Friday, 30 August 2019

Vampire the Masquerade V5 - Session Forty Three - Blood Money (Part Six)

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.
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.
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, Four and Five

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.

A disastrous attempt to extricate the embezzler Yasmine Alvarado has resulted in a serious diplomatic incident with Gloria Martinez, the well connected Baron of Whittier. To make matters worse the incident happened in Downtown, a territory which is currently in dispute between Louis Fortier, Baron of West Los Angeles and Marius Walker, a boardroom Gangrel and LA's most prolific 'Fixer'.  A meeting has been arranged to attempt to find a solution other than outright war between the baronies and without either Louis or Marius discovering that they were operating within what both consider to be their domain.

Scene Twenty One - Preparations
Reuben Hart - Ghoul of Roach
Leader of 'The Apostles'
Your meeting with Gloria Martinez is set for this very evening at a pool hall, deep in her barony of Whittier. The terms require all interested parties to be present making the inclusion of Hope and Daniel mandatory along with the Baron himself. Of course it may also be necessary to include Mr Hertz as you may be allowed to interrogate Yasmine Alvarado, the embezzler of the money he's searching for on behalf of Fiorenza Savona.

The terms also specify that all present are to attend the meeting itself unarmed. Of course as the Baron of Whittier's followers are mainly of the Brujah clan this is hardly a disadvantage to them.

Before you get a chance to depart you are interrupted by Reuben Hart, the leader of Roach's Apostles gang. He seems unusually agitated. "Can we speak for a moment? it's a matter of some importance."

Michael explained that they also had important matters to deal with so he'd need to be brief.

"Mr West...err...'Roach' missing. Not one of the Apostles have seen him for over two weeks. I spoke to Vin's girl Sarah and they've had no contact either." Michael knew the Malkavian had a habit of wandering off but a fortnight without contact was unusual even for him. Michael could also tell that there was something else on the gang-leaders mind that he was hesitant to bring up. He was of course correct.

Andrew Francis - Ghoul of Daniel
"My personal issue is that I've had no...interaction...for closer to three weeks. Soon I'll...well...last time he forgot about me after a month, I became...weaker...I can't feel like that understand my problem?" "I can deal with the drugs trade fine on my own but I need the edge that Roach's 'other ' contribution gives me..."

Michael reassured him that as soon as their current problem was resolved that he's sort out his issues but he'd have to wait a couple of nights. Thinking about what he could do to help immediately he summoned Daniel to his office and asked if the Banu Haqim's ghoul investigator was busy. Daniel had only tasked him with the usual background checks and covert recon that he used to supplement his own files on potential enemies so let Michael know that he could spare him if needed.

"Roach has apparently gone missing. I need Andrew to assist Reuben in the search for him while we sort the more pressing issue of the Martinez meeting." Daniel made the arrangements necessary and then returned to his own preparations.

Though they had agreed that attendees of the meeting would be unarmed, the more combat orientated members of the coterie had no intention of making the journey itself weaponless and so the cars they were travelling in were now virtual armouries. Daniel arranged a route with Dion for their return journey in case it became necessary to leave in a hurry and stationed his ghoul Keith at an appropriate junction along with a sniper rifle to deter any potential pursuit.

Keith Chang - Ghoul of Daniel
Keith had also mentioned the possibility that it might be worth having his five remaining pipe-bombs handy, Daniel didn't approve the plan, but then again he didn't say no either. Mr Hertz meanwhile had taken the instruction literally and had no weapons of any kind.

Daniel taped a handgun beneath the drivers seat in his car, placed an assault rifle and his falcata in the trunk and discovered that Hope had also had the same idea and that it already contained a shotgun, a fire-axe and a pouch which contained half a dozen crudely carved but no doubt still effective stakes. Vin had his usual two-handed machete in it's harness and showed no signs of giving it up any time soon. Knowing full well that his people would be taking their own precautions Michael simply warned them that once they reached the meeting they were to enter unarmed as agreed and not to attempt any "Creative interpretations of the rules..."

Michael informed Gloria that they were on their way, As soon as their vehicles entered the domain of the Baron of Whittier they found themselves with an escort of cars and motorbikes. Evidently Miss Martinez was taking precautions of her own.

