Stuart Taylor


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Clan: Gangrel

Sire: Rebecca Harper

Embrace: 1998

Apparent Age: 23

Covenant: Carthians

Virtue: Charity. He's spent his life since his early teens helping those who would otherwise be beyond any help, simply because he felt sorry for them and wanted to stop them from suffering. He instinctively offers a helping hand to anyone who seems to need it.

Vice: Lust. With his looks and his other physical advantages he's never lacked for female companionship, but precisely because he's always found it so easy to get laid, he's never really seen his relationships as more than passing dalliances, without any serious commitment or emotional investment.

Attributes

Physical: Strength 2, Dexterity 3, Stamina 2

Social: Presence 3, Manipulation 2, Composure 2

Mental: Intelligence 3, Wits 3, Resolve 2

Skills

Mental: Crafts (Telecoms) 3, Investigation 3, Occult 1

Physical: Drive 1, Larceny (Forgery) 3

Social: Empathy 3, Expression (Dance) 3, Socialize 3, Streetwise 2

Merits: Retainers (Alix Rainer) 2, Striking Looks 2, Kindred Medium, Status (Carthian Movement) 1 Resources 1, Haven (Security) 1

Humanity: 7

Willpower: 5

Blood Potency: 1

Disciplines: Protean 2, Majesty 1

Character History

"I see dead people"

God, you cannot believe how much I hate that fucking quote. But I do. See them, that is.

Okay, where do I start? I was an ordinary working-class boy from Nottingham until I hit puberty. That was when I developed this weird, ESP-type thing that lets me see ghosts.

I didn't tell anyone. To tell you the truth, I thought I was going insane and I was afraid I'd be locked away in some institution. I tried to ignore them at first, but, well... I felt sorry for them. Mostly they were just sad, and lonely, and wanted someone to talk to. I managed to do that without looking crazy by holding my mobile up to my ear and pretending to be talking into that.

Some wanted more than conversation, though. Some of them wanted closure, of one sort or another. Tell my widow the number of the Swiss bank account, tell my daughter I'm sorry I gave her such a hard time about her boyfriend, that sort of thing. Trouble is, you can't just walk up to someone and say "I was talking to your dead Dad / Husband / Sister / Brother today, and he said...". The best you can hope for if you try that is a slap in the face. So I had to figure out a solution of some kind. What I came up with was writing a letter from the deceased and either mailing it or planting it in the house.

Well, when I say I came up with it, that's not strictly true. To be honest, it was the ghost of an old forger and con-man who suggested it. And he was the one who trained me to do it, mostly by possessing me and guiding my hands until I got the hang of it myself. That was freaking weird, let me tell you. He was the one who wanted to give his widow the number of the Swiss bank account, incidentally.

So as you can imagine, I had a weird, weird adolescence. I was never a Goth, though. I figured I had enough real occult shit in my life without needing to be a bloody poseur. I did okay at school, nothing exceptional, but my studies didn't really suffer from all the ghostly visitations - partly because the ghosts included some pretty smart and clued-up people who had interesting things to say. I suppose I was soaking up all kinds of knowledge through osmosis. (Including words like "osmosis", now I come to think about it. I picked that one up from a dead English teacher).

When I was sixteen, I met my first murder victim. He'd been a kid not much older than me, a clerk in a local Council office, who'd been working late one night and overheard his boss taking kickbacks from the head of a local building company. The two men hadn't meant to kill him - they just panicked when they realized he was there, and got into a tussle with him when they tried to stop him leaving. He cracked his skull against a desk when he fell. There might have been an outside chance of saving his life if they'd got him to a hospital straight away, but the bastards decided it'd be better to let him die and dispose of the body in a new construction project.

It was the trickiest "favour" I'd ever done for a ghost, but I pulled it off. I waited 'till the corrupt Council official was out of the country, then broke into his house, got the documents out of his safe, and mailed them to the local newspaper. Are you finding it hard to imagine a sixteen year old as an expert safe cracker? Me too. But it helps if you've been given the combination of the safe and the keypad code for the security system by a ghost who's spent months watching the house.

After the scandal broke, I sent the paper the location of the victim's body in a follow-up message. Since my first anonymous tit-off had paid off, they were willing to take a chance and do some digging - literally. Both men got sentences for murder.

