believe it of a childe of Salvador Garcia and the Baron of Whittier was notoriously vindictive and certain to retaliate as she had done. Such an amateurish attempt at blackmail offended her as corruption was her business and she was very, very good at it. Besides which, it had been her who had told Gloria where to find Marcel and Yasmine in the first place, primarily to ruin Sir Ralph's little scheme but also because it had amused her to do so.

Scene Nineteen - Repercussions
Gloria Martinez - Brujah
Baron of Whittier
Michael's phone rang with the contact number he had listed for Gloria Martinez. As soon as he saw it appear he knew that something had gone wrong. "Evening Baron..." Michael braced himself for whatever was to come next. "One of your operatives shot one of mine in the face half a second after requesting a cease fire which they had granted." The Toreador immediately leapt to the wrong conclusion which wasn't surprising considering how such things usually went. "I'm sure Hope was merely..." Gloria interrupted. "Not her, the other one, your driver. He was apparently the instigator. If not for the impassioned plea from the Gangrel this phone call would be to tell you where to pick up two piles of ashes." Michael gave his most sincere apologies and explained in broad strokes that they required Yasmine Alvarado to assist them with a task that had fallen into their laps and that they had merely wished to question her.

"Despite all that has occurred, it is still something that I may deign to allow..." Micheal who was an experienced negotiator who had been on both ends of such debates many times waited to see what hoops he was about to have to jump through. "...however considering that we are both to varying degrees responsible for a gun battle in what is either the barony of the incredibly territorial Louis Fortier or the notoriously vindictive Marius depending on what night of the week it is, perhaps we should have a meeting to clear things up between our baronies."

Michael could see her point so didn't interrupt as she continued. "I have a place in Whittier, a pool hall to be exact, where I sometimes have meetings. There we can discuss what to do next and if I'm satisfied then perhaps I'll let you chat to Miss Alvarado before I have her head removed." Her tone then shifted becoming very cold indeed. "Or we go to war, the choice is yours." It being in fact, no choice at all, Michael agreed.

After emptying his supply of blood-bags and feeding from two prostitutes provided by Vin after he had been called back to the barony, Daniel headed back to the gallery along with Hope to face the ire of their baron. Vin accompanied them though whether it was as moral support or a potential executioner it was difficult to tell. An angry Michael was a rare sight and after laying out Gloria's version of the events of the evening to them they were given a chance to explain. Unfortunately Daniel's explanation was somewhat poor as even he realised that he'd reacted badly and made a mistake and as he laid out the sequence of events to Michael he began to experience a rare bout of self doubt.

"Miss Martinez requires us to attend a meeting in her territory to 'discuss' what happened. As the alternative is a war that will bleed our resources, disrupt our supply routes and that we'd almost certainly lose as her allies in Covina and El Hermandad would no doubt come to her aid, I have been forced to agree." Michael paused as if inviting other viewpoints, but the pair chose to remain silent.

"The one tiny positive is that Gloria has implied that she may let us speak to Yasmine before she kills her if the meeting is satisfactory. She has however specified that all within the meeting will be unarmed." Even Vin raised an eyebrow at that. As most of Gloria's kindred were Brujah and Gangrel being unarmed was hardly the disadvantage to them that it would be to someone like Daniel. Michael continued. "Now for the other problem..."

Michael, like Gloria was rightly concerned about the fact that they had been involved in a gun battle in the middle of what was currently disputed territory between the Ventrue Baron Louis Fortier and the Gangrel 'Fixer' Marius Walker. Michael's people had however been observed entering and leaving the building on two separate occasions and he was sure that such a company would have security cameras.

"As you created the problem..." he said staring directly at Daniel. "...you can return to Maynard Finance and either retrieve or destroy any security footage connecting us to the incident as a matter of urgency." The Banu Haqim left to do as he had been ordered. As he did so, Hope joined him. "You're going to need help I imagine..."


As they arrived back at Maynard Finance they observed a number of police vehicles that were seemingly investigating the incident which was going to complicate matters. As Daniel panned across the scene he realised that one of the policeman looked familiar. Heightening his vision he had a closer look and was now sure that one of the officers was a ghoul of Louis Fortier, Baron of West LA and Downtown.

Hope had removed the last of the make-up she had been wearing earlier as part of her disguise and had cut her hair into a bob so she looked as least like the glamorous trophy girlfriend she had reluctantly played on their earlier visit. Daniel's heightened senses were meanwhile focused entirely on the fake cops and a conversation they were having about having to do what one referred to as "...another fucking clean-up job..."

Hope offered to distract those outside while Daniel snuck inside to retrieve or destroy any security footage that the building might contain. "Officer, I wander if you can help me?" As those present turned to see what Hope wanted, the Banu Haqim faded from sight and entered Maynard Finance for the third time this evening. Thinking quickly, Hope pretended to be the girlfriend of the security guard that she knew had been injured during the attack. She knew this of course because it had been her who had injured them in the first place. Attempting to maintain his cover identity the 'cop' pretended to be looking into it for her and strolled over to his colleagues. Daniel meanwhile had discovered that the security room was on the sixth floor of the building so headed there as fast as he could.

Daniel could hear someone moving about in the security room, presumably another of the fake cops who was working for Fortier. Deciding it was easier to let them do the search and then liberate any evidence from them he waited ready to ambush them as they emerged from the office. He was somewhat surprised when the man left the room weapon drawn and alert. Self doubt struck again as he wandered what he'd done to alert the ersatz cop as he prepared to disarm them.