Scene Twenty Two - Whittier
The car park gate for the pool hall is unlocked but closed and is being guarded by a portly biker with one arm tucked underneath his jacket. Your arrival is expected as he pushes the gate open for you and gestures to a parking space near the door. He has what looks like a browning high-power tucked into his waistband but presumably as he's not in the meeting they haven't broken their promise about the attendees being unarmed.

As Vin passed the guard at the gate he drew his blade from it's scabbard and drove it a foot downwards through one of the fence posts. "I'll be back for that, don't fucking lose it..." he said to the biker who had taken three steps back as the coteries Brujah enforcer stared at him till they chose to look at their shoes instead of in his direction. Daniel had his doubts that any-one present but Vin would be able to remove the machete even if they wanted to. Hope smiled to herself at Vin's opening gambit, subtle he wasn't, but he did know how to make a point about who not to fuck with.

Velme - Toreador
Member of Gloria's 'Gang'
Another three bikers are playing dice near the entrance while a fourth is using a length of rope to play tug of war with a large mastiff. A banner has been pinned across a noticeboard by the entrance proclaiming the hall 'Closed for Refurbishment'. As you approach the door you are met by the Brujah Daniel shot in the face and the woman who seemed to have a family resemblance to him. At the same time the biker playing with the dog moves in behind you and the animal moves beside him.

An androgynous looking person appears at the bottom of a flight of stairs to the right of the entrance. "Gloria and the others are waiting..." they then turn and make their way upstairs.

Seeing no alternative now they were there the coterie followed their apparent escort upstairs.

The upstairs meeting room has several tables at one end and an unattended bar at the other. Gloria is already seated at one of the tables and several more are occupied by various others that you presume are also kindred. The androgynous individual has just put out a cigarette and has now moved to stand just behind miss Martinez left shoulder, the school teacher looking fellow who you also met at Maynard Finance is behind her on the right, he is however dressed somewhat more formally now than then. Both are watching you all intently as you enter.

Gloria Martinez - Brujah
Baron of Whittier
There are now some fifteen individuals in addition to yourselves within the room. "Please be seated Baron..." Gloria gestures to the only other chair at her table "...your coterie can sit or stand as they wish. We'll discuss them after we discuss Miss Alvarado and exactly what your interest in her is?"

"Vin may sit if he wishes..." said Michael with all the authority he could put into his voice "...Daniel and Hope can stand." Vin however chose to remain standing and panned across the assembled kindred making eye contact with each one and keeping it there just long enough to make the challenge obvious. Michael could see Vin's intimidation tactics but was relieved to note that he made no attempt to do so to Gloria Martinez and so let it go and started to offer her his explanations.

He explained that they had obligations with others of their kind that had put them in a position which made it necessary to locate some-one on their behalf. This tangled web of contacts, conspiracies and information had been unravelled by themselves and Mr Hertz who he explained was a freelance operator they'd bought in to help. Mr Hertz politely tipped his hat when his name was mentioned and this formal gesture seemed to lighten the mood of the debate if only momentarily.

He then went on to explain that they only knew of Yasmine's connection to Maynard Finance, not that she was there at the time. Once they were alerted to the approach of armed and unidentified attackers his concern had been for the safety of anyone within and had instructed his people to extract them if at all possible. If Yasmine had been there and as it turned out she was they had of course intended to interrogate her about what she knew.

Downtown Los Angeles at Night
He then of course pointed out that neither of them should have been there given the disputed nature of the domain and so that part of the incident was something they would have to share the blame for. He did say however that he regretted the injuries caused to Gloria's operative but that the first shots fired at the scene came from her people not his. He finished by expressing his relief that they could have this meeting to discuss the matter and that it was with her rather than one of the other less intelligent and insightful barons.

Storytellers Note - Michael's players speech was a masterclass in blame-shifting, creative ordering of the facts with just enough buttering up of Gloria to get her onside. I therefore didn't make him roll dice to gain a positive reaction.

