Happy Halloween everyone! This is a one-shot idea that sprang into my mind about two weeks ago. I asked myself, and a few other authors, "What would your OCs do for Halloween?" and this is what happened. This is a combination of different times in history when Louisa celebrated Halloween. And since I haven't been including LaCroix in many of my main story chapters, I thought this would give Sebastian-junkies something to enjoy. Hope you enjoy and have a very safe Halloween!
She smelled it in the air as she walked from the Business District parking deck on South Figueroa Street toward the towering heights of Ventrue Tower, or what kine knew as The LaCroix Foundation. Technically it had been Autumn for some time. The equinox had come and gone but Los Angeles, in its nearly perpetual state of Summer heat, hadn't received a snap in temperature until just earlier this week. The ten degree drop on October 24th had ushered in the official recognition of cooler temperatures, changing leaves, and demands for ulterior wardrobe considerations that she found the populace of Los Angeles blatantly avoided until Nature smacked them in face and made them recognize that their predominantly hot, beach front city was, in fact, capable of Autumnal change. Fall meant more than changing out her cap sleeves for fashionable cardigans; it also meant the arrival of a personal favorite holiday. Halloween! There was something delightful about dressing up in costume and charming adults out of candy (and hard-earned money) with a three-word catch phrase that had as much to do with Halloween as neon colored rabbits did with Easter.
She gave her wrist watch a casual glance. The long needle teetered between the six and seven. Just half past eight. She knew she had a schedule to keep, and a schedule that wasn't so much her own as one that had been "thoughtfully" constructed for her. She didn't come to L.A. often and those "thoughtful" schedules were one reason. Another was that she had very little official authority here, though the unofficial authority was large enough to keep her comfortably untouchable. Then there were the clinging-to-the-shadows Sabbat that ran amuck around the metropolis, blowing up cars and riddling buildings with drive-by bullet holes. Paired with unruly Anarchs and the stink of Kuei-Jin, she felt like she was stepping into a version of her own domain one-hundred years ago.
She stood on the edge of curb, rocking back and forth against the concrete with the arch of her feet. She stared at the steel and concrete behemoth across the street, where her Sire stalked around the penthouse floor. A lion protecting his insecure throne. Her watch ticked, ticked, ticked away and the tick reminded her how she was whittling away the minutes of LaCroix's specifically designed schedule. She had memorized it: 7:30- Drive to downtown. Park car in S. Figueroa Parking Deck D, Level 2. Check. 8:30- Check in at front lobby. Grab files from 15th floor receptionist. Whoops! Already late… 8:45- Meet in penthouse. 10:00- Change attire. 10:15- Make appearance at L.F. fundraiser at Children's Hospital. 11:00 (because, of course we can't stay longer)- Leave for function. Function? Really, Sebastian, call it what it is…It's a party! 12:30- Leave function. Return to penthouse. 1:00- Change attire. 2:30- Leave penthouse. Retrieve car.
By the time she had run the schedule through her head, the long needle of her watch was dancing dangerously close to the nine. Unfortunately for her Sire, she had other plans. There was absolutely no need for her to make an appearance at the Foundation's pre-Holiday-fundraiser fundraiser, since she looked about as old as the patients the hospital serviced. And the hour and change gap between arriving at the penthouse and "changing attire" was nothing more than an attempt by her Sire to make sure the events that occurred the last time she visited Los Angeles did not repeat themselves. While she had no intention of that happening either, she wasn't about to be told what she would be doing on an evening she had enjoyed almost every year for the past one hundred years. She teetered on the curb a little more before shoving two fingers between her teeth, sending a sharp whistle into the air. She waved her hand and a cab pulled up on the side of the road just as her back pocket began to vibrate. She slid into the back seat of the cab and gave the driver an address for a bungalow in Venice Beach. She arched her hips and slid a hand into her back pocket to pull out her cellphone.
"Yes?" she cooed.
"You're late! Where are you?" his voice hissed into her ear.
"In the car," she lied. Lying was always a safer option because she would charm her way out of a lie.
"There was some sort of accident and I took an alternate route that's driving me all over creation. So, I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to make it to the fundraiser."
"We have a schedule!"
"I don't recall scheduling anything. I recall you shoving a piece of paper into my hands when I got here. Don't worry, I won't miss the function." And then she hung up before he ruined the tiny bones of her inner ear.
They would call it the Roaring Twenties, the Golden Twenties, années folles by French and French speakers, like herself. Yes, plenty about the decade roared. Politicians roared about suffrage and immigration laws while Calvin Coolidge played his laissez-faire hand. Bars roared with the laughter of men and women drunk off bootleg moonshine. Radios roared with Louis Armstrong's smooth jazz music. Baseball diamonds roared with crack of Babe Ruth's bat. And black alleyways roared with ratta-tat-tat and pop-pow-pow of gangster machine guns. F. Scott Fitzgerald would immortalize the decadence of this decade with his posthumously famous novel, The Great Gatsby. But unless you lived it, you could never understand what decadence meant and while the 1920s promotes the image of one, ten-year-long party, some of the grandest celebrations centered around excuses to dress up: Christmas, New Year's Eve and Halloween.
The year was 1924 and after two solid decades of ruling over a largely ignored Northwestern territory and maneuvering her domain as the endpoint for the first-ever aerial circumnavigation of the world, Louisa decided to treat herself to a long weekend in the hedonistic rush that was New York City. Simon Whitenthal, Ventrue primogen and New York resident since the mid-18th century, had sent a formal invitation to his annual Halloween masquerade. She had ignored the invitation, at first, for the sole reason of it being called a masquerade. It was tacky and unimaginative and since modern Halloween was built upon the premise of masquerading, she found the term redundant. But, redundant or not, she decided not to pass up this opportunity to engage in frivolity.
Rumors constantly told her Whitenthal's party was one of those things. It was one of those things that starts between a small, select group that received invitations then explodes into masses of bodies pressing against each other. One of those things that made some people feel special in the beginning, then just another costumed number by the end. But Whitenthal always expected this and, like every good Ventrue, planned accordingly. His sprawling upper East Side estate maintained affluent Kindred entertainment while nearby Central Park became the dumping ground for the surge of proletariat. It was one of those things that was meant to do nothing more but expose the preserved wealth of its host. One of those things Louisa inconsistently attended because she knew she had better things to do with her time.
