Hunting Stray Sheep

Jin stood outside the iron gate and looked at the imposing building. There was a plaque on the front of the brick entrance that said Erasma Women's Establishment. It was in a rough part of the inner city but the walls around the place were high and thick. It looked as secure as it did off putting.

He turned to the two women with him and explained.

"I was going through my list of our kind with the ability to -command- the attention of those around them."

Jin felt certain that the other Anantya would easily understand the meaning to his veiled reference.

"Anyway, that led me here. This is the residence and work place of one of our people. Her names is Sofia Castillanos. When I called on her the other night she was not here. According to her people she is usually around. However, they didn't seem worried. I came back a week later and no one had seen her."

He looked back at the building.

"Shall we go pay a visit and see if she's home now?"

Mai 13 years ago
Mai listened to the winter wind as it rustled the dead leaves on the nearby trees. She had been here before; though not recently. Sofia had lived in the area a very long time; she had been doing the same kind of work for centuries.

Still, Mai thought the woman's thinking was flawed. Sofia was blinded by her past; it was sad but the Elder of the Hunt doubted that the woman would easily change.

Listening to her child, Mai nodded.

"Hai, Sofia rarely leaves the women she cares for."

The vampire was very protective of the female humans, and perhaps vampires, that lived within her house. It had caused trouble for Anantya in the past.

This was Jin's investigation so Mai waited patiently. She would not see what he saw and she knew that. The Order of the Night were very skilled at taking tiny observations and connecting them to larger understanding.

Mai was very skilled at making sure they were safe while they looked. The wind picked up her hair and blew it across her face. Mai raised her eyes to Jin.

"You will not find her here, Musuko."
Mara 13 years ago
Mara stood slightly behind Jin and Mai, looking up at the dark, thick walls around the building in front of them. Jin's voice had her refocusing her attention on him and she fixed her pale, unblinking eyes on him while he explained the situation briefly.

A case of a missing vampire, obviously. Sofia. A name Mara didn't know, which irked her. She liked knowing things.

She took a step closer, then one more, turning away from Jin and Mai, tucking her hands into her coat pockets. She hated the cold. It was different with a fur coat, but she couldn't do that here.

Well, it was easy to see where she might be needed in this particular case. Finding missing people was just her slice of cake. Or piece of sushi. As you prefer.

She noted the nickname Mai used, filed it away under her mental folder for 'fun facts about people I know.'

"Lead the way," she said to Jin, her voice muffled as the bottom half of her face was swathed in a soft scarf tucked into her coat.
Jin 13 years ago
Jin gave Mara a smile and then looked at Mai. He blinked and then looked back at the building.

"...well let's go talk to them anyway. I am interested to see if they've seen her since I was last here."

He pushed the intercom and they buzzed him through. The woman's voice sounded like the one he had spoken to the other times he had come, an assistant of some kind. Jin could now see her waiting in the doorway of the building.

She was an older woman, her hair was once a vibrant golden red but now there was two broad streaks of white in the front, framing her face. Her name was Annette. Jin knew the woman to be as no nonsense as the comfortable but hardly becoming black nursing shoes that she wore.

Annette wrapped the light blue sweater tighter around her chest and then folded her arms to wait for them to come close enough to speak with.

"Good Evening, Mr Han. I am afraid Ms. Castillanos is not here. She has taken a trip back to Greece."

Jin came to the front steps of the building and reached a hand out to shake Annette's hand. He then turned to his companions.

"This is Mai and Mara. They are coworkers with the paper. So she is not here? Do you know when she will be back?"

The woman shook her head and gave a tired sigh.

"No, Sofia didn't say."

Jin smiled at her and asked.

"Would you mind showing us around then? Perhaps we can do the story anyway."

((OOC: Yes, I decided to be lazy and make Annette's words purple instead of writing out another character. ))
Mai 13 years ago
Mai found the crackle of the talk box to be interesting. It wasn't an unpleasant sound; she thought it was water damage to its 'insides' from the rusted hole in the back corner. It still worked though and in some ways it now had more personality.

The woman who answered Jin sounded tired.