Jean 'Jax' Thomas
Ghoul of Louis Fortier
As he attempted to disarm the fake cop he was dismayed as they countered his move and shifted the aim to put a round through Daniel's forehead. Drawing on the powers of the blood he moved behind the surprisingly skilled opponent with supernatural speed ready to knock them out. The cop once again countered the move, dropping their own weapon, stepping forward out of range and then drawing a heavy baton in a single motion and striking Daniel precisely in the temple.

Had he been mortal the blow would no doubt have rendered him unconscious but as it was merely caused superficial damage. As Daniel counterattacked with his favoured karambit knives his opponent dodged the attack and dropped to the ground before rolling towards the gun he'd dropped earlier. Having a mortal cause this much trouble was doing little to alleviate the Banu Haqim's increasing lack of faith in his own talents. Unfortunately it was about to get worse.

Jean 'Jax' Thomas - Ghoul
Surprisingly Quick
The man came out of the combat roll in a perfect crouched firing stance and raised a weapon to fire just as Daniel realised that their handgun was still on the floor. He found he was actually looking down the barrel of a suppressed Micro-Uzi submachine gun that they had somehow produced from beneath their jacket as a figure eight burst of 9mm rounds zig-zagged across his chest.

Daniel's frustrations grew as he missed the fast moving target once again with his blades and received the rest of the weapons magazine of bullets at point blank range followed by a foot to the chest. As Daniel stepped backwards to gain some distance his prey dived for the fire escape door. Switching to his handgun the assassin emptied the magazine in their direction but merely managed to put nine 10mm handgun rounds into the fire escape door.

Throwing caution to the wind, Daniel kicked open the fire door risking getting a face full of uzi rounds. He saw his frustrating enemy slide expertly down the last few steps and observed he was now radioing for assistance. The last words he heard as they rounded the corner was "Send back-up, there's someone 'special' up here..." Swearing loudly he headed back to the security room to see if anything could be salvaged from the situation.

The building had a sophisticated system and it looked like it recorded to a hard drive that had clearly been removed. Forcing himself to think clearly and assess the situation, Daniel could think of nowhere that the man he was fighting could have concealed the bulky drive. Adding it to the list of disasters that had occurred today he exited the building via the roof and leapt across to the next building before making his way to ground level fire the exterior fire escape.

Outside, Hope heard the half a dozen cops receive the message and watched with concern as they ran en masse towards the building. Thinking quickly she left a note under the fake policeman's windscreen saying 'Gone to the hospital' in order to alleviate suspicion about her absence when the 'cops' returned. A few minutes later Hope and a dejected Daniel made their way back to the gallery to report their second failure of the night.

Victoria - Ghoul of Marius
Personal Assistant 
As soon as the number indicating a call from either Marius or Victoria lit up his phone, Michael sighed in a surprisingly human gesture of resignation and picked up wandering what had gone wrong this time. "Your people were in Downtown earlier tonight..." asked Victoria though Michael was well aware that it wasn't really a question. "...where I understand you had some trouble." For the second time in almost as many hours he attempted to put as positive a diplomatic spin on the evenings events as possible but even for one of his negotiating skills there was only so much that could be said under the circumstances.

"The situation is difficult..." said Victoria, understating the issues considerably in Michael's opinion "...Louis Fortier has sent a team of his ghouls dressed as cops to the scene. His contacts within law enforcement are considerable and at a level I can only dream of possessing and they will have the credentials necessary to gain any access they need." Michael immediately started to work out some way of politely ending this call so he could ring his own people and warn them. Victoria's next statement however rendered that a moot point. "They are currently chasing around Maynard Finance looking for some-one whose description exactly matches that of your driver Daniel." The Toreador baron briefly considered phoning David Geduld and asking how much it would cost to get covert passage to as far away from Los Angeles as possible...Alaska, perhaps...

Yukio - Ghoul of Marius
Retrieval Specialist
"Fortunately for all concerned I have preempted the situation and had Yukio acquire the hard-drive before any-one else got there." Michael's momentary relief was immediately followed by anticipation of just how exactly Victoria was going to use the information to fuck him over in some way.

"I have done this independently as I have some concerns that news of this operation in Downtown so soon after your infiltration of one of Marius's clubs will result in him deciding that your coterie is becoming either more trouble than it's worth or a threat. In short he'll probably kill you all and that will complicate other plans of ours that I'll have to deal with." He knew she wasn't going to elaborate but it was somewhat reassuring that Victoria deemed him and his allies useful enough to risk her regnant's wrath to protect them even if it was for selfish reasons.

"I will however be keeping the hard drive as security. Should Marius become aware of these events and it becomes a me or you situation I can assure you it will most definitely not be me. I'm sure we understand one another." The baron added Marius currently being on such a hair-trigger that his own people were terrified to tell him things that might annoy him to the list of 'for another night' problems and awaited Hope and Daniel to report in with information he already possessed.

After he appraised them of the current situation they began to discuss who they were going to approach the upcoming meeting with Gloria.

Scene Twenty - Freelancing
The Crypts Sons Barony
Unaware of the complications that were occurring in the mission given to him and the coterie by Fiorenza Savona, Mr Hertz was making his way to a prearranged meeting with the Baron of the Crypts Sons, Henrique Boyd.