She didn't understand it. Her brain struggled to wrap around the idea of full-grown adults dressing themselves up to do little more than stand around and drink 'til stupidly drunk. Perhaps this was because she spent centuries dressing up, night after night, and for far better reasons than intoxication. Costumes lost their "umph" when one does it for so long. Or maybe it had to do with the fact that collecting mountains of chocolate and candies was useless to her sense of taste. The likely culprit, though, was the fact that she was an old school, Old World Ventrue who still saw blatant acts of hedonism as a gaping hole in moral character. Whitenthal toed the line of her approval in throwing such ridiculous galas.
But, she went. She rode a train into Grand Central Station, where Whitenthal's ghoul picked her up in his Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost. Manhattan had changed greatly in the twenty years since she came over from England at the start of the century. Everything was building up! They drove past lines of pedestrians walking home from construction sites for the new Empire State and Chrysler buildings, aluminum lunch pails slung over their shoulders and glinting in glow of street lamps. She saw families walking out of Woolworth's with children jumping up and down, excitement streaming from the newly purchased costumes carried by their parents. Louisa drank it in: the industrialization, the people, the energy!
"Prince of Seattle!" Whitenthal, Seneschal New York, boomed as the ghoul opened the passenger side door. "You honor me with your presence!"
Louisa allowed the man to take her hand and help her from the car. She even managed a small smile when he dropped a kiss to the back of her hand. Oh, Ventrue customs! "I assure you, Mr. Whitenthal, the pleasure is mine. I have often heard of your Hallow's Eve celebrations."
"Yes, yes! A family tradition! But I didn't want to inconvenience your newborn reign by inviting you too early. Your attendance assures me I have not overstepped my boundaries." He took her arm and led her into his sprawling home.
"No, no overstepping boundaries. You must excuse me, though. I'm not seasoned in the ways of celebrating Halloween the way you Americans are," she confessed as her things were toted off to whichever room Simon was gracious enough to assign her. "I don't even have a costume."
Whitenthal laughed. It was a laugh that reminded her a mentor long gone by. He patted the top of her hand as they meandered through his hallway. "Fear not, Prince! I'm sure we can find you something appropriate. What would you like to be? A witch? A princess? Or perhaps a character from a famous novel? The choices are endless!"
Louisa paused and stared blankly at him. This sounded absolutely foolish! Were influential Kindred honestly going to debase themselves in this way? She sighed inside her head…What have I gotten myself into? She faked a smile, "I have always been partial to the classics."
"Wonderful! Shall I tell the Toreadors to abandon their desires to be Aphrodite?"
She shook her head. "If I were to be a Greek goddess, it would be Athena or Artemis. Aphrodite is a bit too…too much."
"I completely agree."
In the end, she chose to embody the role of Titania from A Midsummer Night's Eve. It was classic enough to appeal to her cultured tastes but not too flamboyant as to draw inappropriate amounts of attention. Simon's servants enjoyed weaving flowers into the curls of her hair and constructing a small crown of gold. Her dress was gauzy and flowing, belting around the waist with a gold girdle. Whitenthal even managed to find a scepter for her to wield if she so wished and a pair of filmy, sparkling wings to wear. While it was a beautiful costume, she felt like an idiot. Her body fidgeted beneath the chiffon and moved in mechanical fashions. She only felt pleased once the mask went onto her face. Anonymity was comforting.
The blood of drunken kine was equally comforting. The burn and fire of liquor was subdued but buzzed on her tongue and coiled like a warm snake in her belly. She became loose like the fabric around her body and danced with at least a dozen different people. Whitenthal had thought of it all! There was dancing, drinking and Halloween activities to bring everyone into the mood. The only activity Louisa participated in was apple dunking. She stood around the large barrel with others, mostly female Toreadors. Another Kindred was operating the activity and smiling.
"Going to dunk for apples lovely lady?" His accent was definitely New Yorker. He couldn't be older than one hundred years old and had obviously made a prior life hustling, the way he attempted to lure people in to play his game.
"Perhaps. Depends on the prize," she answered.
"It's a bottle of the Prince's best!" chirped an eager Kindred to her left. Her excessive outfit declared her clan Toreador.
Louisa only vaguely knew who the Prince was. She ought to have known better, but since the ratio of Camarilla to Sabbat was low, she had doubted for a while whether or not they even had a Prince to recognize. Whitenthal was the most discernible political figure and though labeled Seneschal, Louisa had the sneaking suspicion he was adept in the ways of puppetry. Louisa smiled at the excited Toreador and looked back at the Kindred overseeing those dunking their faces into the water. "What do I have to do exactly? Just pull an apple out of the water with my mouth?"
"Not just any apple!" He was excited now and ushered her closer to the barrel, the apples bobbing against the residual waves left by risen heads. "You see?" He pointed and continued, "There's a golden apple in amongst the red. Bring that one up and the bottle is yours. You can try as many times as you like!"
Louisa nodded and stepped back to watch about a dozen Kindred try and capture the golden apple with their mouths. Since vampires didn't need to breath, the overseer was responsible for setting a time limit. Thirty seconds was the maximum amount of time allotted, though she found many of the apparent Toreadors became too frustrated to continue halfway into it. They dove their faces in like chickens pecking the ground. Raising their heads made the water run their make-up down their pale skin. Louisa was amused. They looked like sad clowns. Still a little tickled by the alcohol besotted blood, she let her inhibitions go by the wayside as she slid up to the barrel. It disgusted her that she was about to sink her face into a soupy concoction of other Kindred's facial oils and excretions, but couldn't pass up the opportunity to win something. Too much Ventrue in her to give up because she might get dirty.
