You Must Think Me a Monster
Love Cassandra Goodchild; March 8, 2009
Kindred Contacts x2 [Freepers - Seattle]
Phantom Bureaucracy Contact whose number I got from Clarke x0
Goal: Brody had a mixed-media making punker childe! Cassandra loves dabbling in NYC history and making certain that people aren't forgotten. She also has a complex because she was raised by crazy parents, and is pretty chilled by the story of how Fiona's abandoned her. Figuring nobody on the vampire end of things bothered to do anything to instruct her progenitors that abandoning your daughter who is dying of cervical cancer is a dick move, Cassandra looks for more info, such as that she might eventually find the Armstrongs and have a polite chat on priorities with them.
Cassandra drops Tommy a snail mail and makes some general calls alone similar lines to her peeps in Seattle:
I was super busy on Valentine's Day, I'm afraid, but I read the news and I noticed the sorrowful electrical failure at the Hallmark in Redmond. I also take it that was you in "I, Anonymous" on the Stranger. Good times, man. Good times.
In any event, the bundle you sent me Brode-wise helped a lot. I need to be able to grok this cat pretty thoroughly if we're to march forward, as he's the lynch pin standing between this heap, the Sabbat, the REAL MAN and the New Neo-Promise New York Hyper-Mandarinate (or something). Tricky business. In other words, he's an almost okay despot, if you catch my drift.
Anywhatsit, something caught my eye in the letter, and that something is Miss Armstrong, the late but Wrightous grandchilde of Jack the ever-smiling and yet another victim in the constant "bitch-killed-my-woman" parable that seems to be NYC. Seriously though, from what you got me, she beats out the Greers and Violas pretty solid. Sounds like my kind of girl, actually.
This is a peculiarity of mine, having the curse of the ancients locked in the sanguine ichor of my cerebro-spinal fluid and all, but I was wondering if you had any more info on Fiona in specific, or failing that, if you had any more info on her boring old, mundane, old money, rich bitch parents. I'm not sure if it's an executable offense, but I don't think having polite no-bringing-up-the-V-word type chats with the day-jobbed about why heartlessness is a bum decision violates any of the big six.
The world's a weird little place, and recent, albeit allegedly unremarkable, events of late have hammered home a very important fact about me, which is to say that I don't like it when people forget the details.
Details are important.
So yeah, if you can get me anything on the Armstrongs or just more on their little lost Armstronglet, that would be awesomesauce on a heap of awesome-cream.
Also. Tell me your favorite color. Mine's mango-sunset-orange-creamsicle. Don't ask. Next time I'm in the neighborhood, I'll try to drop by for cocktails. ;)
- L. C. Goodchild"
She then gives Mr. Anderson (sp?) a ring. He was one of Arthur Clarke's contacts that she coaxed out of him post-Jennifergate. She introduces herself as a friend of Mr. Clarke, and explains that she's not sure how to go about this but she's looking for records on a girl she'd met briefly while doing a semester at CSU. Her name was Fiona Armstrong and last we heard she was dying of cervical cancer some time back. While she didn't know Fiona terribly well, Cassandra claims that her current boyfriend was Fiona's housemate for a span, and that he recently uncovered some things in storage that he thinks should probably be returned to the family. They don't have much of a clue as to her parents though and wondered if somebody in public docs could help out. She just needs names, addresses, contact info... that sort of thing.
Mr. Anderson understands, and says he'll see if he can dig anything up for you - although he's not making any promises. Last time he promised something, shit didn't quite fall through, and he had serious anxiety issues for a week, and you shouldn't expect people to promise things anyway. Seriously, some people have such nerve. Not that you'd ever do anything like that... yeeaahhhhh, he's gotta go, but he'll be in touch.
He stays true to his word on that, as you get updates with some degree of frequency. Usually just little things the first week or so: do you know her middle name? Major? Any clubs she might have been in? What were the years again? You SURE you're spelling her name right? This bitch is a goddamn phantom!
Some time around last Thursday evening, you get a call. You see, Miss Armstrong didn't go to CSU, she went to CIA, not the government agency, those rats... probably listening now... no, the Cleveland Institute of Art, and didn't your boyfriend know that kind of thing? What sort of irresponsible layabout is he, anyway? People these days, just, just no consideration... no, not you, Miss Goodchild, this is all considerate behavior on your part, 'course he's happy to help.
