Talking to Aleksander (Dreams)
The first thing you quickly learn if you're not expecting it, is Aleksander is lucid and aware in his dreams. I mentioned controlling his own dreams to him, which he took to rapidly.Investigation in Odessa
He is rather attached to Sergei, though when pushed (and mauled) enough he was willing to mercy kill his old partner. He cites having put too much effort into saving Sergei's life to let him die. The hand incident does seem to still bother him, though. He has an occasional nervous tic of rubbing his wrist where the hand was bitten off.
He admits Chernenko was a bastard, but respects how his old boss treated him. I haven't noticed any of the near reverence he had for Wormwood after the demon fixed his hand, but I haven't asked much about Chernenko.
His family had a little dacha by the Black Sea, maybe twenty miles from Sevastopol. When the government fell and they stopped paying him, they had to sell the house.
He was married to a woman named Tatyana over ten years ago, but wound up divorced. Arguments over money started causing trouble. Living in a tenement apartment on a policeman's salary gets hard. (He doesn't state as much, but there's a heavy chance it was the fact he didn't take bribes that led to everything falling apart.) He started to cheat on her, and suspects she did the same. Eventually his wife left, taking their five year old daughter with her. He's seen his daughter only a few times since then, and not for years. But, despite knowing how it ended, he admitted to me he would do it again.
Born in 1972 in Odessa, then-USSR. Comes from a pretty good family, apparatchiks who were in the lower reaches of the bureaucracy. He's something of a pan-Russian mongrel, with Russian, Ukrainian, and Tatar blood in him, along with a strong presumption of something recessive and Scandinavian, given that he's big. Finished school, never went on the university but was instead drafted straight into the army at 18, in 1990. Spent the time up through the fall of the USSR in the military, leaving in 1992 and went into the police force since that's more or less one of the few things he was good for that didn't involve manual labor. Family fell on severely hard times after the fall of the USSR. In 1997 Sasha left the Odessan police force, and that's about where the trail dries up.Odessan Police Records (recorded via high resolution digital camera)
His family still lives there. Mother and father both were members of the Communist party and bureaucrats in the government offices (low-ranked, but still). Both went kind of broke after the USSR collapsed, and are presently living with his maternal grandparents, who are still alive, and still working, and helping make enough money to support the whole family (his grandfather is a semi-successful food entrepreneur). No siblings, some cousins. The family knows little of what happened to him after he went to Moscow. It's generally suspected he turned into a criminal. To greater or lesser extent, most of his extended family bids him good riddance.
His ex-wife, Tanya, lives in Smolensk (Alek married in 1992 and had his daughter, Lena, the same year, and was divorced in 1997, about six months before leaving the police). Tanya is working as a receptionist at an American-owned hotel in Smolensk, and remarried not long after the divorce.
Sasha was a policeman for four and a half years. During that time he made a bit of a name for himself as being a very good person to have for 'domestic disturbances' or things like that. Basically, he's good with people, while also being big and intimidating to keep anyone from trying to attack him. So Sasha's good at defusing unruly situations.Interpol Files
His arrest logs show a sharp and noticeable decline in the number of arrests starting at about 1996, 18 months before he left the police. Basically, marriage was heading south, idealism was worn away (he was 24 years old at the time, note), and so he started becoming noticeably more corrupt. Most interesting is a separate case file attached to his transcript, which had him suspected in a mob-related beating of a Russian businessman in early 1997 (after his divorce). Suspected to be the Orekhovskaya gang he later became a part of. A couple of months later, Sasha turned in his Militsiya badge and left for Moscow.
Alek basically went through a very bad patch around 1995-1997, wherein he degenerated rapidly.
Doesn't have any old enemies from his police days. It's been ten years, and he was a rookie. While there's probably plenty of drunks and petty thieves who'd cheerfully push him in front of a bus, no one who'd hold a grudge for ten years.
Aleksander was a senior negotiator/shakedown artist for his organization. Chernenko had taken Alek and Sergei on a few business trips to the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa, which is how they came to Interpol's attention. As a note, Interpol did not know that they were in England. When they caught Alek, it was a bit of a surprise.
Their general view is that Aleksander went crazy, broke from Wormwood, and turned into a serial killer. The problem is that Alek fails to fit the usual serial killer models, and there was a serious lack of information. The police had no bodies, and Alek refused to talk, so they don't actually know all that much about what happened in the disappearances. Ultimately, they pinned it on Alek as the only reasonable person available (the Guardians were involved in this), and there was trace DNA evidence when they looked around. But they don't really know how the people were killed, why they were killed, or where the bodies are, which is a reason for why this did not really get very much press. The police were not interested in publicizing a case where any good lawyer would have obliterated it. Interpol thinks there's a high probability that Alek was responsible, but they can't find any reason why, given that his apparent personality was that of a very loyal mob thug. There's some theorizing that Alek is covering for someone, or that he's got a split personality.