While they were having the debate the victim of Daniel's attack was attempting to stare him down before he noticed Vin observing him. His attempt to intimidate the coterie's enforcer failed utterly and he found himself looking away first. Michael observed this from the corner of his eye and also could see a brief moment of amusement, swiftly hidden, on Gloria's face as her own man was humbled. Evidently there was some internal gang politics at play that he was going to have to navigate along with the other issues already in play.

The 'Fake' Yasmine Alvarado
Gloria then spoke for the first time since Michael had began his monologue. "We shall return to this discussion in a moment. First I have some information on Miss Alvarado that might interest you." This was of course what Michael and Mr Hertz had been waiting for. What they learned however was not what either they or the rest of the coterie was expecting.

"Our prisoners interrogation has led us to some interesting conclusions of our own. The most important is that she is neither Ventrue, nor is she, despite her claims to the contrary, Miss Alvarado." "Mr Kaye will elaborate..." The man who you presume is the representative of House Ipsissimus steps forward. "Her blood confirms her clan conclusively as Brujah though she herself is convinced she is not. Her mind is a fractured mess. Some-one has systematically and callously turned her into a glove puppet with preset responses to situations. She has also seemingly been equipped with knowledge of trigger phrases implanted in contacts of the real Miss Alvarado as despite the acts of the three men at Maynard Finance this bogus Ventrue has no mind control abilities whatsoever."

Storytellers Note - The 'What the Fuck...' looks on my players faces at this point was particularly satisfying, I must admit.

"Is it beyond your abilities to put her mind back together again?" was the next question. The blood mage was reluctant to admit at first but had to eventually confess that such an act was beyond him. To further complicate matters the two foremost experts in mind-control within Los Angeles were Louis Fortier's childe Catherine Du Bois and the duskborn, Leanna who managed Marius Walker's considerable herd of blood dolls.

Catherine Du Bois and Leanna - Mind-Control 'Experts'

Unfortunately either of these would surely report the intrusion into their masters territories that any investigation would certainly reveal and so couldn't be consulted without considerable consequences to both Michael and Gloria. Miss Martinez then interjected. "Before we discuss our other discoveries we need to deal with the bad blood between our two baronies. Your man shot mine in the face after asking for a cease-fire, a cowards response I'm sure you would agree?"

Jeremiah - Brujah
Member of Gloria's 'Gang'
Michael made a token effort to defend the action pointing out that Daniel had been forced to react quickly in an uncertain situation. Having heard the sound of weapons being re-loaded after his request for a cease-fire he had presumed that he was about to be fired upon and reacted somewhat preemptively.

Gloria then continued more or less as if Michael hadn't spoken at all. "Jeremiah has suggested that your impulsive follower be given a chance to prove himself a warrior rather than an opportunist, honour-less coward. Specifically he offers him a chance to redeem himself in single combat, without outside interference, the winner to decide the ultimate fate of the loser."

"Our basement area is sound-proof and equipped with a variety of weapons that Jeremiah and some of the others use to practice their abilities. Josie will escort you there and lock the door behind you, to use a movie reference, two men enter, one man leaves. Agreed?"

Daniel stepped forward and apologised for his actions as the Brujah sneered at his response. Seeing that the duel was inevitable he agreed to the terms. Before he left the room he gave Hope a hug as if to say goodbye but his real motivation was to whisper to her where the pistol was hidden in the car.

Scene Twenty Three - Duel
Josie Parrish - Brujah
You are flanked by the two Brujah as you descend into the basement area specified for your duel. Josie unlocks the door and Jeremiah brushes past you and enters first, as you turn to follow Josie leans forward and whispers something into your ear. "He can't defend worth a fuck, it'll be all out attack from the first...remember that..." and then she shuts the door behind you.

Though Daniel lacked the powers of insight possessed by his baron he did have a knack for perceiving falsehood and he could see no sign from her that the information was a lie.

The basement room has a hardwood floor, sprung like that of a school gymnasium and a number of haphazardly repaired heavy bags hang along one wall from overly large chains. A number of cabinets containing various 'practice' martial arts weapons grace the opposite wall. Jeremiah reaches into one of the many sections and pulls out a large leather tool roll which he unfurls dramatically before removing a heavy bladed combat style knife, then hurling the roll a few feet to your right.