He had been growing more and more weary of the mundane job he had within the Camarilla held city of Chicago which basically consisted of money laundering and strategically moving cash before the IRS found it. For the Nosferatu Mr Hertz it was the challenge that drove him and he had to admit that this job for Fiorenza had been the most interested in his work than he'd been for decades. Even sorting through the mess that was the coteries accounts inherited from the former baron had been an amusing mental exercise and he'd already found them a small fortune they hadn't even realised existed. In fact he'd so enjoyed unravelling the convoluted piles of paperwork, receipts, account details and property deeds that he'd forgotten to charge them his customary two percent commission. He was then disturbed from his reverie by his driver Zhi. "We're here boss..."

Zhi Baxter - Ghoul
Henrique 'Hank' Boyd held the majority of the meetings that happened within his own domain at a house in an enclosed neighbourhood deep within his territory and it was to here that he'd been given directions. Two cars drove apart to allow his driver to park by the front door of the home and then closed the gap behind him. Signalling to Zhi to wait for him in the car he was escorted into the kitchen area where Hank seemed to like to hold court. Mr Hertz tipped his hat in greeting but waited until he was offered a seat before sitting down as gangsters were often surprising sticklers for etiquette. He was offered a hand that could quite easily have wrapped around his head and so channelled his vitae to his own muscles, enhancing his strength to the point where he could reciprocate the handshake in a suitably manly fashion. The look of amusement on the Crypts Sons baron as he realised what the Nosferatu had done seemed to relax the many guards crammed into the tiny room and Hank gestured at a seat opposite. "Give me your pitch then..."

Henrique 'Hank' Boyd - Brujah
Baron of the Crypts Sons
Mr Hertz explained that he'd been contracted to do a job for the coterie of Michael Tomassio, Baron of Pasadena tying up some loose ends with the former barons accounts and while there the Baron had mentioned him specifically. As he'd calculated this piqued the gang leaders interest. The Nosferatu had decided that as well as attempting to gain some freelance work he'd also do whatever he could to help with Michael's reputation as if he was planning on staying in LA once the Yasmine job was complete he'd need at least one 'friend'.

"He described you as some-one of power and influence who was making a name for himself within LA. He seemed to have quite a lot of respect for you from what I could tell." Mr Hertz could see that his initial assessment was correct and it was respect that Hank craved, far more in fact than fear or even power.

Though he needed the latter to keep his position in a group based entirely around mortal gang culture it was to be treated as an equal amongst the barons that drove him. The fact that after the meeting between the baronies adjacent to the chantry, Michael had made the effort to meet with Hank and personally relay the results to him had obviously made an impression on the Crypts Sons Baron. "So what specifically can you do for me?" was the pertinent next question. "Investment opportunities, money laundering, legitimising of bank accounts, tactics to avoid the Second Inquisition tracing your funds back to yourself and much more."

Hank was paying attention so he continued. "Expanding businesses such as your own have unique requirements that I can assist with for a mere two percent commission of any profits I make for you. I've already generated several hundred thousand dollars of extra revenue for the Pasadena Baron without any extra initial expenditure on his part." Mr Hertz was sure he wouldn't get an instant decision as kindred didn't become Barons or Princes by making snap decisions about offers from complete strangers. "Give me your contact details and I'll have a think about your proposal." Said Hank. "As your aware I'm currently in somewhat of a period of expansion..." there were a few chuckles from his men at that "...but once the dust settles I may get in touch." Thanking the baron for his time, the Nosferatu was escorted back to his car and Zhi drove him back to the gallery as instructed.

He arrived back just in time to be appraised on the hectic nights events and the meeting they were having tomorrow evening with Baron Martinez.

To be Continued in 'Blood Money' - Part Six

In Conclusion
I like to do a round-up of how the session went in these features but if you couldn't give a shit what I think then feel free to skip this bit...

It can be difficult when different players want to do different things that don't involve the complete coterie as balancing everyone's interest levels is kinda the storytellers Job, lol. Fortunately my group consists of grown ups who realise that this sometimes occurs so gave the players who were doing their own thing the time to do so. Fortunately there were plenty of snacks so at least they had stuff to occupy them.

The session itself was a bad one for certain player characters (Daniel's especially) who made a few decisions that he regretted too late to back out of as I'd already absorbed them into the story and moved on. I am however going to give him an opportunity to redeem his character next session.

Acknowledgements
I've used pictures of real people to represent some of the characters and art for others so in no particular order Michael Tomassio is represented by the actor Matt Bomer, Johnny 'Roach' West is quite obviously Kurt Cobain, 'Vin' is the actor Scott Adkins, Dr Matthews is Mads Mikkelsen, Hope is Deborah Ann Woll, Marie is Eva Greene, Mr Hertz is Charles Dance, Henrique 'Hank' Boyd is Michael Duncan Clarke, Sarah is Elesha Thorn, Josie Parrish is Rebecca Ferguson, Sir Ralph Hamilton is Pierce Brosnan, Dawn Cavanaugh is Emma Stone, Gloria Martinez is Ariadne Artiles, Jean 'Jax' Thomas is of course Jean Claude Van Damme and Victoria is Lilith May. Everything else is from vampire related folders and searches and is as far as I know is all of the 'fair use' variety. If there's something that you feel should be attributed to some-one then feel free to let me know and I'll happily add an acknowledgement...

