No Escape

On Charity

Well, here I am again, just a regular guy, down on the street in the dirty real world, saving lives.

Ariette really isn’t coping. Like I said though, having iced that other guy in front who one of the locals, she came to me for help. Which is certainly for the best, because otherwise there would be another corpse lining the pavement tonight. That corpse’s name would be Robert Bixby.

But, thanks to me, Robert is not a corpse yet! A little shaken, certainly, but I’m sure its nothing that the counsel of a qualified psychiatrist such as myself wouldn’t be able to remedy. We went into the situation trying to make Bob think it was a robbery. Which it was, in a way, but we moved from “surreptitious master crime” to “botched hit and run” around the time the poor girl started feeding. Predictably enough, it was up to good old Dr Salt to step in a diffuse the situation.

I hit Ariette with the Face, which backed her off her meal. Bob was similarly terrified, so I pinned him to a wall, swiped his ID so he knew we’d be able to find him, drew off a little red for myself and introduced his head to the dumpster to keep him focused on spinning lights rather than blowing our little gambit right open. Only enough to stun him, mind. I’m no killer.

I dragged Ariette around the corner and dumped her somewhere quiet and dark to think about the mess she’d caused. Then I ripped open my arm and force fed the murky, wriggling ichor that lives inside me down Robert’s throat.

The hole Ariette left in his neck healed over. The hovering signs of concussion in his eyes cleared, and he was able to pull himself to his feet. He still seemed a little dazed, and I imagine he was flying high on my little infusion, but I think I managed to push the worst of the damage back to something he could deal with on his own, without requiring a trip to the hospital or the morgue. I agreed to meet him two night from now, which should be more time than I need to come up with a story that he can accept easily enough.

I know its addictive, but so is morphine. As long as I don’t dose him too heavily medicinal use of vitae should leave him perfectly healthy. I wonder if it can heal brain damage… that may be something to consider once I free the people Smythe keeps penned up in the asylum. Especially in light of recent developments.

So, feeling pretty good about the way things are going, if utterly famished, we met up with Sylvia and Dom. The little one and her guardian had apparently managed to corner another single parent out walking, and she had managed to not kill the small boy. Her Id wasn’t so happy about that development and engaged in a disturbing amount of vandalism to compensate, but I’m glad they got away without hurting anybody too seriously. Dom has a knack for putting fences between Sylvia and anybody who would investigate her… particular predicament.

She got angry at me, yesterday. Wanted to know my name. Ariette wouldn’t part with hers, but I vaguely remembered telling everyone before… before the sleep. Before the old copper mines. That, I think, was the first time we’d sat down to properly compare what we remembered, and I have begun to doubt my initial assumption that it was the former Prince Lambert that put us in the ground. That’s what I remember, anyway. Sylvia is convinced that it was Julia Black, a one time Invictus busybody, while Ariette… well, she remembers a cabal of Invictus and Sylvia, of all people. Three utterly different stories. I’m beginning to worry that we may have been had.

I’ve studied the nightmares that we have while we sleep, in the hopes of alleviating the suffering that the Kindred experience as we age. But this… this seems to be something else. It’s worrying, to think that my own mental pathways could be so easily rewritten, though I know our kind are capable of such, but I have seen a trend with the victims such tampering. Eventually, the subject breaks down, as even small untruths are eventually rejected. Some remake themselves, relying on context, journals, new stories to make memories to replace the false ones. But without context, I can’t identify the end of the untruth and the beginning of the dream.

I may still be dreaming.

I caved in the end. I don’t know if Sylvia would try to leverage my old identity against me. Hell, with four years out of the game with luck my old connections may have gone cold.

We’re going to see Julia Black, who according to Carson has propped herself up as the prophet of some Catholic death worship cult in the wake of the carnage, and is currently our number one suspect for our memory troubles. We met Carson, too; turns out he’s made the jump to one of us, and he was nice enough to fill us in as long as we’re willing to do him an unspecified favour… but we’ve got a better lay of the land, now, I think. Carson describes the plague as a zombie apocalypse, some sort of apparently incurable disease that drives victims into violent psychosis. The people in the asylum aren’t actually infected; they’re just a paper trail that has been arranged to keep the authorities from looking too closely in our direction. Brilliant, Doctor Smythe. I’ll move another counter from “sick man” to “abomination” shall I?

