It was another quiet evening in the Mantle's townhouse. Beverly Mantle was working at his computer with his usual frown of concentration, while his brother, Elliot, was embroiled in a heated conversation with an administrator from the Vancouver Cancer Research Institute. Bev listened with only half an ear, but he could tell that Elliot was engaged in one of his more usual conversations - trying to squeeze funds from another tightfisted organization.
So far, the Mantles had found kindred life tolerable. The constraint on their hours was sometimes irritating, but now that they understood the extent of control their kind had over mortal society, they had learned to adjust quite well. They knew that Prince Berain's acceptance of them into Vancouver was contingent on their proving themselves useful, so they had quickly ingratiated themselves with Patrick Andhurst, the Ventrue in charge of medical matters within the city.
The overworked Andhurst was apparently delighted by the Mantles' presence, and had gladly given them in-house research positions at St. Andrew's teaching hospital. As part of the faculty for St. Andrew's, the twins were able to set their own hours - fortunately - and pick and choose their projects. Unfortunately, they had to agree with Andhurst that they were too well known to practice as they had before and so they were restricted to lower-profile areas for the meantime.
In some ways, this was a benefit, as the pair were still dealing with the events of their last few months before their Embrace. Not that they were going to admit this to Andhurst, but he suspected as much. However Andhurst felt, as the Mantles did, that they had all the time in the world to deal with loose ends and lingering squeamishness.
All in all, Beverly thought, things could be far worse. We could still be-
Beverly's thoughts were shattered as the front door was shoved open, slammed shut and the Mantle's sire, Patricia De Montfort, walked unsteadily into the living area. Such an entrance was surprising in itself, but it was compounded by the fact that Patricia had been away for three nights, without any warning or contact from her in the meantime.
As Elliot abruptly ended his phone call, Beverly turned away from his computer and stared at their dishevelled sire. Her much-crumpled linen suit was the same that she had worn when she had left, although it was still quite clean. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail - unusual for her - but many strands had escaped and were clinging around her face. Even for a vampire, she seemed pale, but none of this seemed to bother her as she dropped her heavy shoulder bag on the floor with a loud thump and flopped gracelessly onto the nearest sofa. Beverly spared a moment's thought for the lambskin upholstery and then joined his brother, who was already approaching Patricia.
"Hey, boys." Patricia greeted them, her voice tired. "How you doing?" she leaned back on the chair and closed her eyes.
The twins exchanged a glance. This was not the woman they had known for the past six months. Patricia may have been occasionally casual in her manners, and sometimes about the time, but she was usually very conscientious about letting her childer know about her activities, and demanded the same from them. She was also extremely concerned about her appearance and would have stayed at home rather than wear the same outfit two days in a row. Obviously, something had upset the status quo, something major.
Beverly crouched down beside Patricia, while Elliot stood behind them, leaning on the back of the sofa.
"Patricia?" Beverly spoke quietly. Her eyes fluttered open, and she found herself looking, upside down, at Elliot. "Where have you been?" Beverly asked.
"Whoa." Patricia murmured, still looking at Elliot. "Either you've mastered telepathy or become a ventriloquist. I hope it's the latter, you could make more money that way."
Elliot rolled his eyes and looked irritated. "I think our sire is drunk." he stated bluntly.
Startled by Elliot's pronouncement, Patricia sat up suddenly, just barely missing striking Beverly with a flailing hand. "I'm not drunk!" she protested. She finally noticed Beverly. "Oh, yeh, there's two of you." she murmered, settling down again. Elliot sighed and Beverly had to sympathize with him.
"I'm not drunk" Patricia repeated. "Been working." she told them simply.
"Working?" Elliot asked sharply. "For whom?"
"And what's this?" Beverly reached for the bag that Patricia had left on the floor.
With a movement faster than either of the twins would have given her credit for, Patricia snatched her bag away from Beverly's reaching grasp. "Don't touch my bag." she snarled.
Prudently, Beverly backed away a little. "Alright," he replied carefully. "I won't."
Elliot, however, wasn't going to be deferred. "Who have you been with, Trish? And why didn't you call? You missed the faculty meeting last night." he added. "Didn't that count as work?"
Patricia's slack expression twisted into anger. "I've been working!" she half-shouted. "I've got two jobs." she told them, her tone patronizing. "And I'm on call for both."
The twins regarded Patricia carefully, but said nothing. Patricia looked back and forth between them and scowled. "None of your damn business, anyways." she grumbled.
"Yes, it is." Elliot snapped, speaking for himself and his brother. "You've drilled into us the dangers of hunters, of Sabbat, of our Camarilla allies to the point of where we can barely walk down the street without jumping at shadows, and then you vanish on us for half a week. I think it bloody well is our business."
Patricia was startled by Elliot's anger, and responded in kind. "You don't need to know." she insisted heatedly.
Beverly sighed. Obviously she wasn't going to tell them anything just yet. "Fine." he acqueisced, ignoring his brother's annoyed glance. Elliot may have wanted to continue badgering Patricia, but he didn't want to go against his brothers' wishes. "We don't need to know. But Trish, call us next time? We were on the verge of telling the Prince that you had gone missing." That wasn't quite true, but he was trying to make a point.
"The Prince?" Patricia giggled. "He wouldn't miss me a bit." she stood up unsteadily and made her way towards the suite of rooms she kept in the shared haven. "He might miss you, maybe," she told her childer. "But old Anarch Trish? No, not me." She disappeared behind the closing door, and the twins heard the lock click a moment later.
There was a moment of silence. Finally: "Drunk or stoned?" Beverly asked.
"Stoned." Elliot decided. "High as a fucking kite. Did you see her eyes?"
Bev nodded. "Yes. Dilated all to hell."
Elliot finally sat down. "A case of do as I say, not as I do, hm?" he sighed. He glanced at the bag that Patricia had left on the floor, despite her initial bout of possessiveness.
"That would be violating her privacy." Beverly warned, knowing the argument was already lost.
Elliot made a little noise of disgust and reached for the bag. "She should have thought of that before running away and coming back doped to the gills." He opened it, muttering, "Maybe this will tell us where..." his voice trailed away. "Shit." His expression rapidly changed from weary detachment to direct anger. "Shit!" he threw the bag away from him, forcefully.
Beverly saw the reason for Elliot's disquiet spilled across the hardwood floor. Several surgical tools, brightly shiny and sharp, had fallen from the bag, and a small tape recorder was partially visible.
While Elliot was cursing obsessively, Beverly picked up the bag and peered inside. It was something like an artist's satchel, made for carrying brushes, paints and canvas, but the tools Patricia had stocked it with were for a much more violent form of expression. To Beverly's scant relief, the assortment of instruments were all clean, but they showed signs of serious wear.
Plastic surgery on the sly? Beverly wondered, simultaneously realizing that he was being optimistic. He took one of the scattered instruments in hand and concentrated as Patricia had taught him. The impressions that came to him were not of a surgical nature. A mixture of pain, anger and fear flooded his mind and he dropped the scalpel suddenly, its sharp edge nicking the hardwood floor.
Beverly decided that he didn't want to listen to whatever was on the tape recorder. It was probably equally unpleasant.
Gingerly returning the misplaced scalpels to the bag, Beverly agreed with Elliot's anger and worry. Their sire had said that she had a few 'unusual needs', but had refused to elucidate. This was obviously one of them. Was she going to lead the police right to their haven's door, they wondered. Or would it be worse than that? Could she be killing Kindred?
One thing was immediately decided in silent communication between the twins. They had to find out who Patricia was working for and determine if their sire had suddenly become a serious liability.