There was a buzz of energy around her as others gathered to watch the visiting Prince take a dunk into the apple pool. She lowered her head and breathed in the scent of water and apple. Her mouth watered suddenly as long-buried memories of her childhood surfaced like the apples beneath her nose. She looked at the golden apple, painted and gleaming amongst a bunch of red. She held the edge of the barrel with both hands and lowered her face into the water, nosing her way to the golden apple. When it moved, she changed direction slightly. She nudged red apples out of her way and opened her mouth wide. Everyone before her made the instinctual, fatal mistake when conducting this hunt…they closed their eyes. Something about the cold of the water made everyone's eyes snap shut. And hers did too, at first, until she forced them open against the cold splash. She hunted the golden apple like she hunted people when hunger gnarled up her stomach. She counted the seconds in her head…ten to go. She moved about the barrel until her nose pressed the apple against wood. Five seconds. She opened her mouth wide and felt her fangs sink into disgustingly sweet flesh. One second. She wrenched her head from the barrel, water streaming down her neck while a gleaming prize protruded from her mouth. She opened her mouth wider and pulled the apple from her fangs, spitting the juice into her hand once it filled her mouth with the taste of decay.
"Here's your apple," she said as she plunked it into the hand of the overseer.
He whistled and turned to grab a bottle. "And here is your prize! Happy Halloween!"
Louisa took the bottle and smiled. Perhaps this hadn't been so bad after all. "Happy Halloween indeed!"
Her flight arrived on the banks of Lake Pontchartrain late into the evening. Almost everyone around her in first class was asleep, jostled awake by the landing gear hitting the concrete. She had just become adjusted to flying herself. If trains hadn't completely been abandoned by the expansion and advertisement of airplanes, she would have preferred to arrive in the first-class car style of the old days. But, that hardly put a damper on her attitude. She loved New Orleans! What made the 1920s so vibrant and alive never seemed to die from the Big Easy, even if that attitude of living had passed from the rest of the country with the coming and going of the Great Depression and Second World War. New Orleans seemed ageless to her. It was a healthy combination of history and appropriate progress.
She walked down the terminal with her purse nestled in the crook of her arm. She had left Seattle to the sound of sad, public radio, classical music only to be welcomes by the jazzy Big Band tones of the Big Easy. Her heels clicked in time with the percussion while her hips involuntarily swung to the rhythm of the brass. She smiled. If it weren't for the ungodly heat and humidity, she would have loved to live here year round. The architecture appealed to her Old World sensibilities and the heavy French influence made her feel home. That was something she missed in Seattle: French. There was almost no one in her court who spoke French fluently enough to hold good conversation and she was tired of being seen as a marvel for knowing a foreign language that wasn't Oriental in origin. In New Orleans, she would speak entirely in French and never receive a second glance of awe. Her numerous trips had even taught her a bit of the Creole dialect she found charming.
"Cher!" She heard the Creole-heavy accent waft from baggage claim. She smoothed down the dress she was wearing and rushed into the open arms of a well-missed compatriot. His auburn hair was glossed back in the long pompadour fashion of James Dean. He almost crushed her with his hug and swung her off the ground for a brief second.
She laughed and smacked his shoulder, "Always the one for flare, Andrew!"
"Of course, darlin'!" Andrew grinned and gestured to motorized belt. "Which one's yours?"
"I see you've completely abandoned your English roots, frère," she commented on his heavy accent that fluctuated between pure Creole and stereotypical Southern. She pointed to two bags. "Those are mine."
He grabbed the handles and yanked them off the belt with no effort, then offered her an arm like the Southern gentlemen he portrayed himself to be. "This is New Orleans, cher! I had to. Being English don't serve me any good here. This here's French country!"
She chuckled and shook her head. He was awfully lucky certain Ventrue, or really any Ventrue, weren't around to criticize the lax way he went about speaking to her. She didn't mind, though. It only added to the relaxation she hoped to capture while on her vacation down South. Andrew led them out to parking lot where a glittering, turquoise car sat waiting for them.
"Isn't she a beauty?!" He sounded like a child with a new toy. He set the bags down and opened the passenger side door for her to slide into the car. After putting the bags in the trunk, he glided into the driver's seat, a giddy smile plastered to his face. He wanted her to ask about the car.
She sighed and gave in to his unspoken request. "What a lovely car, Andrew! What make is it?"
"I'm glad you asked, cher! It's a Cadillac El Dorado," he purred as he turned the key in the ignition. "Just like Elvis, cher!"
Oh goodness. So that's why he bought the car. It was no secret to her, or anyone in Andrew's vicinity, what gender he preferred. Therefore, it was likely no secret how great a crush the century-and-change old Ventrue had on the new rock and roll star. She didn't admonish him for how he chose to spend his money. He put the top down and Louisa just craned her neck back, enjoying the New Orleans skyline as they drove along the Pontchartrain coast. Andrew lived on an antebellum planation in St. Mary parish, so they swung by a few of his favored places before taking the hour drive home.
Autumn was the best time of year to visit New Orleans. She knew droves of tourists swarmed to the French Quarter for Mardi Gras, which she had attended too, but the Halloween season in New Orleans offered a transpersonal experience she hated to pass up. Halloween had changed a great deal in the post-war decade since huge candy corporations sunk their claws into the traditions of October 31st. Louisa found no issue with children and adolescents running about and asking for candy. Louisa had spent the better part of a decade growing accustomed to having her evening frequently interrupted by ghosts and goblins shouting "Trick or Treat!". It didn't take her long to get a ghoul or eager ladder climbing neonate to pass out candy for her. She even enjoyed the carving of Jack-O-Lanterns a few days before the actual night. It was cathartic, stabbing into a pumpkin and yanking out its innards after an especially stressful evening listening to the whining of cowards and beggars.
New Orleans offered her no cowards or beggars though. No endless grains of sand collecting around her like a merciless hourglass. No, the Big Easy was throwing a spectacular celebration complete with satiation to whatever desires a heart could want. As they parked the car, Louisa could see the Halloween themed lights and decorations dangling around the trees of Audubon Park. They strolled through the dark, eerie paths with Spanish moss hanging above their heads and the sounds of the Mississippi echoing in the distance. They talked and caught up on events since the last time they had seen one another. Then they didn't talk at all, just walked arm in arm until he drove them to the French Quarter so they walk along Bourbon and Canal Street to appreciate the architecture and map out various Halloween activities. Regardless of being a permanent resident, Andrew reacted to Halloween in New Orleans in the way a tourist would. They connected with a friend of his to secure the perfect seats on an iron wrought gallery for the Halloween parade. They chatted with fellow, visiting Kindred on the street and were invited to a costume party in the Garden District. Louisa swallowed her pride and consented to a cemetery tour of so Andrew could visit the grave of Madame Marie Laveau.