"Take your pick, coward. Then at least try to make this interesting before I beat you into torpor then drink your fucking soul." The roll contained a number of knives in different styles though all were broadly speaking of the 'combat knife' variety. It also contained a couple of spiked knuckledusters which Daniel ignored before reaching for the longest of the blades hoping the extra reach might give him at least some advantage.

"Ready, motherfucker?" Before waiting for a response he hurls himself at you.

Prepared for the onslaught Daniel ducked beneath the swung blade and quickly span around so he was behind the impulsive Brujah. Before his enemy realised what was happening, Daniel sliced through the tendons at the back of their leg and then quickly leapt back avoiding another powerful but undisciplined swing.

Jeremiah healed his wounded limb and regained his footing but instead of a swinging blow he thrust the blade towards Daniel's heart. Blocking the blow at the forearm the Banu Haqim slid his hand along and grasped his opponents wrist and then drove his own knife down attempting to sever the knife wielding limb.

Jeremiah realised what was happening and pulled back though Daniel's downward strike still sliced almost all the way through the limb causing them to drop their heavy combat knife. As they backed away, using their vitae to heal the incapacitating wound, Daniel once again went for a crippling blow for the leg. Ready for a repeat of the earlier tactic this time the disarmed foe avoided the cut and knocked his opponent aside with a supernaturally enhanced back-handed blow.

On the back-foot for the first time he took a powerful blow to the floating ribs, feeling the bones break before unleashing a flurry of attacks of his own. Too close to avoid the blade of the highly skilled assassin he received a number of deep slashes across his torso which this time he seemingly lacked the vitae to heal.

Seeing that he had the upper hand he switched sides, feinted a high below and then for the second time crippled Jeremiah's leg. This time however he stepped back and lowered his weapon and drawing upon his knowledge of Brujah history appealed to his opponent to surrender, quoting significant figures from the clans history and using all the conversational skills he had to try to end the fight there and then as despite his enemies threats he did feel somewhat responsible for creating the situation in the first place.

Using what must have been nearly the last of the vitae within him the fallen Jeremiah knitted together the severed muscles of his leg, picked up his dropped blade and lunged at Daniel's heart. Realising he had done all he could to end this peacefully he avoided the desperate attack and drove his fangs into their throat and began to drink, and drink, first emptying their veins and then taking their soul. He felt his blood increase in potency as he took their essence. Fragments of knowledge of disciplines that the Banu Haqim previously knew nothing of began to become a part of him. He had little time to appreciate these new gifts as he grappled with the beast within in an attempt to stop the frenzy that the taste of vampiric Vitae often inflicted upon his clan. Once he was in control of himself he called for the waiting Josie to open the door and let him out of the ersatz arena.

Josie made no attempt to hide her pleasure at Jeremiah's final death despite their appearances seeming to indicate a family connection as she almost skipped past Daniel to his remains. As he watched her she removed a silver ring in the shape of a bird from within the ashes and threaded her necklace through it before tucking it beneath her top. "Family heirloom." Was all she said before indicating to the victor of the duel that he should head back to the meeting room.

Scene Twenty Four - The Missing
Vincent 'Vin' Ghast - Brujah Enforcer
'Not Normally Very Chatty...'
As Daniel emerged alone other than Josie, Michael could clearly see that Gloria was surprisingly pleased with the outcome though she was hiding it well. While the fight had been going on downstairs Vin had been speaking to some of the assembled Brujah there, focusing particularly on those who had held his gaze longest, apparently deeming them the only ones worth talking to. "He fought honourably..." said Daniel as he approached the two Barons.

The look on Gloria's face clearly indicated to Michael that she doubted he had. "Can I have a word before you continue?" said Vin to Michael. He excused himself momentarily to see what the hulking enforcer had to say.

Vin had discovered from the other Brujah that Jeremiah was basically second in command behind Gloria and had his eye on the top job. As soon as they realised that he had met his final death they'd become far more open and had revealed to the intimidating Vin that he had maintained this position through blackmail, bribery and no small amount of bullying. He also had two habits that made him particularly unpopular, firstly he "played with his food" though in what way they wouldn't elaborate upon and that he treated his childe Josie like shit. She was also apparently his biological grand-daughter which explained the familiar appearances.