Friday, 16 August 2019

Vampire the Masquerade V5 - Session Forty One - Blood Money (Part Four)

I'm currently running a Vampire the Masquerade chronicle using the 5th Edition rule-set for a small group of fellow role-players. These are the chronicles of their adventures.
Our campaign is set in Los Angeles and features a small group of Camarilla agents sent into the 'Free States' to search for ways to once again bring the Ivory Tower to dominance under the pretence of being disillusioned neonates looking for the freedom of the Anarch way of life. Now with a barony of their own it's time to consolidate their position and then plan their next move.
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The now obligatory warning bit - Unlike my other RPG write-ups this one will contain swearing, sexual references and other references that might offend. If you can't tell the difference between real peoples opinions and grown-ups role-playing predators who crave blood then this probably won't be for you. I've also used actual photographs to represent some characters which I'll give acknowledgements to at the end if I've any idea who they are.
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The introduction to this campaign, the first story and all the other parts can be found at the following links and are in chronological order. If you'd prefer a summary of each session rather than read everything then there's a more detailed link page HERE as well as links to the first episode of each story in the blog sidebar.
'Infiltrate LA' Chronicle
Welcome to L.A. - Introductory Session
Story One - 'Three Murders' - Part OneTwo, ThreeFour and Five
Interlude Session - One
Story Two - 'The Pasadena Problem' - Part OneTwoThree, and Four
Solo Session - 'The Neillson Library'
Story Two Continued- 'The Pasadena Problem' - Part FiveSixSeven and Eight
Story Three - 'Becoming Baron' - Part OneTwoThreeFour and Five
Solo Session - 'The Gather'
Story Three Continued - 'Becoming Baron' - Part SixSeven and Eight
'Foothold LA' Chronicle
Solo Session - 'Hostile Takeover'
Story Four - 'Countdown' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Five - 'The Missing Chantry' - Part OneTwoThreeFour and Five
Solo Session - 'The Anaheim Assassination'
Story Six - 'A Meeting of Barons' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Seven - 'The Carmelita Situation' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Eight - 'The Blount Sisters' - Part One and Two
Story Nine - 'Blood Money' - Part One, Two and Three

The PC's
Player controlled characters
Michael Tomassio - Toreador, Baron of Pasadena
Vincent 'Vin' Ghast - Brujah, Sheriff
Dr Daniel Matthews - Banu Haqim, 'Fixer'
Hope Romero - Gangrel, Scourge
Mr Hertz - Nosferatu, Mob Accountant
The SPC's
Storyteller controlled player allies
Johnny 'Roach' West - Malkavian, Seneschal
Marie - Clan Carna, Occult Advisor

The player characters stats and backgrounds can be found HERE should any-one be interested. There's also some minor 'house-rules' HERE that have occurred as we went along.

As I have written out introductions and dialogue for certain NPC's and some location descriptions I'll post these more or less as I wrote them so they'll be in a 'reading to the group' style and they'll also be in blue so you can tell them apart from the more traditional write-up sections and occasionally an obscure Malkavian premonition will turn up in purple. If I think something needs a bit of out of character explanation then those will get a storytellers note that will helpfully be in red. Anything covered via player handouts will also be in blue as they're written in the same style as introductions and the like. Where particular NPC's have a mention in a faction profile you will be able to reach it by clicking on their name beneath their picture.

Introduction
The trail of the embezzler Marcel Emery has ran cold with his apparent final death at unknown hands. The coterie now have only the contents of his safe and his blood doll Shauna from which to gain the information they need to locate the thirty million dollars he liberated from Camarilla accounts. Fortunately the coterie have access to a skilled forensic accountant and several extremely competent investigators.

Scene Thirteen - The Vignes Accounts
Vera Vignes - Ventrue
Former Baroness of Pasadena
While the others had been busy acting on his employers behalf to locate the embezzled money, Mr Hertz had been looking into the safe deposit boxes the coterie had previously obtained from Vera Vignes, former baroness of Pasadena and wife of the now quite dead Baron Vignes. Though the first night had merely been spent organising them into some form of order he had now discovered some useful titbits that he was sure would be reasonable compensation to the coterie for their assistance.

Storytellers Note - I got the player to roll Intelligence + Finance + Speciality and gave him one 'result' per success. He rolled fairly averagely and got four successes so I gave him four notes relating to his discoveries.

You have been working your way through the safe deposit boxes handed to you by Michael Tomassio, the Baron of Pasadena that were acquired from the previous baron. They have utilised the deeds for the properties by simple change of ownership to house their gang but the rest of the mass of documents has been beyond their skill to utilise and they have been effectively abandoned as a resource. You and your rat 'helpers' have organised the haphazard documents and have begun to make some sense of them. Though it's still in it's early stages you have found a few hidden gems.


1) The head of the local planning committee had received a number of 'gifts' from various companies owned by the previous Baron, Edward Vignes.

You have made some enquiries and Ellis Hull the aforementioned committee head had grown accustomed to the enhanced lifestyle and is now in considerable debt. A relatively small financial investment in the region of $15,000 to take him out of debt would give you control over a relatively important department if Michael wished to do so.

2) You have found a number of piddling little 'slush fund' accounts still technically under the control of the deceased Edward Vignes and have systematically moved them into an account under another name for safety. The account you have created is 'clean', has the correct documentation and is effectively untraceable to it's source.


Though the amount is a mere $93,000 it has the benefit of existing within the banking system rather than being a pile of small denomination bills in a suitcase like much of the other coteries spare cash.

