In retrospect, he supposed the night it had all started had been fairly average.
Then again, the term "average" when applied to their group really didn't fit the usual definition. In fact, between a vampire, a paranormal investigator, and himself, the zombie supposed a bystander would have been right to label them all as freaks. 'Of course', He found himself musing as glowing orange eyes flicked ahead to the paranormal investigator. 'I suppose Hanna doesn't put much stock in the opinions of random bystanders'.
The thought nearly made him smile as the undead man continued to follow Hanna's haphazard walk through a familiar, run down part of the city. Orange shoes struck a steady rhythm as he walked, the man's hands in his pockets. His gaze absently flitted about to catch glimpses of aged, run down businesses and trash that had probably been rotting for weeks before it went to Hanna and their other companion again. He supposed by this point they were all well acquainted with this trek, but he made a point of looking ahead anyway.
Someone had to watch where Hanna was going, after all.
Hanna himself seemed more interested in other things. Mostly, he filled the walk with sparse bursts of conversation that faded away into a observant silence every so often, during which he would look up at the sky as he walked, not even watching the way. Not like he really needed to, of course he'd walked this same path thousands of times, and he knew he was probably going to walk it a thousand more.
The vampire beside him, however, would have rather not been walking that path in the first place. Sure, Conrad was hungry, but that meant a visit to a certain jackass of a Doctor that wasn't actually a doctor at all, so that just made him a general jackass. The other thing on Conrad's mind, as they turned a dark corner into a darker alley, was that he was traveling with Hanna, and Hanna had been going on about case details and some kind of paranormal something. Conrad was damn sure that once again he was going to get sucked into something he would rather stay out of.
As the group continued on their trek, the undead man caught Hanna's ramblings regarding case details. These words gave him a moment's pause, his brow furrowing as he considered their current situation. They had received notice a few days back regarding something that had apparently been eliminating various paranormal entities around the area. Seeing how "investigator" was in Hanna's job description, looking into the matter seemed to be right up his alley. Thus, they had a job to do, and for a job they needed information. Fortunately, Hanna had connections... though sometimes he wasn't entirely sure those connections were good things. This explained why they were going... but the zombie had to admit he was somewhat confused by Conrad's presence.
"Hanna," He spoke up for the first time in several minutes. "This thing that you were supposed to be asking Lamont about... it supposedly hunts paranormal creatures, right? If that's the case, is it really entirely wise to be taking Conrad along?" It wasn't that he had a problem with Conrad going, as he rather liked the vampire. It was just that Hanna had a rather spectacular talent for getting himself and those around him into danger, and Conrad seemed to be particularly unlucky in that area. Therefore, he felt it only seemed right to attempt to speak in the vampire's defense and perhaps make the vampire slightly less miserable.
"I'm not going with you." Conrad spoke up. He was annoyed at the fact that, coincidence or not, he did seem to be tagging along with them, though he was grateful at the attempt to leave him the fuck out of this,. He was also slightly annoyed that he had to go to Worth's with them in the first place. Maybe he could work something out with Lamont and cut out Worth entirely. "I'm just going to get food." Conrad refused to use the word blood, since it still felt weird in his mouth. "It just happens that, once again, I'm getting thrown into this mess anyway."
"Hey," Hanna was grinning, "maybe you just like traveling with us, subconsciously." The seething look of fuck no I do not from Conrad didn't seem to faze the investigator as they turned another corner and made their way deeper into the alleys.
The zombie shook his head as he caught sight of Conrad's death glare. He was starting to wonder if Hanna noticed these things or was just very good at not being bothered by it. Perhaps it was a bit of both, as Hanna seemed to have equal talent when it came to ignoring the suggestion of danger.
He supposed he would just have to keep an eye out as usual... not that such a thing really seemed to help, but he did try.
He kept his mouth shut for the rest of the trip, save for the occasional hum of acknowledgment if Hanna addressed him directly. In all, the whole situation was almost pleasant in its normalcy.