As violence was a way of life for most Anarchs in the Free States, Jeremiah must have been very unpleasant indeed to be so universally disliked. It was immediately apparent to Michael that they had been manipulated into removing a threat to Gloria's status as baron and a disruption to her gang. On a positive note it at least looked like there was unlikely to be any retaliation for Jeremiah's final death at Daniel's hand.

Gloria interrupted their conversation. "Well, looks like you're driver isn't a coward after all...unless he stabbed him in the back I suppose?" "Not that it matters...let's move on..."

"Several hours after we discovered that our quarry was bogus we received a phone-call from what we can only presume is the 'real' Miss Alvarado. She requires her twenty seven million dollars returned to her, as insurance of our cooperation she has taken five children of important local individuals hostage. She assures us that when we return the money to her the location of the children will be transmitted to us. We of course don't believe the scheming bitch for one second but the attention that five kidnaps in one day will draw to my domain in the form of police, federal assistance and publicity is going to be inconvenient." "We are therefore obliged to at least attempt to fulfil her request."

Mr Hertz's 'Unconventional Assistants'
"Perhaps your financial expert would be so kind as to examine the documents we located from the bogus Ventrue and see if anything useful can be discovered?"

Mr Hertz was handed several folders, a note book, a palm-top computer and some random papers and receipts that he quickly began to sort. Much to the surprise of Gloria's gang a small horde of rodents emerged from his clothing to assist him sorting the documents. the coterie was of course used to this by now so barely even paid the act any attention at all.

"You're group has a reputation for fulfilling difficult tasks and have, if the rumours are to be believed assisted such luminaries as Louis Fortier, Gary Golden and every-ones favourite 'Fixer' Marius in various endeavours."

Michael confirmed that his people had indeed had some success in various projects for notable kindred within Los Angeles and that Gloria was fortunate because almost his entire team was currently present in the room. "We require the children to be found, you require the kidnapper and the money. Between us we have a greater chance of succeeding than as individual organisations. Additionally I can call in favours which will enable the missing money to be retrieved from Maynard Finance that you would be unable to access." Michael agreed to a joint operation, with the tasks split as Gloria had specified.

Yasmine's Ventrue Brood
While Mr Hertz worked the rest of the coterie began to ask pertinent questions about the nature of the abductions. All those taken had been teenage boys and while some had been taken from the street, and others from their homes, no forensic evidence had been discovered at any of the scenes. The single Gangrel member of Gloria's gang had examined the scenes and based on the scents (or lack thereof) was sure that all those involved had been kindred. More significant was that based on the times the crimes had been committed and the locations in which they'd occurred it seemed unlikely that it could have been done with less than five individuals. It looked certain that Yasmine had at least four kindred allies aiding her with her latest scheme.

Mr Hertz interrupted the debate with the news that the fake miss Alvarado had left a number of useful clues to specific locations she'd visited. He presumed that brainwashed as she was she had been unable to cover her trail very effectively and that the 'real' miss Alvarado probably intended her to be caught anyway as another distraction from herself. Specifically she had visited the Hoover Hotel, had a sales brochure for an abandoned farm in the agricultural community of East Whittier, brochures for a number of Spanish Colonial Revival homes in the area of the Whittier Historic Neighbourhood Association and inexplicably she also seemed to have acquired four burial spots in Rose Hills Memorial Park. Having no personal need for any of this information it seemed certain that these had been tasks connected with their true quarry. All the other information he had eliminated as useful though he had kept it just in case he was wrong.

The Hoover Hotel was a historic building restored as an affordable housing project and Mr Hertz quickly eliminated this as a hostage location as it housed mainly the elderly and five children would have stuck out like a sore thumb. It might be worth investigating if their target remained at large but was highly unlikely to be related to the current problem. The Nosferatu theorised that the burial spots were probable disposal sites but could be for any number of her enemies, not necessarily just the kidnapped kids. The farmhouse and empty homes were however far more viable targets.

