Once all the crew went ashore, most scattered throughout the city. Viktor made sure they knew that a rotating watch was to be kept back on the ship, both to protect it and to keep an eye on his vampires. There was no worry of any of them conveniently forgetting their turn. He’d made sure all the crew had a good double helping of rum before going ashore. What they didn’t know was that the rum was tainted with a few drops of his blood, to keep them bound to his will.
Unlike many pirates, Vik Brandee preferred absolute control rather than a shipboard democracy. It kept things simple, made sure things got done, and cut down on the risk of a mutiny.
Hezekiah was the only one exempted from the special rum. He was the only one whose loyalty was beyond question.
He split off from Viktor’s core group, when they went ashore, to hunt down one of his personal contacts. It was his plan to put out feelers for a potential buyer for the emeralds. It would be much easier to divvy up shares once the gemstones were converted to gold coins.
Jon-Jon and Belladonna stayed with the captain. The second mate knew it was going to be entertaining to watch the siren’s reaction to where they were going. Viktor was just glad that she had accidentally bound herself to him. It would make it easier to keep her from causing trouble with his information source.
Before long, they found themselves at the gates of a well-appointed manse in the Garden District. A foppish gate attendant in a powdered wig came out of the gate house. He looked them over with a sneer at their attire. Amazingly, Vik ignored the implied insult.
“May I help you?” the man’s tone made it plain that he doubted it.
“I’ve business to discuss with Angelique,” the vampire got right to the point.
The attendant raked his eyes over Belladonna, before he smirked. “She’s pretty enough and might even clean up well, but I’m sorry, Madame is not in the market for new talent at the present.”
Jon-Jon put a hand over his mouth to hide his grin. The siren was very quick to catch on to what had just happened. “Why you scrawny little puffer fish! I am not for sale!” she sputtered furiously.
Viktor caught her hand as it transformed into a talon, forcing it behind her back before the unwitting flunky could see it. “Easy, pet,” he soothed. “Given the nature of this establishment, it was an honest mistake.” He turned his attention to the now indignant attendant. “I am not here to sell. I am here as a customer. Take this to your mistress.”
He handed a small parchment scroll and a few coins to the man. He took them, holding the scroll as if it were unclean, but pocketing the coins. “Very well, m’sieur, but I doubt Madame will receive you. She is very select about her clientele.”
Viktor’s eyes flashed emerald briefly. “You will give Angelique the message, and you will return my coin, you worthless little eunuch.”
Looking befuddled and nervous, the man retrieved the money and returned it, then gave a half bow and scurried off to the main house.
Jon-Jon couldn’t contain his laughter any longer. Viktor soon joined him. Belle scowled at both of them, not understanding the joke. This of course, made them laugh even harder, which led her to believe she was the object of their amusement.
“I don’t have to take this,” she growled at them. “I’ll just go back to the sea and you can find the bitch on your own.”
The power behind those two words was enough to stop the siren where she stood. Even Jon-Jon’s laughter died as if it had never been. Viktor glanced at his second mate, “Not you, Mr. Jon.”
He gave his captain a shaky smile and rubbed the back of his neck.
“We were not laughing at you, pet,” Vik smiled wryly. “The butt of this joke is that mincing little idiot I just sent in there.” Seeing the irritation leave her eyes, he released his mental grip on her.
“What exactly is this joke? Does it involve causing the little wretch lots of pain?” she looked hopeful.
He smiled wide enough to show fangs. “It just might, my little fish.”
She grinned, her true teeth showing.
“Now, now, pet,” he chuckled, “our new toy is on his way back. We don’t want to frighten the unsuspecting humans.”
Shortly after, the attendant returned, with another servant dressed identically. The newcomer went into the gatehouse. The original gate tender bowed and opened the gate. “Please follow me ma’m’selle et m’sieurs. Madame will receive you now.”
They were shown into a beautifully decorated parlor. It managed to look both tasteful and decadent at the same time. Lounging on a velvet-covered chaise was a stunningly beautiful woman. Her golden hair was coiffed in the current fashion, but her dress was of some sheer fabric draped about her body, held in place by a golden cord and some jeweled pins.
She smiled and held a be-ringed hand out to Viktor. “Mon cher, it has been far too long.”
He took the hand and placed a kiss on her knuckles. “Indeed, Angelique.”
“I see you brought the strapping Mr. Jon with you, cher. Who is this lovely creature you have brought to incite my jealousy with?”
“This is Belladonna. Your man there made the rude assumption that I was looking to sell her,” he chuckled. “He is lucky I stopped her, before she could filet him.”
“Yes, I received your note informing me that you did not kill this one,” she smiled sweetly. “It was quite considerate of you, Viktor.”
He gave her a little half-bow. “Angelique, ma belle, how could I forget how much you savor disciplining any of your people that have displeased you?”
“How true.” She stood gracefully and sashayed over to the gate attendant. He flinched ever so slightly, when she trailed manicured nails down his arm. “As you can see, I have had to discipline Gerard before for his rudeness. Mon amore, remove your blouse and show our guests your back.”
His eyes hardened, but he obediently stripped to the waist. His back bore the marks of multiple whippings. Some of the scars were old, the skin shiny and white; others were only a few days old, still red with some scabbing on the more severe ones.