Perhaps it could be seen as a bit strange that such a scene could be considered normal, but again, they weren't exactly normal. The zombie couldn't help but reflect on how equally normal Worth's swearing seemed when they finally entered his rickety excuse for an office.
"God-fucking-damnit Hanna, you're late!" The doctor barked out as the group entered, his butchered Australian accent drifting from one of several backrooms. There was a loud crash, followed by several bangs and another wave of profanity.
"I can't wait all fuckin' day for you to prance in here on your shitty little sparkly red slippers from the Wizard of Oz or what-the-fuck-ever, I have a Goddamn schedule to keep!"
Hanna's friend couldn't help but quirk an eyebrow at the term 'schedule', but he opted not to point out that said schedule probably involved more trips to the local Seven-Eleven for alcohol than anything else. Some things were just best kept to oneself, particularly when Worth seemed to be in a less-than-fantastic mood.
Hanna didn't seem at all fazed at the various forms of profanity spewing from the doctor's mouth. Instead, he was more interested in searching the office for the man they actually came looking for. Lamont Toucey. "Yeah, sorry about that, we got distracted - Did Lamont leave?" Hanna didn't actually go into the back room so much as hover outside the door.
Yes, they had come for Lamont, assuming that where Worth was, the other couldn't be too far off. So Hanna waited for an answer, rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet, before going to wander around and check the less obvious places, like under the desk and underneath the plant.
Conrad hovered by the threshold, not exactly wanting to go into the hell-hole of a office, but not being able to resist the hunger growing inside him. He also hoped - feebly, he figured, as the place seemed empty - that Lamont was there, so maybe this might be his last trip to the dingy office with the cancer laden Doc Worth.
"Yeah, bastard fuckin' left, said somethin' about other clients or something," Worth grumbled as he finally sauntered his way to the front of his office, hands shoved in his pockets. "He wrote shit down on the desk there though, so you can take that and--" He paused as his eyes fell upon Conrad in the doorway.
He blinked for a moment, then his mouth spread into a wide, terrible smile, rather like a shark that had just caught sight of a very terrified, neurotic fish. "Well, what d'we have here. Did somebody miss me an' come ta visit?" He snickered as he flopped into his usual chair, the poor abused thing squeaking heavily with the motion.
Conrad scowled, his mind only running a long list of profanities through his brain. "Like I'd fucking miss you." His grumble probably had a few more profanities whispered in between the words, but they went unnoticed. "If I could avoid coming here, I would."
Hanna, meanwhile, had grabbed the paper with Lamont's handwriting on it and was reading it over, grinning like an idiot. Conrad noticed said grin and wasn't exactly sure which grin he should be more concerned by - Worth's or Hanna's. Neither bode well for him, though.
Worth let out a snort as he pulled a crumpled packet of cigarettes out of his coat pocket. "Right, 'course ya would. Unfortunately for you, I dun see you growing a pair anytime soon, so you'll be dealin' with my lovely presence for awhile. It's alright, it'll give ya an excuse to see me, that way you won't have to find some other schoolgirl way to hide your creepy fag affections," He shrugged as he finally extracted an abused cigarette from the packet, then popped it between his lips as his eyes darted over to Hanna. "'S that o' any use to ya? I can't fuckin' make heads or tails of it."
Hanna's zombie friend frowned as he peered over Hanna's shoulder, catching sight of a few words in Lamont's small, somewhat untidy scrawl. He wasn't quite sure what to make of it either, but he supposed if Hanna was smiling it was a good thing.
Hanna nodded excitedly, reading over the end of the paper before handing it to his zombie friend. Everyone was sufficiently distracted, so Conrad's resisted attempt to simply throttle Worth right then and there went unnoticed. "A lot of vampires have been just vanishing lately," Hanna explained to Worth, "though it's apparently not limited to just them." Hanna looked pleased.