Unfortunately that wasn't my last murder. In fact, technically I suppose you could say that my last murder was my own. But I'm getting ahead of myself a bit.

After I left school, I got a pretty good job with B.T. (that's British Telecom, if you're from across the pond), as a trainee engineer. I thought about University, but I said to myself, why waste three years on some useless Media Studies degree when I can start earning straight away - and learn a marketable skill at the same time. I moved down to London and started work.

Becoming a stripper started off as a joke by a couple of my mates. How can I put this? I had a bit of genetic good luck when it comes to my... that is, I've got a very impressive... oh, sod it; let's just say I can go to great lengths to entertain an audience, okay?

So, like I said, it started as a joke about that. But I've never been exactly shy or prudish, and I figured I could use the extra money, so decided to try it a few times. I was half-expecting it to be really sleazy and degrading, but I was pleasantly surprised. Julia, my agent, is an incredibly professional woman, scrupulous, supportive and completely by-the-book. She actually arranged for me to get training from a professional choreographer before I started work, which I sure as hell didn't expect.

Well, the money was good, I enjoyed the experience, and it didn't hurt my chances of getting casual dates, which, if I'm honest, was another of my motives for doing it. I've always had what you might call a healthy "appetite".

All that ended one night at a hen party in a swanky hotel. The women had all had a bit too much champagne and were passing the usual comments in raucous voices. I was just getting into my routine when I noticed that I wasn't alone on the stage. It was tough not letting it put me off my stride, because I was the only one who could see that I wasn't alone on the stage. The girl who was there with me was a ghost.

I did a little pirouette around her, and under cover of the music, hissed that I'd talk to her later, but would she please clear off the stage and stop distracting me? It took her a second or two to realize that I could actually see her and was talking to her, but when she did, she literally started sobbing with joy.

Well, I saw her in the audience a couple of times after that, but she did get off the stage and let me get on with my act. After I'd given the punters the Full Monty, showered and changed, I did my pretending-to-talk-on-my-mobile thing with her.

She said her name was Alix Rainer, and a vampire had murdered her during a visit to a nightclub. When I heard that part, I assumed she was crazy as well as dead. (Sure, go ahead and laugh. I'd been talking to ghosts for years, but vampires were too much for me to handle? Um... well, yes, actually, at least at first).

It was when she finally managed to convince me that my problems really began.

This particular vampire called himself "Mr. Lucian", which is such a poncey, pretentious name that his real one almost had to be something like "Fred Bloggs". But as much of a rampaging dork as his chosen alias made him sound, Lucian was anything but a joke. As well as owning the nightclub and a dozen others besides, he had his fingers in all kinds of rancid pies, from drug dealing to importing sex slaves from Eastern Europe. And he was associating with some seriously nasty characters, real hard cases who'd slit your throat as soon as look at you.

There was no way in hell I was going to risk my neck getting close to that lot, but luckily for me, I didn't have to. For some reason, Alix was able to come to me wherever I was - which was odd, because she was tethered to Lucian, and shouldn't have been able to get far away from him. I've never quite figured out how that was possible. Thanks to Alix, the invisible spy who was privy to all Lucian's dealings, I was building up a complete dossier on everyone Lucian was dealing with and everything he was doing

And believe me, I got a few nightmares out of that.

The final break came when we discovered that Lucian had a mole inside Operation Gypsy, the undercover police operation which was targeting him. Inspector Swanson, the detective in charge of the case, must have thought all her birthdays had come at once when our little care package was delivered to her home address. (I was in BT, remember. I had ways to get hold of unlisted numbers and addresses) Not only details of what Lucian had been doing over the past few months, but everything he was planning to do over the next couple of weeks. And the identity of the treacherous subordinate who'd been keeping him three steps ahead of her.

Armed with our information, she managed to wipe out most of Lucian's underworld assets in less than two nights. Lucian himself fled after I made a few carefully anonymous phone calls to a couple of his criminal associates who'd managed to escape the dragnet, indicating that Lucian had sold them out.

Then came the tricky bit. Alix and I had known where Lucian would go if he were on the run - a small private yacht moored by the Thames, its ownership carefully kept separate from any of his criminal endeavours. I rigged up a fault on the yacht club's phones, turned up in disguise as a phone engineer (my ID was fake, of course, but between my skills in forgery and knowing what a real one looked like, it passed muster with the butler-types who ran the club. They might not have been as willing to take me at face value if they'd known that my engineer's bag held a couple of Molotov cocktails. (Wonderful thing, the internet. Without it, I'd barely have known what a Molotov cocktail was, let alone how to make one).

