Secret War 1930

The Case of the Hurriedly Written Write Up

We met up and discussed what to do re: the docks. We talked about involving Mazza and the Cabal. We agreed to try both.
Alice spoke to John on the phone. He mentioned a “Pot of all Knowledge” and that he was being followed constantly. He had to run off, it sounded like his pursuers had found him.
We met with Mazza near the docks and explained magic etc. to him. He was ok with the knowledge and agreed to help.
The building Alisha was due to go to was a large dockside warehouse. A quick recce showed a car parked out front and a boat out the back. Turret type camera things were spaced around the outside. We split up, Alisha going in the front and everyone else in the back.
We fought a number of guys in masks. Mazza was injured and killed Jacob, who had been brainwashed. Alishas brother was one of the masked men. Jacob’s wife was rescued from a tank of water.
Mazza “cleaned up” and we did some follow on investigations indicating the warehouse and car were rented, as was a seaplane the captives had been taken on. Additionally, there was evidence the group of masked men had been “collecting” wizards/magical people.
In the following days:
Alice and Pearl both got normal work.
A gang of Chinese cultists/gang members turned up looking for Pearl as did an old professor of hers, William Brown who she assumed dead after an incident in China involving the same Chinese gang. The gang are trying to use Pearl in a ritual to resurrect Bei Zout Zhao, call themselves the cursed guardians.
Alice is looking after her mother. John turns up with the missing stuff. We provide him with money to disappear. The items he has (including the file) indicate the ritual needed to create the pot of all knowledge, plus its limitations.
Jake was visited by his nemesis from the white hand and invited to a club opening in a weeks time.
The Chinese gang are planning on taking Pearl so we decided to set a trap for them in the warehouse to avoid having to be on a constant state of alert.

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A Bad Plan Is Better Than No Plan

Alisha: “Hey Dean, it’s me Alisha. Sorry for not checking in earlier! How is everything?”

Dean: “Alisha! Where have you been? Chris is furious that you didn’t obey his order to stay put. He’ll probably ground you for months.”

Alisha: “Tell him I’m sorry, but after everything that happened I think we HAVE to act. By now I’m convinced that this has something to do with my brother.”

Dean: “How come?”

Alisha: “Let me sum up what happened the past two days.”
Before I left I picked up the ransom note. After I arrived at Jake’s office and told the team what has happened, Pearl and I headed to the Library in the hope that we can find an address to that number. And we did. The number belonged to a public phone on the West side of Central Park.
Back at the office Jake and Alice informed us that they had a visit from Juliano Sabatelli, son of Marcello Sabatelli. That’s the one that Jake has beaten up and why he got kicked out of the force.

Dean: “Oh man, I hope they are alright?!? Jake is probably not in a position to put up much resistance at the moment.”

Alisha: “They are both fine, Thank God. Juliano turned up with two Gorillas, making a big show and all. I think he just wanted to demonstrate that Jake can’t touch him now that he lost a lot of support from his police buddies. He even invited him to the opening of his new club “The Blue Oyster”. Thanks to Alice quick thinking we have invitations for four but we’re not quite sure yet what to do with them. Anyways, it’s still over a week until the opening and we have other things to worry about right now.”

Dean: “Yeah, let’s discuss this later. I don’t like the sound of that. For now you’re right we should be focusing on getting our people back.”

Alisha: _“I also have concerning news regarding John, Alice’s friend who has the file on Anansi. Alice and I went out to look for him and we found out that he’s missing for a few days. We spoke to John’s boss as well. I don’t know but there was something odd about this guy.” _

Dean: “What do you mean?”

Alisha: “I don’t know. He didn’t give us his name and there was someone else in the room. There was some guy in a suit standing in the back. They exchanged glances at one point as if he wanted to say “Don’t worry, I got this under control.”
Later Pearl went to John’s home, as Alice had to head back to the office and take care of Jake. She discovered that John’s stepfather and his brother Paddy were killed. We found out later, that it was the same poison that killed the guy we were imprisoned for. “

Dean: “Wow, I’m sorry. How is Alice doing? And how did they make the connection to them?”

Alisha: “She’s worried about John obviously. We got a call earlier from Rose, the nurse taking care of Alice mum that John called. He will call back this afternoon. So she’s anxious to talk to him. We’re not sure how they found out about his family.”

Dean: “Maybe those people were watching you.”

Alisha: “Not sure, most of the time we were pretty sure we weren’t been followed. Maybe John can shed some light on it.”
So while Pearl was checking out John’s place I headed to the address we got for the phone booth. I checked out the surroundings but couldn’t spot anything. So I called the office to get Jake to ring the number and I would take seat in one of the café’s across the street. Few moments later the phone rang but no one would approach it. After a while my view to the phone was blocked and a moment later there was a note on my table stating “Better luck next time Ms. Payton!” So I went back to the office.
The next day we had an appointment at the museum and we discovered that the day after the break-in 3 guards were found dead. We found out later that they died through the same poison as John’s family and the guy in the prison. The exhibition manager told us, that a ceremonial plate was stolen the first night. It was part of the Ananzi collection. He can’t tell for sure what the purpose of the plate was, but might have been part of a ritual for Tribal members coming of age.

Dean: “Hmm, interesting. But how is this all connected?”

Alisha: “At this point we think that it’s not. I mean, those guys found us through the amulet we found at this Necromancer. So far there is no connection between the two happenings.”

Dean: “Yeah that makes sense. What are you going to do now?”

Alisha: “The inspector investigating the break in at the museum made contact with Jake. He believes that we are innocent and he warned Jake that we are being watched by the police. There’s an internal Affairs guys who would like to see Jake going down. We suspect that he had his fingers in how our case was being handled. He was the one who told us about the poison. And he was right about the police watching us. We noticed a couple of street cops around the office. Always looking away as soon as we spot them! ”

Dean: “Great, that’s the last thing we can use right now.”

Alisha: “I know, but it seems they are not following us only keeping an eye on the office. I finally called the number from the ransom note. They want to meet me at 10pm tonight at 121 Dock Street.”

Dean: “You’re not planning on going there?”

Alisha:“What other choice do I have? This is the only lead we have. We cannot just abandon our Friends!”

Dean: “But remember how little I could do to them? They simply marched in here and there was not a dam thing we could do about it!”

Alisha:“I know, but the only think you could do about it was magical. When I spoke to them they told me specifically to come unarmed! They know what I am and that I cannot come unarmed. So they can’t mean my magic. They are not afraid of magic, but maybe of more physical firepower. Jake convinced Eric, the cop I spoke about earlier, to help us in this case. We believe that we can trust him, to keep this one quite. He already stretched procedure when he talked to Jake and fed us all that info.
Look, I know it’s a risk and that we are most likely stepping into a trap. But I think that we cannot sit this one out. Who knows what they are doing to them. And Chris doesn’t want to involve other Cabals to not endanger them as well. So what choice do we have other than act on the only lead we have?”

Dean: “Alright, I will talk to Chris. I can’t promise anything. But you promise me to be careful! “

Alisha: “I will. I talk to you as soon as this is over.”

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No Rest for the Wicked

Rikers webDear Diary,

I cannot put into words how happy and overjoyed I am to be back in the comfort of my own home … even if that does mean that mother is trying to plan my wedding to John for the millionth time. I do wish that she would accept that we are just friends; it gets harder to swallow the disappointment I see in her eyes every time I have to tell her no or I change the subject. I wonder how John is. Mother mentioned he had called around whilst I as ‘away in Europe’. I’ll have to get some rest and see if I can catch up with him over the next few days.

Now to try and catch up on my journal entries …

So where have I been? Gallivanting around Europe for Mr Frakes on official work business … ha, if only I could have been so lucky! Instead I was incarcerated in Rikers on suspicion of being an accomplice to murder with Jake ‘The Buffoon’ Spencer being held responsible for the murder itself. Actually no, it’s unfair to push annoyance towards Jake (this time) after all he isn’t the one char-grilling people in broad daylight and it was actually ‘the murder’ of the other ‘gentleman’ that was in question. Death by poison they had said … the only death by poison that Jake will ever know will be his own at the mercy of that darned hip-flask of his. Anyway it’s hard to hold contempt against Jake … when he didn’t seem to be recovering from that beating I had feared for the worst and there was a point where a part of my heart had felt like a rose that hard started to wilt, with petals slowly drifting away me thought that the worst may happen but thankfully that son of a bitch is on the mend.