Maybe it was the idea that Hanna could do some Sherlock style super sleuthing. Maybe it was the fact that the general area was the city, in between where he, Conrad and Worth lived, with the occasional country kidnapping. Or maybe it was the fact that Hanna just couldn't see this case going horribly wrong. Find the kidnapper, find out why they kidnapped, and ask them to stop.
What could possibly go wrong?
His partner's brow furrowed even as Hanna grinned. While the redhead seemed to consider nothing but the positives, all the zombie could do was wonder just what could manage to make so many vampires simply vanish without a trace. Whatever it was, it could not be good... and Hanna would most likely find it to be impossibly interesting, as was his custom. Suffice to say, it had the potential to be bad news.
Worth huffed as he pulled out a lighter and brought it to his mouth, finally lighting his cigarette. "That so? Sounds like a nasty time for the worst vampire in history to be out on the town. Not tha' I particularly care or anything, but maybe ya should start orderin' in, pup," He snickered as he took a long drag of the cigarette, then blew the smoke out in a long stream.
"Then again, you probably don't count as a real vampire, so maybe your pansy ass is safe after all."
"There'd be just as much a chance of you making a house-call." Conrad snapped, not sure whether to reply with yes, he was a real vampire, even though that meant he was in danger, or no, he wasn't in danger, which meant he wasn't a real vampire. Luckily, Hanna decided for him.
"Yeah, I guess for now you're gonna have to bring him his food instead of the other way around." Hanna chuckled. "We can walk Conrad home tonight."
Worth's eyes widened at this and he nearly spat out his cigarette. "Whoa, whoa, hold on for one bloody second!" He sputtered. "I was jus' jokin', I'm no one's Goddamn delivery boy!"
The zombie quirked a brow at the doctor's sudden outburst, "Well, what do you suggest, then? As you pointed out, it's dangerous."
"Feh, only for some pansy girl like him," Worth rolled his eyes as he spun around in his chair. "Look, if it's that much of a fuckin' crisis one of you assholes can bring him his kibbles n' bits, I dun care. It's not my fuckin' problem." He finished one rotation and paused to see the zombie staring at him, then let out a growl and folded his arms. "Stop looking at me like that. If one of you can't make it I'll send Lamont, okay? Get off my Goddamn case, this ain't in my job description."
"You almost sound like you care!" Hanna half cried, half chuckled, patting Worth on the shoulder. He turned to Conrad, who wasn't sure whether to be mortified that he had to be cared for, or elated that his visits would be halted for the time being. "Let's grab you enough blood for a week or so before we go. Maybe we can wrap this up before it becomes a problem."
Worth scowled as he cringed away from Hanna's touch, making a half-hearted swipe at the boy's arm before kicking his chair away and standing up. "Don't fuckin' kid yourself, it's not like I give a damn. Trust me, it's more like the less I see of your ugly faces, the better," He grumbled as he stalked over to one of the many cabinets and tugged it open. He continued to grumble under his breath as he dug through the contents of the cabinet, tossing the occasional object aside in his search for wherever he kept the blood.
Hanna's zombie friend listened absently to Worth's cursing, then shook his head. The doctor sounded irritated, but Hanna had made a good point. It was interesting to note that in spite of all his complaining and insisting that he didn't care, it wasn't exactly normal for him to show interest or put forth any real effort into much of anything. Worth was generally more apathetic and amused than truly angry, which made the zombie think that it was possible that the irritation was just an act when it came to the things he did actually care about. Or maybe the irritation was genuine and Worth really was a jerk underneath, he really had no idea. It was an interesting thing to consider, though.
"Awright, there ya go," The blond snapped as he quite suddenly tossed several crimson-filled bags over his shoulder. The fact that they seemed to be aimed for Conrad's face was most likely not an accident. "Ya have your fuckin' nibbles and your dumbass information, now get the fuck out! I have work to do, and I'd better not see you dragging any of your skinny asses back here whining about how the vampire killer got you or what-the-fuck-ever." He slammed the cabinet closed and turned to glare at all of them, but his eyes did linger on Hanna's for a moment.
