Red Hornette wasn't too far from the dojo when Vescovi disclosed the locations of the other missing girls. She went by there to put on her Red Hornette costume on the way to the first sewer location she was to check. And so twenty minutes later an apparent cheerleader in red skirt and midriff top could be seen setting aside a manhole cover and entering the dim shadows of the city sewers, myWand in her hand acting as a flashlight.
Even with the marked locations provided by Michael she'd find herself walking this subterranean labyrinth for a good while, quickly learning how easily a person could get lost amidst these ancient corridors of stone and brick. Rats. Hundreds of rats, easily bigger than most cats, scurried along the edges of the slimy walkways, a ripple of foul discolored canal waters telling that something lurked beneath the surface.
Red Hornette turned up her nose and made faces at the smell almost immediately. The GPS tracking of her myWand helped, but could not tell her where there might be dead ends or dropoffs so she had to take it slow. She eeked as she heard the scuttling of tiny feet and saw the peering of little red eyes watching from the dark. Could they be watching for her target? Hornette shook her head. Surely not. She had moved fast and should have the element of surprise, or at least so she hoped.
But indeed they were. Hordes of bound rats spying for their master, alerting him to the presence of the young intruder minutes after her arrival. Alone and ill equipped, Marcellus watched through the eyes of one of the rats he'd taken control of, amused by Penny's choice of dress for her excursion into his lair. He took notice of her occasional glances to the device in her hand and was intrigued. Could it be guiding her? Was it indeed him she was looking for? Promise of a fun game in that, but he decided to observe a bit longer before committing himself to playing.
Red Hornette made her way along the walkways, jumping over a pool of water at one point, then trying to be stealthy as, according to the myWand, she was approaching the first of the possible locations she had been given to find the missing girl and who knew what else. She felt a little shiver run up her spine as she inched along the dank wall of the tunnel, trying not to make a wrong step and make a splash in the brackish water.
There was no mistaking it, she was seeking him out. But why? And how? Someone had provided her with information on where to find him. Certainly Marcellus had his suspicions as to whom, but this would need to be investigated to make sure. For now, it was time to show his guest the proper way, for the first lair she came across was a dead end and seemed to be more of a dumping ground than a hideout. Dozens of broken televisions, computer monitors, circuit boards and untold electronic odds and ends had been piled here. Among them, a single large black rat, bigger than many house pets, sat watching Penny with intelligent red eyes. A twitch of whiskers and it scurried back along the way she came, stopping at a corner and scratching at the stone, briefly looking back toward Penny before disappearing from sight in a direction she hadn't explored yet.
Red Hornette blinked as she watched the rat. Was the creepiness of the sewers and her imagination getting the best of her? Was the rat trying to get her to follow? Yes, it had definitely tried to signaled her to follow. She gulped. But to what purpose? A trap? She bounced off in the direction the rat had gone, not longer worrying about the splashing her crosstrainers made. The element of surprise was gone. She had to be bold!
She hadn't looked, but the rat had scratched a crude arrow into the stone, a precaution should Penny have had any lingering doubts the rodent was indeed leading her somewhere. Through the maze it went, directing the heroine toward a waiting Marcellus, but he wouldn't just show her in. Nearing the last stretch he released his hold on the rat and had it scurry into hiding, though left no doubt as to which direction she should proceed in from that point. A narrow corridor, slightly cleaner than the rest of the sewers though not by much, marked at the end by a single iron door, slightly ajar, a shadow of movement detected moving beyond.
Red Hornette felt her mouth getting dry despite the moist closeness of the sewer air she breathed and the splatter of dark water on her ankles and little fists of calf muscle. This was it. There was no turning back. A young woman was depending on her. She had to be ready for anything. She took a deep breath and ran forward to push the door open hard with both hands, her heart racing.