I truly hope that I never have to experience prison again! I found solitary confinement daunting and tranquil in equal measures … maybe that says something about me. If nothing else it did give me the opportunity to reflect upon what we had witnessed down in the boiler room, the prison history and all the tales we had heard along the way. When we were released back into the prison population again we had to bring Jake up to speed and I took this time to share the conclusions and realisations I had come to whilst isolated away. It seemed that Pearl and Alisha had also come to similar conclusions and we all agreed that whilst we couldn’t be sure what part the warden had in Bobby’s demise it seemed apparent that he loved Shirley deeply and was unlikely to have had a hand in her death. I think we were lucky Jake was still recovering from his injuries, he didn’t appear overly impressed at our group heroics or pleased when learning Pearl had a potential future as a nimble pickpocket. In fact for an instant I thought he been spending his time practicing some twisted version of Pearl’s withering look … maybe his injuries weren’t helping.

I had agreed that I would try to speak with the warden again but whilst I was trying to figure out how I should approach the situation we were frogmarched to the visitation room and not so gently shoved in. There Henry Winkler awaited us with news that our trial would occur by month end, that he had no information on the state prosecutor and that he had heard the Judge Scharnhorst would be presiding over the case. At this point Winkler had looked down at the floor to avoid eye contact … he politely explained the relevance of the judge and the simple fact that this judge sentenced nothing less than harsh and excessive sentences. Great a judge that saw everyone as a martyr … just what we needed. Pearl and Jake were able to secure a phone call each however which at least meant that Winker had been able to do more than get dressed by himself this morning.

Pearl had made contact with the Cabal on Alisha’s behalf. Dean had been cryptic but it had been clear that something was seriously off-kilter there and that for all of the Cabal’s power a competent lawyer was not a part of their arsenal. A Trog would have appeared to have had a better chance of getting us out of the hole we were in. I wonder if Trogs have a cause for legal aids??

Alisha and the rest of us had become increasingly concerned at the mention of Dean with a broken left arm and broken right leg. We had no idea what could have been happening outside of the prison walls. Jake didn’t offer up any rays of sunshine either. His ol’ pal Jerry had given him a heads up that Willis from internal affairs was meddling in the case and that character statements had been less than forthcoming. Apparently this Willis character and Jake have some history … some kind of past transgression that Jake wasn’t willing to elaborate on … Jake the ever floundering peacekeeper to all.

Pearl seemed to be have been cracking … she seemed overly jittery ever since she had been released from solitary.

LocketWith the situation as it was it didn’t seem like there was much to lose by talking to the Warden so I took a deep breath and asked the nearest guard to pass a message on … to tell the warden that I DID have information for him. I remember as I walked over the threshold of the doorway and into the warden’s office that my throat had become dry and when I had tried to speak my voice had cracked … my words a mere whisper. I don’t think I can forget the look on the warden’s face. He wasn’t angry or pissed off per se and he defiantly wasn’t overjoyed to have me there either but he was courteous still … he looked like a man tortured by his past … a past that we had been so eager to meddle with. I told him everything; the file on Bobby, being attacked in the boiler room, the locket and the note … everything. I had asked him to make me a promise that he would not put me in isolation and ship me to the mental asylum but he wasn’t able or at least willing to agree to that. Nevertheless I explained to him the five w’s and waited in silence. He gave the impression that he wasn’t convinced Bobby was innocent and it was impossible to tell from under all of that hatred that he he carried for the man if he would ever hold any different view of him. The warden fetched an old blueprint of the boiler room and asked me to point out the location of the file. For more than a second or two I considered misleading him, pointing at another location but what would it prove other than once again I wasn’t to be trusted.

Later all of us bar Jake were taken into the warden’s office. On the table we could see the file’s paperwork and Bobby’s letter, the locket was nowhere to be seen … maybe he has secured it in a safe place. The warden clasped his hands in front of him and rested them on his desk. He then listed off our transgressions and made it clear he had not been impressed that we had broken the promise of exemplary behaviour … unbeknownst to any of us at the time of course. What kind of warden would ever expect his prisoners to be exemplary anyway? It was only later that we found out about the money changing hands … no wonder he made sure we were ‘safe’ in there.

I remember that being the first night where we all slept well. None of us experienced any nightmares. I think we’d done what we had being trying to … we had stopped the haunting and brought peace back to the place – well as much peace as one can expect in a prison.

Baio. Baio. Baio … I wish I could hug that man to death. A very dapper, 30 something, competent lawyer. Apparently the warden had requested his service as he had come to believe that we did not belong in prison. It’s hard to confirm if the warden’s motive was genuine or not … he could have easily have been honest with Baio upon seeking his services or he could have simply wanted us out of his hair and for things to return back to normal. Baio had confirmed that there had been no tox report and that all evidence presented was circumstantial at best. Jake being Jake, had been tactless in asking if Baio was a competent lawyer and had even had the cheek to proclaim that he thought a competent lawyer was a myth. I wonder how Jake’s ribs are faring after Pearl had given him that warning jab. Ah Jake, will you ever learn?

It was Baio who had told us about Mr Frakes and his donations to Rikers and a few other local prisons. Like I said no wonder the warden was trying to keep us safe.

Tumblr lvo31dxm fy1qfet8co1 500We were released from prison about a day and a half after Baio had first visited us. We made payment to Baio ($200) happy in the knowledge that the case had been thrown out and we could get on with our lives once more.

We all boarded the public transport and parted ways thereafter. I came straight home, I believe Alisha was heading to the Cabal and Jake had convinced Pearl to join him for a drink or two. He was still bitter about the fact he had lost a full clip of ammo … hmmm I wonder why the guards wouldn’t hand a loaded weapon to a man who was wrongly imprisoned and moreover one that had gotten beaten to within an inch of his life?!

I need to rest, I have an awful headache and my movement feels stiffened; prison beds aren’t overly comfy.

Dear Diary,

I still find it hard to believe how much trouble seems to gravitate towards my new friends. No matter where they are or to whom they are with it’s there lurking … waiting for that opportune moment to pounce. Maybe I should get out of all of this mess now whilst I still can … but is there really any chance of me going back to my old boring life? Would I really want to?

So whilst I was resting fairly peacefully last night it seems things were far more interesting for the others. Alisha had indeed gone to the Cabal. Things were much worse than we could have ever imagined. Men in black trench coats had stormed the Cabal building, Maria had been knocked out during the barrage and Dean had been unable to cause the intruders any damage with his fireball attacks. The twins had been captured and a ransom note had been left. Jacob & Sarah had left in response to the note and they’ve not been seen since. This had all happened around 5 days ago, a day before Duo and Chris had returned. The house protection seemed to have failed and Chris was concerned that it may relate to the talisman we had found previously. The talisman held the mark of The Seeker; some old order of Templars. Alisha advised that Chris had put it in a special lock-box that should stop it from being scribed again.
There was apparently some hoo-hah in relation to Dean not wanting to show Chris the note … the less I know the better I think. Alisha made it clear that I had to go get the file I had stashed with John and that I shouldn’t dillydally either. I guess that’s what I’ll go do once I’ve finished this entry and checked in on Mother.

Jake seems to have become isolated from his old cop buddies and there is some strange young guy looking for him. The young guy is apparently around my age with dark hair and described as being earnest. I think Jake said he heard he was around 5”9, slender yet athletic in build. Jake doesn’t seem to have any idea who this guy is or what his motives could be towards him. The only dots that he can possibly connect is that this guy seemed to make an appearance the same time that Baio did. Coincidental or not? Jake seems to think not but then Jake may just be being paranoid about this.

Pearl had left Jake nursing a drink and had found that the office had been broken into. Someone had tampered with the office door and then rifled around the office. Pearl had flashed her sword and smiled whilst informing us that it hadn’t been taken. Pearl and Jake believe that someone was looking for something specific and from what Pearl had said it did not appear like anything was missing but with Jake’s filing system they’d be unlikely to know for sure for some time.

Custom house   liverpool   circa 1800After hearing all of this I had felt exhausted again. I was just about to leave when Pearl said that there was more. She showed us an English newspaper article. I was perplexed to where this was going to lead. It reported the recent death, an accident in Liverpool harbour … “Dock Worker Dies in Mysterious Circumstances” … “violent death” … “mutilation” … I had to sit back down. I was just starting to ask who this guy was when Pearl interjected and said he was the person who had helped her escape. I wanted to ask more but Pearl had that look in her eyes … the look of do not push your luck … the look of if you ask another stupid question I WILL crush you. I sat back in my seat and stared at the newspaper article on the table unsure of what to do or say.

I must go look for John, I hope I can find him and put any concerns and questions he has to bed.

Frakes, what am I going to do about Frakes? Frakes has done so much for me of late … he called around to the house to speak with Mother personally about my ‘travels’ and he helped out in the best way he could when I was in prison. I can’t decide if I am indebted to him for his kind, supportive actions or if this makes us equal for whatever affliction I am suffering from?