There were some psychiatric interviews with Aleksander after he was arrested, but Alek, as I have learned, is a really hard person to analyze. Alek also generally made himself as annoying as possible in the psychiatric interviews, mostly by making up completely false events and histories and explanations. As we know, Sasha is a good enough liar to fool the psychiatrists with at least some level of success on occasion. He'd launch into very moving accounts of suffering antisemitism in the USSR, until someone points out that Alek is maybe one eighth Jewish by blood and doesn't worship at all. Or he'd describe participating in horrifically gory executions while working for the Orekhovskaya Gang, until they contacted Interpol and found out that not only would Alek not be the person they trusted with this kind of job, the crimes never even happened! After a few months of this they mostly stopped interviewing him, though they also slapped a "pathological liar" label onto Sasha. Then he "apparently" committed suicide in his cell, and that was that. There was a body, so Interpol took his death at face vaule.
-Breaking him out was mostly Whim's doing. She spent a couple of weeks on securing a corpse of roughly Alek's size and build. Then she spent a lot more time working Death magic to alter what it looked like, as well as reversing decay and generally fiddling around with signs of death. Then, she raised it. So, she had someone who looked a great deal like Alek, except being dead. Then take a quick trip into the Twilight, pull a switcheroo, and have the zombie hang itself.
Apparently, however, he took all the sweaters I sent him when we broke him out. I can only assume their absence went unnoticed, or the police assumed the other inmates stole them.
Talking to Sergei and Erin's opinion
Sasha's smart. He's as smart as I am, possibly even smarter - but he has an untrained mind. It may be intellectual boredom that drives him to play games with people, so it is best to keep him occupied. The Dream of Mars seems to suggest Sasha has a certain like of order. Sergei believes he used to be a good policeman, and despite all odds, looks to be right. Being an uncorrupted man in a corrupt system quickly put an end to his idealism, and various factors (including the lack of money) put an end to his marriage. That was pretty much that.
Sasha is highly unrepentant, but he's selfish. This happens to be a good thing, in his particular case. If he were evil, he'd be committed to remaining so. Sasha, on the other hand, will be on whatever side pays him. If I am permitted a bit of arrogance, he has a better deal under me than he's likely to find anywhere else. So long as it doesn't come to choosing me over his life, he'll cooperate.
Sasha's personality is easy-going, but what I'd call "heavily flawed". He's stubborn, he's manipulative, and he really just can't help screwing around with people. His main redeeming feature is that he doesn't enjoy picking on people who are already down - if anything, he can be very kind to such people. The trouble with Sasha is it's hard to get him to do anything if he doesn't feel like it. For this reason, I try to avoid confronting him with rhetoric on his past crimes - it will only make him more entrenched in his position.
I have a few advantages over him currently, however. The first is he does not respect me in the slightest - indeed, I think he pities me - but he does seem to be aware I have some power over him. So he pushes the line, but doesn't cause trouble, and doesn't expect me to try to manipulate him. The second is I do not believe he recognizes what I am trying to do to him. The third is he isn't actively fighting me, either because he doesn't know or doesn't care.
He has currently re-encountered his daughter and often takes her out on night-time misadventures - which I can only hope are not affecting her grades. They met under such bizarre circumstances I have little idea what she thinks he is. He is working as a Private Investigator, especially in cases where the police did not perform as well as they could, and doing his pro bono work for people who cannot afford further investigation on their own. He has also entered into a relationship with Heather, which seems stable but I am mildly concerned about.
Speaking to Mary
Mary is always willing to answer Erin's questions, and not wonder why the little faerie wants to know.Lena Melikhin
Mary was turned at seventeen by a stranger in the house. He said he was a lost motorist, and it was snowing hard. They let him in, at which point it took him an hour to kill her mother, father, brother, and Mary. He then apparently raised her, and abandoned her.
Mary clung to her humanity as well as she could, but over fifty years has slipped up a number of times. She's expressed suicidal wishes several times, but doesn't seem to actually want to die - not now, possibly not ever. An actually suicidal vampire probably could have ended it at this point.
She's obsessed over a pair of old-fashioned scissors, which I believe were used to stab her in the back of the throat. Poor Mary was trying to make right with the family of a man she'd accidentally killed, which went as well as you'd expect.