Following her son, Mai listened to the conversation between the two of them and when he mentioned her name, she held up the device strapped to her wrist. Jin said it was a camera and showed her what things to push to make it light up and take pictures.

That didn't mean a lot to her on the little screen but Mai knew what they were. The paper ones were nice; she liked those. She looked towards the woman and smiled.

More people were beyond the threshold, she could hear them. They had come closer to listen to the conversation.

((OOC: Yes, we gave the blind woman who doesn't like technology a digital camera. Oh the irony! ))
Mara 13 years ago
Mara came up next to Jin as he made his plea to the stern-faced woman at the doorway. She wasn't entirely sure what role she was to play but clearly their goal was to gain access to this building and see if they could discover what had befallen their missing Clanmate. Given the nature of the shelter, she thought it might help if that plea was supported by a woman. So she poked her face out from behind its scarf and pulled her mittened hands from her pockets so she could gesture with them.

"It would be a shame to have to delay this story any longer," Mara added to Jin's statement. "The holiday season can be so emotional and so inspiring. But if people don't know you're here, they can't find you. Just knowing Erasma exists could give so many women the hope and encouragement they need to forge a better life for themselves."

It wasn't difficult to voice the words; long long ago Mara had been one of those women. Had shelters like this existed, she wondered if she'd have had the courage, herself, to seek one out. Mara remembered those times clearly; while she had come to terms with them they were still etched in her memory. It took very little to fall into this particular persona; a woman who had "been there" herself or who clearly knew someone else who had.

In addition, while not entirely certain she'd gotten the "story" exactly, she had never known a charity that didn't want free publicity.
Jin 13 years ago
Jin turned to Mara when she further gave reason for their running a story now. He gave her a grateful smile, proud of her quick thinking. Reaching out a gloved hand, Jin gently took Mara's and gave it an compassionate squeeze. He wasn't sure if what she was saying was completely made up for the woman's benefit or if it had some relevance in the past. He figured though that in either case a show of support was a good thing.

Turning back to Annette, Jin watched her hopefully. She looked thoughtful but finally nodded.

"Its not really a good time for it. Some of the women have been more restless than usual. A lot of them haven't been sleeping well lately, probably the change in season. You make a valid argument though, so come in."

The woman stepped backwards and to the side, motioning with her right hand for them to enter. Jin waited until they were all inside and out of the cold to get back to the reason he was actually here.

"So, did Sofia tell you why she went to Greece?"

He gave Annette a smile and hoped that he wasn't asking anything terribly private. It would be a shame to be thrust right back out of the door.

Annette sighed and said.

"She didn't speak long really. The message simply said that she had some family troubles that required her attention. In all the time I have ever worked with Sofia this is the first of I heard her mention family so I suspect it must be quite serious to pull her away from Erasma's."

The woman realized that she had been speaking of the personal affairs of her boss with a near total stranger; She straightened her skirt and pointed with her chin.

"Come let me show you around the place."
Mai 13 years ago
Mara was very helpful to Jin's story and Mai was grateful. She did not think she was any good at behaving as anything other than herself.

Mai noted that Jin reached for the other woman and took her hand briefly. Interesting, she wondered what that was about. Perhaps he was thanking her for her help with his plan.

Coming into the entrance, Mai resisted the urge to remove her shoes. This was not the Manor and Western cultures did not think it proper to be barefoot in someone's house without invitation to do so.

A little child peered at her from around the corner, Mai gave the creature a small smile for being more brave and curious than its companions. It was short, but walking well enough. She knelt slightly, pointed the camera at the girl child and pushed the buttons to make it work.

The girl blinked and giggled and then reached for the device. Mai pointed the thing at Jin and then gently took the child's hand, pointing it toward the correct button.

Light flashed and the girl giggled. Mai smiled and allowed the girl to push the button several more times while she pointed the camera. She then stood so that she could follow her son.
Mara 13 years ago
Mara was surprised when Jin took her hand and squeezed it. She smiled up at him, the expression warming the icy color of her eyes, and turned back to the woman at the door of the building. She looked tired, but Mara imagined that with Sofia gone and the Christmas season here she probably had a lot on her plate.

"Thank you," she said to Annette when they were allowed in. She moved quietly so as not to disturb any sleeping residents and continued to do so for the duration.