Chores completed, Andrew drove them back to St. Mary parish. The humming of the Cadillac beneath her and an almost cool breeze of night air were lulling. Any and all prior concerns disappeared into the Southern darkness. They sat in rocking chairs on his wrap around porch, drinking chilled blood while listening to the sounds of the night and alternating telling stories of the "good ol' days", which for them meant the 1800's. Andrew told her the history of the plantation; how it grew sugar cane and cotton, how the Corinthian columns were added in the 1850s, how large the slave quarters were and how he was considering converting the now useless quarters into a bed and breakfast for tourists. She, in turn, told him about Seattle: how the sun barely showed its face, how she spent the last twenty years raging war between the influx of Anarchs and Sabbat, how she wished things were more exciting. They both lamented over the African days gone by. Louisa felt like a Gone with the Wind character, lazing about and sipping on cold beverages while gossiping. It suited her.
Andrew always told her how he felt he was born in the wrong century. Fascinated by the Rococo style of the last half of the 18th century, he said he wished he had been born in 1715 instead of a century later. Louisa, therefor, consented to his desire to dress up in period clothing. It wasn't much of a struggle for him to get her to comply, since she had always loved the clothing from that period. The ruffs of the centuries before were gone, the sleeves were shorter and the neckline generous. She had hated the excess of bows in various sizes, so avoided them when having her costume created. Madame de Pampadour was the muse for this ensemble and Andrew was tickled pink to play Louis XV. Louisa's hair was mile high, her heels somewhere inbetween and her bodice nice and tight by the time they left for their Halloween pursuits.
The turquoise Cadillac hummed them into New Orleans, where throngs of costumed bodies welcomed them. Louisa could barely get out of the car without assistance and couldn't walk more than five feet without some camera-happy tourist vying for a picture. She didn't blame them either, when the vast majority of costumes looked thrown together or store-bought, but was losing her Halloween cheer each time someone grabbed her arm to stop her. It also didn't help that many of them were kine with two or three sheets to the wind. Andrew drank it in and if she hadn't had it on absolutely pure authority he was Ventrue, she'd of sworn he was a Toreador. Devereux would have loved him…kindred spirits the two of them. He struck ridiculous poses and dragged her close to fane intimacy of a certain nature between their depicted characters. Honestly, she and he hadn't been intimate for ages so it was a bit mechanical on her part.
The parade renewed her energy. It was like Mardi Gras except for beads of orange and black instead of green, gold and purple. She caught about two dozen necklaces that were deposited around the necks of excited children as Andrew and she maneuvered through the masses to Saint Louis cemetery so Andrew could draw his three X's on the tomb of the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans. The above ground tombs added more spook to the night and she chuckled as a band of cemetery-touring humans screamed when a sharp breeze blew out the lanterns their guides were carrying. His wishes whispered to the dead voodoo priestess, they sauntered out of the cemetery after taking the opportunity to scare the mortals one more time. They laughed as the kine scattered around the raised tombs. The costume party was a decadent affair, but nothing to rival Whitenthal's Manhattan party. Louisa preferred it, though. The Giovanni, who practically owned the city, had opened their doors to only the most acceptable sorts. Waiters in stereotypical Dracula attire stood holding platters of blood in crystalline glasses while the who's-who of Kindred New Orleans cavorted in the main ball room. The last of the trick-or-treaters collected their goods and the doors closed so the main event could begin.
Louisa sipped on her blood, swirling the taste around on her tongue. A- was never her favorite type. "What are they going to do, Andrew?"
"A séance, cher! I'm not the only one who believes in the power of Marie Laveau," Andrew whispered into her ear.
"I knew they were into necromancy, but I didn't think they were that foolish," she whispered back.
They settled into the ring of spectators that circled the Familia. The Giovanni took seats around a circular table, a Ouija board in front of this branch's leader. Louisa swirled the blood in her glass as she watched and tried to ignore the budding excitement radiating off of Andrew. She looked around at the other guests and caught eyes with a few, fellow Ventrue who looked as skeptical and disinterested in this exhibition as she was. The Giovanni took hands of the person next to them. The member on either side of the leader, name Alphonso, placed their hand on his shoulder as his fingers were otherwise occupied with gently resting on the Ouija board's needle. Louisa sipped the now lukewarm blood as she listened to the family's chant grow from faint to loud. She sneered at their attempt to make contact with the other side. The only thing they were conjuring was her threadbare temper. Her feet were aching, her corset was too tight and she was growing tired of the Toreador beside her leering at her chest.
She met the Toreador's eyes and sneered. "They're boobs...get over it." The man blanched (as much as a vampire can) and snapped his eyes forward. Louisa wanted to look there, but the lights began to flicker and everyone's attention moved to various blinking bulbs. She sipped on the blood and chalked it up to manipulated wiring. Andrew squeezed her free hand a little too tightly and she nipped his shoulder to get him to ease his grip.
"It's happening!" he whispered with enthusiasm.
"What? A poor electrical current? Calm down, Andrew...nothing's happening."
He glared at her and pinched her side. She kicked him in the shin. He lifted her hand and nipped the thumb. "I know you may think this is nothing but a waste, but try and enjoy it...for me, cher," he whispered.
"For you, I-" and before she could finish, the lights went out completely. Where humans may have screamed, possibly scattered to the doors out of fear, Kindred simply tensed as one unit. One body of vampires tightening their muscles in discontent until their inhuman night vision refocused their attention. In the fuzzy, blue-grey world they were now in, Louisa watched the Giovanni continue their chant.
Alphonso moved, jerked a bit as he finally spoke, "Raggiungiamo fuori dai Guardiani della valle tra questo mondo e il prossimo. Ti supplichiamo ci permettono la comunicazione con uno dei vostri. Vi chiediamo di comunicare con lo spirito di Marie Laveau."
"What's going on?" Andrew jabbed her side, pushing a piece of boning into her ribs. Louisa hissed and looked at him as he asked, "What did he say?"