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Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Boiler

“Summertime
And the living is easy
Fish are jumping…
And the cotton is high…”

The door clanged. “Quiet in there!”
“I’m bored,” said Pearl. “Do you mean to tell me I can’t even sing? I’ll go crazy in here. There’s nothing to do.”
“That’s the point,” said the guard on the other side of the door. “You’re in there until you learn the error of your ways. Now hush up before I have to make you.”
Lying on the floor staring at the ceiling – just because it made a change from lying on the narrow cot – Pearl heard the footsteps of the guard stomping off into the distance.
“Well, at least I’m not rattling my cup off the bars,” she said, to nobody in particular.

A few days earlier, she had been perched precariously on her tiptoes, standing on the narrow seat of the toilet. With one arm flung over the top of the cistern, she managed to get a small amount of additional purchase with her feet against a wall. Shimmying up, she rummaged around in it blindly. It was not the most glamorous of tasks, but needs must.
“We need some kind of lock-pick, if we’re going to get through that door,” Alisha had said. But the prison had transpired to be –perhaps understandably – short on lock-picking options. If this didn’t turn up anything, robbing a guard was their next best bet, and nobody particularly wanted to go down that route if they didn’t have to.
Pearl’s fingers closed around a piece of what felt like metal, attached to the side of the cistern’s interior. Putting pressure on it, she managed to snap it off. It was a flimsy, hook-shaped bit of tin. Not the best potential lock-pick by any means, but probably the likeliest thing they’d find in this wretched place. Hiding it in her sock, she flushed the toilet and walked out into the yard, looking nonchalant, or so she hoped.
It was just in time, as it happened; with the sun going down on the other side of the high walls, the guards were beginning to herd everyone toward the prison canteen. Over a pleasant dinner of unidentifiable brown mush, she managed to produce the bit of metal for Alice and Alisha to look at without attracting the attention of the guards. Neither of them looked entirely happy, though, and Pearl had to admit it looked a bit on the flimsy side.
“Where’s Jake?” she asked, glancing around. He hadn’t shown himself in the last few hours.
“His roommate Brooks said he’s gone back to the infirmary,” said Alice. “He was saying he had a splitting headache.”
Alisha raised an eyebrow. “It’s probably a few years’ worth of hangovers all coming at once,” she said. “Do we want to go ahead and… while he’s not around?”
“I think so,” said Pearl. “At least, if he’s still not around in the morning – we can’t do anything tonight. Do we even know what we’re doing, though? And have we got the remotest chance of getting into the old part of the prison without getting caught?”
Alisha surreptitiously passed back the hook. “Alice and I were talking, while you were fishing around in the toilet,” she said, leaning closer. “We’ve got an idea that we think might work. But the timing will have to be absolutely right.”

In the library, Pearl casually took up a spot by the J-surnamed authors in the fiction section; it had a reasonably good view of the door. Picking a book at random, she skimmed the first page, while still keeping a close eye on what was going on. She was feeling unaccountably nervous this morning, more than could be attributed to the scheme they had concocted the previous night; certainly it was harebrained, but they were already in prison – what was the worst that could happen? Still, her stomach wasn’t happy. She had a bad feeling about the dream she had had. That amulet, the one with the symbol of the Emperor’s son, had shown up again, and that was never a good omen. And when the walls had started collapsing around her – ugh, she hated that particular dream – and the two archaeologists had pulled her out, she had dropped it in her panic.
Alice and Alisha had both dreamed as well, and that wasn’t good either. Alice’s, in which her friend Jake’s money had all blown away without his noticing while she was talking to him, was easy enough to interpret. She was clearly feeling guilty about putting him in danger from the police and god knows what else by leaving all of that evidence with him (although Pearl had refrained from mentioning that, out of decency). Alisha had seen Sam momentarily on a New York street. Before she could call out to him, a shopkeeper had yelled angrily, startling him into disappearing down a side alleyway. As he ran, he dropped a scrap of paper, which – before it dissolved in the rain – turned out to be a picture of Alisha and Sam.
Pearl shook her head. Best not think about these visions; they were clearly all part and parcel of whatever was happening here. If they were to have any chance of solving the problem, she needed to focus on the task at hand.
“You took my book!”
“What?” said Alisha, loudly. “This is my book. Get your own!”
“You took my book!” Alice repeated, her voice sounding abnormally loud in the quiet library. “How dare you? I just put it down for a second!”
SHHH,” said the librarian.
Alice tried again. “That’s mine, darn it!” She marched up to Alisha, and daringly, gave her a shove. Surprised, Alisha went “Ooof!” and shoved her back, fairly gently. Don’t lay it on too thick, girls, Pearl thought anxiously.
The prison guard who had been stationed next to the room’s exit rolled her eyes. “Come on, ladies, break it up,” she said, moseying over to Alice and Alisha, who were now engaging in some tentative hair-pulling.
Turning to the guard, Alice embarked on a long-winded, petulant explanation of why she needed this particular book, and why it wasn’t fair, and how is it that she was allowed get away with this flagrant bad behaviour? The prison guard seemed mildly interested, as did the librarian, and every other con in the room. An alteraction, even a tame one like this, beat another boring day thumbing through the sparse selection of romance novels, anyway.
Sidling over to the Ks, Pearl came within grabbing range of the guard, who now had her hands in the air and was patiently trying to calm both Alice and Alisha. Very cautiously, she managed to remove the ring of keys that were dangling at the guard’s belt. I’m getting good at this, she thought. Without hurrying, she returned to her previous spot, and found herself another book.
Eventually, the two aggrieved library patrons were persuaded to shelve their differences, and begrudgingly shook hands. The guard warned them to make sure to keep their noses clean, and resumed her conversation with the librarian. One after the other, so as not to draw attention to themselves, the two left the library. Pearl stayed put with her nose in a Raymond Chandler novel.
“Hey thur,” came a voice over Pearl’s shoulder. She jumped, then felt foolish. Peering over her book, she saw a middle-aged male convict with straggling hair, pretending to peruse the Ds. She didn’t like the way he was grinning at her.
“Yes? Can I help you?”
“Ah was looking fur a dee-tective story, and you look like you know yur stuff,” he said, politely, but with a glint in his eye. “There was a good one ah remember a few years back. Somethin’ about a missing key?”
“Doesn’t sound familiar to me, I’m afraid,” said Pearl.
“Gee, that’s a shame,” said the convict. “Guess ah’ll have to go ask the guard if they can help me find one like that.”
Pearl lowered her book again. “Have we met, Mr… er…”
“Shanks is the name,” he said, presenting a hand, and showing his yellowed teeth once again in that grin.
“Well, Mr Shanks, you do make a fair point. Supposing I were to find a book of that nature, in, say, a couple of hours. Once I was finished with it myself, I could leave it here where you could find it – behind the J novels, here – and then perhaps nobody would need to bother the guards. Does that sound reasonable?”
“No talking in the library!”
“Sounds good to me,” Shanks said under his breath, and moved away. Pearl let another few minutes pass, then quietly closed her book and left the room.
Alisha and Alice were waiting for her outside. “Where were you?” Alice hissed. “They’re going to do their rounds any moment.”
“Unavoidably delayed,” Pearl replied, and extracted the keyring from her shoe, handing it over. Alisha hurried across the corridor to the heavy double doors nearby, while Alice and Pearl loitered outside the library door. As they had planned, the two struck up a low-key conversation about exotic birds, to provide some background noise.
There must have been five or six nearly-identical keys on the heavy brass ring, and Alisha was getting flustered. She could only have been trying for a minute or two, but soon enough, the heavy footsteps of a guard rang out overhead.
“That’s true,” Alice said loudly. “Pelicans are fascinating birds!” Pearl raised an eyebrow.
“Hey, you two! What are you doing there?”
“Nothing, just chatting,” said Alice politely.
“Well, move along! Don’t want you hanging around in here. Get outside and into the fresh air.”
The footsteps passed over. Not wanting to tempt fate, the three quietly followed the guard’s instructions. Another attempt would have to wait until the afternoon.

“Say, did you hear about Jenny’s keys?”
“Huh?”
“She’s lost ‘em. I told her to check the locker room but she says she’s looked everywhere.”
“Well, you know Jenny. They’re probably sitting right on the dresser at home where she left ‘em.”
“Sure, but you know the drill. They don’t show up in another hour, it’ll be lockdown.”
“Aww, crap! I was hoping to sneak away early tonight. The game’s on.”
“Them’s the breaks, sweetheart.”