Once inside she pulled her white mittens off, tugged her hat from her dark hair, and tucked both safely into the pockets of her purple pea coat. Pulling a little bit at her scarf she loosened it enough to tuck it around her chin so her voice wasn't muffled by it.

Looking around she spotted the little girl and smiled as Mai proceeded to show her how to take pictures with the camera. Attending to Jin's conversation with Annette Mara spoke up once more, hoping to put the woman slightly more at ease.

"We'd love that. I'm so sorry Sofia can't be here, we were hoping to meet her. But family must come first. Hopefully her situation can be resolved quickly, and she'll be back with you again."

It was obvious that Sofia was missed. Mara tried to downplay their interest in her, though, keeping most of the focus on the shelter. If that was where Annette's passion lay, that was their most promising avenue.

In the meantime she stuck close to Jin and looked around the building, trying to commit details to memory. Obviously it would be fairly easy for her to discover Sofia's whereabouts... if she could find something that belonged to her, anyway.
Jin 13 years ago
Jin listened and wondered if it was really was strange that the woman had never visited her family but now she disappears to Greece or if he was just the suspicious sort. He really didn't think Sofia had family so the excuse was rather strange in that respect.

However, some vampires did keep track of their mortal line, even putting themselves back into it from time to time as some cousin or aunt. He didn't fully understand the pull of that connection but Jin thought that it might be his age; his mortal family was huge, varied and distant.

Anantya was his family. He needed no other. His little mother had been a part of his life for several millennia
and Jin had brothers and sisters equally as old. He didn't need closeness with a mortal relative that would pass away in the blink of an eye when he had very real ties to an eternal clan.

Annette showed them through to a common room area where half a dozen children played on the floor and adults watched television, played cards and worked on computers.

Jin looked back at Mai and she clicked the little camera a few times around the room. He wondered what kind of pictures he would get back when the night was over.

Following the woman down the hall, Jin said.

"It looks like everyone quickly becomes family."

Annette nodded and motioned to the next room.

"Yes, sometimes we have those who keep to themselves but for the most part people here quickly become part of the larger community. It helps to know that you are not alone."

She gave Mara a smile and then stood aside.

Jin wandered into the room. It was a spacious dining hall with rows of oak tables and bench style seating. The walls were painted a warm spicy orange colour with large paintings of landscapes lining the inside walls. The far end of the room was dominated by tall windows that looked out onto what appeared, to his eyes , to be a private inner courtyard. He could see benches, trees and a small garden. A little piece of nature in the middle of downtown Nachton.

Someone sat out on the bench alone. It was tempting to go take a look and see what he could find out about the person who felt more comfortable with sitting solitary out in the cold night than being inside the warm home with the other people.
Mai 13 years ago
Mai noticed the little girl was following her. A small hand came up and tugged on her sleeve.

"What is your name?"

She saw no reason not to answer the question.


The girl frowned a moment and said.

"No, I -know- MY name. What is yours?" The child obviously decided that she might need to teach by example. "My name is Amber." She gestured with her tiny hands to herself and then pointed at Mai.

The Elder nodded and tried to explain again.

"My name is Mai. You are Amber and I am Mai."

The little blonde screwed up her face for a moment, seeming deep in thought. Eventually, she looked up at the vampire and said.

"That is a funny name."

The woman that was showing them around the establishment turned back to give the child a stern look.

"That's not nice, Amber."

The little girl appeared to be about to argue but the frown from the woman made her think better of it. She pouted a moment and then said.

"I'm sorry."

She then took up Mai's hand and followed them down the hall and into the next room.

"Are you hungry? Its not dinner time yet."
Mara 13 years ago
Mara smiled at the family atmosphere that Jin remarked upon. A place like this must feel like you've suddenly found a whole group of sisters you never knew. People who had shared experiences and similar pasts who didn't judge.

As they entered the dining area Mara made note of the sights and scents, filed those, too, away for future reference. She didn't think they would see anything of interest regarding their missing Clanmate here. She didn't write that option off though. Who knew what could happen?