She sighed. Her Italian was rusty from lack of consistent use. She barely made it over to Little Italy in Seattle since the Giovanni there hadn't made a strict decision on whether or not they would officially join arm in arm with the Camarilla. "Their basically asking for permission to talk to Marie Laveau's spirit."
Andrew's excitement increased and Louisa chuckled. She wondered how many other houses, how many other parties with guests to entertain were trying to conjure the Voodoo Queen's spirit. If it were her, Louisa would make them all wait and enjoy her eternal rest. But, apprently, Mrs. Laveau did not operate that way. The air above the circular table began to crackle and as a unit, the vampires watching stepped back. A few even hissed. The air continued to crack and spark. Louisa felt the temperature in the room drop several degrees. She needlessly exhaled and watched her breath turn to visible mist. She sipped her blood and enjoyed the temperature drop because it brought her blood down to an enjoyable temperature. She either wanted it straight-out-of-the-body hot or cold, no where in between. Louisa leaned against Andrew to get off her feet some as a mist congregated over the table where the sparks had started. It coiled out of no where, like a snake appearing from the grass. Now she was intrigued. The mist swirled down and expanded outward. Andrew squeezed her arm and this time, she did not stop him as she remained intently focused on the figure now forming. They had done it...they had conjured something.
The voice was whispy, barely audible. The keen hearing of their kind came in handy. The accent was clearly Creole. The unit surrounding the Giovanni took two steps forward. The vaporous body floated above the table and stared out at nothing in particular. It only asked one thing, over and over: "Why am I here?"
"To entertain the masses," Louisa whispered. That was a mistake because Madame Laveau, if that was really her, focused her attention on Louisa. Louisa felt her body stiffen, the hair on the back of her neck stand up. She motioned to the Giovanni, "They called that you might speak with us as a party of this Halloween celebration."
That may have been the wrong answer. The spirit slowly turned to look down at Alphonso and what happened after would go down as one of the most exciting and chaotic of Halloweens. The ghost must have gained some energy from the excitement of the crowd because Laveau began shrieking in a language Louisa did not know. Andrew seemed to recognize snippets of it, or at the least what it was, because he winced and stepped back. The Giovanni at the table broke hands and shrunk away. The spirit jabbed a whispy finger at Alphonso and kept screaming until he yanked his hands from the board and she disappeared. Alphonso sat incredibly still and no one else moved. Laveau was not entirely gone. Light bulbs began to flicker again before bursting one after another. Kindred ducked and covered their heads to avoid pieces of glass falling on them. The Giovanni were moving now, chanting something as if to entreat the spirit to stop. And she did, right after she knocked potted plants off their stands, cracked numerous mirrors and flipped the circular table.
Louisa and Andrew joined a dozen other kindred in showing themselves out while the Giovanni scrambled to clean up their crashed party. Louisa laughed into the night air, "I told you they're ridiculous!"
Andrew pinched her side a little and smirked. "Maybe, but nothing's spookier than ghosts, cher." He kissed her cheek. "Happy Halloween!"
Louisa popped her fingers into her ears as she passed Occidental Park. Grunge music blared from the square where a couple hundred fans bobbed their heads up and down. Oh, what she wouldn't give for the days of the Beatles or even the Beach Boys! This new style of music grated on her nerves and made her ill. She found no depth in it at all and relished when a college student passed her with Thriller screaming from his boom box. She rushed up First Avenue South until the awful music died away. The air was chilly and she tugged her leather jacket closer to her frame to appear as though the weather bothered her. Trolling police officers tended to leave her alone when she masked the profile of her face with a flipped up bomber jacket collar. The bold bustier beneath the jacket and short, Spandex skirt made her look more like a downtown prostitute than Kindred Prince and she was perfectly okay with that.
She was rebelling. Sebastian had inappropriately deposited his presence in her domain, yet again, and she found she had no tolerance for his demanding nature this time around. Especially not after he took something from her. She waved at the night guard before entering the elevator and riding up to the top of the Smith Building. Krystal Haskins, her loyal secretary and Toreador groupie, rushed around her desk and made a face Louisa never enjoyed seeing. Bracelets jingling, she motioned to the glossy doors of Louisa's office and rolled her eyes. Louisa knew what it meant, though she was distracted by the ridiculously bright shade of orange on Krystal's eyelids. While she had never enforced a dress code in the past, that eye shadow made her consider creating one. Krystal must have noticed and smiled.
"Do you like it?" She batted her eyelashes. "I wanted to see how it would look before I went through with it. I'm going to be a cat! Victoire is going to be a witch!"
"Oh…Well, that explains it. Sounds lovely," Louisa murmured as she grabbed the door knob. She purposefully avoided saying how the orange looked awful. "How long has he been here?"
"About an hour. I…I tried to stop him but he told me to sit down and just waltzed right in!" Krystal fretted.
Louisa waved her back to her desk. "Don't worry, I'll take care of this. Just make sure to send out reminders for my meetings tomorrow, make copies of necessary documents and place the originals in The Book before you go, understand?" Krystal nodded . Louisa turned the knob and opened the door a little. She looked at the girl one more time. "Oh, and schedule an appointment with my masseuse. I have a feeling I'm going to be very tense after this evening."
She closed the door behind her and glared at the blonde sitting behind her desk. She didn't even bother to hide her fangs as her heeled boots carried her across the room. "Get out of my chair!" she snapped.
LaCroix lifted his eyes from whatever document he was reading and glared at her. "Get out of that ridiculous outfit," he replied.
"Out of my chair!"
"Don't raise your voice to me, Louisa. You should know by now I don't tolerate disrespect."
"You aren't Prince, Sebastian," she said in a much calmer, though no less authoritive tone. "So please, remove your posterior from my chair."
His glare became more venomous. She had rubbed salt in an old wound of his to bring up the fact he wasn't royal in nature here, that his Childe still outranked him politically. He stood and moved. His fingers remained on the wood of her desk and drummed as she took her seat. "Change, immediately!"
She flipped through her schedule and notes before looking back up at him. She gave him a smug smile, "Not until you give back what you took."
He crossed his arms. "Absolutely not. I know exactly what you plan on doing and I won't have it!" He hissed.
"I'm over four hundred years old! I can do what I like. Now give it back or you can enjoy this lovely ensemble all evening long," she threatened.