Lucian had one remaining ghoul on guard on the boat, but he was human and needed to visit the bathroom occasionally. Apart from Lucian, the ghoul was the only one on the boat, so when Alix told me the guy was... occupied... I just sneaked in, went straight to the cabin where Lucian was sleeping the day away, threw in the Molotov cocktails, and ran like hell.

The ghoul had a gun, and he could easily have shot me as I fled, but he was too preoccupied with a futile attempt to rescue his screaming master. Luckily for him, Lucian collapsed into ash pretty fast, so the ghoul was able to haul ass out of there once the Vinculum broke.

I was expecting Alix to just fade out once her killer was gone. That's what all the other ghosts I'd helped had done. Instead - God knows how - she somehow attached herself to me, instead. I'd never seen anything like that before. All the ghosts I'd ever known had been tethered to objects of emotional significance to their past lives

I was an emotional wreck for a couple of days after it happened. Partly because I was scared shitless that I'd be found out and arrested for arson, partly out of the realization - suppressed up until then - that I'd been risking my life doing what I'd been doing, no matter how carefully I'd tried to keep Lucian and his dealings at arms length.

I still hadn't fully recovered when I met my sire a week later.

It was my first performance since Lucian's Final Death, and it reassured me how easily I could lose all my troubles in the primal beat of the music. It was a Ladies Night in a small private club - birthday party for someone, if I recall - and at first, my soon-to-be-sire just seemed to be a part of the audience. I caught sight of her from the stage - I noticed that she was very beautiful, a perfect blonde with a toned, athletic body, just the... inspiration... that I needed for my performance. She blew me a kiss, and it didn't surprise me when one of the club bartenders approached me afterwards and told me she wanted a private show. I don't usually do that, but sometimes I make exceptions, and I figured it'd help me forget what I'd just been through.

And that thought was certainly a hell of a joke. On me.

She didn't mince words. She knew I'd destroyed Lucian, and frankly she was delighted about that, because it had saved her the bother of doing it herself. But I quite simply knew too much to be left alive. Normally, that would mean death, but my success against Lucian had impressed her a hell of a lot, so she was willing to offer me a second choice - undeath.

Quite a choice. Not so much "convert or die", as "convert or not, you still die". But at least if I converted I'd still be walking around. I looked at Alix, and she was stricken with guilt at what she'd gotten me into. Still, her reaction was, "For Christ's sake Stu, take her up on it".

So I did.

It turned out that my sire was one of the power players of London's vamp community. Rebecca Harper was the Sheriff of London, the enforcer of the Kindred's rules, reporting directly to the ruling Council. I joined the Carthians partly because she was one, partly because they were on top of the heap, and partly because they didn't seem as inclined to stick their noses into my business as the other Covenants.

My gift for seeing spirits warped somewhat on my Embrace - well, why would it be different from the rest of me? These days, the only ghosts I see tend to be the victims of Kindred attacks, though none my own, thank God. Still, it gives me an edge over other neonates. Alix is still with me, too. She makes a great second pair of eyes and ears, and she also has this thing where she can read auras and warn me of signs of death or disease. That's handy if you use sex as your primary method of feeding, but want to avoid anyone with a nasty social disease.

I had to quit my B.T. apprenticeship, of course, but I'm still making enough from stripping to get by. The small amount of Majesty I know is enough to boost the normal attractions of my shows and keep me in demand. I don't know how much longer that'll last, though. It's been over a decade since my Embrace, and people are starting to notice how "well-preserved" I am.

I've got a haven of sorts in an old lock-up garage in Camden - it's not exactly the Ritz, but it's secure, big enough to store my stuff, it has a phone connection for my internet, and it's cheap

Trouble is, because the Movement doesn't know about my ability to see ghosts (no, of course I didn't tell them - do I look that stupid?), they think I'm this shit-hot wunderkind investigator, a child prodigy that they can dump their crap on in the confident expectation that I'll shovel it up. And sooner or later, I'm not going to be able to live up to their expectations.

What happens then?