Mary as a vampire usually liked to operate in closed environments (free from interference by other vampires), and in ones where the fact that she usually looks about 15 is not a major problem (trying to get a job or something is an exercise in misery). But she's still a vampire, which means she has to hide when the sun is out. So while she half-avoids the situation by sticking to boarding schools, most students are going to be asleep when Mary is most active (in the winter, she can hang out in the evenings a fair bit, though attending classes would still mean that the jig is up). As a result, Mary tends to only meet the kind of students who are likely to be wandering around after curfew, away from adult supervision.
Mary's an ancilla, even if she doesn't look like one, but she is also a bit of an outcast and unofficial in vampire society. Othello seems to have taken her as a hanger on, and they seem to get on rather well together.
Speaking to Mary
Mary knows her... not hugely well. In terms of physical facts, Mary knows less than Erin. Lena is Russian/Ukrainian, attending Hawkworth Preparatory on a scholarship, and is good at maths and sciences and absolutely abhors language lessons. But in terms of personality, Mary is of the view that Lena is first, a risk-taker, and at the same time, an inherently manipulative sort of person. Not necessarily in a bad way, but like daddy, she's good at getting people to do what she wants. She's basically very curious, and at the same time rather cynical about things like rules. She's the kind of person who'll ignore a "Do Not Enter" sign just to see what's there. At the same time, she's quite good at persuading other people to come along with her on these escapades. And no one would really expect it of her because she doesn't look like a troublemaker. She's a short, freckled girl, slightly chubby, with a kind of "Who, me?" look of innocence about her, which she knows perfectly well how to use. Mary's private opinion is that she's a heartbreaker-in-training.Hawksworth Preparatory Academy
She's not required to remain at the school over break, and usually spends her summers back in Smolensk. The shorter vacations are variable. Depends on the length of the break, how much money Tanya has to ferry her home vs. let her stay there, etc. Otherwise, she's staying on campus pretty much all the time. There are plenty of field trips and so forth, but if she's off-campus there's someone supervising. Once she's sixteen she can wander off on her own. The school is understandably paranoid about letting 13-year-old girls out on their own, it's the same reason they do have some security.
A boarding school and-They found the teacher in the aquatics building, where Mary was lurking. Her name was Gail Pearson, and she was a mathematics teacher. In her early 30s, and been teaching at the school for about ten years now. Divorced. She was heavily involved in various extracurriculars at the Academy. Unfortunately some of her extracurriculars happened to be with a hungry vampire.Public School located over in Essex. Eton, it is not, but it is still distinctly above average. The students are a mix of half local Essex children who live at home, and half foreign students, mostly from the British Commonwealth but also a good number of Americans, who live in the Academy. Total student population is about 2,500, and another few hundred faculty and staff. It's pretty sizable. It's also fairly old. It was originally founded in 1882 as the Hawkworth School for Girls, but they changed the name in the 60s. It's located on the grounds of an old aristocratic estate. The manor house (Hawksworth Manor, hence the school's name) burned down back in the 1920s, and there's been a good deal of rebuilding since, with most of the construction being either in the 1920s or in the 1970s.
what an American would call a private school
There's three school-buildings in a central cluster, alongside the basements and cellars of the old manor house. About a hundred yards away are four dormitories for the students. A bit to the side of those are variety of smaller buildings off to the side such as sports halls and what-not, including an aquatics building built in the 70s, which has a swimming pool and some hot-tubs. There's a stable somewhere on the grounds, though not super-close to the central area, and there aren't many horses left. The school is on somewhat shaky financial ground at the moment. They had a building boom in the late 1990s, and they slightly went overboard, hence the hot-tubs. There were, unsurprisingly, cost-overruns.
Most of the rest of the grounds are fairly barren of habitation, lots of trees, shrubbery, hills, it's the kind of terrain where you can travel for an hour just to get a mile. There's a few manicured paths, and there's a few out-buildings, some still in use (groundskeeping, etc), some effectively abandoned. Not super-huge-forest, but enough for people to wander around in and not get claustraphobic, very hilly.
The estate is surrounded by a fairly tall fence (originally from the 19th century, but they updated it during the last round of rebuilding), and three gates, two of which are service-gates that lead to staff parking and to facilities, the third of which is the public entrance. Visitors go in through the gate and are directed straight to the main office in the nearest of the schoolbuildings, where they sign in. They're not usually allowed to wander unattended, or into the school without a prior appointment. It's not too hard to get an appointment or permission to come, but the school does make an effort to know who is on the campus at any given moment. They're pretty security conscious, though I've been told by the experts that anyone reasonably competent can probably break in under fifteen minutes. The fence and security system is there mostly to ward off overly-adventurous teenagers and random perverts.