As they were now allies, if only temporarily, Gloria indicated that the restriction on their weaponry was no longer in force and the coterie armed itself in preparation for what would hopefully be a final confrontation with their long sought after quarry.

Scene Twenty Five - A Process of Elimination
Hope shifted into raven form and headed towards the location of the farmhouse while the rest prepared to investigate the homes that there had been brochures for. Gloria nominated her Gangrel census taker Owen and the Brujah Josie to accompany Daniel and Vin in case they needed any back-up.

Hope did a loop of the area around the farmhouse and could see lights on in some of the rooms which seemed to indicate a presence within. Something however seemed 'off' about it to her and on closer inspection she could see no vehicles parked near to the building at all which aroused her suspicions. She therefore decided upon a closer look. It didn't take much observation for her to realise that the lights were on some kind of timer and were designed to give the illusion of movement within the home. A closer look through several windows confirmed her suspicions and she headed back to the pool hall.

With his usual systematic approach to problem solving Daniel had eliminated several of the homes as potential locations based on geographical issues, transport routes and a number of other factors before they even arrived. Unfortunately he was having trouble convincing Gloria's people to ignore the closest place to them currently and head to the place he deemed the most likely target until Vin chipped in. "He knows what he's doing and he's better at this shit than you so just do what he fucking says, okay?" It very obviously wasn't a question or something he was willing to debate so Owen and Josie caved in.

Storytellers Note - Daniel failed his Leadership test, then Vin passed his Intimidation a lot...

Josie Parrish - Brujah
Ready for Action
Following Daniel's instructions, Owen used his supernatural senses to examine the area and found that the house that the Banu Haqim had deemed the most likely did indeed show signs of use. Trying not to look smug, but failing, Daniel told the others to wait while he scouted ahead. Vin occupied himself while waiting by sharpening his machete in order to remove a slight imperfection created when he'd split the fence post in half with it earlier.

Once out of sight of the others Daniel activated abilities that would have raised suspicion about his true clan and faded from view. He could hear nothing from within using his supernatural senses and after careful examination for unusual wires or connections picked the garage doors lock and entered the building via the double garage. Once within he tested the internal door and finding it unlocked turned the handle. As he did so it occurred to him that he hadn't checked this door like he'd examined the first one and some instinct told him to move. As Daniel leapt aside, the door, doorway, a large chunk of wall and most of the rear garage wall disappeared as the claymore mine attached to the door detonated spectacularly.

Storytellers Note - I was a bit cruel here. He said "I open the door and look for traps..." rather than the other way round like he normally does...I decided to take his first statement as canon before he tried to change his mind...

As he picked himself back up to survey the scene of devastation, Owen ran into the garage. "How the fuck did that miss you?" "Let me know if anyone's coming while I give the house a quick search." was Daniel's only response. The front and rear doors were also protected by mines which Daniel disabled so any authorities who came to investigate the previous explosion wouldn't get themselves killed.

The rest of the house was unfortunately empty and so they presumed that it was a temporary haven or perhaps a fallback position. The Gangrel informed them he could hear sirens and though none of the others could they took him at his word and got the hell out of there.

With his other operatives occupied, Michael rang his police contact and asked him to check out the graveyard for him alerting him to be careful as there might be some 'special' individuals there. Frank was well aware what that meant but agreed to go even if it was somewhat out of his jurisdiction as Michael had helped his career several times. He also made sure that cocaine and prostitutes were available to supply the corrupt officers other needs. It was a long shot so Michael didn't expect much when his phone rang an hour or so later. "Michael...about that anonymous tip..."

Lieutenant Franklin Atkins - Ghoul
Frank had observed a guard outside one of the cemetery gates which was unusual as the place should be shut by now. He also pointed out that "It must be warmer over the other side of this road as I can't see them breathing at all..." Michael had warned Frank when he'd first made him into a ghoul to avoid certain words and references when using the phone and so they tended to talk in code in this case Frank was clearly telling him that the guard was a vampire. Michael told him to get a safe distance from any potential trouble and to wait for some 'special' help.