The lonely figure on the bench outside reminded her oddly enough of herself. Out in the cold, nobody around, was a feeling she had more than a nodding acquaintance with. Not recently, of course. But she still felt drawn to the person outside and wished she weren't a curious reporter. She'd like to wander outside and say hello.

"This is so peaceful," she said to Annette. "The women who come here, do you help them find jobs and homes? Or do they tend to stay for a long time?"

Mara's interest wasn't feigned. Having a Clanmate involved so directly in this cause made her feel a little bit small and selfish. Part of her said they were only humans; the other part of her felt this blow very close to home. Mara stepped closer to Jin, just a fraction. Some of the women in the other room were not much older than Mara had been when she'd become a mother. They had to have been afraid.

Behind them, she heard Mai talking to the child whose name was, apparently, Amber. She smiled a little, wondering what the deadly Hunt Elder thought about having been ambushed and half-adopted by a tiny blonde human girl.
Jin 13 years ago
Annette smiled at Mara and then looked around the place as she replied.

"We try to make it a home. No one feels safe in an institution or a shelter and that's no way to start rebuilding your life."

She led them out of the dinning room and down the hall to a row of small offices. Jin noticed that one had her name on it. Annette pointed to one of the others.

"Tiffany takes care of those seeking employment. She's quite good at finding things that suite each woman's needs. She also follows up on each one to make sure they are doing a good job but to also make sure that they aren't being taken advantage of in their new place."

The woman frowned slightly but continued.

"Sadly, even though these women found the courage to leave whatever abuse drove them here, many would still silently suffer such hostile or humiliating acts from an employer."

Jin nodded and said quietly

"No doubt many feel they are doing what is necessary in order to support their children. In today's economy it must seem like any job is a blessing no matter what happens there."

Annette tensed for a moment as though she were going to tell him that a woman shouldn't have to suffer indignity to feed herself and her family but she relaxed again, perhaps his tone or his expression made her realize that he was saying he understood but that did not make it right.

Of course Jin understood. He had seen times when women had no rights at all. How did a widowed or unwed mother in the middle ages feed her children without meeting with hard times? How did a teenage girl who had been practically sold to a stranger in marriage not suffer indignity?

Annette showed them through to the nurse's office; the name tag on the door read "Claire Tremaine". Then on to the game room, counsel rooms, nursery and other such areas.

At the end of the tour, the woman stopped and looked at Jin and his friends.

"Well, do you think you have enough or is there anything else you would like to ask?"

Jin looked thoughtful and then turned back to Mara, he gave her a smile. It would be best if they looked serious about this article even if it wasn't what they were here for.

"Do you think my companion could ask some of the women a couple of questions about their stay here? It would be helpful for the interview to have it said in their own words how much this place has been a help to them."

Annette nodded and led them back towards the front of the shelter where the common room was. Hanging back a bit, He spoke quietly to Mai in Japanese, pointing to the camera and gesturing around the place as he spoke.
Mai 13 years ago
Mai's new companion skipped along beside her through tour.

"Miss Claire is nice...even though she gave me a shot."

Amber pouted but then brightened.

"She gave me a colouring book after and a ball!"

They lost the little blonde once they reached the nursery. One of the younger kids grabbed Amber by the hand and asked her to play with them. The older girl looked torn between her new friends and someone closer to her age but chose to stay with those who were playing.

Mai flashed a few pictures of her little companion and her play mates...for the sake of appearences.

When they finished the tour, Jin asked Mara to speak to some of the other women. He then spoke to her in Japanese as they followed along behind Annette. He asked her to go with Mara while he kept Annette busy. To ask her to see what the other women might know about Sofia, just in case the assistant was covering something up.

As Jin stalled their tour guide, Mai slipped ahead and spoke with Mara quietly relaying Jin's requests.

((OOC: Roleplay them only if you like. Otherwise we can move past the interviewing and such and go on with Part B of this adventure. ))
Mara 13 years ago
Mara attended Annette's words during the tour, nodding thoughtfully as she described the nature of the shelter and its goals. She didn't bother to suppress a shudder at the notion of suffering further indignities while trying to rebuild their lives. If Mara hadn't had Amir, even after her turning, she didn't know what might have become of her. Even so, it had taken a very long time for her to regain her spirit, her sense of importance and self. She understood all too well how most of these women must feel.

