With my new henchwomen, I had a better hand to play in the city. The Darksiders were on my side, I had two shapeshifters, three ghosts and a bogeyman. Not bad for an upstart like me. But I’d need a lot more. The first step I needed was to take over the boardwalk as my own personal domain. Northshore had the Abendroth and the Fae Queens, Downtown had Grigori Maxwell, Mountainside had Coil, I didn’t know who inhabited University Hill, Bayview or Greenbank. The boardwalk, as important as it was to the city, was more or less contested.
Once I got the girls’ phone numbers, I left before calling Lionnel.
“Miss. Beaulieu, to what do I owe the pleasure?” He asked when he picked his phone up.
“I was wondering if we could talk, you said you wouldn’t mind answering some of my questions and right now and if I may be honest, I’d rather not see Mr. Coil unless absolutely necessary…
“Of course.” He answered neutrally.
“I’m on the boardwalk, any chance you could meet me there? Otherwise I could meet you anywhere but the Mansion.”
“There is a café I like going there. Since this will be my dinner break, we can meet there. It’s called Oliver’s it’s not far from the Aquarium.”
“Yeah, I know where it is. I’ll meet you there.”
I asked Kaleb to meet me back at the loft in a while and left for the café. It wasn’t hard to find, being somewhat larger than other boutiques and being well known for being ungodly expensive. A coffee was like fifteen bucks. I couldn’t help but feel like I’d wasted money to get a donut and a bottle of iced tea, even though I’d just given two thousand dollars a week to a pair of teenagers girls. Which I wasn’t sure if it was a lot. You don't get a good sense of money when you grow up dirt poor for the first fifteen years of your life and then suddenly get bags of money thrown at you by an ancient sociopathic vampire addicted to children’s blood. I munched on it slowly as I waited for Lionnel, It was delicious, but not quite worth the price mark…
“Good evening, Miss Beaulieu.” He said when he arrived, getting a triple espresso from the barista. He was wearing a pale gray suit and a light green tie, all neatly arranged.
“Good evening Lionnel. You can call me Lauren, you know.”
“As you wish. So, what did you need to ask me about?” He said before taking his first sip of coffee.
“Two things, answers and a small service. I need you to set up an apartment safehouse for two people, no need for it to be big or fancy, just something nice and close to the boardwalk within the week if possible.”
“That can be done. May I know what for? Mr. Coil can be quite the nazi when it comes to bookkeeping.”
“My two new henchmen.” I declared. He didn’t seem surprised in the least. “The answers I need is about the boardwalk, I’m carving out a reputation and I want to take over, but for that, I need to know what’s the deal with the supernatural scene, who runs it and who the important players are.”
“Oceanside, and by extension the boardwalk, has always been a bit of a volatile place. To avoid too much tension, Mr. Coil and the other major players have agreed to a hands off policy with it, especially as it is an important source of revenue for the city and a very visible location for supernatural conflict.
There is no current ruler, or at least no claimant who has managed to have their authority recognized.
There are many minor and semi-major players in the area. The maenad Alessa and her groupies, The Isis coven composed of small time witches, A half dozen diabolist wannabes, two packs of shifters the werewolf of the Gibbous and the snake of the Mamba pack--”
“The Gibbous are done, I killed their leader and got them to disband last night.”
“Impressive, you work fast I see.”
“Well, apart from them, you mostly have a few talents here and there, we know about a pair of medium, a jinx, a hellhound, an undying leading a small gang, a dozen or so channelers with minor powers. There’s also a sorcerer that found the secret of creating scarecrows in the zone near Elysium park. The sorcerer, the pack and the maenad would be the most powerful faction that would oppose you, provided you keep this under wrap, should you make too much noise, the big leagues will step in, which would be messy for you. Naturally if you are to do this, you will need not to use Coil’s more visible ressources as he is to take a hands off approach.”
“So I’ll need to work this alone and using my own people?”
“To be put bluntly, yes. You’re welcome to use the money you have, our drivers and call us for information, but we must remain uninvolved in any battle. Once again, I advise discretion, you do not want the council to call for an erasure squad.”
“It is the term we use to cross-faction teams charged from sanitizing the city from traces of conflict, destroy any evidence, remove witnesses, punish the offending parties. There is only so much that humans can ignore and occasionally inhumans will step in to protect their world, whatever the cost and means. More than one city was burned to the ground to cover up the escalation of supernatural conflict. You may be Coil’s protégé, but you are not indispensable nor will he hesitate to throw you to the wolves should you put him in a bad position.” There wasn’t even a hint of threat in his tone, he was purely stating facts. “Of course should you succeed, you will surely earn the respect of Mr. Coil and the city’s factions, as well as their suspicions, the top of the city is not a comfortable place to rest.
“What do you suggest I do?” I asked.
“Become stronger, gain allies or vassals and the support of stronger factions, all will give you legitimacy, above all you must be a force of your own, not simply riding on Mr. Coil’s influence and resources, when you fight enemies; Crush them, brutally and efficiently. Do not let them get back up, give them second chances to go at you. But also give people the opportunity to join you, play for the winning side.”
“Coil said something about this, that one should not rule through fear or love, but both at the same time. It was from Machiavelli if I remember.”
“You seem to understand. Is there something else you require?” He seemed pleased with me.
“Just everything you know about the factions at play in a dossier.”
“That, I can arrange.”
“Excellent. If you excuse me, I have a neighborhood to take over.” I got up and left, he went back to slowly sipping coffee and eating a prosciutto sandwich.
But first, I had to see my boyfriend. Home wasn’t far, but I walked slowly, I needed time to think about what I was going to say. I took the lift up and entered the loft. Kaleb was sitting on the couch with a piece of pie. I leaned over the couch as he turned sideways and stole a kiss.
“Hello handsome.” I whispered.
“How did your meeting go?”
“Very well. I’ll have what I need soon and then we can work on this plan.”
“I think it’s insane, but if you’re doing it, I’ll follow you into hell, you're worth it.”
“Aren’t you the little flaterer.” I declared. “I’d be careful with those words, knowing our lives, it might become literal.”
He burst out laughing. “I love you, Lauren.”
“I love you too Kaleb. You’re the best thing to ever happen to me.”
We kissed for a long time, just snuggled up on the couch, hands on each others hips. I couldn’t help but feel incredibly aroused.
“So… We’ve been together for… Not that long actually, but it feels so much longer…” I began, already babbling. And I’ve sort of been wondering if you… ehm… Wanted to eh... “ I couldn’t say it. “You know? I mean if you want to… I don’t need to spell it out, do I?”
“I think I saw a game of scrabble somewhere. Think that’ll help?”
I punched him on the arm, pouting and he laughed again.
“You’re mean.” I mumbled.
“I’m sorry, but you were too cute to resist teasing. But yes, Lauren, I would love having sex with you, but only if you feel comfortable about it.”
“With you, I am… Say, you don’t mind my…” Another sentence I couldn’t finish.
“It’ll be a new experience, but I don’t feel threatened or put off by your genitals. I’ve kind of had a lot of time to think about it…”
“I just want to know, is this a talk for the eventuality or are you suggesting an activity for tonight?”
I went red and closed up like a clam. I couldn’t physically get myself to answer that question.
“I don’t really know what or how to do…” I mumbled instead.
“I may have looked it up… And prepared a thing or two in my bag, you know, in case it’d happen.”
“Of course you have…”
“Do you want to do this?” He asked me.
I looked into his eyes and kissed vigorously. “Yes.” I whispered.