It looked like the guy janitoring at the Skyeline apartments was a rather serious pervert. Or, if not a pervert, at least a dastardly invader of privacy. Not that I was respecting people's locked doors, of course. After snapping the lock of the door leading from what passed as a lobby to the basement, I found myself looking at six television screens, each of them showing the interior of one of the six apartments in the Skyeline complex. I also found a ledger describing monetary transactions in exchange for tapes, most of those tapes labeled with the number six. Probably the sixth apartment. Next to the ledger was a small notebook describing the six apartments and their inhabitants.
#1 Simon Milligan. Keep an eye on this one, it's the guy from that TV- show. Could be worth a lot of money
#2 Mike Durbin. Weirdo, keeps to himself. Constantly looks out the window.
#3 Some rich woman. Almost never home. Tried to see the combination of her safe but no luck so far.
#5 Paul ... Pretty boring. Doesn't get out much.
#6 Hannah Glazer. This is the goldmine! Something hot is always going on there, and that something hot is usually Hannah herself!
I remembered that Simon Milligan-character from TV, and would actually run into him later. But that is another tale. The person I was looking for was a ghoul named Paul. Said ghoul – boring, doesn't get out much – had not reported to his Anarch brethren in a while, and since I was the one they wanted to investigate their little problem, this ghoul, slim though the chance was, could be a lead. Mind you, I didn't take on this job because the Anarchs had threatened me, or worse, to do them a favour, but rather to make it clear to them that there were things the Anarchs simply couldn't solve without the help of the Camarilla. They would miss the point entirely, but then, Anarchs, what could you do with them except use them as oversized torches?
Anyway, I was sent to investigate a strange plague that had turned out to be more than just a bad case of the coughs. People were dying in unexpectedly large numbers, and both Kindred and kine authorities had gotten suspicious. The Kindred had started to investigate the Anarchs, for even they themselves knew the cause was likely to be found among them, and the kine had sent the CDC down to find out what was going on. And I don't think it can be overstated what bad news that meant for us. This plague, dubbed 'Captain Trips' by a few facetious reporters, was probably transmitted by blood or saliva. And it should be obvious when those two meet.
So, everyone stood to gain by resolving this situation as soon as possible. My efforts had been partially succesful already, since I had eliminated a revolting and decaying Vampire named Brother Kanker in his festering lair deep in the sewers. That had only slowed the plague however, and not stopped it entirely. So the search went on, and I had to explore every lead, even one as flimsy as an Anarch ghoul not reporting. He probably simply needed to be taught discipline. They all did.
The air vents would have been a fine option to reach the fifth level for one of the Gangrel or Nosferatu clan, but starting a climb straight upward through a narrow square pipe did not seem like the best approach to me. If I got stuck, bursting the pipe with my Potence was the only option. And that was noisy, painful and a waste of good blood. Brujah though I am, I recognize a foolish plan when I see one. The elevator was a much better option, with the added advantage of staying out of the draft. Of course, then I'd have to worry about the front door, but better to be stuck in front of a locked door than inside a tight duct.
The elevator dropped me off at the fifth floor, and I found myself in front of a solid oaken door. Breaking it down would be quite easy for me, but again, noisy, painful, waste of blood. The lock was electronic, and forcing it would most likely set off an alarm, so I tried the only possibility I saw feasible: I opened the window in the hallway and climbed onto the ledge that ran along the outside wall. The wind buffeted me with eager enthousiasm as I inched forward. I was never particularly afraid of heights, but I don't think anyone – not even a Vampire – can stand on a narrow ledge five storeys high and not realize it's a pretty long drop.
I inhaled sharply (the air was worthless, but I needed the pause) and crept further, holding myself with the tips of my fingers straining to retain their grip on the seams of the masonry. More than one car horn blared as a vehicle passed by, accompanied by the occasional yell of "you crazy bitch!". As if I wasn't exerting myself enough, I had to burn blood to invoke my Presence-discipline to cause the drivers to be so afraid of me they didn't dare call the cops. And even for a Vampire, scaring people when you're clinging to a building, with your back to them, is no small task. There were two people standing on the corner of the streets dressed in CDC biosuits, but they hadn't noticed me. I'm doing your job up here, you know.
I was lucky in one respect however: Paul was as forgetful about closing windows as he was about reporting to his superiors. I quickly glanced around, pushed the window open and crawled inside. My presumptions about the ghoul not responding due to poor discipline turned out to be incorrect. Paul simply didn't report because Paul was dead.