You see, finding Miss Armstrong's parents should have been easy, normally. As you are no doubt aware, students under the age of 25 need to submit their parent's financial information in order to get Federal financial aid, of which Armstrong was a recipient. See, she was emancipated - you know, in courts and everything. Smart move, as it turns out, as she could get grants based on her piddly nothing income. Problem is, parents' information is sealed - just is in these cases. Best he could get was the agency what did the deed, DiLebaro Law Offices in Boston. He gets you a slew of contact information for them, and wishes you luck. This was a pain in his ass, let him tell you, and it had better be worth it, goddamn.
Sorry to swear so much, you seem a sweet girl, and he's just an old curmudgeon that you shouldn't pay no mind to. Go do your good deed and all.
Tommy's been slow in getting back to you, turns out that the Hallmark belonged to some Ventrue Muk Muk who took a rather personal interest in him for a while, so he went to ground for a couple weeks, sometimes you gotta do that. Muk Muk's off on some new tangent now, so he pokes his head out of his hidey-hole, and what does he behold but correspondence from the most word-tastical volcabulizer Miss L.C Goodchild? Oh, be still his heart, and all that Jazz, Fusion, and R&B. Anyway, he plans to make up for his absence by helping you out with this thing you're working on now. He knows some people out in Boston, good people. One of them's gotta have pull with the Lawyers, or so he hopes, so it shouldn't be too hard to get some dirt for you.
His favorite color is Cyan. He says that you should tell Professor P. (You roll with him too, right? I may have done my own bit of digging) that Cyan is also his favorite Final Fantasy Character.
You get a follow-up rather quickly. Seems Tommy's Bostonian Freepcateers know just the kind of strings one might wish to pull in such a circumstance, and given your rather prolific output, plus the vague assumption that this knowledge can somehow fuck a Cammie Prince in an uncomfortable place - like a stairwell or something - you get... well, what you get is better than nothing.
Mr. Thor Armstrong has apparently placed a rather high premium on not being so easily trackable - although you do discover that the same good lawyers that handled Young Madam Fiona's dis-inheritance, are the self-same that handled Mr. Armstrong's divorcing of his wife in late 2006.
Regarding the disinheriting, you see that there's quite a history of therapy on the young Miss Fiona's behalf. Those files are of course, sealed - but the therapist in general was often used in high-profile sexual abuse cases. Apparently before disinheriting her, Mr. Armstrong spared no expense.
The therapist in question is no longer employed, and in fact, closed up her practice shortly following the incident. You can't find anything on her, it's like she simply ceased to have existed.
That's about all you get for pops. Moms, the former Mrs.Thor Armstrong, now Ms. Sally Simza, lives by herself in Buffalo. You have an address.
Feeling adventurous, you head there in the evening around the middle of the week, after a dream in which the Rear Admiral showed up at your wedding to Seth as a gentleman with an enormous walrus moustache, a monocle, and larger versions of the Glitter-Encrust wings you committed so squarely to memory. Dream you is dressed in a beautiful white dress with no straps, and as Viscount dances you about the ballroom with the grace that only a man who is also a butterfly could manage, and then, only in a dream - anyway, he implores you to visit Ms. Simza, who for all you know, is in a terrible way, divorce and whatnot. Messy business, speaking of divorce at a wedding. You smile, and close your eyes for a brief moment.
When you open them, the pleasing scene has shifted to an open vista, with a red sky - like sunset, only there's no sun, just seven red moons. You're in a lake, and as you're pulling your way through the water - it has the consistency of pudding, you see - you realize that your dress is ruined, by all the red.
This lake is blood. Human blood, by the smell. None too fresh, either.
Your natural sensibilities are terribly upset, while your vampiric nature is somewhat excited at the prospect, if none too attracted to the aged hemoglobin you're wading through. You blink again, and you're lying naked on a stone tablet. It's midnight. Columna is standing over you, sadly shaking her head. She gives you her jacket, and the two of you start walking towards home.
You wake up. There's a butterfly outside your room. You decide to visit Ms. Simza.
Pulling Machine Gun Joe up to a side street - this is a posh neighborhood... for Buffalo, anyway - you make your way to the suburban home of Sally Simza. It's nice from the outside - this isn't a cheap place, but judging from the way Tommy's friends were talking, nowhere near what Poppa Armstrong's Palatially Pimped Pad. You ring the doorbell.
