"I know you feel guilty about Heather." The speaker leaned over, holding the IV needle in his right hand, twirling it slowly. He ran his left hand through his thick, curly hair, and smiled at the dreadlocked man bound to the ruined and rusty operating table. "Why didn't you kill me that night she brought me here?"
"Doesn't matter now." He heard resignation in Dane's voice. "Will it change what you're gonna do?" The IV needle glinted in the dim light.
"I didn't want this!" the curly-haired man yelled, pushing his face right up to Dane's. "I didn't want to be your ... thing!"
"Ghoul. Not thing, Robert."
"Fuck you, and your labels!" He held the needle in front of Dane's eyes. "Fuck all of you! Superstitious assholes, all of you! Only one of you with half a brain is Beckett. He bugged out before it hit the fan." He reached behind him for the old folding, metal chair and slumped down. He felt weary. "It's been almost a month since I had any. I can feel the emptiness growing. And I know you can tell." He jabbed the needle into the end of his left index finger. The small drop of red welled up on the tip, and he pressed his left thumb against the tip, forcing more blood out, and watched it slowly drip onto the abandoned hospital's basement floor. "It's all about the blood. Fucking blood ..." His voice trailed off.
He stood up again, looming over Dane. "When I'm done, will I be you?"
"I don't know," came the soft reply.
"I hope not. I don't wanna be you." They stared at each other, silently.
"You know they'll hunt you, they all will. Remember what I told you Jack said after LaCroix called the Blood Hunt on me? They won't just be bussin' in from Sacramento, they'll be jettin' in from Europe. Sabbat, Camarilla, Anarch, that won't mean shit when it comes to huntin' you."
“More labels, more superstitious bullshit. I listened to the tapes you brought back from Grout's, before you gave them to Strauss. Grout had it right, Beckett has it right. You change, but you keep the same fears. You're all the same, all of you, no matter what you call yourselves: Camarilla, Sabbat, Anarch, Kuei Jin, even those Leopold assholes." He pressed the needle against the vein on the inside of Dane's left elbow, and watched it slowly slide in. No pain.
"Are you sure all those Leopold bastards are dead? I think the first thing I'll do is go back to Malibu and double-check."
Dane paused, sighed. "I told you, Bach blew the fuck out of the place."
Robert man smiled crookedly. "You seem pretty much resigned to this. I figured you'd-"
"What the fuck do you expect me to do?" Dane exploded. "I'm tied down with steel cable, you're about to drain my fuckin' blood. Shit, part of me is glad. I didn't want what SHE did to me, any more than you wanted what I did to you. Just be glad I didn't go all the way like she did with me. At least you have a fucking choice!"
"Choice? Fuck you!" he roared back. "There's no going back. I sure as hell am not a sniveling little shit like Patty, but there's NO going back! Fuck ... YOU!" He trembled, from his rage and from going too long without the blood. he smoothed his hair again, calming himself. "Skelter was right about one thing, Ghouls are a weakness, and you had two."
Dane's face collapsed in sadness. "And you're right about one thing. I've never forgiven myself about Heather."
"She loved you, you know, and not just because of the blood. She LOVED you, and you let them rip her up like a crack whore in one D.M.P.'s snuffs."
Dane raised his head as much as he could with the steel cable weighing his neck down, and looked Robert in the eyes. "So what're you gonna do, go on some spree like that asshole I smoked at the salvage yard? Gonna deal some midnight justice to all the bad guys, is that it?" In response, Robert attached the end of the rubber tube from the IV needle to a sealed glass jar, with a small plunger
on the top. He worked the plunger once, and a small stream of blood spewed into the jar. "I wonder how much you got in you right now."
Dane lay his head back down. "A full load. It'll take you a while at the pace you're goin'." Robert worked the plunger two more times, watching the dark, veinous blood as it flowed into the jar. He looked up at the ceiling.
"You ever hear of the Masons?"
“They have these bumper stickers that say '2B1, Ask1'. I don't really wanna be one of you, but I'm not gonna live my life under your thumb, and I'm not gonna wind up like Patty. So I'm gonna be one, but I'm not gonna ask, I'm just gonna take." He began working the plunger rapidly. "Let it take as long as it takes. I got all night. And so do you.”
Dane's body had looked … odd, lying on the hospital table. Not really like a dead person. Was he in Torpor, not really dead? Shit, like I give a fuck, Robert thought. He felt Dane's blood, Dane's Vitae, his Vitae now, swirling through his own body. This was not the way it was “supposed” to work. The fact that it did work told Robert the Embrace was yet another piece of bullshit Kindred superstition. He looked around the loft of Dane's apartment. Same old stuff. The poster of VV caught his eye. She was beautiful. She had a thing for Dane. He read Dane's emails from her. Forget VV. He needed to find Beckett. Beckett would understand, if anyone would.
He ran through what he knew about the Kindred of the L.A. area: Jeannette was the Baron of Santa Monica, 100% Anarch now. Tung was Camarilla, so he had probably sailed for the Warrens on that Anarch tailwind. Dane said Tung had told him there were four vampires in Santa Monica. Tung probably counted Thérèse and Jeannette as two, Tung himself was the third. Who was the fourth? Dane? Probably not. So there was an unknown vampire in Santa Monica.
Downtown was Camarilla territory now, with Strauss as Prince, and some Gangrel Robert didn't know, Sheriff. Dane had made all that happen. Gary was the lone Primogen. That was a big power vacuum. The Last Round crowd had moved to Hollywood, the Luckee Star. Hollywood was probably the biggest center of Anarch power in the world now: Isaac and his goon, VV, Rodriguez, Damsel, Skelter and Jack. The Camarilla was lucky Dane had toasted Strauss' Gargoyle instead of turning it the way Isaac wanted. And the Sabbat, as Dane had so eloquently put it to LaCroix, “Ash.”
Chinatown. Talk about a power vacuum. Dane had swept through the Golden Temple like a blood tsunami. All dead, or whatever happened to Keui-jin when their body was destroyed. Dane said they didn't turn to dust like Kindred, they died like humans.
The Camarilla and the Anarchs were going to go at it over Chinatown. But that wasn't going to help him find Beckett. Beckett wouldn't give a shit who ruled Chinatown. He probably wouldn't care if it was Sabbat, Kuei-jin or fucking Werewolves for that matter.
He thought about what he had told Dane, about checking out the Leopold monastery in Malibu. Beckett hadn't wanted to go with Dane, but maybe he'd want to check it out for himself. He was a scholar, he sought knowledge the way the Nosferatu sought secrets. Yeah, the monastery.