"I'm your Sire, girl and you will do as I say. Now change your clothes," his voice pressed.
She sniffed and looked back down at her paperwork. "Give it back and I will."
"I will not allow you to embarrass yourself." And with that, he grabbed his things and left her office. She glared and fought the desire to throw a book at the back of his head. When he was gone, she picked up her phone and waited for a faithful ghoul to answer.
"Yeah? What can I do for ya?" the thick, Brooklyn accent answered on the third ring.
"You answer the phone too casually, Mercurio. You should really consider a catch phrase of some kind."
"Sorry, ma'am! I'll uh…definitely work up somethin' special for ya! What can I do for ya until then?" Always so eager to please.
"Mr. LaCroix has taken something from me. It is in a black hanging bag with gold lettering on the outside. It says Le Frock. I need you to find it for me and return it to my home in the Queen Anne district."
"Oh…um…Where exactly am I supposed to look? And you know, Mr. LaCroix isn't the nicest-"
"He'll be at the Smith Tower for the remainder of the evening. He's rented a few dozen offices in the business district to temporarily house the western branch of his foundation. Go there and see if anyone has seen him bring in a hanging bag matching that description. I also know he has a ghoul with an apartment on East Mercer Street on Capitol Hill."
There was a pause. Louisa wasn't sure whether it was from him writing down what she said or his apprehension before asking a question. "What if it isn't there? I mean, I don't want to ask what's in the bag but what if he threw it away?"
Sebastian may have hated what she bought and what it stood for, but wouldn't blatantly waste money in such a way. "He didn't. I know him. It's somewhere…somewhere he thinks I won't explore because various reasons. Don't let me down!" And she hung up as her dictatorial Sire reentered the room with two glasses of blood. A peace offering perhaps?
Mercurio really hated his job some nights. Being in the employ of Louisa, Prince of Seattle was an experience he couldn't put into words. She paid better than any elder he had ever encountered and looks a million times more attractive than his last boss, but she never failed to assign him tasks that threatened the very longevity of his life. Tonight felt like one of those nights. He knew Sebastian LaCroix's move to Seattle had unsettled his mistress, but could never imagine she would become so fickle as to thrust him into the middle of their squabbles. LaCroix freaked him out. The man was so manicured that Mercurio knew a dark shade of beast slumbered just beneath the surface. Therefore, he believed he was well within his rights to feel nervous about sleuthing around LaCroix's business property.
The few dozen offices turned out to be a dozen floors in the middle of a downtown skyscraper. Kindred and oblivious, 80-hour week humans mosied around each floor. Each floor rang with the music of keyboard strokes, pen scratching and chair squeaking. It gave Mercurio the chills and he was silently thankful he was in the black market business instead of corporate. He formed a different excuse for each floor to stepped onto. Need to deliver a message, have some copies to make, here to fix the broken vending machine…blah blah blah. It gave him just enough to check empty rooms and closets for Louisa's nondescript, black hanging bag. Finding nothing after five floors, he changed strategy and decided to go straight to the top: LaCroix's office. He figured it was on the top most floor of those LaCroix rented out and he was not let down. It was emptier compared to the floors below. Only a few workers typed away, including the straight-laced secretary guarding a pair of double-doors. Bingo!
Mercurio sauntered over to the secretary, who looked up at him with annoyed eyes. "I have an envelope for a Sebastian LaCroix. I was instructed to set it on his desk."
The woman glared and paused the typing fingers. "No one is allowed in Mr. LaCroix's office except for Mr. LaCroix, himself. Whatever correspondence you have for him, you can leave with me." And she opened her palm for the letter he did not have.
"I understand that, but this is a letter from…You-know-who," Mercurio whispered. He had used this technique once before, back in the sixties to unnerve a young secretary from her post so he could plant some explosives in a Sabbat leader's daytime hiding place. The girl had been brick-thick, like most Sabbat ghouls and the words "You-know-who" seemed to terrify her right into compliance. It didn't seem to have the same affect to this LaCroix employee.
"And who exactly would that be?" She asked and Mercurio watched her hand inch toward the telephone. Nope, he really didn't have time for security.
"Look, it's from her." He implied.
That got a very different reaction. The woman's eyebrows jumped up, intrigued and concerned but she still wasn't jumping up to unlock the door for him. "It is my understanding that," she paused to check her calendar, "Mr. LaCroix is already with her. Why would she be sending a letter to him when they are clearly in close proximity of one another?"
"Because this is something for just the two of them. Listen, I don't ask questions. She handed it to me and told me this letter don't go anywhere but his desk. No secretaries, no trading hands, no nothing but his desk."
"I don't believe you," she said and grabbed the phone.
Mercurio clamped his hand atop hers and squeezed. "Fine, call her and ask."
"That's precisely what I intend on doing," she snapped and smacked his hand away before punching in the numbers with her acrylic nails. "Yes, I would like to speak to Prince Chambert, please. Yes, immediately! I have someone claiming to be working for her. Yes, I will hold." She gave Mercurio a smug look as the call was transferred. Mercurio felt sorry for the secretary.
"Who is this?" The sharp voice asked from the other end. Mercurio always appreciated how frightening Louisa's voice sounded when he wasn't on the other end of it. The thin film of French accent made her sound older than she looked, foreign and dangerous.
"I apologize for interrupting your evening, Prince, but I have a man here who says you have sent him to deliver a letter to Mr. LaCroix. I told him that was impossible since Mr. LaCroix has scheduled the entire evening with you."
"Obviously it isn't impossible if he's standing in front of you. I don't believe you are paid to question the orders of superiors. I will make this easy for you. I have a message of sensitive nature I wish to have delivered. Clearly Mr. LaCroix and I will be too busy catering to foreign dignitaries and Primogen this evening for me to discuss it with him in person. I also know he will be stopping by his office once we are done. I think it more appropriate for this message to be read in private. Impede my servant any longer and I will come there personally…understood?" Louisa didn't wait for the woman to answer. Mercurio heard the line click and go dead. The secretary looked whiter than before, the phone in her hand shaking.
"Forgive me for keeping you," she said, still curt. She rose and moved to unlock the door for him. Just as Mercurio slid into the room, the secretary's phone rang. She looked between him and the phone, then chose the phone. That gave Mercurio some time to search.