Eventually, slash and burn brought down most of the infected. Embraces started going awry, spawning furious monstrosities. Except among my kind… the Family. Looks like a line’s been drawn between the religious abattoir impersonators and the Nosferatu tribe, which keeps things tense, and most have declared one way or another. The Masquerade is dangerously thin. The only remaining Kindred with the kind of occult knowledge I’m going to need is Byron, who’s apparently set up a little way out of town. I don’t remember having met him, but I don’t know which of memories I can trust. We’re going
to need to grill Julia, hopefully that will shed some light on it…

And we found our old crack house. Doesn’t look like anybody has been there for a long while, so we figured its as good a place as any to sleep.

God I’m hungry. I need to get my traps out again. But there’s a lot I need to do;

-Cripple Smythe’s lobotomy racket and teach that monster a lesson in humility.
-Pay Julia Black a visit, find out what she knows about our getting disappeared.
-Locate and quiz Byron, see what he knows that might help me get back on Terry’s trail.
-Meet William tomorrow night. Don’t know who the hell this guy is, but it looks like he pulled some nasty psynanigans on Ariette, and that worries me. Could be an ambush. Might be worth arranging some kind of insurance.
-Meet Robert the night after tomorrow. I don’t owe him any explanation, I saved the guys life, but I should find out what he believes happened in case that needs smoothing over. Shit, my date book hasn’t been this full in years…
-New traps. Very, very hungry. Can’t keep up the stalking, its too risky. Still, I’m going to need a good hit to keep the Clay Man on side. We’ll need to hit the town once more I think, commit to a little social surgery. See if we can’t teach some Gravetown scumbags that actions have consequences, and that consequences bite hard…

When the hell did I start thinking like that? This isn’t me… There was another time, another Doctor Salt who truly believed that words could solve any problem, could reach to the very heart of the human mind. To unlock doors and ease suffering. Or maybe that memory is false also.

How quickly, how easily my clay hands turn to cruelty. A pity that so many people let themselves go so far that their only psychological currency is pain. Smythe, Black… even Carson, maybe. What happened to him, to make him so callous? I hope I’m wrong. I hope I can save them.

Something tells me that I’m right, though.

Hang on… Carson’s sire may be a telepath. Investigate…

So… Humanity 5 then… down we go…

In a pizza shop...

Dr Salt: A Visitation

I’ve just had a visitation. Not from Terry, oddly, so I imagine my letter isn’t out strumming heart strings yet, but from another like me.

Dom had decided that, having devoured a small truckload of pizza and beer, that now was the time to remove his catheter. I have to credit the guy for his ability to endure discomfort if not for his sense of priority. I don’t know what he and Sylvia were like when they were both younger. I wonder what the big guy wants, under all the layers of numb hide that his years of losing out have draped over him. He seems grateful we got him out of the asylum though. I guess having to watch the world go by is a lesser doom than Symes’ tender mind games, even if Sylvia does have a temper on her.

Out of Hell and back to Purgatory. Maybe his priorities aren’t so bad after all. He said before dinner that he didn’t want any Nosferatu blood, though he was quick enough to retract that later in the night. I wonder how different Symes and I taste.

And on the topic of blood, my visitation. A clanmate of the butcher in doctors clothing and myself, called himself Jimmy, though he seems to have acquired his wardrobe from the gangster section of a seventies police drama’s costume department. I didn’t get the rage off him, but he clearly recognised me, and he knew enough about both of us that he must be Kindred.

Still smoking, too. Old habits really are hard to break.

Jimmy filled me in on the city as the plague hit, and its subsequent division between “the family” and “the Man”. We reached a suitable detente with my not shooting him under the table and him not shoving his cane between my ribs, even though we’d both clearly had difficult nights.

He and his friends are quick on the uptake, I’ll give them that; they already knew about the guys that Ariette and Sylvia drained. I’d hoped my disfiguration gambit would buy us a little more time, but these guys know the signs so I suppose you have to respect professional aptitude. My plan would have messed with any human coroner. Jimmy gave me a quick rundown of the city since Lambert put us in the ground. The plague left the city in lockdown and under almost martial law by the CDC, with rioting and infected that my new friend described as “zombies” decimating the Kindred population. And he told me to keep a firmer hand on “my girls”, though I don’t see how that’s any of his business. He’s probably a product of his upbringing; insecurity hidden behind a veil of cheap misogyny. Nonetheless, he happily answered a couple of questions.