Hope arrived in time to hear her Baron ringing up Daniel to let him know that their "Neighbourhood watch group" might want to look into "Vandals near the cemetery." He also informed him that it "Could be a long night so Vin might need to bring his razor." Once he had gotten his own people on the move he informed Gloria who lent him the androgynous individual who introduced themselves as Velme as she informed him that they would come in useful. Not sure what their talent was, Michael accepted the help and got Dion to drive him to meet Frank and rendezvous with the others. Daniel called Keith and asked him to intercept them on route and drop off his crossbow. If they were potentially dealing with five kindred willing to use children as leverage then he'd quite like an edge.

Mr Hertz meanwhile had sent them directions to the four plots that Yasmine or perhaps her substitute had purchased.

Scene Twenty Six - The Graveyard
Dion - Michael's Driver
Ghoul of Fiorenza Savona
Michael was waiting with Dion and Frank when the rest arrived. Velme was nearby smoking and looked bored. Michael had established that they were of Clan Toreador and very little else other than they claimed to be a neonate and were recent arrivals in LA. The recent arrival part he could believe as they were quite distinctive though if they were a Neonate they were apparently a quick study. "So how are we going to do this then?"

A number of plans were discussed but in the end their main problem was stealthily taking out the gate guard as the cemetery itself was going to be a killing ground if their enemy was prepared for their arrival. "I can distract the guard easily enough if you like." said Velme as if she had become interested all of a sudden. "Just stay out of sight till I'm done."

Michael could tell the signs of a person enraptured by the supernatural presence of another and the kindred guard was focused entirely on Velme to the exclusion of everything else as they walked over to them. Michael told the others they could make their move now as a marching band could go past and the kindred wouldn't notice. As they walked past the watchmen and through the gate that they had helpfully opened at Velme's request her fangs were deep within his throat.

As the last of the coterie and their allies entered the graveyard they stopped drinking, calmly drew a wicked looking knife that looked more like a sickle and lopped their head from their shoulders before following the rest in.

Hope's eyes began to glow oddly as her night vision became preternaturally acute. At her side Gloria's own scourge shape-changed into a large mastiff and bounded off ahead of them pursuing some scent apparently only he could detect. As he started to move, Hope used her own talents to speak to him in his animal form to tell him she was taking the opposite flank. Vin was moving with surprising stealth for one of his size and the Toreador was making no sound at all. Daniel noted the Toreador's abilities and like Michael began to wonder just what such an obviously talented kindred was doing pretending to be weaker than they were. That he reasoned was Gloria's problem anyway.

Hope was getting bored with the uneventful walk across the vast cemetery and her attention began to wander and therefore didn't notice the waiting assailant until the 5.56 caliber assault rifle rounds struck her in the chest.

Daniel hit the ground and combat rolled behind a nearby stone monument before trying to identify where the attacker was. A moment later, Owen in mastiff form struck the would be sniper in the chest and bit deeply into their throat as Hope leapt over the intervening gravestone and drove her claws deep into their chest. Seeing that his help was no longer needed the mastiff returned to it's original route and thus missed seeing Hope frenzy and diablerise the fallen Ventrue.

Storytellers Note - Two diablerie's in one session...sigh...

Vincent 'Vin' Ghast - Brujah
'Machete at the Ready'
Daniel had heard the suppressed gunfire and hoped that whoever had the hostages had not also done so and disposed of them as no longer of use as he looped around towards an SUV he could see several hundred metres ahead with it's lights on. Senses now fully alert and her veins full of the fallen kindred's blood, Hope saw another gunman ahead aiming at the hard to miss and completely unaware figure of Vin. Knowing that she was the most resilient of those there she moved to put herself between the gunman and the Brujah and as expected they switched targets to her.

Another enemy emerged from cover at close range and attempted to put a crossbow bolt through her heart. Before they could even raise their weapon Vin reached them and bisected them shoulder to hip with a two-handed blow from his razor edged machete.

Most of the rounds fired at Hope bounced off her resilient flesh and those that hit did only trivial damage. They were just attempting to reload their assault rifle as the fast-moving Gangrel tore them limb from limb in a totally unnecessary act of overkill.