Back in the corridor, after lunch. The guards had rotated, so it seemed safe enough to resume their places from the morning. If the conversation Alice had heard in the lunch line was to be believed, time was getting short, and the mood was tense.
Alisha had worked out over lunch which key she thought was the right one, the only one she hadn’t tried. Happily enough, this time, it did the trick. The doors creaked open, and the three sidled through as quietly and as quickly as possible, then ducked down to avoid being seen through the panes of glass in the door’s top half.
“Now what?” whispered Alice. The three looked out over the yard in front of them. There were fifty yards between them and the long, low building they were aiming for. From this distance it looked sinister, abandoned. Many of the windows were boarded up, and there was not a single point of cover between them and the forbidding double doors that marked the building’s only entryway. They would be clearly visible to anyone who happened to look out of a window on that side of the main prison building.
Alisha reached up behind them and carefully relocked the door. “Now we make a break for it, and trust to our luck,” she said grimly, and was away.
Pearl and Alice followed, as fast as they dared. Pearl reached the building first and crouched down while Alisha, just behind her, fumbled again with the keyring. This time their luck held, and it opened on the first try. Alice, panting, was just behind them, and the three made it into the building and slammed the door behind them in a matter of seconds. It seemed as though they might have made it undetected. How they were going to get back, of course, was another matter, but in the meantime, they had an abandoned prison building to explore.
Moving down the dim, grimy corridor, doorways appeared in the gloom on either side. There were a lot of possible options to check out, even if they had been entirely sure what they were looking for. It was chilly in here. Pearl shivered.
“I’ve found something,” called Alice. One of the doors was closed over. Barely visible in the dark was a dusty plaque that read BOILER ROOM. It was locked, and none of the keys on the ring seemed to do the trick.
“Do you hear something?” asked Alisha. The three paused. From the direction from which they had entered, voices could be faintly heard, approaching.
“We’d better get in there quickly,” said Pearl, alarmed, and the others concurred. Alice and Alisha took a run at the door together, with no apparent success. The voices were becoming clearer.

“What I want to know is, why the hell would they even come over here? I mean, what’s the point?”
“Well, there’re certainly enough hiding places in there. We could be hours looking for them.”

Clearly time was running out. A second and then a third attempt to break down the door failed. Casting around for something, anything that would help, Alice spotted a dusty bench standing against a wall a few metres down. They dragged it towards the door.
Together, the three managed to hoist up the bench, and successfully broke the door open. Stepping into the yawning darkness beyond, they slammed the door shut behind them and blindly pushed the bench up against it. Then they stopped. Out in the corridor, the sound of running footsteps grew louder, and then faded away as the guards passed them.
“It’s pitch black in here,” said Pearl.
“No kidding,” replied Alisha. “Alice, can you see much?”
“It’s a narrow corridor, about three feet wide,” she said. “There’s a room off to the left here. Wait while I have a look.”
Alisha and Pearl waited in the corridor while Alice rummaged around somewhere in the dark. Towards the end of the corridor, the blackness seemed a little less absolute; Pearl thought her eyes might be adjusting. After about two minutes, they heard Alice come back out.
“Nothing much,” she said. “It’s an empty office. Mostly dust and empty filing cabinets. I did find one file, though, which looks like it might be interesting.”
Alisha had gone down the corridor a bit. “Bring it this way,” she called. “It looks like it’s brighter up here.”
They examined the contents of the cardboard folder, in the dim light; Alice had to read most of it for them, but the black-and-white photographs were just visible. It was a file on someone called Robert Davies, and the last thing in it was a typed sheet of thin paper – a detective’s report. Alice skimmed it briefly.
“According to this,” she said, “whoever Robert Davies is, he couldn’t have been guilty of the murder he was accused of, because he had a solid alibi for the time when the guy was stabbed.”
Alisha and Pearl exchanged glances in the dark. “Bobby,” said Alisha grimly. “So he didn’t do it, after all.”
The three became dimly aware of a low thrumming noise, barely audible. It was coming from the end of the corridor they hadn’t yet reached. Walking towards it, the dim light filtering in from the dirty windows high above revealed a series of metal gangways leading away. One path led forward, one to the left, and one to the right. Two large metal shapes loomed between the walkways; probably the boilers on the floor below.
“I’ll take the middle way,” said Pearl. Alice went left, while Alisha took the right.
A few steps in, the metal floor gave way beneath Pearl’s feet. Without time to do more than utter a startled yelp, she slipped through, by some miracle landing unharmed on the hard floor below. “I’m okay!” she called, scrambling to her feet.
Alisha had reached a solid wall. Turning in the dim light, she spotted just in time that a set of stairs was opening before her feet. Carefully, she made her way down to the lower level. Alice’s low-light vision allowed her to work out immediately what was happening, and she ran around from her end of the corridor.
“I’m fine!” said Pearl again, taking a tentative step forward, and walking into a low-hanging pipe. “Urgh. I mean I’m mostly fine.”
Alice looked down at them from above. “The gantry’s broken just here!” she called.
“Yes, that it is,” muttered Pearl.
Alice had nearly made her way to the bottom of the stairs when an ungodly shriek rang through the room. All three were momentarily frozen on the spot. A wave of cold air washed over them, and then there was silence.
Alisha recovered first. “What the hell was that?”
All three were suddenly knocked forwards by a blow to the backs of their heads. Blood flashed in front of Pearl’s eyes, and she stumbled forward, hearing the others do the same. A crushing sense of anger and despair washed over all three of them.
Once again, Pearl stumbled to her feet, groaning. “That hurt,” she said. “What on earth is going on down here? Did you see anything?”
Before the others had a chance to answer, the attack was renewed, this time focused on their legs. Alice managed to withstand the blow, but Alisha and Pearl struggled to stay upright.
“We’ve definitely got some company,” said Alice. Carefully, she edged around the cramped space surrounding a ten-foot-tall boiler that loomed above their heads. The dull metal looked sinister in the dim light. Just under Pearl’s feet, she spotted something that only her night vision would have allowed. “Those are bloodstains, guys,” she pointed out. “Look, there’s a spatter mark. And it looks like something or someone was dragged… over to here.” She followed the drag marks, which lead over towards the door of the boiler.
“Looks like we’ve found the site of the murder,” said Alisha.
Pearl nodded. “We don’t want to spend any more time down here than we have to,” she said. “It’ll only get worse; you know that this kind of violent ghost is strongest at the source of its trauma.” As if in answer, another blood-curdling shriek rang through the building, and Pearl and Alisha were again bowled over by an unseen force. This time they were not so lucky; Alisha was thrown violently against the wall, while Pearl was once more knocked over, hitting her head.
“Come away from there!” cried Alice, grabbing the two by their arms and dragging them with her toward the boiler’s door. Oddly enough, it was warm over there. Too warm to be natural, in this frigid building.
Alisha rubbed her bruised arm, cursing under her breath. “Come here so I can heal that,” she said to Pearl. Alice looked more closely at the boiler.
“There’s more blood here,” she said. “It looks like this might be where the body was laid, before it went into the boiler.” Bravely, she raised a hand to the boiler’s latch, and swung open the door.
Inside, it was dim and empty, and an intense heat radiated toward them. Alice had a bad sense of foreboding. “Duck!” she screamed. All three hit the floor just before a huge flame burst out toward them.
“Ladies, have we confirmed yet that it’s dangerous in here?” grumbled Pearl. “Can we please leave?”
“That’s definitely magical fire,” said Alisha, with her face pushed into the floor.
“That doesn’t mean it’s not going to kill us!”
From her position on the floor, Alice spotted a grating about four feet away, that looked as though it was sitting slightly ajar. On her belly, she crawled towards it. The dust lay thickly on its surface; apparently it had been undisturbed for a long time.
“Guys, I’ve found something!”
Another flame jet roared out of the boiler, just missing Pearl and Alisha, who ducked again. An intense wave of fear hit Pearl. “We’re all going to be burned alive!” she cried, panicking. Alisha grabbed her by the shoulder and dragged her further away from the boiler.
Alice had lifted the grating. Underneath was a dirty scrap of paper, wrapped around something. Carefully, she peeled it away, to reveal a locket. The paper appeared to be a letter, but it was too dim to read properly. She looked around, expecting another onslaught from the angry spirit that had been assailing them; oddly, all was quiet.
The three retreated toward the stairwell. Pearl was calmer, but still hiccupping slightly with the strain. Alice handed Alisha the locket, and smoothed out the letter.
“_My dearest Shirley_,” she read. “_I’m so sorry that this has happened. I never, ever meant for this. Your death was such an unlikely accident, yet the only person I can blame is myself. If you hadn’t been here, you would be alive now. All I can say is that I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I’m not a stronger man. I’m sorry that I can’t face your brother. I’m too afraid that I’ll be blamed again for murder, and that I’ll also die. Even if that meant we’d be together again. I’m just not the man you thought I was. All my love…_ Bobby.”
Alisha opened the locket, and they peered at it. It contained two pictures, both many years old, judging by the clothes pictured; one of a young woman, and one of a young man who looked oddly familiar. “That’s the Warden,” said Alice.
“So what do we think happened?” asked Pearl. “Shirley found the file on Bobby and confronted her brother with it, down here for some reason, and then he killed her?”
The same unholy shriek that they had heard before racked through the building. The air stirred and crackled again. “Whatever happened, we’ve got to get out of here before this gets any worse,” said Alisha.
Pearl took the file from her, placed the letter and the locket inside it, and tucked it under her prison overalls. “Let’s get out of here, then,” she said.
“What are you doing?” said Alisha. “We can’t take that out with us – if we’re caught, they’ll confiscate it and destroy it! It’s far too incriminating for the Warden!”
“But we can’t leave it here – we’ll have no evidence at all for what happened!”
Another blast of ghostly energy rattled them, nearly knocking them off the stairwell. “We have to go!” shouted Alice. In a panic, she grabbed the file, ran over to the grate, and shoved it back underneath. The others made their way as quickly as possible up the stairs.
The ghost was now behaving strangely. As they arrived in the narrow corridor, all three felt as though they were being hindered, pulled backward by some force. They struggled their way toward the corridor as the ghost howled and whined behind them. Looking back over her shoulder, Pearl noticed that the boilers were glowing a dull red; as she watched, flames of magical fire began to erupt in all directions, and she shuddered.
“Well, there’s no way that file will ever see the light of day again,” she muttered.
As they ran down the corridor, they could hear the sound of water steaming in the pipes alongside them. Clunking noises were coming from the empty office as they passed, as though the furniture inside was being thrown around. Alisha and Alice, in the front, skidded to a stop as an angry spectral face momentarily appeared in front of them; then, with a despairing shriek, it disappeared.
Alisha and Alice scrambled to move the bench away from the door. Without any further thought as to what might be on the other side, Pearl flung it open, and thought that she’d never been so happy to see a pair of prison guards before.