Sally Simza, you presume, is a petite woman in her early 50s, who opens the door with all the ferocity of a woman made of glass.
"Ms. Simza," you say, realizing suddenly that you haven't brought anything that could pass as Fiona's stuff, "I'm L.C. Goodchild. I knew your daughter."
At this, her face turns whiter than anybody you hang out with at nighttime, and she motions for you to come inside. "Please, dear," she gestures to an antique-looking chair, near an antique-looking sofa, in her living room full of antique-looking things. She's not an antique-looking thing, indeed, she has the pinched face of a woman with plenty of new, synthetic parts in her face. She strikes you as utterly terrified - not just of you, or the fact that you've brought up her daughter - terrified of everything.
She returns with two cups of tea - she sets one before you, her motions fluid with the crispness of well-practiced ritual - but her hands are shaking quite noticeably.
"You..." she seems to look for the word around the room. "You were... friends, with Fiona?" she asks. Her voice is quivering, and her pupils are dilated. You try to reassure her - the poor thing looks like she's about to have a heart attack, and for all you know she is, and MAN WOULDN'T THAT BE BAD ON SO MANY LEVELS... aaaaaannd she's breathing again. That's good.
You realize she's been talking for a while, stammering, rather. You gather that she's been asking how you knew Fiona, assuming you must have met her at art school, she was going to art school... "OH GOD! You must think me a monster!" She begins sobbing hysterically, you think she's trying to talk, but the words don't quite come out.
You move to sit next to her, place your hand on her shoulder, and reassure her that no, you don't think she's a monster, it's all right, don't cry... and you hand her a tissue from a conveniently-placed box on the table. A quick look about the house leads you to assume that she may do a lot of this right now - either that, or the woman's got fierce allergies.
Right. The woman. Sobbing uncontrollably into your shirt.
You attempt to dull her PASSION, with more soothing words, some of her tea, and the dark gifts of your unholy blood. You're fairly certain the tea helped too, though. You explain that Fiona didn't talk much about you two, just that she'd been disowned, and you normally wouldn't even have bothered her, it's just that, well, you're getting married, and Fiona would have been one of your bridesmaids, and... and you're just reaching out. You miss her.
It occurs to you that she might not even know that Fiona is no longer among the living, nor even among the mobile unliving, although you're pretty sure the latter wouldn't have occurred to her. She is, as it turns out, aware of her daughter's fate. Still choking on tears, even through your PASSIONate argument that she calm down, she begins to form coherent sentences.
"You... I mean, oh my sweet little... oh, Fiona. God, I just - *sniff* - ah. I'm sorry... you came all this way." She dries her eyes a bit, where the makeup had begun to run. "Fiona's father... is not a good person." She smiles, bitterly. "Neither is my husband."
Over the next hour or so, you manage to get a few more paragraphs out of her. The picture she paints is not pretty, and at times, it's a bit much to handle on your own. You focus through it, as you feel that Columna doesn't have to protect you from this - you're not the one in pain, after all.
As near as you can place it, Thor Armstrong's brother is/was a Republican Senator in Colorado, and raped Sally at a party when she was dating Thor. Not wanting a scandal, the brothers decided it was best that Thor marry her, rather than risk word getting out that someone involved with his family had an abortion.
Sally doesn't seem to remember having a say in the matter.
Also, she never out and says it, but you get the impression that Fiona's uncle was responsible for her going to therapy - given her therapist's specialty, you can reasonably assume the sorts of things that might have been.
Anyway, Fiona confronted her father, and uncle - having correctly guessed which was which - at Thanksgiving dinner one year. You get the impression that there was violence, as Sally seems to throw up in her mouth a little bit, and excuses herself. She returns in less than a minute, smelling of Altoids.
So Fiona was discarded - ostensibly for being a lesbian. Not that Fiona didn't have a girlfriend or two in her day, but that had never seemed to bother anyone before, and oh god I'm so ASHAMED.... *sniff.*
The worst of it, she says, the worst of it came in 2006, six years after Fiona "left for school." She confronted Thor, told him that she knew everything, and that, well, she wanted to see her daughter again, this wasn't right. Thor laughed, said she was "bloody well free to do whatever she liked," and he was leaving her. Probably for his secretary or somesuch, Sally doesn't seem too clear. Anyway, Thor, he was going through the mail, and he starts laughing, tosses her an envelope. Says he'd been getting these for a while, but after he found out who they were from, he just burns them.