3) At some point Vignes paid nearly a quarter of a million dollars for a panic room/fallout shelter. You are aware that some kindred use Marius Walkers's construction company 'Aegis Construction' for such purposes but evidently Edward didn't trust him at all.

Instead he used a company called Culver Construction Projects based in Culver City in West Los Angeles. You can find no location details but presumably plans and similar information would be held at Culver Construction Projects head office in Culver City.


4) Baroness Vera Vignes lent a quantity of 18th century British and European paintings, rare tapestries, porcelains, miniatures, sculptures and furniture to 'Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens' in Pasadena.

Receipts and provenance documents for the items were mixed with a load of useless and out of date documents. Though you're not an art buff yourself you figure that Michael might want to know that with the information you've uncovered he effectively owns the items in question which you are aware are moderately valuable.

You are also aware of the benefits of using such things as untraceable bribes as they are as good as money to a collector or fan. Though the Nosferatu's standard commission was two percent he decided that in this case he'd hand over the full value of the discoveries to Pasadena's baron Michael as to be fair he'd offered to help rather than being hired to do so.

To Mr Hertz such things were considered puzzles to be solved and the only reason he took a percentage normally was to prevent other kindred taking him for a easy mark. If they presumed that greed was his motivation they also believed that they had his measure which suited the Nosferatu just fine. Being underestimated had saved his unlife on multiple occasions as despite being physically weak he was more than capable of enhancing his strength to inhuman levels and also had a well maintained stock of weapons.

Michael was suitably grateful to the Nosferatu accountant for his discoveries but his current attention was primarily focused upon locating the embezzled money and getting Fiorenza off his back. He did however ask Mr Hertz to see what he could do about securing the assets he'd discovered for them as soon as he was available to do so. Fortunately the clever Nosferatu had made some progress there as well, assisted ably by Daniel's ghoul Andrew whose services had been lent to him.

Scene Fourteen - Marcel's Stash
Shauna's Porsche - A 'Gift' from Marcel
Mr Hertz had done some research into the names on the credit cards in Marcel's hidden stash within his basement haven while Andrew had made similar enquiries via his hacker acquaintance. This investigation started disappointingly as 'Hugo Lawson' which was the identity created to get Shauna her flat had the absolute minimum of credentials necessary to do so and subsequently had no traceable information.

'Chris Gordon' and 'Kevin Hansen' were equally disappointing as information sources being cash accounts used to make minor purchases. These were mainly drinks and meals at various locations that they knew Shauna had been taken to as well as his Sin Bin 'purchases'. The card bearing the name 'Zac Robertson' had slightly more of an in depth background created for this it as this was used to purchase Shauna's 2019 model Porsche 911 Carrera (992 Model) which he had paid just under one hundred and fifty thousand dollars for.

Andrew's Mysterious 'Hacker'
'Aleena Armstrong' which was the only card with a female name was slightly unusual as not only did Aleena Armstrong not exist there seemed to have been no traceable attempt to create the identity at all which is odd as the account as they had already discovered, definitely existed.

Further digging by Andrew's hacker friend resulted in him being convinced that some-one very skilled had back-traced the created identity and retrospectively deleted it and had made a very professional job of it too. The extra effort required by the hacker on this occasion cost Andrew and therefore Daniel, fifteen hundred dollars. Fortunately, Dr Daniel Matthews wasn't short of funds.

The business card for Maynard Finance also revealed some interesting facts. Maynard Finance appeared to be a legitimate investment advisory firm without any kindred connections that they were immediately aware of. It mainly took investors with venture capital and invested in short term, high risk, high return businesses such as trendy shops and gimmicks.

Yasmine Alvarado - Ventrue
Presumed to have met Final Death
The company was known for moving money about frequently in pursuit of the next 'big thing'. As kindred tend to prefer long term, 'safe' bets this made Marcel's interest unusual. The company itself had been founded by a woman called Yasmine Alvarado about three decades ago. That particular name was known to Mr Hertz and had a somewhat infamous history amongst kindred in the know.

Yasmine Alvarado was a well known Ventrue up and comer whose achievements were somewhat eclipsed by Fiorenza Savona's meteoric rise. As far as Mr Hertz knew she met her Final Death three years ago. She was witnessed walking into the dawn sunrise by two of her ghoul retainers who swore to her fate under questioning.

One of those ghouls was embraced soon after in order to preserve Yasmine's financial base, his name was Jaidon Delaney. All present recalled that Jaidon Delaney was the kindred caught embezzling initially and who provided the basic information that led Fiorenza to Marcel Emery, who the coterie had found dead in the basement of his home.

While his operatives researched the barons that had been on Marcel's apparent tour of Los Angeles, Michael attempted to find if the former blood doll Shauna had any talents or skills that might be of use. What he discovered was an all to familiar story of a budding actress and model attempting to find fame and fortune in Hollywood and instead having to run the gamut of casting couches and thinly disguised opportunities for prostitution. She had been enrolled in acting school briefly and had taken dance classes but seemed to have no other skills outside of a media career. It seemed that if he was to find her a place within his organisation he was going to have to help with her career first.

It was evident to the investigators that a trip to Maynard Finance might reveal some new leads and that the names Aleena Armstrong and possibly Yasmine Alvarado also warranted further investigation. The physical evidence had given them some new leads but they had also been doing research on the kindred that were involved with Marcel even if only peripherally. Currently the two names they had were David Geduld and Gloria Martinez, both barons of their own domains within Los Angeles.