"'M serious. I heard Lamont talking about this thing, whatever it is it's got all the little sparkly fairies diving for their holes. Don't do anything too stupid, ya got me? I've had it up to here with cleaning up your mess," He growled out, pointing one long, grimy finger in the redhead's direction. His words were harsh and laced with profanity as always, but there was a very clear threat beneath it all that made Worth's thoughts quite clear: He pretty much expected to see them all again, but he'd be damned if he wasn't going to curse up a storm in an attempt to keep Hanna from doing anything too stupid and potentially getting himself or the other two killed.
There was a passing second where it seemed that Hanna really took the words to heart, and he really did, especially considering it wasn't just him in danger this time around, it was just about everyone he knew. When it came to his own life, Hanna didn't exactly think ahead, but when it came to other's lives, it was a different story. "Don't worry, Worth." Hanna's face broke into a grin the honest kind, the kind that really thought there was no reason to worry and then it shifted, becoming bright and cheery and optimistic. "We've handled worse before." And then he was heading towards the door, hand raised in a cheery wave.
Conrad was waiting for them outside, tooth buried in a bag, too engrossed in his dinner to care that his white vest was probably getting disgusting with the grime on the alley walls.
"I'm not fucking worrying, I just 'dun want to deal with your whining, that's all!" Worth called after Hanna as he headed for a door, then gave a huff and reached up to grab his cigarette. He flicked some ash to the floor as his dark eyes met glowing orange. The two simply locked gazes for a moment, a silent message passing between them, a reminder of a promise that had already been made. Then Worth jerked his head toward the door and turned to head into the back room again, grumbling all the while.
The zombie gave a light nod as he turned to follow Hanna, ducking his head so he wouldn't run into the doorway on the way out. As soon as he stepped outside into the crisp night air he glanced over to Hanna, shoving his hands in his pockets. "What's the plan, then?"
"Well, let's get Conrad home first." Hanna nodded slightly to the vampire, who had managed to finish his bag in relative peace. "Then we can regroup there. You think we need to let everyone know what's going on?" Hanna was talking and walking again, this time on the way out, yammering along at a speed Conrad didn't attempt to follow. The vampire was, instead, trying to get his blood in order so he could carry it home without arousing too much suspicion. He was already rather suspicious looking anyway.
He looked back where they came to make sure he hadn't dropped anything, and his eyes lit upon something red. He tentatively stepped closer, finding it to be a ratty old crow doll with red eyes. He picked it up by a tattered leg and made something of a face at it. "What the hell
"Whoa, Conrad, what's that?" Hanna's curiosity was suddenly piqued and all other conversation was forgotten as he turned back to inspect the interesting specimen of a crow Conrad now held in his hands.
Hanna's zombie friend frowned as he peered over Hanna's shoulder at the plush toy, brow furrowing as he glanced down at the ratty thing. "I think someone is missing their doll," He commented as he glanced around the area, eyes falling upon an overflowing trash can and a few rotting magazines. "Or else they threw it away, at any rate." The second option seemed more likely, as the doll was quite abused and it seemed odd to imagine a child running through the area and dropping it.
Conrad was about to comment that no matter the case the thing really needed to be tossed - again, possibly - but stopped. There was scuffling from around the corner, a loud bang and then a muffled half-curse of some type.
Hanna took a step towards the corner, marker already in his hand, though Conrad swore he hadn't seen Hanna's hands move.
And then a figure stumbled into view. A figure that was scanning the ground and apparently looking for something, but wasn't looking where he was going, for he ran right into the zombie. With a yelp, he hopped back and landed square on his ass.
The zombie blinked, his expression one of mild surprise as he stared down at the man who had run into him. He really wasn't sure why people kept doing that, was he really that much of a brick wall? "Oh, I'm sorry," He said, as if he were the one at fault for standing where he had been. "Are you alright?" The undead man reached out a gloved hand to the man in question, hoping his expression was one of concern as opposed to the apathy that normally colored his features.