By Daniel's count there should be only Yamine left now if she did one of the kidnappings herself or her and one other if she'd delegated the job. It turned out that it was the latter as a woman who most definitely wasn't Miss Alvarado rounded the corner of the SUV and aimed a shotgun at Daniel's head. As he drew his own weapon they fell back with a hole through the centre of their forehead and most of the back of the head missing effectively decapitated. The assassin turned to see the silently moving Toreador had used a single shot pistol to blow their brains out. Smiling enigmatically they joined the others as a second vehicle was revealed parked behind the one they'd initially observed. Daniel noted that it hadn't exactly been the best organised sweep and clear he'd ever seen, but at least the job was almost done.

Scene Twenty Seven - Alvarado At Last
Daniel's Crossbow - Cobra RX Adder
Yasmine Alvarado was backing towards the car using a teenage boy as a human shield. "I'll let you know where the others are once I'm safely away..." she said, convincing no-one. "...then I'll let this one go too." Given that they believed that she could only gain sustenance from teenage boys the promise of releasing what was effectively her lunch seemed even less likely. "Just let him go....then we can talk." countered Daniel. "I have an even better idea..." said the Ventrue mastermind as she made eye-contact with the Banu Haqim. "...shoot your lady friend in the heart with your crossbow." It seemed an entirely reasonable request so he did it.

The unnatural resilience of her clan saved her again as the crossbow bolt failed to penetrate deep enough to send Hope into torpor despite Daniel's exceptionally accurate shot. His task complete, Daniel dropped the crossbow, switched to his M4 and fired a single shot at the head of the woman who had just asked him to shoot his ally. The round glanced of her forehead and Daniel swore at the thought that every vampire clan he shot lately seemed to be bulletproof. Both having the same idea simultaneously Hope and Daniel dived at the child abductor and they, her and the child all landed in an untidy heap.

Yasmine realised that the child was her only leverage and reached out to grab them as Vin sliced her arm off at mid bicep. The Banu Haqim grabbed a stake from Hope's harness and attempted to drive it thorough Yasmine's heart from the back only to have it glance off the bone. Untangling herself from the mass of bodies Hope was moments away from tearing the Ventrue's heart out as Vin saved her the effort and lopped the kidnapper and embezzlers head from their shoulders. Their only chance to save the remaining children was if the Yasmine's hostage knew where they were. Fortunately they did, unfortunately he pointed towards four freshly filled graves nearby as all present with the exception of Velme began to dig with their bare hands and in some cases claws.

Velme used her supernatural presence to lead the five traumatised children back to the car where Michael, his driver, the cop Frank and Josie were waiting. Gloria was informed of the rescue and arranged for her people to clean-up the scene of any evidence of kindred involvement while they briefed Frank of what had happened. A half convincing, if only vaguely plausible story was concocted to give him the credit for the heroic rescue that could be used once the children's memories were altered just enough to remove anything they might say that could draw the attention of the Second Inquisition.

Gloria assured them that the recovered money would be with them within the next few days and both barons agreed that their presence in Downtown would be kept between them. At least Fiorenza would be happy, or as close as she got at least.

To be Continued in 'Anathema' - Part One

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...

This was the finale of a story that went on a lot longer than I was expecting. Mainly because the players started to look for clues in directions I hadn't expected so extra scenes had to be added and then I expanded the scenario based on some of their paranoid conjecture.

The investigation parts went well though there were a lot more dead ends and red herrings in this one as with the addition of Mr Hertz there needed to be more for the investigators and researchers to do to contribute to the overall success (or failure) of the mission.

I was fairly happy with how this one went, now I need to prepare the next one...

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, Andrew Francis is Ray Stephenson, Keith Chang is Daniel Dae Kim, Velme is a drawing by Anneli Larsson of Desire of the Endless, Gloria Martinez is Ariadne Artiles, Catherine Du Bois is Margot Robbie, Leanna is Leeanna Vamp, Jeremiah is Ralf Moeller, Josie Parrish is Rebecca Ferguson, Franklin Atkins is Michael Chiklis and Dion is Clark Gregg  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, 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.
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.
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.

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 " 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. " 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.

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...
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