“So,” said the Warden, quietly. “What exactly did you think you were doing?” It was not the reception Pearl had expected. He’d even offered them tea. Pearl was dying for a cup, but it seemed that the best option was to stay absolutely quiet.
The Warden poured himself a cup. “Your friend, Mr Frakes, promised me that you’d be model prisoners, if I kept my part of the bargain,” he remarked, conversationally. “Do you want to tell me what was going on?”
Alice broke. “I’m sorry, we’re so sorry,” she said. “We were just interested! We were looking into a part of the prison’s history.” She gulped, and stopped.
“The prison’s history?” The Warden looked genuinely surprised, and something else. Hurt, perhaps. Gently, he said, “It’s the very darkest part of this prison’s history. And I think you know that it means something else to me, as well.”
The three remained silent.
“Is there nothing else you want to tell me?”
Quietly, Alice started to sob.
The Warden sighed. Calling in a pair of guards, he sent Pearl and Alisha away. Pouring Alice a cup of tea, he sat down next to her. “Mr Frakes was pretty specific on the subject of you,” he said, kindly. “You can trust me. Nothing you say will leave this room, but I need to know what your friends talked you into. Because I’m sure you know why this is important to me.”
“They didn’t talk me into anything, said Alice. “My… my curiosity got the better of me.”
“Curiosity?”
“Yes… You know I’ve always wanted to be a journalist, ever since I was a little girl, and… it seemed as though something was going on, connected with the old part of the prison… and…”
He leaned closer. “And what did you learn?”
What could Alice say? She was looking into the face of a man who had murdered his sister and concealed the evidence for twenty years. Surely he wouldn’t have any difficulty in disappearing a few disobedient convicts. Under no circumstances could she reveal to him what they had learned. “It’s… very dusty, and scary in there,” she said.
The Warden’s face changed. He looked, as far as she could make out, genuinely disappointed. He got up, and opened the door a crack.
“Guard, please take Ms Jenkins to solitary confinement,” he said, wearily.

As Alice walked away, hands cuffed behind her, she thought about the gap in the walkway that Pearl had fallen through. She couldn’t get the Warden’s face out of her mind, and she thought again about the precise wording of the letter, and the reaction of the ghost when they had accused her brother of murder. As the door clanged shut behind her, she wondered if they had made a serious mistake.

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A Sudden Change of Events

’Dammit, how I hate to write those reports. You would think that such a paranoid institution would not require to have written reports. Better get this fire started and catch a glass of wine and get this over with…Okay, all set. Where do I start.”After I roasted this spider monstrosity” Ha! This will be fun.

I thought Jake would have had better contacts with the police to avoid these kind of situations, not saying that it was MY smartest move. I guess Jerry Stanislawski just didn’t have another choice than bringing us down to the station.

At least Alice got away, with Jake’s Badge, the file and the necklace Jake grabbed from the room and Pearl’s blood tainted gloves. I just hope that her friend John the shoe-shiner will not go through her bag. I’m still not sure if it was the right move to turn herself in afterwards. But then it’s a good test so see how much control she has over her abilities these days, though I doubt that it would have been a help if she had turned. This all might have turned out quite differently… haha…sometimes I just love the expression on people’s faces when they just can’t grasp what just happened.

What I still don’t understand is how this guy, Jake knocked unconscious, died. Was he injected with the poison before we got to him, or while he was being held in the cell on the police station? It must have been a very slow acting poison if he was poisoned beforehand. We were almost held two hours in the cell before they questioned us one by one. I remember that they just finished questioning us when we noticed something was going on back were the single cells are and Jake found out that they just discovered that the guy died. It’s ridiculous to assume we had something to do with it. If we would have planned to kill him we wouldn’t have loudly announced that we were looking for him to the desk clerk. But they charged Jake with murder and the rest of us for Complicity to Murder.
Okay, back to my report now’

Casefile: 148
Location: New York City Jail
Happenings:

  • Nightmares affecting a whole prison
  • Multiple ghost sighting within the prison
  • Items going missing during daytime

After we’ve been imprisoned following the events in case 147, Pearl was put into a cell with Betty, a rather grumpy and sullen person, who clearly wasn’t happy about having to share her cell. Alice and I got to share a cell and Jake shared his cell with Brooks, a lad convicted for murder, but according to him it has been an accident.

Unable to reach the Cabal I was concerned about the circumstances and was hoping for another chance to get to use a phone.

They’ve assigned our case to one of the court-appointed lawyers, Henry Winkler, who clearly wouldn’t make money if it weren’t for the court-appointed cases. We didn’t hear from him for the first couple of days. But we managed to find out that the police was in the believe that the murder case is a gang related matter and we were executing a hit on these guys.

One night after a couple of uneventful days we’ve all been disturbed in our sleep by “Visions” showing us things we most fear from our past. From the sounds from the surrounding cells it appeared that all were affected by these Nightmare or Visions.

When we discussed the events of that night the next morning during breakfast, Jake noticed “Sammy, the Squid”, a (former?) member of the white hand gang on one of the other tables. Jake had put Sammy behind bars a couple of years back. It was clear that Sammy had recognized Jake as well. So we agreed to keep an watchful eye on our surroundings.
When Jake turned back to his breakfast he noticed his fork missing and no matter how hard he tried to investigate this loss he was unable to resolve the case of the missing fork. I can clearly remember that he picked up a fork in the first place as he was trying to be funny, feinting to steal food from Pearls plate.
A few minutes later we witnessed an argument between two inmates, who were sitting a couple of tables over, one blaming the other to have stolen his plate and the other insisting on not having done anything. So it became more and more clear to us, that something Strange was going on in the prison.

‘That was also when they told me about the shiver they felt while we were being held at the police station. Together with the fact that these Spider people were gathering all kinds of artifacts I’m convinced that it this effect was evoked by some kind of ritual. I need to find out more about rituals. And I also need to make sure to include this into the other case report.’

The next event happened during our daily ‘yard exercise’. Alice slipped away at one point, as her distress in broad daylight doesn’t seem to get better. I recommend further studies if this effect can be influenced in any way.
It was when Jake was gone to the bathroom for quite some time already, that I heard noises coming from the sanitary installations. It sounded like someone was fighting in there. As per regulations only one prisoner is aloud in there at a time. I grabbed Pearl and ran over to the closest guard and made here aware of the situation. She called out to the guard in front of the toilette and I’m pretty sure that he rolled his eyes before turning around and breaking up the fight, confirming my suspicion that he was paid off to look the other way.
Jake was unconscious when they brought him out, this was also true for Sammy the Squid and the third guy they brought out looked like he would collapse any moment.

