It was a warm, but dreary winter evening. This year the temperature never fell beneath 50 degrees, leaving the large, but generally young population of the town in higher spirits. Though, on the other hand, it was a rare thing to see a bunch of students at their low. Modern youngers, whenever they found themselves sad or depressed, were quick to jump into the vices of sex, drugs, alcohol, partying, or more often - everything of that altogether. That spiced the lives of the kindred in town quite a bit, often resulting in them finding themselves under the influence of the same substance their young prey was. The ones who tried to play safe, of course, were in preference of older generation of college professors, teachers, and librarians, though, due to smaller amount of them, at least half of the kindred population were in a constant state of altered reality. This was probably the reason of the higher number of Toreador members in town.
Fresno was large, to say the least. It could hold up to half a hundred kindred, but at this time held no more than a couple of dozen. The numbers were dwindling due to the cradle of garou-filled mountains around the valley, not allowing anyone to leave or enter most of the time. One considered themselves lucky to sneak past the rocky ridges, but the town didn't seem to suffer all that much in such climate.
A night ago, the coterie was called in by the Sheriff. It was not a common occasion - usually, the Crew operated in a passive mode: managing their own business, keeping fledglings and thin-bloods in line. Life was quiet and good around these parts, and times when the Prince or the Sheriff needed assistance were few. This was a nice change of routine, though to many - peppered with unpredictability. Kindred here had a general fear of the Prince, though without solid reasoning for that. Though asking a kindred of their clan was considered as obscene as asking a woman if she had breast augmentation, by the way the Prince behaved, most considered him one of the lunatics. As the matter of fact, when the Crew passed their fledgling years, and had to be introduced to the city ruler, instead of facing the Prince, they were met by a mortal youngster. He spoke in a calm, polite manner to them, but his brown eyes, whenever they gained some clarity, were filled with absolute terror of a person that lost complete control over their own body. When the introductions were made, and the fledglings welcomed to the numbers of neonates, he shook, and almost fell, and suddenly was thrown into a state of absolute panic and hysteria, screaming, and cursing, and shaking so much, the Sheriff had no choice but break the poor sod's neck. The Prince never appeared in public. When his presence was needed, another possessed youngster came into the picture, only to be discarded later. This made the town suspect paranoia, and with it - a Malkavian. And they feared Malkavian authorieis, even if the Prince never gave any reason for mistrust.
That night, however, the night before today, they were needed, instructed to get to a law firm in which the Sheriff resided for the time being. "You will meet a man tomorrow." Sam said for a greeting, feet on the table, as soon as the Crew entered and the phone the Sheriff was typing in rapidly, was thrown onto the chair nearby. A business card slid across the table, and almost fell off on a dirty carpet of the place that should've been closed for a few hours by now. It was merely a local card, but on the other side of it in a large rounded handwriting another address presented itself, smelling of cheap oily ink so much, one might think a piece of paper was straight out of the nearest fast food joint. "His name is Robert Webber. Detective. If any of you follow local news, you'll know him as - as the press call him - a Ghostbuster. He has the most mysterious, occult, and altogether horror-cliché cases behind his belt." Sam paused, hazel eyes digging into the coterie members one by one. "For a good reason." There was weight to these words. "You are to meet him, listen to what he has to say, and help him. He will give you all the details you need. Don't ask me, I have none. I trust the man. And you. Whatever he has, figure this out. Tomorrow. At midnight. And for the love of Caine, come to the meeting well-fed. Webber is a good asset I'd rather not lose to a hungry neonate. And you..." A strict glare stung Benny. "...keep your pants on."
Sam didn't say anything else. Probably for own ignorance in the matter. Something went wrong - the Sheriff was alerted - the Crew was sent to deal with it. Easy as that. These were the benefits of being an older vampire - one could always send a youngster to deal with it. Sam was an epiphany of strict but fair. She didn't make a secret of being a fieldworker for decades before becoming a shotcaller behind the scenes, obsessively protecting the Masquerade, and trying to do that in the most lawful way possible. Many kindred, drunk on their new powers, preferred to deal with their problems by brute force. These types didn't live for long. The paranoia was high after the Second Inquisition, and the less they attracted attention, Sam said, the better. It went so far, she openly frowned on kindred owning firearms. Guns were loud. Loud attracted attention. They didn't need to attract attention. She surely didn't. Sam was Embraced in her late teens or early twenties, always dressed according to fashion, and, supporting strawberry-coloured curls, bright make-up, and voluptuous figure, looked like any other college bimbo to stay in campus for a year, fuck the whole rugby team, and then be expelled, because she never visited even one class, spending the rest of her days as a single mum working in retail.
And that was it. The address on the business card led them into an alleyway between a mall and an office building - crowded and loud enough that no one would pay attention to them, and empty enough not to be bothered by someone strolling in. Everyone would be having fun at the mall anyway.
However hard the Crew tried, there were no hints within the news about what might be going on, and why were they needed. The news spoke about the elections, a surprisingly dry winter they were having, a large car crash just outside town, a rally in the city centre to put a recently let out criminal behind bars once more, a fire that nearly destroyed a gas station and how the government should do something about fire-hazardous waste-grounds on the other side of the river, and more surprisingly - a man that spoke of a giant fish that attacked him in this very same river, nearly eating him whole. The man didn't wear a tinfoil hat, but looked the sort, of course, and by how he was placed in the end of the program, this was merely a light-hearted joke to end the news with, rather than serious news.
The web, on the other hand, provided for more information about the detective. While the information as sparse, it was interesting enough to understand that the man was at it for a long time: whenever some "funny business" popped out in Fresno, his name was mentioned. Mysterious disappearances, murders in locked rooms, rituals, cults, sudden insanity, disembodied corpses found in perfect conditions - whenever something weird happened in town, he was there. Not all of the cases were solved, but at least they were buried enough to be forgotten about. At the same time, the amount of information hinted that whoever was cleaning after Webber, did a good job for nothing too specific to be left for the public, but give just enough for it to look like old, uninteresting news. In any case, there would be time to ask the man himself about his work if anyone deems so necessary: it was late evening when it became safe for the kindred to go out from their lairs, and whole four hours before they had to meet detective Webber.