Mara wasn't surprised at all to understand her role when Jin kept Annette occupied, but sadly she was unable to determine from the women there what if anything Sofia might have said before leaving. Or even the true nature of her departure. They all told similar stories; that Sofia was a caring person, that Sofia was the reason they weren't dead or on the streets, that Sofia wouldn't have left unless it were very important.

When she and Mai had done what they could in that regard, Mara rejoined Jin and Annette at the front of the building.
"I think we've heard enough," she said. "Thank you so much for letting us into your home tonight. It means a lot to us, and to the women who may not even realize they need you yet."

Mara's smile was cheerful but still touched with sadness; she wished there were no need for shelters like these. These were supposed to be times of enlightenment. At least they were here now, though. Once again she thought back to her own time and the change that might have taken place then. And Egypt was very forward-thinking for its period, too!

At any rate she pushed those thoughts to the backburner, pulling on her hat and then her mittens again in preparation to leave. She didn't think they were finished, but she didn't think Jin had found what he was looking for while they'd been inside either. Perhaps it was time to be creative.

((ooc: Full speed ahead to teh intriguez))
Jin 13 years ago
Jin drove the white "news" van to a nearby parking lot and then came back with the others to the block with the shelter.

"I can go in and disable the cameras."

He looked at Mara.

"We should probably find Sofia's room and see if there is anything personal enough for tracking. I think we should pick up several things just in case we need to track her more than once and for a psychometrist to read."

They were dealing with a vampire so it would be best to leave as little evidence behind as possible. Jin was only looking for Sofia out of concern for her well being but some of their kind would rather die, or kill, than have their privacy invaded.

"I'll come open the back door and we can see what we weren't shown."

He went blended and then went into the shelter through the wall. Finding the camera controls, he pulled out a little device from his pocket and plugged it in. It ran all the cameras through a loop. Opening the back door, Jin let in Mara and Mai.

"I am guessing Sofia had a room underground perhaps? If she lived here she would need to explain the need for darkness or have a room that suits her situation that she can explain some other way."

He shrugged. This Sofia person chose to live most of her life around humans. It was something of an alien concept to him. Not the living around them, but the -choosing- to do so.
Mai 13 years ago
Mai listened to Jin's plan and then waited with Mara while they waited for him to do whatever it was he was doing with the camera things.

She decided it would be best to swap forms. Now from a place not far from the ground, Mai squeaked once at Mara so that she wouldn't be stepped on. It would be a shame to have to bite the woman who was being so helpful.

Mara 13 years ago
While in the van Mara shed her mittens and hat, leaving them on the back seat. She nodded at Jin, sure that if they could find Sofia's possessions they could obtain what he wanted.

When Mai shifted forms and squeaked at her, Mara smiled down at the Hunt Elder. She crouched down and followed suit, slipping into her mau form easily. When Jin opened the back door, looking very tall, it was to two small white forms.

Once again she nodded. Yes, Sofia must have an underground room. It made sense. She entered the building and they traveled in a bit until they reached a hallway. Not knowing which way the stairs were likely to be, unable to tell even from the currents of air shifting through the room, Mara looked at Mai and then Jin. They could split up, or they could continue on as a group. She suspected all three of them were likely stealthy enough to move through the building unseen.

Between the smallness of Mai's shape and Jin's useful abilities, Mara was probably the most likely one to be spotted. But she had hundreds of years of being a cat under her belt. She was used to locating quick escape routes and likely hiding places.
Jin 13 years ago
Jin smiled down at Mara and Mai as he opened the door for the two of them. They looked like an odd pair of pets being let back into the house for the night. He kept his comments to himself, neither would likely be amused. It was not a good idea to piss off the women who liked you enough to help out.

"Lets try this way."

Heading down the hall he found a door that appeared to lead to the basement area. Jin descended the stairs quietly stooping to peer down into the room as soon as he could. It came out into another long hall with a series of closed doors.

It looked like it might be a series of small apartments or dormitory hall. He thought for moment and was about to turn around and comment to the others when a woman stepped out of one the rooms.