With combined effort we tried to get to Jake but without success. We were told that his condition wasn’t serious. He would be out for a couple of hours but besides a broken nose and a couple of broken rips he was fine and was discharged later the same day, just in time for a visit from Henry.

Henry didn’t have any news in relation to our prosecution. We still weren’t allowed to make any phone calls, so he agreed to try and call Dean. He also promised Alice to check if he could get a hold of Mr. Frakes.

The next night we were all haunted by nightmares again.

‘I really wish I would have any information about the whereabouts of my brother. I just can’t imagine him working willingly with this strange hooded figure I saw. I know he always had the tendency to get himself into trouble and to choose the wrong way out. But then I don’t know what fairy-tale they fed him.’

At this stage I was convinced that whatever was happening in the prison is local to the prison and not related to our previous case.

As it became apparent that we will be spending more time in there than we thought we set our mind to solving whatever is affecting the prison. Pearl and I set out to get the other inmates talking about the recurring nightmares. We came across a rumor that the prison is being haunted by a prison guard that got killed in there once. But that was all we could find out.
Jake talked to Brooks to see if he would know more about the incidents happening in the prison. But he seemed very reluctant to talk about this topic, mentioning that Jake should be careful not to talk about such things, and that people who do talk such crazy talk get moved away.
Jake did manage to learn that the guard that got killed was the sister of the current warden of the prison. She was found burned in the furnace. Following that event a riot broke out in the prison and Brooks cell mate at that time got killed.
When Jake shifted the conversation to the recent attack on him, Brooks lets him know that he doesn’t want to get involved in these kind of territorial conflicts.

A meeting with Henry revealed nothing new about the case. He still hadn’t managed to get a court date or to get the case dismissed. He was unable to reach Dean or anyone on that line for that matter, which got me really concerned at that time.
At least he brought good news for Alice as he had reached Mr. Frakes, who showed up a couple hours later and ensured her that he provided a cover story for her family. Something about an assignment in Europe. He also agreed to have a word with the warden, but he was reluctant to provide Alice with a lawyer, as he felt uncomfortable being involved in criminal activities.

‘Funny how we though of him as an asset when we encountered him when we were running Alice case and the first time he could be of any use he is none. We should have taken a different approach. I need to make sure to raise this when we next discuss our standing with Frakes and how to proceed. Can he really be trusted, when his public appearance does mean that much to him or is it exactly that what will keep him trustworthy? Okay, almost done now, keep going.’

During the night Alice and Jake were haunted by nightmares again. But this time they were different. Jake saw an inmate with his guts cut open in front of his cell and Alice saw a girl in a white dress running down the corridor. When Jake mentioned this later to Brooks he’s surprised and mentioned that his old cell mate Bobby, the one that died during the riot, got his guts cut open.

The next morning in the canteen, our usual spot was occupied by a couple inmates, clearly members of the white hand gang. Not long after we sat down, we were approached by a couple of guards who escorted us across the prison to the warden. Apparently Mr. Frakes kept his promise to Alice to talk to the warden, who was clearly not happy about this encounter and about the fact that he would have to answer a couple of inconvenient questions should Jake end up on the infirmary again.

The rest of the day we spend in the library. Pearl had found a few books about the prison’s history. One was of special interest. It was written by a former inmate. He confirmed the story from Brooks about a guard named Shirley being killed in the prison and the following riot. The boiler is now closed off and the cell wing has been moved since then. The book said that a rumor was going around that the prison guard had an affair with one of the inmates. We also found some entries about ghost sightings after this incident 20 years ago.

Our conclusion at that point was that Shirley and Bobby were haunting the prison. It’s possible that those two had an affair. So in order to put the ghosts to rest we had to find out what’s holding them in our world.
As the closest connections we had to the ghost are the Warden and Brooks we agreed that our changes are much better with Brooks. We knew that Brooks is working in the canteen, so Alice approached him during a quite hour in the canteen. Brooks believes that the warden is responsible for Bobby’s death, as the warden believed Bobby to be responsible for Shirley’s death. But Brooks thinks it unlikely that Bobby killed her. He does believe that Bobby could have had and affair with her though.
Open Action: We need to find out who killed Shirley.

‘Hm, wine glass empty. I should get a refill, this one is really tasty. I think it was a new thing from the Mercer Estate. I can get this report finished tomorrow. It will definitely not run away. Better not say that aloud, you never know around here.’

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No session...boo!

Just a heads up for any of our regular viewers, there was no session this week due to late night meetings getting in the way. Curse you, “having a job”

The game will be back next week in its usual slot.

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What a Tangled Web We Weave.

MuseumDear Diary,

So Jake and Pearl have managed to pick another odd case. This time they couldn’t help but spot an ununiformed cop talking with the Natural History Museums security guards and its old curator. The curator is one Mr. ,,, oh wait what was his name? I shall come back to that later.

Anyway one of the exhibits, the Ancient Africa Tribes exhibit to be exact had been senselessly damaged in what would appear to be a break in. The despondent curator initially refrained from interacting with any of us. Poor Pearl tried to sweet talk the security guards for information. “My brother owns an antique shop over on, er, Upper East & 5th” … and then if that wasn’t bad enough Pearl claimed to be married and then backtracked to say actually no she was a reporter for the Standard. Maybe Pearl was having an off day, or maybe she needs a few sweet talking tips from Jake. Either way it was painful yet amusing to watch … but still the conversation she had did the trick and the security guard got Larry (the other security guard) to cover his position while he gave us a run-down of the situation.

Jake must have spotted the curator at this point. I’m not sure when he’d come back to our location but Jake grabbed me and walked with deliberation over to him. On the way he mumbled something at me in a hushed voice. I looked at him but clearly there was no time to ask him to repeat it so I figured he wanted me to back him up in some way …

The curator had a medium stature, white hair (that was balding) and his mood was still less than chirpy. Jake offered our services to the curator; payment on completion or successful location of the missing items. Jake explained our usual $25 p/h fees + expenses and explained that while this incident was a priority to the curator himself, the police would put it on the back-burner … after all, there are plenty of murders, kidnappings and gang related incidents to keep the police busy.

I watched the curator (Mr. Barry Harkness … that was his name) for a reaction. He appeared to be pondering the situation but it was hard to get a good read on him. The silence felt like an eternity and just as I was about to look at Jake the curator spoke. The curator had concerns about the break-in becoming public and wanted a tight lid on the incident. Jake came out with some rinkydink line like “Don’t worry we put the PRIVATE in private investigation”. I think I became flushed with embarrassment at this point but thankfully the lighting was dim.

We managed to get a look at the crime scene well what was left of it as the cleaning of the area had already begun. We learnt that the glass display cabinets were made from some sort of reinforced glass and that to break them a blunt or heavy object would likely been used. The curator wasn’t sure if anything was missing and the exhibitor (Mr. Tom Danvers) unfortunately was away in Germany and wasn’t due to return until Saturday. The incident itself happened around 2-3am, and had been noticed just after 3am by the security guards on patrol. The strangest thing about all of this is that there was no evidence of forced entry, no signs of a struggle, nothing of notable worth in the display cabinets or diorama and the lights remained off during the night as normal … none of it made any sense. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was an inside job but the security guards seemed to back each other up when questioned by Jake, Pearl and Alisha. But why would anyone want to break into a museum to damage or steal religious artifacts of African tribes people when there were relics of other sorts elsewhere.

When I spoke with Mr. Danvers on the telephone he gave the impression that he was perplexed to why I would be questioning him however he did provide a little more insight onto the exhibit itself. The exhibit represented four gods – Nyame the Sky god, Anansi the Spider god, Tano the river god, Bia the Lion god and the exhibit had been there for some time now with no prior incident. Mr. Danvers was clearly reluctant to talk over the phone and expressed his concerns about anyone rooting around in his office whilst he was away. I could tell asking more questions would be futile so I gave up and thanked him for his time.

Back at the office Jake said he’d spend some time in the office and then head to chat with his cop buddies over the next day or so. Pearl will hit the books and Alisha as always said she’ll consult the cabal and check if Duo and Chris have returned. She mentioned something about some store in mid-town that sells crystals and other crap to tourists that caters for wizards on the side. A year ago I’d have laughed at the mere suggestion of wizards and exclaimed hokum but now … well I guess wizards, like zombies and necromancers are just another one of those things I didn’t realize actually existed before. I wonder what else there is out there … maybe I am better off not finding out.

SpiderDear Diary,

Pearl managed to find out some more information on those African gods I had mentioned. Apparently the myths say that Nyame the Sky god was the god over man, Bia the Lion god is the cousin of Nyame and belives in law, power and tyranny. Tano the river god represents water, shyness and healing. Ananasi the spider god was believed to be the trickster. There was something about two of the gods crossing paths, I think it was the Spider and the Lion but I’m not sure, I think ONLY Pearl can get so excited about these types of things!