He closed the door behind him and walked around the room as quickly as possible. There was nothing hanging in the closet except for spare business suits, two pairs of shoes and coats for colder weather. Mercurio groaned and moved to the desk to see if LaCroix has left any indication of where this hanging bag had been taken. He really did not want to break into a fellow ghoul's apartment. The last time he had…Suffice it to say, there were images burned into his brain. There was nothing! Only a calendar with professional writing , a fancy letter opener and a new computer decorated the top of his desk. All other drawers were locked. Frustrated, he left the office and shot the sectary a small smile. Off to Mercer Street he went!
Louisa stabbed the pumpkin with one of her carving knives. She cut a jagged circle around the stem and when she was does, tore the top of the pumpkin off. Stringy veins with seeds hung down like innards from a corpse. She cut them off so the top was nice and clean then set it on the newspaper covering her living room table. With her fingers, she dug out the seeds and sloppy goop from the inside of the pumpkin and onto the newspaper. Seeds clung to her fingers and sent a shudder down her spine. She never liked the texture of cleaning out a Jack-O-Lantern and usually left this chore to a servant. But tonight she needed ammo. She passed the time by slowly etching her design into the front of the pumpkin. As soon as he rounded the corner from the foyer, she launched a handful of sticky seeds at him.
"Honestly, Louisa!" he shouted as swatted the sticky things from the front of his suit.
"That's for stealing from me! And this," she flung another handful, this time with slimy innards, "Is for tearing my new shirt!"
"That wasn't a shirt! It was an elongated brassiere and inappropriate attire for a Camarilla prince and Ventrue elder!" He growled and threw some innards back at her. "Stop acting like a child!"
"Stop treating me like one!" She grabbed up another handful, but he wizened up and disappeared down the hall to the bedroom. He knew she wouldn't follow him back there. Louisa huffed and grabbed a smaller knife to begin carving out her design.
He reappeared ten minutes later, dressed in something more comfortable and easily cleaned. He plopped into an arm chair adjacent to where she sat on the floor. "You are my Childe, I hope you remember," he broke the silence as he opened the part of newspaper she hadn't used.
"You don't easily let me forget but that doesn't mean you have the right to treat me like I'm five."
"I can treat you however I wish." He raised the newspaper as she flung a few more seeds at his face. "This kind of behavior won't get that thing back, you know."
"Oh, I know," she mused as she returned to her carving.
Out of the corner of her eyes, Louisa saw the newspaper slowly lower until he was giving her a scathing look. She focused on trying to carve an owl into her pumpkin. The crinkle of the newspaper folding was the only sound for a few seconds. "What did you do?" He stood once more and turned for the bedroom.
"It's not in there," she sang. Louisa pulled off a chunk of wing-shaped pumpkin and smiled at him. "I've hidden it and you shan't take it from me again!"
"This is ridiculous," he groaned and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Can't you see I'm only trying to help you?"
"I don't need your help…not in this way. Let me have my fun!"
"You say you don't want to be treated like a child and yet, here you are, acting like a child!"
"It's just a costume!" Louisa got onto her feet and straightened all of her sixty-five inches to glare up at him.
"I know what you're going to do with that costume, too!"
"So? I'm Prince! I can do what I like. Besides, everyone else fully intends on celebrating and I see no reason not to participate."
"I am not against participation, Louisa. I am against that outfit and your intentions with it!"
Louisa fidgeted. "I happen to like that show! It brings a little fantasy and mirth into my otherwise boring life!"
"It's a cartoon! The fact that you watch such things worries me."
"It's the technological equivalent to a court jester," she rationalized.
"You're dressing up as a cartoon heroine and expect me to feel better about this because you form a metaphor for cartoons? As you may recall, I never like jesters either."
"It's not just any heroine…it's She-Ra! And I never get to have any fun! I'll be wearing a mask and wig, so no one will know then I'll change for the other functions."
Sebastian just stood, staring at her as if trying to translate what just came out of her mouth and explain to himself how this was still his Childe. "Fine….fine! But just this once! You try this again and I'll burn the costume next time."
"I'm Prince…I don't need your permission or-" she stopped short of completing that sentence when Sebastian gave her a glare she hadn't seen in over a century. Hisses from an African wilderness echoed in her ears and she dropped back down to the carpet to keep carving. Sebastian snatched up his portion of the newspaper again but sat on the couch behind her. "At least I'm not going dressed as a zombie," she murmured.
"You and Halloween…" he complained.
Christopher Houghton howled beside her as their cadre of undead teenagers meandered back to the bungalow. Bags and decorative pails of candy and other "treats" swung by their sides. Louisa's boots clicked against the pavement, her arches aching and begging her to tear the dysfunction shoes from her feet. For the last hour and half she, Christopher Houghton and a few more Toreadors had hiked around the Bel Air neighborhoods. A natural troublemaker and attention-seeker, Houghton had emailed Louisa the minute he found out she would be in L.A for Halloween and practically demanded she come with him. Three inches shorter and one hundred years younger, Houghton had been the powerhouse behind L.A for years until certain events overturned his reign. He felt Louisa owed him one…constantly and this was one of the moments he banked on that owing. Too bad for him Louisa enjoyed dressing up and crashing the candy hunts of various Los Angeles youth.
Modern times made it far too easy for Kindred like Louisa and Christopher to melt into the Halloween throngs. Eternally teenagers, they needed to do nothing more than buy or make an appropriate outfit to go along with their fangs. When she had arrived at the bungalow earlier in the evening, Eevie Langston (Toreador bungalow owner and Houghton loyalist) had retrieved the costume Louisa had fought very hard to keep secret from her Sire. Genre of costume in Los Angeles was pretty limited, in her opinion: Pirate slut, Vampire slut, Witch slut, Zombie slut…any variety of slut you could possible imagine! But Louisa was not about to touch Zombies (something she was unnaturally afraid of). She chose Policewoman. She liked the boots and figured she could use the handcuffs sometime in the immediate future. Houghton had whistled as he came out dressed like patchwork Peter Pan.
"Nice gams," he leered at anywhere but her legs.
"Nice…whatever the hell you are," she'd replied.