And found herself staring at a sea of monitors displaying various locations of the city. Police stations, supermarkets, street intersections and much more of the city captured for observation of the raggedly clothed figure standing before them. Unlike before, down here he did not keep his appearance hidden, shape of bald bleached white skull visible as Penny entered his lair. "Welcome to my home, child." The undead creature spoke without turning, words strained with a harsh rasp "Before we get into why it is you are here, my curiosity must be sated. How is it you knew where to seek me out?"
Red Hornette froze in place. Was it the sight of the skull? The fact that he didn't seem concerned in the least? Something about the raspy voice? In any case she held back for some reason and answered his question, her voice meek at first before trying to demonstrate some bravado as she finished. "Err... well... from Michael Vescovi... I mean... I like defeated him and stuff you know!" She clenched her fists.
A slight turn of head allowed Red a better glimpse of grotesque features, sunken eyes within sloping bald head and batlike ears, disfigured nose barely distinguishable from the hole which replaced where cartilage had used to be. "Vescovi... disappointing, but hardly surprising... so his arrogance finally led to his undoing, did it?"
Red Hornette swallowed hard, her steel blue eyes widening as he turned around and she could see his lack of face. She tried to quiet the quiver in her limbs and the quaver in her voice. "Err... I..." There was something off-putting about this creature's lack of concern at her presence. "I mean I should like get some cred... and... well... like the threat of sunrise made him talk... I came for the missing girl!"
Marcellus smiled, terrifying sight that it was, rows of misshapen and uneven teeth put on display. "Of course... the girl." He waved toward a corner on his left, gaze returning to the monitors "She is there. Take her if you wish, it makes no difference now." And indeed, there she stood. Just standing in plain sight, hadn't said a word since Penny arrived. Stranger yet might be that the young dancer had taken on characteristics of her captor, eyes just a little sunken in, thinner from poor nourishment and skin several shades paler, almost as if she were one of the dead herself.
Red Hornette's head was on a swivel, afraid to take her eyes off of the vampire for more than an instant and so looking back and forth between them, trying not to let the girl see the horror she felt at seeing her appearance. She shuffled in her direction. "So you are going to like just let me take her out of here then?" Penny reached for the girl with her free hand.
"As I said, it makes little difference now." Marcellus replied. "My purpose for her has been fulfilled." Reaching out with boney fingers, talon like nails tapped as he made used of a series of keyboards. "See her to safety. See that she is fed. I leave her to your care for now."
Red Hornette took the girl's hand even as she gaped at the computer-using ghoul. She nibbled at her lip, twitching a bit. Her first mission was to get the girl to safety. That came before trying to apprehend the creature. But she had to ask. "So... I mean... do you ever go around with your head on fire... 'cause you bear more than a passing resemblance to... nevermind..." Hornette squeezed the girl's clammy hand. "I'm Penny. Let's go, Sophia."
"Go with the young lady, Sophia. Return to your life above." Marcellus spoke in parting, as if without his express permission the dancer would refuse to go anywhere with Penny...which may very well be true given her behavior. She still hadn't spoken a word, just nodded at his words and meekly began to follow Penny's lead, shuffling along in the clothes she'd worn since the day of her abduction. Needless to say, she desperately needed a shower.
Red Hornette found the girl's appearance and behavior very troubling and in fact felt a tad suspicious of the girl even as she led her to the door. Then again what had she expected? The poor thing had been captive for some time. Penny paused at the door and looked back over her shoulder. "What is your name, sewer dweller?"
"Telling you would be pointless..." The vampire answered as he turned, beady black eyes locking on Penny's own. "...for you'd not remember anyway." There was a heavy feeling of lost time as gradual awareness returned and Penny found herself in an unfamiliar section of the sewers, Sophia waiting patiently hand in hand with the cheerleader. In the other was her myWand, showing her the way out, but nothing as to where she'd come from. All she could remember is that she'd found Sophia, but not as to where, no matter how hard she tried to recall the details.
Red Hornette was puzzled, but followed the directions on her myWand, leading Sophia to safety, and trying to figure out what to tell Kei in the debriefing session that was sure to follow. Indeed Kei would have Joanie examine Penny from head to toe for bite marks and her myWand for tampering.