As I mentioned, he describes the city’s remaining Kindred as having divided their numbers between “the Man” (possibly remnants of the old Invictus powerbase?) and “the family”, which he seems to associate with a politicization of Clan Nosferatu. He left me with a dead drop to contact the family, which may be useful; apparently it was their leader Drake who turned over my little occult library. So that’s compromised as a haven, though the books can probably stay there until I find somewhere to move them. If they want to use the stuff I’ve gathered that doesn’t bother me, I just never expected to be handing out library cards to the local bogey men. He also gave me the address of a Mekhet PI who might know about local blood magic circles… fuck, that sounds so stupid. It’s not always easy to maintain skepticism, but the word “magic” still shits me. Need to think of a better word for it… no matter. Mekhet, investigator, Keller Street office above a bakery. Whoever it was murdered Terry might think they got away with it, but they didn’t reckon on Dr Salt. Don’t know where the Bastard is, but learning how he thinks is the first step.

He gave me a dead drop to get in contact with the family (Maine 723rd, remember that). Given the other events of the night, I’m not sure I value our chances with “the Man”.

As if in answer to my fervent hopes that Ariette and Sylvia would behave themselves, they returned to the pizza shop out of their fucking minds on LSD, rambling about having embarrassed themselves in front of one of the local Kindred. So that’s a good start to our lives in the new Brookemouthe. I guess I might have to tighten that leash after all.

Dom and I managed to wrangle a hotel room for the day. I was going to go back to the sewers, but Sylvia nagged until I eventually caved and agreed to stay with the two of them in the bathroom. Figured it would be best to keep an eye on them, given they were high as fucing kites. Domovoi and Sylvia were both still hungry, so I juiced up the big guy. Like I said, folk might not like eating bugs, but it tastes just fine to a starving man. Better he’s fueled in the event of trouble, and if the guy likes me he’s less likely to stake and eat me while I sleep. Or at least he’ll feel really guilty about it if he does.

I’ve been keeping pretty full myself, the stuff I’ve been pulling out of people is far more potent than the rats I’m used to. If I can glut the Clay Man then the chance of an outburst is greatly reduced. It might be in the greater interest if I keep myself sated on the strong stuff, though I may have to look into getting some new traps as well. I imported those damn white rats for a reason, no sense not eating them. Of course, for traps we need money. I don’t have money, or a secure place out of the sun for that matter.

Have to look into it. The old crack house we stayed in… before might still be there. And if there are squatters, heck. Maybe its time for some social psychology.

Well, looks like we’re all getting ready to leave, so I’ll finish this off. To do:

-See this Mekhet detective. Try and pick up the trail of any cults or ritualists with a taste for human sacrifice.

-New traps. Step one: Money

-Touch base with “the Family”, so they know we’re friendly. Maybe arrange a gift for Drake. A tasteful sweater perhaps. I imagine he’d prefer a legion of barely conscious people bundled into a giant cake, but I don’t have that on hand.

-Go and meet “William”, two nights from now. Don’t know what the significance of this is, but Ariette keeps bugging me about it.

-Check out the old crack house, maybe. You never know what your luck has in store.

-Continue to formulate plan to neutralize Symes. Maybe test the waters with the Family first, he may be a pillar of the Goddamned community if my luck holds the way it has been…

Addendum: Ariette has confided in me that, in addition to making a fool of herself in front of the neighbours, she and Sylvia killed a man in front of them. Better and better…

She’s admitted she needs help at least. That’s the first step to recovery. And I guess we’ll have plenty to talk about when we go to see William…

Dr Salt's Notes
A Homecoming

Sorry if Salt sounds like an insufferable jerk, but… with his drop in humanity he has actually started blaming you guys for all his problems. ALL OF THEEEEEEMMM!!!

I am surrounded by incompetents.

That’s not strictly fair. They were desperate. They couldn’t help themselves.

I can barely remember the last time I tasted blood. Real human blood, so different from the filth I tore from the guts of rats. I shouldn’t have done, but with my traps gone I was left with no other option. Like the thug who shot me, the broken slaves the Lamont kept, the dead men who still lie in that alley have spun into a spiralling tableaux of human life that I have consumed.

So clean. So… awake.