Scene Fifteen - Marcel's Contacts
Horatio Ballard - Ventrue
Ballard, Anderson and Baitman
Mr Hertz had heard the coterie mention the Baron of Torrance in LA, David Geduld several times. He knew from sources in Los Angeles that he was considered to be a rogue Ventrue who had been caught with his hand in the cookie jar and forced to flee the vengeance of his prince.

Mr Hertz knew of him in Chicago and due to his high level connections and trusted position was aware that this wasn't entirely the truth. Though it was indeed true that he is now entirely loyal to the Anarch cause he was aware that this wasn't always the case. When the Camarilla looked around for agents to stir up trouble in Los Angeles and report on the situation there, they naturally thought of David Geduld.

He was originally a partner in the Chicago law firm of Ballard, Anderson and Baitman and had been embraced to assist the Ventrue in dealing with the endless details of their control of the Chicago business scene. He had proved enormously proficient at navigating the legal waters, and surprisingly adept at winning the trust of the leaders in Chicago's business and law communities. As his loyalty to the Camarilla was unquestioned he was sent off to Los Angeles in 1963 to see what he could do to undermine the Free States. He had gathered a small coterie and settled down in Palos Verdes Estates. From there he had ranged across L.A., getting a feel for the area and reporting back to his masters in the Camarilla about his progress.

David Geduld - Ventrue
Baron of Torrance
Unfortunately for the Camarilla what he saw there had amazed him. Here was a city with no prince and no primogen council that actually seemed to be working and working well. All of his assumptions about the inevitability of the Camarilla's ascension were called into question. Since then David had completely switched over to the Anarch cause.

It was while discussing David Geduld with Daniel and Michael that he realised that the Baron of Torrance had managed to keep his former loyalties a secret and as far as the Anarchs of LA were concerned his cover story was still intact. They they doubted that the information would do them any good as Geduld was now firmly entrenched in Anarch politics it was still possible that some-one who knew might have attempted to use the information to their advantage. If true it gave David Geduld a strong motivation to silence Marcel if he had been attempting to blackmail the Ventrue Baron.

Gloria Martinez - Brujah
Baron of Whittier
Whereas David Geduld's power seemed to be based around building a mortal identity from which to work, Gloria Martinez on the other hand seemed to not exist and apparently had no connection to any mortal businesses in Whittier whatsoever. This of course must mean she manages such things through proxies though who they are was proving difficult to discover. Daniel's ghoul Andrew has found reference to a woman of the same name who was declared missing in 1972 and officially dead in 1979, the description matched the kindred baron exactly.

Michael remembered her from the rant and had noticed that despite being very beautiful and quite aware of her power over men, she quite obviously considered this an annoying distraction and one which as far as he could tell she never makes use of. The Toreador who used his good looks to get his way quite frequently had trouble grasping why she'd fail to use this significant weapon of manipulation, especially as the Brujah had the same ability to supplement such gifts as his own clan.

According to their kindred sources Gloria keeps a very tight rein on her barony and generally tries to keep out of squabbles with others though is never shy of giving her opinion if she decided it's valid. She also has considerable influence at the Rants, mainly since she has been known to exact vengeance on those who did not pay attention while she was speaking. Several kindred who thought they could make a name for themselves at her expense have not so mysteriously disappeared within nights of doing so.

The Barony of Whittier
Despite her use of proxies, Gloria's control over the politics and kindred of Whittier is as far as you can tell absolute. The current vampire population of Whittier is nine plus Gloria. The bulk of these are Brujah, though she also has a single Gangrel census taker, a House Ipsissimus Tremere and one recently recruited Toreador neonate within her domain. All are completely under her control and she seems to have inspired considerable loyalty though there are some rumours that one of her Brujah followers has his eye on the top job.

Micheal has recently had a request from Gloria to 'entertain' a contact of hers in return for a minor boon owed to her. She'd like to keep this contact away from potential scandal in her own barony as he is a mortal fixer that would become useless to her if someone managed to find a way to use his own methods against him. Michael decided to try to arrange a meeting ostensibly to confirm the details of the arrangements during which he could attempt to gain some additional intelligence on their real mission.

After another discussion it was decided that their next move would indeed be to arrange a meeting with Gloria Martinez.

Interlude Four - The Bahari
Lilith, the Dark Mother
While undertaking his own researches at the Neillson Library, Michael Tomassio had also continued looking into the significance (if any) or Marius's ornate roof garden temple. Having eliminated many possibilities in previous visits he made some progress this time.

The majority of the symbolism and carvings on the temple arch and pillars relate to deities whose origins can be traced back to the Gangrel Antediluvian Ennoia. The rest of the imagery can be interpreted as scenes from kindred legend but follow the version of the kindred creation myth detailed in the 'Revelations of the Dark Mother' told from Lilith's point of view rather than the Caine orientated 'Book of Nod'.

Broadly speaking the carvings seem to depict the version of events that has Ennoia as a childe of Lilith and mother of the lupine race before her embrace as one of the third generation as well as Lilith's persecution as detailed in the aforementioned 'Revelations of the Dark Mother'. The most predominant group who follow these beliefs amongst kindred are the Bahari though some Verbena mages consider her to be the first mage and there are also mortal cults who worship her. More traditional research has enabled you to identify several similar items that were bought by an anonymous private collector at various points over the last thirty years or so. 


