Note for DST Players
This story is out-of-character unless one of the Storytellers tells you otherwise. And if they do, believe that I will go to them for confirmation.
Anthony Johnson, a minor Toreador, was strolling through the labyrinthine hallways of the House of Commons with one of his many acquaintances, Jeffery Mason, a somewhat more significant Ventrue. True to proper form, they both wore suits, although the Toreador was playing more to fashion with a black, lapel-less jacket and tabbed shirt in a shade of orchid that he knew complimented his fair complexion. Johnson didn't think much of Mason's single-breasted suit with button down shirt and dull tie, but he supposed that somebody had to keep the old-school look by reason of tradition.
They weren't heading anywhere in particular, but it was best to keep moving to avoid eavesdroppers. It was fairly early in the evening, just after eight o'clock, and a reduced population of members moved past and around the two vampires, ignoring them with the same efficiency that they were being ignored.
The conversation between the two had begun with a falsely idle inquiry from Johnson, and things had deteriorated from there.
"You mean she is one of Urquhart's ghouls?" Johnson asked anxiously as they walked nonchalantly here and there.
"Hell, yes." Mason replied quietly. "Not that she knows, mind you." Mason shrugged slightly, barely wrinkling his suit. "It's all damn silly, if you ask me."
"How's that?" Anthony asked, curiosity overcoming discretion.
Mason gave his companion a curious glance. "I keep forgetting you haven't been here that long." he commented. "The whole thing is a sort of open secret, really. Urquhart apparently finds it amusing to keep the bimbo that almost ruined his career around on a short leash." Mason shrugged again. "And who's going to tell him he can't have his little games?"
"Shit!" Johnson swore fervently. "I was rather hoping she was making it up..."
Mason regarded his companion quizzically. "What did you do?" he asked bluntly.
"Well..." Johnson began awkwardly. "Ghouls are rather tasty," he stated. "I sometimes feed from them."
"Unsafe bloody predilection." Mason commented wryly, filing Johnson's weakness for later consideration.
"That's half the fun." Johnson replied quickly. "And I ran into this so-called independent ghoul at Duarte's, you know, that Italian place near Westminster?" Mason nodded, indicating that Johnson should continue. "I talked to her, got her home and was about to embark on a very pleasant evening when she tells me that she belongs to Francis-fucking-Urquhart, and even the possibility of that being true made my evening grind to a halt. It was a pain in the arse, I tell you."
Mason scowled at Johnson's tone. "You Toreador are selfish lot, aren't you? I assume you understood that feeding from her would be suicide?"
Johnson made a show of examining the ceiling buttresses. "Only if she knew." He said artlessly.
"What?" Mason couldn't believe what he was hearing. Selfish and stupid, he amended his internal opinion. "You idiot! If he finds out-"
"He won't." Johnson parodied Mason's heavy emphasis. "I wiped her memory, like a good little Masquerader and sent her home."
"At least you had some sense, then." Mason sighed. After a moment's silence, he asked curiously, "How'd she taste?"
Johnson grinned. "Very nice." he confided. "She'd had a good meal, the best part of a bottle of wine and is otherwise a clean living soul."
Johnson's smile faded. "Oh, God..." he groaned as a belated realization came. "That means I'm one step towards being Bonded to-"
"Good evening, gentleman." The interruption came from behind, a man's voice, mature and familiar. Both vampires turned sharply and were good enough actors to rearrange their expressions into appropriate servility.
Francis Urquhart, Senior Ventrue Ancilla of London, and general object of fear throughout the kindred community of southern England, caught up to them, and matched their pace. His expression was a practiced mixture of friendliness and predation.
"What's this, Johnson?" he asked conversationally. "You're pursuing the dubious delights of thralldom, hm?" Johnson wanted to step back from that implication, but couldn't guess what that might lead to. "Um, not willingly, Francis." he replied quickly. "Just a damn silly mistake I made the other day." he explained. Always tell the truth, he reminded himself, but never tell all of it.
Urquhart nodded knowingly. How much he knew, Johnson could only guess at. "We all make mistakes from time to time." Urquhart smiled. "The trick is to learn from them and move on." Johnson nodded, bitterly noticing that Mason was subtly trying to put some distance between the pair of them.
Urquhart turned to Mason, forcibly including him in the conversation. "And speaking of moving on, Jeffery..."
"Oh yes?" Mason replied, wondering at the sudden prickling of fear he felt.
"I've just had a little chat with the Prince, and he's got your new assignment." Urquhart's smile now definitely resembled that of a shark. "There's some vital work that needs to be done." he paused for a moment before bringing the blow to bear. "In Liverpool."
Mason's expression became ashen, as far as it could. Liverpool was Siberia to the vampires of London. "Really?" he asked, unsteadily. "Surely one of the local chaps...."
"No, no." Urquhart chided. "The Prince doubts we can trust them to police themselves terribly well. You know those northern types." The friendliness was entirely gone, now. "Just this evening, the Prince asked me to assign the best man for this very sensitive work, and, by Jove, your name came to mind immediately."
There was no point in fighting this, Mason realized. He had fucked up, been caught and Urquhart was telling him so, in no uncertain terms. The best thing he could do know is toe the line and pray that he would be recalled before his plans in the city crumbled completely. Urquhart's earlier remark about learning from mistakes might be a hint that taking his medicine quietly was the best possible course.
Mason sighed. "Where do I get my briefing?"
"I've booked a carriage for you and your man on the eleven-thirty train from Euston." Peripherally, Mason saw Johnson's wince. Watching a person's career get shredded was never fun. "Roberts will meet you on the train and brief you on the way up."
Mason nodded, his expression distracted by the plans he was already formulating to try to make the best of this situation. He didn't like it, but, he was a Ventrue and if he couldn't adapt, he'd already be dead.
"And, Mr. Johnson." Urquhart continued lightly. Like a stern schoolmaster, he had allowed the real object of his ire to think he had gotten away unscathed. "Your Primogen asked me to let you know that you'll be joining Mr. Mason, here, on that train. Something about supervising the Garden Festival up there."
"What?" Johnson spluttered. Unlike Mason, he did not take adversity well. "Is she mad?" he asked, referring to his Primogen. "The Liverpool Garden Festival?" Now it was Mason's turn to stifle a wince. There were different Siberia's for different clans.
Urquhart shrugged, apparently not noticing Johnson's discomfiture. "If you want to, you can take it up with the lady, I'm sure. But you don't have much time before your train." Urquhart wasn't above twisting the knife. "Now, both you gentlemen have lots to do, and so do I, so I'll be leaving you. Good night." Urquhart turned sharply and returned the way he had come.
The two stood in the middle of the hallway, ground to a halt by Urquhart's casual destruction of their situations. Mason whirled on Johnson, ready to thrash him. Quickly, Johnson stepped back. "Elysium." he squeaked, reminding Mason that whenever the Prince was in residence, violence was strictly forbidden within the Houses of Parliament. Mason lowered his fist.
"Wiped her memory, did you?" Mason growled, temper barely in check. "If you think Francis has fucked you over, just you wait." Mason threatened, stepping closer. Just as Johnson thought that Mason was going to ignore the tradition of Elysium, he suddenly relaxed and laughed. This, Johnson found even more unnerving. "At least I'm pretty certain that I might live through this bloody exile." Mason laughed. "I didn't feed from one of Urquhart's ghouls. You, on the other hand..." Chuckling still, and amusing himself with that thought, Mason walked away, leaving the stunned Toreador to contemplate his bleak future.