“Unfortunately, Gerard seems to find my punishments quite pleasurable, since he continues to strive for new levels of rudeness,” she pouted then shot Belladonna a wicked smile. “He gets quite hard when I beat him. Too bad it is such a mediocre thing to behold, unlike your captain. Viktor is quite a magnifique sight.”
The siren found that she actually liked this woman, an unusual experience for her. “I cannot argue that point. He is equally dangerous.” She turned her attention to the vampire. “But, I am puzzled as to why we have come here. I sense no great magic in this place. You are not the Sister we are looking for.”
Angelique’s laughter was musical. “I should hope not! Viktor, you naughty boy, did you lead this poor child to believe you were bringing her to a convent? I am no nun, although a few of my clients have paid me to dress as one for them.”
“Interesting,” he smirked. “But no, I did not. Belle refers to what my business with you is about. However, I am sure you would like to resolve the immediate issue of Gerard’s behavior.”
“Yes. He must be disciplined, but I have grown bored with the activity. Your Belladonna seems to be a kindred spirit,” she turned to the siren. “Would you like to have the pleasure of disciplining him?”
“Do you require him to be returned to you alive and able to function?”
Angelique shrugged. “Do with him as you wish. If he survives, I plan to discharge him. He has proven to be un-trainable and is rather disappointing in bed.”
Belladonna looked over at Viktor. “Do we have time enough?”
He nodded. “I am here for information that may take some time to gather. Enjoy yourself, pet.”
“Oh, I intend to,” she smiled.
“Bon!” Angelique laughed. She clapped her hands, and two large men, dressed in the same servants’ uniform as Gerard, answered the call. “Phillippe, Bertrand, please escort Gerard and our guest to my discipline chamber.”
They grasped the victim by either arm and led him off. Belladonna followed with a predatory gleam in her eyes.
Once they were gone, Jon-Jon muttered, “Poor bugger.”
The madam raised an eyebrow. “You sound as if you actually pity Gerard, Mr. Jon, how uncharacteristic of you.”
“I’ve seen what she can do to a man,” he replied. “It’s not pretty.”
“Jon-Jon is right, Angelique,” Vik added. “I seriously hope you didn’t want your man back. There will not be much left of him once Belladonna gets through with him.”
She waved her hand in dismissal. “He has outlived his usefulness to me. Now, my handsome young pirate, what may I do for you?” She returned to the chaise, draping herself on it in a provocative pose.
Viktor smiled, enjoying the view. “As I said earlier, I am looking for information.”
“I am but a simple whore. Why come to me?”
He laughed heartily at that. “There is nothing simple about you, lovely Angel. Your profession makes you privy to the entire city’s secrets. I know for a fact your house’s clientele includes some of the most powerful men… and a few women, in New Orleans.”
She gave him her musical laugh once again. “You are correct, Viktor Brandewyne. What do you seek to know?”
“I am seeking a Sister of Power,” he got right to the point. “She will be a witch of great power.”
“You didn’t need to ask me for this information. There are any number of magic practitioners all along this coast.”
“Ah, but this is one is different. She will be more powerful than common potion mixers or pagans. She also will be difficult to get to or find.”
“I see. Do you have a name?”
“That will make it more difficult. I can think of a few possibilities of who might fit your criteria. I will see to it that I can give you places to look for this witch by tomorrow, but it will cost you.”
He smirked, “I can imagine it will. What is your price, Angelique?”
She eyed him up and down, a sultry smile on her lips. “Oh, I think you know what I want for the information, Captain Brandewyne, and I believe you will pay it willingly and with interest.” She ran her tongue across her lips.
“If you can keep up with me, pet, I may even give you some gold to go with it,” he laughed. “Mr. Jon, why don’t you go and find yourself a wench?”
“Aye Cap’n!” he grinned and headed into the brothel.
Viktor turned back to the madam. “Before I meet your price, you might want to tell your people to expect my first mate to arrive before the evening is over.”
She clapped her hands, summoning another servant. “I was wondering where Mr. Rigger was. How many girls will he require?”
“Jim is no longer my first mate. The Grimm Reaper sails with me now.”
She did not question the change of mates. She was quite aware of Brandee’s reputation and figured that his long-time friend and first mate had either fallen in battle or had become an obstacle to him. “I remember Hezekiah. He is much like you, non?”
“Yes,” Vik nodded, “he prefers quality to quantity.”
“Bertrand, have the girls prepare the gold suite and tell Babette to await our guest there.” She then whispered some instructions to him about inquiries to make.
The servant bowed and exited.
Before she realized he had moved, Viktor hefted her out of the chaise and draped her over his shoulder.
“Viktor!” she protested. “Put me down! This is my brothel, and I make the rules!”
“Not tonight, pet,” he swatted her rump. “You offered yourself to me, and I intend to take full advantage. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Now, tell me which room is yours.”
She struggled, trying to break free. “No, this is not how it works, and you know it! In my house, I am in charge.”
“Oh, so you prefer to be taken in the garden? I can do that.”
“No!” her voice held a note of panic. “I just mean that I should be the one in control.”
“Well then, I’ll just have to break you of that habit,” he laughed and carried her down the hallway. As soon as his heightened senses told him he had reached an empty room, he opened the door and went in.
“This is not my room.”
“It is tonight.” He dumped her on the bed, locked the door and proceeded to disrobe.