Jake confirmed that the cops were disinterested in the case and proudly showed me his newly ‘cleaned’ gun. I hope for his sake that this time around he didn’t fling one of the mechanisms half way across the room. He really should pay Pearl more and have her clean it.

Alisha was missing this afternoon. Pearl advised that she was likely checking out that mid-town store to see if the store owner could aid the investigation in some way.

Anyway, I better head back to the office as I only called home to check on Mother and to let Rose know I’d be home late. I keep expecting Frakes to call and tell me I need to get back to work but so far he’s made no contact. I should make the time to visit at some point.

But do I really want to go back there?
What would happen to Mother though if I lost my income?
I think father would resent me and how would I explain it all to him to make him understand? I’m not sure I even understand any of this yet!

The hotel bristol  located in downtown la at 423 w. 8th streetDear Diary,

Alisha called the office from a nearby pay-phone in the late afternoon to ask if we could head over to the store. Pearl brought Jake and I up to speed as we headed out.

Apparently another break-in occurred only this one had resulted in the store being burnt to a crisp afterwards. The shop owner (Ezio) dealt in mundane artifacts and prior to this incident there had been very few issues over the years that he has owned the store; after all the local gangs tend to steer clear of places like that. Pearl, told us that Ezio remembered two young men standing out somewhat from his usual customers. These men were well dressed, one was Caucasian and the other African American but Ezio believed not a local New Yorker. He had estimated their ages to be between 22 & 26 with the African American being the elder of the two. Both men had come across as knowledgeable to Ezio and he recalls that they chatted with enthusiasm about general lore and what have you. Alisha had told Pearl she would wait for us to arrive so that the investigation could begin.

We arrived at the scene and Jake acted the fool. I don’t think he meant to or maybe he did, but he really should talk less hooey! I should probably elaborate….

J: “Hey Buddy”
Cop: "Erm, wait how did you know my name is Buddy … Buddy? "

I watched as the cop nervously placed his right hand on his gun

J: “Ah you know, Jerry Stanislawski. He and I are old buddies. We got chatting about you and …”

I’m not sure if I switched off at this point or if this was when Alisha came down to greet us with the owner. The cop confirmed with Ezio that it was ok to let us pass and we spent a good while having a look at the scene.

Jakes close eye determined that the door didn’t look to be forced open and the ignition point of the fire looked to be where there had once been various oil based liquids. It was highly likely that such oils were used to spread the fire too, helping it to engulf the dry wall and hanging tapestries. Pearl spotted some broken vases and Ezio explained to us all that there had once been 3 vases of African origin that depicted three of their mythological gods. He recalled that the gods were Sky, Water and Spider but due to the fire there was no way to find out for sure. He was however fairly certain, adamant in fact that the two goons were looking at making a purchase or two of African keepsakes or items or lore to the folktales.

What with the museum and the store it was clear something was amiss. I began to wonder what I might have gotten myself into. I remember thinking that at least theft and arson are everyday affairs and there was nothing supernatural to be concerned about …

BristolJake found a partially burnt matchbook; The Bristol which was conveniently only 3 blocks over from where we were so it didn’t take us too long to get there. Just before we left Ezio’s store, Jake passed on his card and asked Ezio to keep in touch.

Now this is where things get interesting or concerning depending on which way you would like to look at it. Jake proved to be a genius once more by antagonizing the large, balding, grease covered goon behind a tattered reception desk. To be fair on Jake the greasy sleaze had made Jake as soon as he entered the building. I still remember my heart skipping a beat when the guy bellowed “Yo mac, I ain’t done nothin’” this had trouble stamped all over it. We should have turned and left there and then but oh no we continued in and instead of using any form of tact Jake opened with “We’ll see pal …” and then the sleaze jumped in “Listen mac, I don’t want no fuckin’ trouble. You hear me?!” At this point the sleaze was loud enough to wake the dead; he and Jake exchanged some more colorful words until Jake finally had the ledger in his hands. He described the men we were looking for and the sleaze pointed at some scrawled names in the left margin … A. Smith and G. Jones | Room 20 F2 | … how original. Jake snatched the key from the sleaze’s hand and made a beeline for the stairwell.

StairwellI recall that I was already beginning to feel panicked as we ascended the stairs. I had tried to muster some courage but as soon as I saw Jake draw his weapon and get ready to open the door I panicked. I breathed heavily and I could feel the change happening. I looked up to see Jake pistol-whipping the Caucasian man and Pearl rushed in quickly to put him down, knocking him to the floor with what looked like a brutal blow that could easily have broken his nose. In this same instant the African American jumped, without hesitation, out of the window. Alisha rushed past, vaulted the bed and peered out of the window after him, “He’s gone” as she turned she glanced up “He’s climbing the wall!” Pearl and Jake traded places. Pearl peered out of the window standing next to Alisha whilst Jake rummaged through the pockets of the bloody faced man on the floor.

Everything was a blur I ran tried to run to the stairwell and then I heard it … the sound of something heavy splattering onto the ground. I’m not sure if I had imagined it but I thought I saw something whiz past the window at the end of the hall.

Jake exited the room, stuffing his coat with what looked like a wallet and some spider pendant. He grabbed my arm and I see Pearl and Alisha running down the stairs. It sounded like one of them had called over to the sleaze that had been at reception. We were too far away to make out what was being said but at one point it sounded like Pearl was heading back towards the stairwell, either that or she was shouting. As Jake and I made our way past the room to the stairs I peered back into it, I could see that the guy was still face down on the floor and I could see some matches smoldering on the floor next to the window. I had no idea what had happened, what that sounds was or maybe I had a good idea but I wasn’t ready to accept it. That soon changed.

As Jake and I reached the bottom of the stairs we could hear that Pearl was in the middle of saying something to the sleaze “… must have been the ruckus I’d heard.” “What the fuck did you guys do?!?!” We look over and see Pearl in the doorway that lead to the ally. The sleaze pushed passed her and ran out.

I rushed over and peered around the door. That’s when I saw it; saw him … well what remained of him anyway. The African American lay there. His charred suit his only distinguishable feature. His head was like pulp; shattered, splintered and bloody. Everything fell into place, the sound, the shadow falling past the window. Alisha must have tried to use her fireball to get him off the wall, the only problem being of course that he was 3 and a half stories up the building. Time had seemed to warp and I could hear so many voices all mingling into one. There were people gathering and I could hear people saying “the coppers are on the way”, “I’ve called the cops” and all I could think was that we were fucked.

It was the late at night but there were people, witnesses everywhere. I must have been just standing there with my mouth open, staring at the body when Jake grabbed my arm and pulled me into a huddle.

I think I hear Rose leaving.
I better come back to this entry later …

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One Man's Dead Body Is Another Man's Pet Zombie.

Zombie p2
Dear Diary,

I am truly exhausted. It seems that no matter how long I bathe for that smell of sewage water and decayed flesh lingers and lingers.

My affliction appeared again this evening, but this time I tried to make use of it … not with a great success might I add. I’ve found that in my stone form I’m about as elegant and nimble as an elephant walking across a wooden beam.

Gosh, if my father or mother were to find out, I don’t know what would happen to me … to them.

Anyway back to the Zombies, or more importantly the many dead Zombies and dead Necromancer. Oh wait, I’d not actually gotten that far.

Darn it, I wish this awful smell would clear.

I’ll be brief; there were Zombies who were being controlled by a Necromancer and Jake, Peal and Alisha did quite a number on them; chopped them to bits, turned them to ash, shot them several times … even if it did mean I got covered in viscera (no wonder I can’t get this smell out of my nose). Alisha looted a talisman and grimoire. She advised in her usual straight talking way that she would take it to Dean and her covern, wait no cabal. For my sake I hope she doesn’t read this.

There was also an ID card found that belonged to one Dr Carlos Sandoval (M.D) and a few other items of little importance.

We headed back to the office after the Zombie incident, as much to my relief we were not able to follow any of the spattering of viscera. Jake outlined the plan of action for tomorrow.

  • Jake said something about heading to the police station and meeting with some of his usual contacts.
  • Pearl said she would do some of her usual research gathering.
    I hope she’s going to be ok; she looked a little green around the gills in the office.
  • Alisha will do what she does best … well besides turning things into ashes of course … and focus on researching the grimoire and talisman.
  • I would get the photos I’d taken developed, head to the hospital where Dr Sandoval worked and then meet back up with everyone at 6pm.
  • Over the weekend I will be concentrating on taking care of mother. Rose can’t work the weekends and mother really needs someone to be there for her. I wish I could be of more use to everyone. Maybe when I can control this ability better or learn how to use those claws better.