She stopped short when she saw the three of them on the stairs. However the odd sight did not alarm her or seem to even surprise her very much.

"Who are you? And where is your escort?"

Jin looked down at the two animals with him and back at the woman. A normal tactic in modern espionage was to say nothing; the cultures that existed today abhorred awkward silence and tended to answer their own questions if you let them. He hoped he was right in his guess that the individual in front of him was expecting him to have a female companion. And he was hoping that she was a vampire and understood that one of the animals might be that woman.

The stranger came closer and looked at both of the animals and then back at him.

"I don't recognize either of these."

He smiled at her and said.

"I don't expect that you would. I do not recall seeing you either. What is your affiliation?"

Jin stressed the last word, making his meaning clear to someone who knew about the clans.

The woman looked at the three of them and now fear crossed her face. She backed away and looked behind her.

"I do not have one... but Sofia knows that. I am under her protection."

Jin nodded and put up his hands in a soothing gesture.

"We are Anantya, same as Sofia. We are just here on business."

The woman relaxed slightly, at least she looked less likely to bolt at a sudden noise.

"Is she back then?"

Jin watched her eyes and where they darted. It was a quick little tell that was easily missed but the woman was curious about the answer to her own question and knew where to look to find the answer.

And now he did as well.

"We certainly hope so. We have clan matters to discuss with her."

Walking down the last few steps, he pushed past her and moved down the hall. The woman only gave him a nod and then headed up the stairs. She was doing her best not to break into a run. Jin just hoped that the woman was more interested in getting away from three clanned vampires than she was in alerting the entire building.

Coming to the last door at the end of the hall, Jin pushed his hand through it. A neat partial ethereal trick he had learned after several hundred years of, sometimes painful, practice. Feeling the knob from the other side, he found the lock and turned it. Jin opened the door and let them all in.

"Well, it looks like Sofia harbors all kinds of women and we've found the vampire dormitory. Mai would you keep an eye out to make sure she isn't bringing reinforcements."
Mai 13 years ago
Mai entered the back door when Jin opened it and then followed him down the stairs. She could sense other people nearby but had no way to tell him without changing forms or trying to convey caution as a stoat.

It was not an easy thing to do. She could bite him on the ankle but he might not understand. Mai decided that it was not something she couldn't handle should the need arise so she decided to wait.

As the woman came out into the hall, Mai sniffed delicately but otherwise made no move to interrupt Jin's conversation. As the discussion went on it was obvious the girl was -not- Anantya, or at the very least not a very well educated one.

She followed as Jin went past and then squeaked her approval of keeping a careful eye out. Mai went back down the hall and up the stairs. The first thing she wanted to do was make sure the clanless one was leaving without mentioning them.

Listening at the top of the stairs, She could hear the woman's rapidly receding footsteps. The vampire was indeed headed for the door. Mai waited to make sure the woman didn't speak to anyone before leaving. Then she returned to the entrance of the back room to "stand" guard.
Mara 13 years ago
Mara accompanied Jin and Mai along the hallway and down the stairs. When the strange woman appeared she pricked her ears forward, not particularly surprised by her appearance as she hadn't been making any effort to conceal herself. Her surprise and alarm were almost tangible but Jin deftly handled what could potentially have been a volatile situation.

Skilled at reading body language, Mara didn't have any trouble gauging the woman's reaction to Jin. She watched her carefully from a sitting position next to Jin's leg, noticing the shift of the woman's eyes and wondering if Jin had also seen it.

Apparently he had, for after the woman had left Jin made a beeline for the door she had inadvertently led them to. Mara remained shifted while Mai returned to the stairs to keep watch. She watched with curiosity while Jin reached into the door and managed to unlock it from the other side, a skill that must have taken a long time to hone properly. She filed it away for future reference and accompanied Jin into the room, assuming she was about to earn her keep.

Her ears swiveled this way and that as she listened for any signs of an occupant. Senses extended beyond even their normal perception, she took a few moments to get a feel for everything around them. She wanted to be able to remember everything should it become necessary. Knowing a person's mannerisms, habits, smells, all those little details could help her in tracking Sofia. Since she didn't know the woman herself, it was essential to learn what she could while she had the chance.