The body showed all signs of the plague: the dark-ringed, sunken eyes, the swollen throat, the flaky, cracked skin and the buildup of mucus inside the mouth and on the lips. I ruled out the possibility of death of old age. I quickly rifled through his pockets, but the only useful thing I could find was the key card to his apartment. Well, at least now I could use the door to get out. But first, I had an apartment to search. I tore the place inside out but didn't find anything useful, and my frustration grew with every room I checked, until I was finally about to stomp to the door and damn it all. But at that moment I saw that the red LED of the answering machine was blinking. Stupid of me to forget to check his messages, but then again, it was probably just his mother wondering why he didn't call back. I was wrong again. The voice on the machine was that of a young woman who sounded positively ill.
Paul?... Hannah here. I'm sorry to bother you, but could you pick me up some cold medicine at the store? I wouldn't bother you with this normally, but I'm just too sick to go out. Come right on in, the code is 1969. Thanks. Oh, and last week was wonderful. I really had a good time... But I'm rambling. Okay bye. click
'It's Hannah'. That probably meant Hannah Glazer, that 'something hot' from the apartment on the sixth floor. Good. That meant I didn't have to travel far. And if this dead guy here – boring, doesn't get out much – got infected by Hannah, as I hoped he did, and not the other way around, that may probably lead me to the source. In the end. Hopefully. If this Hannah-chica wasn't dead already. Best hurry.
I quickly punched in the code I picked up from the answering machine and headed straight for the bedroom. That's where sick people stayed, right? Not that I could remember the last time I'd been sick. At the thought, melancholy came over me again but I pushed it back down to come back another night. When I ascended the stairs I heard an inquisitive groan. Good. She was still alive.
"Who are you? You're not Paul!" she croaked indignantly when I came in. The lights were dim to the point of darkness, but I could see the black around her eyes and the flakyness of her skin. She would probably have been beautiful when she was healthy. She was lying down in bed, and she had most likely draped her sheets over her at first, but she'd kicked them off again, probably because of the heat of the fever. Her nightgown was drenched with sweat. She wasn't long for this world.
"I'm here to help you," I half-lied.
"Help me? How?"
I hesitated for a moment. "I'm a doctor." It wasn't just half a lie anymore.
"A... a doctor? Did Paul send you?"
I nodded. "Yes he did." Even though it was for a good cause, and they were white lies, they did gnaw at my conscience a little. And she didn't find a doctor in a black leather jacket and bluejeans suspicious, so she was probably very badly ill.
"Hannah... do you have any idea who gave you this illness?"
She shook her head wearily. "No. It could have been any of my clients."
"What about Paul. Was he your client?"
She shook her head again. "Paul? No, we just..." she fell into a fit of coughing, "...went on a date together."
"Hannah... what kind of clients are you talking about?"
She didn't answer the question, but instead she grabbed me by the sleeve. "Why did you... why did you ask about Paul? Is he... ill too?"
I nodded. "I'm afraid so. Hannah... Paul is dead."
Her eyes went wide. "What? Dead?" and she gave an ululating cry and flopped down on the pillows.
When I tried to rouse her she didn't respond. She'd slid into a deep and probably fatal coma. I left her there on her bed and began my second apartment search for the evening. This answering machine didn't have any messages, but I did find a small ledger that made it clear exactly what kind of 'clients' Miss Glazer had. One entry leapt out at me:
I met a woman called Jezebel Locke today. She was more beautiful than anyone I'd ever seen, and she had a sort of aura about her that made her... irresistible. She asked me to come with her to her hotel and paid me more than twice what I ask for a night. I'd never been with a woman before, but she was so captivating. She's asked me to come back next week, same place, in her suite at the Empire Hotel. I don't know if I should go or not, but just thinking about her makes me all tingly inside. There's something strange about this woman...
Unlike Hannah, I was familiar with Vampire powers and this 'captivating aura' this Jezebel Locke had was obviously projected through the use of the Presence discipline, in which I myself also had rudimentary skill. Perhaps this Jezebel could provide me with some answers. But as I looked at the time, I knew that would be for tomorrow night – dawn would soon come. I didn't know what to do about Hannah, so I simply left her there. "Tough break, Hannah," I said simply when I walked out the door. I've often wondered if she died eventually. I suppose she did.