I still can’t trust my memories completely, but I remember enough to know that the city had changed. We awoke in a lightless dungeon, somewhere deep in the mine where years ago we’d struggled to save a sick man from himself. The door was locked, with ad hoc reinforcements welded to the outside. Whoever left us there wanted us left alone, but they left the key here. I think it was the Prince, but that may have been a dream. Sylvia ripped the wooden stave out of my heart, but it feels like it left something behind, some dark blockage to my psyche that the blood can’t wash away like it used to.

So clean. So awake.

There was a card near the key, but we didn’t know what that meant until tonight.

Last night I butchered two human bodies. I tried to stop her, but Ariette killed them both. Her lapse in self control ended two human lives, but… I don’t think I would have acted differently. maybe if I had killed them I would have handed myself in, but they need me. I remember the first time I prepared roast lamb at college my skin crawled when the knife slid through the skin of something that used to be alive. It was a strange sensation to turn a blade on human skin, but looking back on it the process seemed so automatic, so easy. The poor fools were dead, after all, my friends had seen to that. They didn’t need those bodies anymore.

It won’t stand up to even half hearted forensic analysis, but maybe a junkie and a dealer killing each other in a dark alley will just be forgotten. That’s about the best I could hope for.

Terry’s been forgotten. I think he’s still nearby, following me, but his voice has faded out with the intervening years. I sent his mother a letter, telling her that despite the intervening years I was still looking for her son’s murderer. I don’t know what she’ll think of that, but maybe her grief will give Terry some will back. I hope I haven’t hurt her for nothing. I could barely think of an excuse for being away four years, but I wrote- fuck. Idiot. How could I have been so stupid? Remembering to write a letter to Terry’s mom and not my own, how the hell did I manage that? What is she thinking, after nearly four years without a word? Last I told her I was on the West coast… Damn it.

But what do I tell her? You get phone calls in jail. A coma isn’t far off, but comas leave paper trails.

I died, and I have been an accessory to murder for a woman and a little girl who kill people.

I don’t want to hurt her.

Damn near killed Blake. Not sure how it had happened, but he and a friend of his seemed to have gone off the deep end. This was just after we’d left the cave we’d been locked in, Blake and his muttering comrade lurked up and jumped on Sylvia. i managed to overpower Blake, figured I’d draw off his vitae to take the fight out of him. I figured that Sylvia and Arriette could handle his friend, the socialite has always seemed eager with that knife, but in the end it was the little girl that hamstrung him. He didn’t go down easy, tore a huge chunk out of Sylvia and broke Arriette’s jaw, so I hit Blake with the Eye and sent him scurrying off into the woods. If he’s lucky he’ll find somewhere out of the sun. The little one said these rabid vampires, “larvae” or something, hunt in packs, so we didn’t stick around. I’m inclined to disbelieve that they’re nothing but monsters, but we were too badly hurt to capture them for now.

We managed to hitch a ride with some suspicious bumpkin, who took us back into town in exchange for the money I had left. The town’s changed. A sickness of some kind, a “blood pox” according to that sadist Symes, has left huge parts of the city empty, some blocks still quarantined, and no Kindred on the streets that I was able to see. The guy in the truck left us on streets that were a mess of old memories and new changes. I felt like an alien, watching the people around me through a fisheye lens. Trying hard to figure out if I felt that way last time I was here.

The girls were starving, and we were getting desperate, so we jumped two guys in an alley. I gave one the eye and he fell in a dead faint; the other pulled a gun, but I was able to knock it out of his hand and throw him against the wall. I felt the surge of the Clay Man in my muscles, his worms singing out in their tiny voices as I dragged the struggling blood from the man. But I let him go. Everything would have been fine, had Ariette not gone bezerk. I tried to pry her off him, but she was raging, and there wasn’t a whole lot I could do. What was meant to be a quick and painless feeding ended with me disfiguring corpses in a back alley.

I spent eight years at college for this?

Can’t be helped now. I could have chewed them out, but they’re just not used to being hungry. Back in the day, they’d usually have full stomachs, friends to help them and someone less mad than the Clay Bastard on their backs. Maybe they won’t turn up their noses at rat next time. Less on the conscience than murder.

We staked out the asylum a bit, but figured we’d try and find a safe place to sleep. My sewer library seemed secure, though somebody had ransacked it and swiped my maps some time ago. Left a little rat totem in exchange. Weirdest currency I’ve ever seen. Who knows? My traps were ripped up, looked like their rodent prisoners had worked up enough population to break free. It was a mess, but I snagged some stragglers. Better dead than tangled up like that. I wrote out the letter, and sent it to Terry’s mom, had a moment with my dead roses, and we slept for the day.