Sally opens a drawer in the central table she'd set the tea on. From it, she produces a well-worn envelope, with a well worn letter inside. It's addressed to Mr. & Mrs. Armstrong.
The return address reads E.C. Wright - a Cleveland address. It's postmarked February 20th, 2006. The letter is handwritten, and smells of salt.
"Dear Mr. & Mrs. Armstrong,
With all due respect, you two can rot right in hell.
Not once. Not once have you written, called, or otherwise acknowledged any of these letters. Just in case you missed the news bulletins, my messages at your office, Thor, and the last letter, Fiona went missing on December 11th of last year. I've been working with the police, the FBI, and people I never dreamed I'd so much as look in the eye in trying to find your daughter.
Sometime around January, they realized they weren't looking for a kidnap victim, so much as a body.
See, there's a serial killer on the loose here - this inhuman THING, he makes the old torso killer look humanitarian. I can't prove anything. None of this will hold in court. But I know he did it, god damn it all! I know.
So yeah, just writing to say, this is the last letter you'll get from me. I don't even care what really happened with you anymore - for all I know, you disowned her because you woke up on the wrong side of your goddamn bed one morning. I don't care.
The loss is yours, you know. This world is ugly, it's sick, dark. Sometimes I wondered if Fiona was even from it. Our friends used to joke, you know, they said that I saved her life, since the cancer went into remission and all.
It's not true. Fiona saved my life.
I was in a bad way when we met. Disbarred, and in a job that was going to squeeze the last bit of humanity out of me. Fiona showed me what hope looked like. Her relentless faith that people were good inside - that changed me. She saved my life. God help me Thor, I could have become you, or something worse.
Don't worry about your name showing up in the news - I kept it out at her request, and I'll continue to honor that. Not for you.
I hope, if either of you can be bothered to read this letter, that you realize what you've lost. I hope you wake up. Fiona wouldn't have wanted you to be sad - she'd want you to pick up your life, to learn how to be people again. She'd have wanted you to smile when you thought of her. She never stopped loving you.
Me, I could care less. If you do have a change of heart for some reason, don't write back. You don't want to hear what I have to say.
Sincerely, the closest thing you'll ever have to a Son-In-Law,
Eugene Christian Wright."
You continue holding the letter for a moment, and trance out a bit, TOUCHing it with your SPIRIT. Your mind is flooded with a wash of emotions, the now-familiar tears of Sally, and a frustrated feeling of impotence and loss. Male. You assume it's Brody, but Mrs. Simza has clearly spent a lot of time with this letter, and it really shows. Anyway, you don't want to spend too much time holding the letter - so you fold it up, and hand it back to Sally, whose eyes seem about dried out. She looks at you, and almost apologetically offers up:
"It's all I really have of her."
You take her hand, and reassure her that Fiona wouldn't have wanted her to be sad, and that Mr. Wright was probably just angry, and how could you have known, and Thor doesn't sound like he understands anything.
You tell her that you know Fiona's going to be at your wedding in spirit, and that you're going to save a place for her among the bridesmaids. It's important that she's not forgotten, you tell her. She nods through the sniffs, and suddenly lashes forward and hugs you.
"How I envy you..." she says, her voice a whisper. "I'd have done it all so differently..." As she releases you, you smile at her with all the bountiful warmth in your soul. It's clear this woman is just about spent.
Excusing yourself, and apologizing profusely for digging up such painful memories, you take your leave, reassuring her one last time that no, you don't blame her, and you're sure Fiona didn't either.
Sally seems just about exhausted, and as she lets you out, you don't imagine she'll make it much farther than the couch before collapsing into a tiny, weepy ball, and falling asleep.
A peppered moth is perched on Machine Gun Joe's antenna - one of the black ones. Confused for a moment - aren't they native to England? - you smile at it, and it flaps its sooty black wings, and flutters down, around your head once, and heads off towards the horizon. You watch its erratic patterns as it gradually fades from view, climb into your trusty van, and drive home in silence.
That morning, you don't dream.