Ennoia - Gangrel Antediluvian
According to your sources in the art world, this anonymous collector has been consistently outbidding other collectors for items along this line for many years. Worryingly, the stone 'table' in the centre more closely matches images you've found of sacrificial altars based on what you can remember of the carvings on the sides.

The fact that Marius had religious beliefs and venerated the Antediluvian founder of his clan wasn't of any real concern. What was worrying was that many dark rumours surrounded the Bahari and other similar cults such as the Cultivar including tendencies towards diablerie, torture and the belief that development can only be gained through pain and conflict.

That however was a worry for another time. He had far more urgent concerns to consider currently.

Scene Sixteen - The Martinez Meeting
Club Confession - Downtown
Already having contact information for the Baron of Whittier due to her barony being part of the route they used to transport the drugs used by Roach's gang 'The Apostles, arranging a meeting with Baron Martinez was relatively simple.

Traditionally meetings between barons happened in some neutral location in order to mitigate any home-field advantages that one party might have. Of course particularly powerful barons such as Louis Fortier and Isaac Abrams often ignored this particular tradition. Gloria was happy to meet in one of the private rooms in Club Confession in Downtown though she did specify that she'd have her security team with her. Michael made no objection to this though he informed her that he'd have some associates of his own with him too.

Cadillac Escalade - Armoured
Michael decided that as Miss Martinez had been quite specific about the purpose of the others she was bringing with her she could hardly complain if he bought some muscle of his own. Daniel played the role of Michael's Brujah chauffeur as he tended to get less than friendly reactions if other kindred discovered he was actually Banu Haqim. Vin and Hope's purpose was known by reputation alone. He also bought Mr Hertz along in case his financial expertise was required.

As usual they used the 'Special' visitors entrance but had forgotten that Mr Hertz was not yet a member and so their progress was stopped. Though they were more than capable of overcoming the mortal doorman that would mean they had effectively declared war on the the clubs kindred owner which was likely to end in their final deaths. Especially as this club was owned by Marius Walker, a particularly dangerous boardroom Gangrel and 'fixer' for the kindred community of LA. "I'll get Miss Dare..." said one of the doorman before heading inside.

Venus Dare - Ghoul of Marius
Club Manager and Dominatrix
Venus Dare managed all of Marius's clubs though spent most of her time at Confessions which she had been running at the time Marius recruited her into his organisation after brutally murdering the Russian mobsters who were her business partners at the time. He had then put her in charge of his other clubs as he'd acquired them.

She arrived a few minutes later and handed Mr Hertz a membership card with a 'V' written on the blank rear. "We have a rear entrance and exit for those of your clan who wish to use a private room. You understand of course that most of your clan would cause us significant difficulties if you were observed entering so we request that you give us a little bit of advance notice." Mr Hertz tipped his hat in acknowledgement. "See me before you leave and we'll look at giving you permanent membership. If you don't mind replacing your hat and scarf I'll escort you and the others to where Miss Martinez is waiting." Mr Hertz obliged and the others followed her up the stairs to one of the rooms reserved for special guests.

Storytellers Note - Mr Hertz can just about pass for human with the benefit of a hat and scarf but unfortunately for him still gives mortals 'the creeps'.

Club Confession - Stairway to Private Rooms
Baron Martinez was already seated as the coterie entered with Vin leading the way. Her entourage were standing around the outer walls in a state of alert. This particular room was one of the larger ones and Michael sat opposite Gloria while his own people mirrored the positions of hers as best as they could given that they were outnumbered two to one. Rather than stand, Mr Hertz took a seat at one of the other tables as if to indicate his status as a noncombatant. The Nosferatu who had never before met Gloria filed her to memory. She was a beautiful woman of medium height, with long black hair and brown eyes. Her life as a vampire had not yet lightened her dark complexion and the self confidence she possessed was almost palpable within the room.

Though Hope and Vin were fairly evenly matched as warriors, Vin had a reputation as somewhat of a 'giant-killer' and it was obvious from the looks in his direction that those present were well aware of who he was and exactly what he was infamous for.

Vincent Ghast - Brujah, Coterie Enforcer
'Explaining the Situation' to Some Kindred...
Storytellers Note - 'Vin' has the 'Infamy' Background Flaw which helps with intimidation situations but can sometimes escalate situations as well.

Daniel meanwhile noted from the way that the group positioned itself seemed to be to maximise coverage for fire-zones and they were also carefully placed to eliminate blind-spots and to avoid catching each other in any crossfire. This in his opinion was less the behaviour of bodyguards and more what you'd expect from a trained kill-team used to working together. He could also see that several of them had suppressors on their weapons, a precaution bodyguards rarely felt the need to utilise. The occasional glimpses of bladed weapons indicated that the blades were blackened, another unnecessary addition to a bodyguards armoury but quite useful for assassins.

One of the women, a powerfully built lady who he suspected was a ghoul rather than a kindred had a scabbard at her hip for a large 'Bush Cleaver'. This was of great interest to Daniel as it perfectly matched the shape of the weapon that had removed Marcel Emery's head from his shoulders. It was apparent that the Baron of Whittier favoured the permanent resolution of problems via the most efficient methods possible.