She was one exhausted cop, but not entirely disappointed with her first entertainment of the evening. She had Dominated her way into quite a few luxurious homes to feed on their tasty owners and returned with a mixed haul of items she could never enjoy and other trinkets she's impulsively taken. She stepped into the bungalow and checked the time on the digital clock in the bedroom. She cursed as Houghton came up behind her.
"I'm later than I thought I'd be. I'll see you later, I'm sure!" Louisa hissed as she grabbed the bag containing the clothes she'd come in and raced out the door to hail another cab.
She didn't feel comfortable enough changing in the cab and was quite certain she would be mistaken for a Malkavian when she ran into the LaCroix building anyhow. She checked her cellphone and saw Sebastian had called about twenty times. He left no voice messages. That wasn't his style. Whatever seething anger he had toward her would only be sufficiently delivered face-to-face. Yes, the handcuffs would definitely come in handy.
She threw money at the cabby and rushed out of the cab, ignoring the blatant cat calls she received as she dashed into Ventrue Towers. The fat security guard appeared completely unprepared for a visitor dressed like her and tripped over his words. His foul appearance and sloppy mannerisms were things she didn't have time for. She moved through the metal detectors without a care and clacked up the stairs until she was punching her index finger against the elevator button. She tapped her foot impatiently as she saw the numbers illuminating in descending order above the elevator door. Hadn't technology advanced enough for these blasted things to move faster?!
When the doors opened, a pair of younger Ventrue gaped at her. A proper snarl sent them dashing from the elevator. She slammed a closed fist against the PH button and silently prayed to God that not another soul got onto the elevator before she reached her destination. Her prayers were answered, thankfully. Everything was silent as she walked down the hallway toward Sebastian's office. She was running different excuses and whatnot through her head as she grabbed both handles and threw the doors open to the anteroom. Louisa stopped dead as dozens of faces snapped in her direction. Sebastian stood at the top of the staircase, glass lifted and clearly frozen in mid-speech. He coughed and motioned the glass in her direction.
Louisa stepped into the room and closed the door. She heard whispers and knew they were talking about the outfit, but at this point she couldn't care less. She was trying to strategically avoid Sebastian's ire glare. He finished his speech but did not move, even as his guests began to meander around the room. She clung to the curve of the wall as it led her to the stairs and climbed them, still avoiding his eyes. She needed nothing else to tell her how deep in trouble she was. A century on her own throne and her Sire's anger still rattled her. She passed by him and entered the Penthouse. He followed behind and shut the doors with care. Louisa set the plastic pumpkin of spoils and bag of clothes on one of the couches. She turned to look at him and jumped when he was right in her face. He said nothing as he literally tore the outfit off her body. Still silent, he marched to the fireplace and threw the costume into the flames.
"What are you doing?!"
"I told you I would burn the next outfit you went trick-or-treating in, didn't I?" He moved to a closet and pulled a large hanging bag out.
"That was twenty years ago!" She huffed, "I'm keeping the handcuffs and boots."
He shrugged as he unzipped the bag and pulled out their costumes. "Keep them if you wish. I will warn you, however, you won't be the one using those handcuffs."
She kept her mind focused on getting the boots off her feet instead of immediately responding. "Why is everyone here? I thought the party was being held elsewhere…I though Abrams was being generous enough to open his Hollywood estate for the affair."
"Sabbat attack. That's why I called you. When you did not answer, I assumed you'd been killed," he answered.
She glared. "You don't seem undone by that thought."
He glared back and thrust the costume into her hands. "I am very angry with you!" His eyes darted to the plastic pumpkin. "You can't even eat any of that!"
"It's not all candy," she corrected him as she forced her body into the handmade dress. She let him lace her into the outfit while she maneuvered her hair into an appropriate style for the period.
"I'm just not going to ask, Louisa. I compromised on many things this evening and only asked that you meet me halfway. I hate wasting my time with frivolous nonsense! I hate even more that I was pigeon holed into offering my waiting area for this stupid party."
She turned and buttoned his jacket, helped place the sash and medals. This was only the tip of the iceberg that was the lecture he would give her concerning her actions this night, but she pushed that aside to appreciate the extent to which he went to create their outfits. Sebastian had always been an industrial man. He wasn't one for useless emotions, if emotion at all. He was straight, staunch and lived by rigid principles. He was born for the 1800s and believed only two people captured the propriety of that point in history: Napoleon and Victoria. Still, he didn't embody the Napoleon of 1815, the Napoleon banished and dying on Saint Helena. He impersonated Napoleon at the close of the century before. Bonaparte at the Pont d'Arcole. Napoleon on the precipice of France and empire. And she, dark hair and blue eyes, was Victoria circa 1837. Lady turned queen. Child thrust into womanhood. Scepter in hand and crown on head with full pomp and circumstance. Louisa found it ironic since they had both lived through the reigns of who they embodied without actually caring much for them when they were contemporaries. Napoleon became an afterthought consideration for Sebastian's personal, historical dilemma. Bonaparte became a reasonable military figure LaCroix could attach himself to when need arose.
"I'm sorry. I thought I would be back much sooner. I didn't mean to worry you." She had read between the lines of his agitation and felt him relax beneath her fingers.
"Let's just get this over with." He offered her his arm and led her to the door. He stopped suddenly and stepped back from her, giving her a hard stare. He was evaluating, but she wasn't sure what. He nodded and walked away. She heard him rummaging in the closet. Sebastian walked back to her with a box in hand. "Open it, then. We're dawdling as it is."
"We're not dawdling, we're preparing…" she humored as she lifted the top of the box. Her stomach tightened as she looked down at what was inside. Louisa was at a loss for words.
"Happy Halloween, Louisa," LaCroix said as he picked up the tiara from its velvet lining and placed it on her head.
Now her outfit was complete. She took Sebastian's arm and shook her head as they left the office to join the others in the celebration.
D'aaawww...some fluff for those who need it! I will explain that the whole SheRa section (while undeniable cheesey) came from my love of SheRa when I was growing up. I never dressed up as her, but thought it would be wholly entertaining to imagine a Camarilla Prince, eternally stuck as a teenager to grasp onto something like that. Hope you enjoyed!