The man stood, brushing off his backside with a laugh. "Ja, ja, I'm fine. I should look where I'm going, shouldn't I? Ack, ja, now, I was looking for something..."
With those words, Hanna put the marker away, for any being that was that polite right off wasn't a threat. After tossing the crow to the zombie, he approached the strange man, who was currently rooting through the trash with a muddy boot, and stood by him, grinning welcomingly.
"What're you looking for, exactly?" The red-head asked. "We can help you look, and we'll all probably get home before sunrise, that way!"
Suffice to say, it didn't take long for even Hanna to note that the stranger had oddly pointed teeth (two of them, much to Conrad's apparent dismay. He half hoped he wasn't the only one lacking in the vampiric hardware.)
The vampire never got the chance to answer, as at that moment a loud voice rang through the air. "Arma! Oh my gosh, you found her!" There was the sound of footsteps picking up speed, and the zombie glanced down the sidewalk to see a young girl jogging toward them, her white sundress flaring out behind her. She skidded to a stop in front of the group, panting, then looked up to the man holding the crow with bright, strangely golden eyes.
"Hello," The zombie said as he glanced down at her, raising a brow. He held up the crow doll, then looked back to the girl. "I suppose it would be safe to assume this is yours, then?" The girl nodded enthusiastically, her shoulder-length black hair fluttering with the motion, a grin on her pale face. Taking this as more than enough of an affirmative, the zombie offered her the doll.
"Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!" The girl gushed as she snatched the crow from the undead man's waiting hands. She squeezed it so tightly it was somewhat impressive the abused thing didn't just pop, "Oh Arma, where have you been? I was soooooo worried!" She gave a spin as she rambled, then came to a stop and glanced over at the man going through the trash. The girl gave a huff as she put her free hand on her hip. "Larden, what on Earth are you doing going through the trash? You're so silly sometimes!"
"I was looking for Arma!" The vampire - Larden - straightened and sighed. "I apologize, Lenore, I am not at my best today."
"So, I guess we did help you find what you were looking for!" Hanna laughed, hands in his pockets. Tonight was just getting better and better! A new case, super-sleuthing, and now a pair of possible new friends.
Conrad, meanwhile, was staring at the "possibly new friends" from behind the zombie, looking rather... well, disgusted. One, he didn't want to think of why in hell's name there was a vampire that was who knows how old and a young child spending time together. No, not even going to get into that.
"That... thing has a name?" Conrad asked, clearly referring to the thing which he still believed they should just trash right then and there.
The girl, apparently named Lenore, turned to scowl at Conrad as she hugged the crow even closer. "Her name is Arma, you big jerkface! Don't talk about her like that, it's just mean!" Her lips pressed into a pout even as she continued to glare up at the graphic designer.
"I'm sure he meant no offense, miss," Hanna's zombie friend put in, trying to smooth things over even as he looked between the girl and what appeared to be her vampire friend. She appeared to be a relatively normal child, no older than ten... so what on Earth was she doing in the company of a vampire?
Lenore let out another huff as she walked over to Larden's side, her small round nose sticking up in the air. "It was still very mean! He should apologize, shouldn't he, Larden?" Golden eyes flicked between the two vampires, her expression still a childish pout.
Larden nodded to Conrad, almost as both a warning and as a command. Conrad, however, did not appreciate ten year olds thinking they could order him around. Worth already thought he lacked a pair, and they were right outside his office, so if he heard this...
"No!" Conrad bit his lip. Hanna didn't think to reach for his marker, but he could feel the tension in the air around them. "It's a doll, it's not like it cares."
Lenore's eyes narrowed dangerously, her small hands clenching into fists. "It is not just a doll!" She snapped, stomping her foot. "And if you don't apologize right now, you'll be sorry!"