The tension was broken by a knock at the door, which Vin answered. Venus bought in several bottles of wine and was quite particular in placing the distinctly different bottles that those present knew contained preserved blood some distance from the more traditional mortal varieties. "If you require anything else just press the intercom..." she gestured to a button mounted on the wall. "...otherwise you shall be quite undisturbed." then she promptly left. Michael opened a bottle and poured a glass for Gloria and then himself. As she lifted the glass to take a sip she nodded to the rest of her people and they visibly relaxed. Daniel of course paid careful attention to which of her people helped themselves to which selection of wines, concluding that there were three kindred and three ghouls with her.

Ruby-Leigh Reynolds - Ghoul
Probable Killer of Marcel Emery
The three kindred consisted of an athletic looking woman in biker gear, a similarly dressed but far stockier man with a neatly trimmed beard. There seemed to be a family resemblance between the two. The third kindred looked more like a school teacher and even carried a satchel of sorts.

They immediately concluded that this was the House Ipsissimus, Tremere that they had heard resided within her barony. The three ghouls were all smartly dressed and well armed. The one woman was powerfully built with musculature like a power-lifter and Daniel had little doubt that she could have driven her cleaver down with enough force to remove Marcel's head from his shoulders. The other two were both men, one was black and the other was mixed race.

Michael worked towards his true purpose subtly, via the arrangements to look after Andrei Foley for her and also used the time to gauge the reactions of Gloria. Once she was suitably happy with what he had planned he edged the conversation to his true purpose for the meeting. "While you're here I wandered if you knew anything about a kindred called Marcel Emery?"

Louis Fortier - Ventrue
Baron of West LA
He could immediately tell from their expressions that they were most definitely aware of him in some manner. He then continued talking, enquiring about their transports through her territory while expertly hiding the fact that he'd noticed their reactions. It didn't take Michael long to realise that Gloria was far more responsive to direct questions and seemed to give more detailed answers to those than she did if subtlety or flattery was attempted so he changed tack.

"My earlier question about Marcel was because he contacted us about some business proposition he was quite vague about and then completely failed to turn up to speak with us. We had heard that he had met with the Barons of West Los Angeles and Torrance so wandered if you were also on his list of potential business partners?" When Gloria Martinez replied it was evident that he'd judged her correctly.

"This Marcel you speak of did indeed come to speak with us but it was obvious to us that he was speaking for another. He wished to invest in a charity project supported by one of the political players within our barony who is understanding of our needs in many areas so we assist him in his indulgences where we can." Michael understood completely as he had a similar arrangement with a friendly law enforcement officer.

Penn Park, Whittier LA at Night
"The project organises trips for teenagers into the woods and mountains to experience nature, learn to camp and other such activities...." She paused and the irritation was obvious. "...I'm sure you're intelligent enough to realise that there's only one reason why a Ventrue would want a load of teenagers, mainly boys to be somewhere vulnerable out in the middle of nowhere."

Michael and his coterie were well aware that Marcel's feeding restriction limited him to the blood of native american women so young boys would be of little use to him. Michael withheld this information until he knew where Gloria was going with the conversation. "It was obvious from the pretty blood doll that Marcel took with him virtually everywhere what his preferences were and therefore he must be acting for another. I have no wish for some Ventrue who hides their presence to be traipsing around my barony making off with teenagers." Michael would have liked to believe that this was a moral choice but he was empathetic enough to know that it was the potential inconvenience that bothered Baron Martinez most.

Club Confession - 'Refreshments'
The Toreador Baron thanked her for the information, assured her that the other matter would be dealt with promptly. "I'll cover the bill for the room and the refreshments on our way out." Offered Michael. "At least let me pay for the refreshments?" She countered and Michael accepted the compromise before leaving with his coterie. Mr Hertz was handed a card by Venus on his way out with her full signature on it and given a reminder that his particular clan needed to give her a bit of notice before visiting so appropriate measures could be put in place for "His comfort and safety..."

It was obvious to Daniel and some of the others that Gloria's cleaver armed ghoul was responsible for the final death of Marcel Emery but it seemed unlikely that she'd ever admit to it. Now aware that there was most definitely someone behind Marcel Emery it looked like a good time to see what the connection was to Maynard Finance.

To be Continued in 'Blood Money' - Part Five

In Conclusion
I like to do a round-up of how the session went in these features but if you couldn't give a shit what I think then feel free to skip this bit...

Another investigation heavy session which they did extremely well with. Plenty of good role-playing which was nice to observe and they're now well on the way to completing this particular story unless they do something really stupid next time or if I decided to throw in the plot twist that occurred to me halfway through the session.

So maybe they're actually nowhere near the end of this story, lol. We'll see...

Acknowledgements
I've used pictures of real people to represent some of the characters and art for others so in no particular order Michael Tomassio is represented by the actor Matt Bomer, Johnny 'Roach' West is quite obviously Kurt Cobain, 'Vin' is the actor Scott Adkins, Dr Matthews is Mads Mikkelsen, Hope is Deborah Ann Woll, Marie is Eva Greene, Mr Hertz is Charles Dance, Vera Vignes is Helen Mirren, David Geduld is Zachary Quinto, Gloria Martinez is Ariadne Artiles, Venus Dare is Sophie Howard, and Ruby Leigh is Cory Everson. Everything else is from vampire related folders and searches and is as far as I know is all of the 'fair use' variety. If there's something that you feel should be attributed to some-one then feel free to let me know and I'll happily add an acknowledgement...
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