Jack’s phone rumbled in his pocket as he dug it out, the cut of his jacket unfamiliar. It felt too smooth, somehow, too clean, and he fought the urge to rip it off and rub dirt into it. “Hey,” he held the phone to his ear. “Jack here.”
“Olivia,” the caller replied. Her voice was full of static; somewhere with bad reception.
“Olivia!” Jack grinned. “What can I do for you?”
“There is-” Olivia coughed. “One of my contacts says that there’s a disturbance near the homeless shelter. Can you check it out for me?”
Jack scratched his chin, a primal, territorial feeling swimming somewhere in his gut. Mine. “Yeah,” he said. “Sure thing. I’m not far.”
Jack poked his head out from under the bus shelter, where Jed was perched, somewhere between bedraggled and majestic, his clothes sodden and ragged as he played absently with the cheap mobile phone that Jack had procured for him. “You hear that, buddy?”
The gargoyle opened one eye, and nodded. “Yeah,” he said. “Let’s go.”
Jed flew through the remnants of the dying storm. It was strange, and freeing, to leave the shackles of his former life; to fly free, with only his sword and the rags on his back. And the leash around my neck. His wingbeat faltered as he thought of Dante, the tall malkavian’s hand on his shoulder, the instinctive, almost pleasurable slip into subservience to his will. Serve the ruling powers of Grimouth indeed. As if he would long remain the plaything of the prince. Jed growled, catching himself on his wings and climbing, wheeling above the warehouse district.
The fires were a dead giveaway. Even from far above he could see their burning trashcans, their smoke pluming thick and black into the damp night air. The gathering was in an open-topped structure, some kind of loading bay, a crowd of people with loud music.
It looked like some kind of rave. Jed landed on a roof nearby, scowling down at the assembled, and phoned Jack.
“Just looks like a party to me.”
Jack grunted. “Olivia said she had a funny feeling about it. Can you get any closer?”
Jed paused, considering. The open roof of the structure didn’t afford him much concealment, but his dark skin offered him good camouflage against the night sky. “I can try.”
“Well, go on then.” The call terminated with a click.
Jed sighed, tucking his phone into his pocket before launching himself airborne once more.
He landed on the near wall, on the tip of an archway, about twenty feet up, silent as an owl
The party was about fifty strong, assembled in a circle facing inwards towards a central figure, who was seated, heavy-duty headphones over his ears, a woodwind instrument at his lips. They were kindred, he was pretty sure of it. It was the way they stood without swaying, the worn look of their clothes. Sabbat? Jed pulled out his phone again, snapping a picture and sending it to Jack. A couple of the assembled kindred looked up curiously, and Jed took off into the air again. Too late, he saw the great batlike shapes overhead, milky pale against the black sky. Other gargoyles? In Grimouth? Still camouflaged, Jed swooped down to meet Jack a few streets over.
“They have fliers,” he said quietly. “I’m going to try and lure them down.”
Jack nodded. “I’ve got your back, mate.”
With a downbeat of his powerful wings, Jed was airborne again. As he neared the pale flying figures, he could see that they were not as twisted as true gargoyles should be, their forms gracile and slender, their faces untwisted by the Curse. Puzzled, he dropped his camouflage and approached them, his hands open.
Moving as if one, they saw him, their heads turning hair-trigger fast. Jed barely had time to strafe sideways as the first creature swept past him, missing him by a hair. He pulled into a dive as the second shot past him, snatching for his wings, and he was perhaps thirty feet from the ground as the third pale winged creature pulled level with him and grabbed him in a tight embrace, folding its wings against its body. Its weight was too great for Jed to support, and his wings flapped frantically as he kicked at the creature, and they plummeted to the ground, his nostrils thick with the scent of rotting meat.