Hanna's zombie friend tried to get between Conrad and the angry girl, holding his hands up in a way that he hoped was non-threatening. The last thing they needed was a fight between Conrad and a small child... or perhaps a fight between him and the girl's strange friend was more likely. The vampire didn't seem likely to win against either of them, to be perfectly honest. "Ma'am, I apologize. I assure you he means no harm, it's simply been a difficult night."
The dark-haired girl continued to scowl, though her expression softened slightly as she cast her curious gaze upon the taller man. "That's nice of you, mister, but I'd like an apology from him, not you." She pointed a small finger at Conrad. "What's your name, meanie?"
Conrad didn't think it was a good idea to be giving out his name to irate little girls with vampiric body guards. He also wasn't going to apologize. Bad night his ass. Every night since he became a vampire was a bad night.
Sadly, Hanna had a little less tact or common sense. "Conrad, I really think you need to apologize." He said, just soft enough for him to think he was whispering, but just loud enough that everyone could hear him anyway.
This included the dark haired vampire that was staring at them like he could memorize their faces, or catch them on fire with his stare.
Lenore's scowl faded as she caught Hanna's words. "Conrad, is it?" She asked as she cocked her head to the side. It seemed as if she were thinking for a moment, then she smiled, though it wasn't an entirely nice smile. "Interesting. And what's your name, kid? You seem a lot smarter than the jerkface here," She commented as she looked to Hanna.
"M'not a kid." Hanna mumbled. "I'm Hanna Cross." The sour look vanished quickly. He didn't quite read the smile for all that it was, though his hand rested on his back pocket where his marker was, because Larden was watching them all with the same, stoic, narrow eyed look he had been for a while, and it didn't look pleasing at all.
"Hanna? You can't be serious," The girl stared at him suspiciously for a moment. Upon realizing this was not in fact a joke, she promptly burst into giggles. "Oh my gosh, you are! That's your real name? That's so funny!" She snickered for a few moments, then pointed at the zombie in front of her. "Does he have a weird name too?"
"I don't have one," The zombie replied flatly, though his gaze was focused on the vampire behind the girl. Orange eyes met his gaze in a look that seemed equally threatening, as if daring him to harm the paranormal investigator and younger vampire behind him.
"Really? Woooow, you're just a group of weirdos, huh?" Lenore snickered as she gazed up at them. "Sorry, sorry, I don't mean to be rude. But really, it's only fair after you were so rude to Arma!"
Conrad's urge to throttle once again had to go ignored. Instead, he grabbed Hanna's wrist and started to drag him off in the direction of out.
"Hey, whoa, where're you going so fast?" Hanna asked, trying to follow and not follow at the same time.
"We're leaving." Conrad stated, simply but furiously, dragging Hanna along past the new pair, whom Hanna still hoped would be his friends. Conrad thought he had good reason to be pissed as hell - It was one thing to hurt a doll's feelings. It was another to be insulted and then have it justified because of said rudeness to an inanimate thing.
Larden watched them, hands shoved into his pockets, very stoic. He even met the zombie's protective gaze with a similar gaze of protectiveness. He reached out, very slowly, and put a thin hand on Lenore's shoulder, as if to make that point.
Orange eyes flicked from Larden to the girl, then the zombie gave a nod. He then turned and jogged a bit to catch up with Hanna and Conrad, feeling a sense of relief as they turned a corner and continued to route back to Conrad's apartment. They certainly had more than enough to worry about, and besides, Hanna had enough enemies. He certainly didn't need anymore.
Lenore let out a yelp as she watched them leave. "H-hey! You haven't apologized yet, come back here!" She stood there for a moment, then let out a growl of frustration and stomped her foot again. "Those jerks, I can't believe them!" She huffed as she crossed her arms before her. After a few moments of silence, save for the usual sounds of the city, her angered expression gave way to one of thought.
"Hanna Cross, hm? He seems like a very interesting kid... don't you think so, Larden?" She murmured as she glanced up at her companion.
Larden watched the corner, thinking as well. He had no idea what Lenore was planning, but he had a general feeling in the pit of his stomach.
"Very interesting, indeed."