Portland By Night
Alice Kruckel Born 1961 Died 1989
Born to a lower class family in rural Pennsylvania, Alice managed to attend a prestigious private school on a merit scholarship. There, she learned to be deeply ashamed of her white trash family and vowed to get as far away from where she started as possible. At Princeton, she studied political science and won several undergraduate awards. She did her Master’s work at the University of Cambridge, where she wrote a dissertation that argued in favor of increased military funding across the board to counter the Soviet menace. In 1984 she returned to the United States to become a lobbyist for Rutger Chemistry in their effort to seize the contract for manufacturing napalm from the Dow Chemical Company. Thus began her career as an arms dealer. After several years with Rutger, she left to found her own company with a friend, Strategic Considerations, which specialized in saving imperiled weapons systems from the congressional axe as well as finding foreign buyers for American weapons. She gained a reputation for being able to unflinchingly praise the virtues of any kind of weapon, from landmines to neutron bombs, and for exacting revenge on any congressman foolish enough to take her money and then vote against her. Around the Hill she was known as Malice.
She met her first vampire when she was hired to represent Runterson Arms, a small-arms manufacturing company that wanted to manufacture the Army’s new sidearm in 1988. Runterson was a Ventrue-owned front company and she was being evaluated as a candidate for embrace. She lost the pistol contract, but her tenacity and the creativity with which she undermined her enemies impressed her sire-to-be and she was embraced at a small party that was ostensibly thrown to celebrate the small ammunition contract she’d managed to salvage from the defeat.
Her sire was Louis Giroux, an 8th generation Ventrue, and a real mover and shaker in Camarilla circles. Alice is Blood Bound to him and views him as the strong, intimidating, and respectable father she never had. She was taught that she had an unusually low generation for someone embraced so recently, and though she lacked in experience, she was just plain better than her “younger” siblings, and should strive to make up the difference in ability as soon as possible. Alicewas being groomed to be a political knifefighter, with the implication that after a century or so of advancing the aims of the Ventrue, she would be supported in claiming a city of her own.
What Alice didn’t realize was that the arrogance being trained into her was carefully calculated to make her formidable and aggressive, yet easily manipulated by those who she craved approval from. She’d never really gotten over being the token poor kid at an exclusive boarding school and her entire life story, to the trained eye of a Ventrue elder, was a monument to her fears of inadequacy.
In years following her embrace she gradually backed out of Washington politics before anyone could notice she wasn’t getting older. Her missions for Louis took her all over the world for several years before settling in London for the latter part of 90s.
She was fortunate to retain a healthy-looking blush after the embrace and her voice has a smooth, melodious quality to it, but the change did not leave her unmarked. The way she moves and holds her head, her habit of blinking too infrequently, and other subliminal cues can eventually put mortals on edge. Nobody can put their finger on it, but the longer they know her, the more certain mortals become that something is wrong with Alice. During a brief business meeting, the effect makes her striking and memorable. However, if a mortal were to say, take an extended business trip with her, by the end of the week he would be double-checking the locks on his hotel door before he slept and making sure he sat with his back to a wall in her presence. And that’s if he didn’t notice that she is only awake at night and never eats.
Her dark secret is that she betrayed one of her brood-mates to the Sabbat. She was jealous of the affection that Louis gave Gerold, so she told the Sabbat where Gerold kept his haven. They broke in and sucked him dry. She managed to have a rock solid alibi and personally led a hit squad of ghouls to avenge Gerold’s death. She killed all the other parties to the plot that she knows of. It is, of course, entirely possible that one of her cat’s paws told somebody a story before she got to him.
Her nightmares revolve around Gerold’s murder. She’s afraid of being exposed, not as a backstabbing traitor, but as an incompetent backstabbing traitor and thus a shameful failure. Her feelings of guilt are so deeply repressed—after all, Gerold was such an asshole—that the only way she can express them is to worry that it will be found out she has anything to be guilty about at all. She can’t fully convince herself she got away with it and that Louis, with his centuries of experience in these matters, didn’t see what happened, so in quiet moments she is likely to catch herself wondering when the next shoe drops.
Her political fortunes have recently taken a turn for the worse. During the last conclave in London Alice was found in an area of Elysium that wasn’t strictly forbidden to her, but at the time she was rifling through the mail and diaries of a primogen from another city. The other primogen (let’s call him Robert) made a big show of demanding that he be allowed to kill her, and Louis made a big show of defending her, arguing she’d been framed. There were also the expected back-room deals and reparations, and Alice escaped with her life on the condition that she be stripped of most of her status and sent back to the colonies. Alice remains almost pathetically, boot-lickingly grateful to Louis for the boons he burnt off and the money he spent to keep her alive.
It’s all a lie. Many of the most successful cons have a man on both sides of a phony conflict, which encourages the mark to make a lot of faulty assumptions and thus be vulnerable. That is essentially what happened here. Louis sent Alice on a mission that she was meant to fail so that Robert could pretend to be offended and establish a public history of enmity between them, and then use that history to fool other elders.
Louis’ public reason for protecting Alice is that he could not allow another elder to destroy one of his progeny on “falsified charges” or he’d risk losing face with his own subordinates (“Uh, so…if I get caught doing this, are you going to cut me loose like you did Alice?”). His private reason is that he views Alice as something of a speculative long-term investment: the short-term destruction of her reputation was part of a plan to mold her into a more formidable operative, one who was resilient enough rebuild her standing after being stripped of her advantages and abandoned. If she fails, then he will choose another and start again. He has about the same amount of emotional investment in her that you or I have in a mid-term paper—if the draft gets deleted before you can print it out, that’s annoying and might even ruin your weekend, but at least you still have your notes and understand the material, so you just have to rewrite it. Louis is old enough that a “weekend” to him is like a month to us, but once that month of being grumpy and irritable is up, he won’t even try to remember her name. It is even possible that he engineered the conflict between Alice and Gerold to see which one was vicious enough to strike first.
Alice is completely oblivious to all of this, and would become offended to the point of violence if somebody implied that it were so. She truly believes he loves her as a daughter, much the same way she considers him her father. Louis, for his part, is mystified by her father-daughter fixation, but if his pawn wants to delude herself deeper into his control, he is willing to humor her.
Alice thus finds herself in Portland, stripped of most of her contacts and influence. I’m not exactly clear on how the status background works so I’ll just say that she probably retains just enough status to sway stimulus bill contracts one way or the other, and this is enough to get her taken seriously by the city council. Because she is new to the area, she must maneuver carefully or risk being out-flanked by locals who know the political terrain better than she does. Louis has made it clear that he is displeased with her for allowing herself to fall into such a position, and that her time-out in the hinterlands will be as long or short as it needs to be to teach her some caution.
Her most important remaining contact is a Nosfuratu information broker named David Kroger who she befriended in the late 1990s. He lives in Washington DC (which I’m presuming is a city that the Camarilla stubbornly hold onto, despite the surrounding Sabbat dominance) and specializes in tracking Kindred-human relationships. After her fall from grace, he made it known to her that not all of her friends had abandoned her. Someday he’s likely to call in one hell of a favor.
She has cut a deal with the Toradors to let her take a small condo in the Pearl in exchange for supporting a nearby art gallery (either through buying the occasional piece or by swinging dollars from the city council their way).