The next night we visited the asylum. It was the first time I’d ever walked through the doors of a hospital with a gun under my jacket. It had been a rattling awakening, and I truly had no idea what to expect. If Prince Lambert had put us in the ground, maybe it was him that baited us here, though any reason why he would do that escapes me. We didn’t find Lambert.

I did my best to impersonate a practicing doctor with a functioning memory, on a research tour. I’m not sure what they made of Ariette and Sylvia. Abuse survivors I’d brought in, maybe, show them a safe place. This wasn’t a safe place, and I’m reluctant to call it a hospital. The receptionist showed us around, and we found Domovoi. He’d been renamed Barry, tried to clue us in that he wanted out, and that Doctor Symes was listening. Then the doctor arrived, in surgical clothing.

I shouldn’t call him a doctor. He’s the sickest creature in that hospital. He told us that the blood pox caused brain damage, made its victims violent and aggressive. Said that was why he’d been doing butcher jobs on his patients frontal lobes. Said he was the only thing keeping the chaos outside from creeping in.

Every word was like a spit in my face, and part of me smiled that he’d let a real doctor with a gun into his precious fucking sanctuary. Every fucking word, I heard the fucking echoes of congressmen telling doctors to sterilize criminals, sick eugenicists gassing the sick and i tell you I just wanted to put his HEAD TO A WALL WITH MY CLAY FIST AND CRUSH AND CRUSH UNTIL THERE IS NOTHING BUT PASTE AND SPLINTERS UNTIL I TEAR OUT HIS BLACK HEART REND ASUNDER THE HUMAN GUISE WORN

… He needs to be put down. Couldn’t fight him, the girls were hurt, and if we didn’t get Dom out who knew what tricks that torturing pig would pull. I let him know I’d be back though. Can’t let the Id ride me, not yet. Those people need a doctor, a real doctor, the girls need me. I don’t know what he did to Dom, but he needs healing, and Sylvia needs her dad. Symes is sick too, but I don’t know if I could heal him. He enjoys his monstrosity too much.

I need to free those people.

Things to do, things… things I have to remember.

-Remove Symes from the asylum, find a way to help his victims. I know I could do this. Symes calls himself a doctor, but that just makes him a liar. I am a real doctor. I must help those people.

-Try and revive Terry. need to get back on the trail, it will be cold as ice by now but I’ve got forever. Need to get up to speed with occultists in this area, maybe the Carthian network has some info. I won’t let them slip away, not again.

-Figure out what to tell my parents. Not the truth.

-Find somewhere safe to stay.

-Find Theodore. Don’t know who he is, but Symes gave us a phone number.

Have to remember. My name is Marvin Salt. I am twenty seven – thirty two years old. My parents are Edgar and Mary Salt, and we lived in Providence. Maybe they still do. I was infected by a blind man named Boris and it was him that named me Nosferatu. I am a psychiatrist,and I will do no harm. I will do no harm.

I am not the Clay Man. I created him.

The girls are coming back. Dom’s given up on his dessert. I hope they have good news.

Barry's Journal
Now I know my ABCs...

Day 1087

Again. No end. Every day the same tune the same talk the same drugs the same tests the same talk the same paintings the same nightmares the same taunts and tricks and cuts and laughs and blood and why did she leave me.
Enough blood to keep me alive forever, never enough to let me escape. Never enough. Why.

I killed Connant.

Today was a C day. Drugs breakfast reading lunch drugs rest dinner sleep drawing drugs sleep. Yesterday was a Q (breakfast drugs rest drawing drugs lunch sleep) I know he has to be using a pattern. Why little one. I know there has to be a pattern. Patterns pass the time.
The pattern keeps me sane.

Today was a C. The drawings are the same. Always the same since that first day I woke up. That day was an A. A comes before C, except when it was GFHCGGFGFEDBYA.
I think.

Today was C. He came in after Dr Baker. Told us to draw a happy place. Told us he’s the doctor.
So we did.


C Today.

I don’t know what this house is.

I draw it every C.


Connant asked me where the house was.

Did I hurt you. Did I make you leave.

Connant starts with C.



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