The sun is about to rise. I should go get some rest.

00067017Dear Diary,

These last few days have been interesting enough.

Friday
I had a quick visit from Alisha who gave me a few more lessons on meditation. So far I’ve still not mastered changing form at will. I discovered that Carl aka Dr Carlos Sandoval was off shift and wasn’t due back in until Sunday. The guy I spoke to seemed to give the impression that the good old doc liked to keep himself to himself but he would go for a social drink once in a while. You know ‘a real nice guy’. Yeah, right, the type of nice guy that brings the dead back to life to eat your face off. I of course left that last part out of the conversation.

Based on what I was told today the following also happened Friday or at least most of it anyway. It gets hard to remember, especially with all of this new found madness blurring things into one.

  • Alisha had gone to liaise with Dean to go over the grimoire and talisman. She explained that the book had been written in Latin but had from what she could tell a similar format to most of the ritual books she had seen in other languages. Dean wasn’t able to help further and unfortunately for us Duo and Charles Chris are still away and there is no knowing when they will be back. For some super powerful cabal you would think they would have better ways to communicate or maybe they don’t even trust their own. Maria (the one that always sounds like some crazy fortune teller) was in one of her long slumbers and was not to be disturbed.
    The talisman was made of smooth stone that glowed but Dean had no idea what it was or what it could be used for as the craft of making such items has been lost over time. Alisha said it was likely passed on generation to generation. I guess that means it could have been lost or stolen too.
  • Jake hadn’t found any major leads from his cop buddies but then again it wasn’t like he could go ‘Hey pal, so I was fighting of a hoard of zombies and I wanted to check where the source of cadavers came from’ … I think his cop buddies would have confiscated his hip flasks and thrown him in a cell for a night. Anyway, back to what I was trying to say, no leads … people die all the time and especially this time of the year; there are homeless everywhere and with all the gang activity …
  • On the way out Jake said he called by the coroner’s office … more dead ends (no pun intended).
  • Jake did manage to sweet talk the docs telephone number and address from some ‘broad’ at the phone company … and they say it is women who do this kind of thing! I guess it clearly goes to show that men and women are more alike than some would like to admit. Plus clearly this woman has never MET Jake Spencer, PI … sweet talker, fairly handsome with a tendency to be all thumbs and somewhat of a buffoon. He does have lovely eyes though, the type you could get lost in. The type I would have got lost in after I ‘gracefully’ bowled him over in the sewers had it not been for those Zombies wanting to make lunch of us! Anyway, it’s a good job he has Pearl to keep him in line.

Weekend

Well over the weekend I took good care of Mother. She’s not getting any better but at least I was there for her when she needed me.

Poor Pearl, had taken a day or so off work to recover from whatever she caught down in the sewers. She was back to work Saturday though although from what I hear still not fully recovered and incredibly grumpy. Alisha made some quip about Jake being on the receiving end of a withering look … apparently Pearl emptied one of the hip flasks in the office to use as a water canteen much to Jake’s dismay. The look of death put him in his place before he could utter a word … remind me not to cross Pearl … or Alisha for that matter …

Anyway, those three went to the docs 4th floor residential apartment over on Central Park. A quiet place if you ignore the sound of children. It was one of those apartment blocks filled with nice paintings and furnishings … then again those types always are.

They entered the docs place; well no one answered and they did have his keys. As they described the apartment to me it sounded like a show home; clean, crisp and barely lived in. Which would make sense for a doctor and even more sense for a doc who spends his free time bringing the dead back to life … when would he have the time to make a mess?!

After an hour (or there about) searching they came back with an address book that had a few family members listed and two other gentlemen that one would assume are likely doctors too or close friends.

They told the guard some baloney about the doc being ill … and he just accepted it no questions asked. Makes me wonder if all of these security guards are getting paid for just looking the part these days … I mean the ones at Frakes are nice enough, but they didn’t exactly stop me from getting onto the roof like they were meant to.

Where was I? Oh, it turns out one of the names is listed in the phone book. Jake said he’ll look to stake the place out with Pearl over the next couple of days.

I hear mother calling. I’ll be back with another update in a few days. I have a felling things may pick up speed now we finally have a lead.

Dear Diary,

It’s been around 2 weeks and I was wrong, the case didn’t pick up speed, in fact quite the opposite, it all but died and unlike Zombies it didn’t come back to life in any way, shape or form.

The guy in the address book was another doc that worked with our creepy doc and just rehashed what everyone else had said about him … ‘the docs a nice guy, keeps himself to himself …’ Well that was 10 days well spent!

Pearl and Jake checked out the docs locker, oh look spare clothes and other items you would expect a doc to have in his personal locker. Clearly he was to clever to have photographs of him bear hugging his pet zombies … what a pity.

The only thing that this dead case brought for me was time to practice my meditation techniques. To date I seem to only change form when I’m under duress – there has to be a way for me to control it though. It’s frustrating. I wish I could control it better but Alisha says it may take time and that these meditations will help. The only thing that I’m confused with now … well in the beginning I was scared petrified of what was happening to me, but now I know there are other things out there, powerful things and I wonder if I want to be cured at all?

What would my parents think though?
What happens if I can’t control it?
What happens if I’m cured and I need protection from something?

I just don’t know what to think at the moment but at least Pearl and Alisha are doing what they can to help me.

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A Strange Twist of Fortune

Wordlessly, the four looked at each other. Their clothes were torn and they were all covered in soot, gore, and unmentionable filth; as they watched, Alice’s grey armoured skin faded away, and she turned back into an ordinary, if dishevelled, woman.
Jake took a hip flask out of his pocket and took a long pull. “Well,” he said, passing it to his right, “I think that went okay.”


Pearl looked at Jake, eyes narrowed. “Are you sure you’re all right? That was a very odd turn you took there.”
“I’m fine!” he replied irritably, slopping coffee out of his cup. “Go on with the story. I already told you I don’t remember what happened after we were talking in Frakes’s office, so fill me in already. And quit giving me that look.”
“Well, if you’re sure,” she said, refilling her cup from the coffeepot, the reaching over to top Jake’s up. “We talked the situation over some more, after you went all quiet and stare-y. I thought it’d be better to keep Frakes on-side for the moment and work out how best to deal with him later. Alisha and Alice were all for doing something about the beasties, though – Alice wanted to try and persuade him to return them to their natural environment, and Alisha wasn’t happy with the security measures, or the fact that he was so certain that they weren’t magic, and she wanted to try change his mind. Well, I wasn’t convinced either of these scenarios were going to happen, but I thought we might as well sound Frakes out.”
“And?”
“And Alice has the best relationship with him, and also has that whole fragile, charming demeanour going for her. So she looked at him with those big eyes and said that she knew he wouldn’t want anyone else to be hurt like she had been.”
Jake snorted. “Go on.”
“Well, he argued his case: this has never happened before, the location was chosen precisely because it was so secure, no reason to worry our pretty little heads about it, and so on. Alisha turned the screws on him at bit, and he admitted that he wasn’t the only one who’d been involved in bringing them over. Wouldn’t say who else was involved; some crew of big game hunters with more firepower than sense, no doubt. Anyway, she managed to persuade Frakes to give her access to the roof so we can investigate a bit further, and to accept her help from her friends. Which is progress of a kind, I suppose.” She hopped off the desk and started rummaging in the nearby filing cabinet. “Oh, and we’re pooling our resources; we give him everything we know, keep an eye on Alice, and we get a look at his field notes. No photos, though. He’s keeping Alice on the payroll – she really is very persuasive – and we’re to take her to the doctor to get checked out during the week. Isn’t it a little early for that?”
“I’ve got work to do,” growled Jake, screwing the lid back on his hip flask and taking a slug of his Irish coffee. “What’s wrong with Alice, anyway?”
“Apart from the unfortunate situation where she sometimes turns uncontrollably into a hideous grey monster? Oh, nothing much really. Although she’s been having headaches, finds bright light troublesome. Apparently her night vision has improved enormously, though.” Pearl retrieved her hat and coat from the stand. “I’m going to head over to the city library, see if there’s anything helpful, and then I’ll pop in to Alice on my way home. Alisha won’t be in; she’s tied up consulting with those shadowy magic types all day.”
Jake downed the last of his coffee. “Good thinking,” he said. “Well, if there’s nothing happening around here, I’ll head over to McRory’s and do a little research of my own, see if any of my cop buddies know…”
“Ah, you’ve got a gap in your schedule? Excellent!” said Pearl brightly. She retrieved a large stack of dog-eared papers from a corner of her desk and placed them in front of Jake. “I need you to fill out and sign these reports on the cases from the last two months, so that I can send them out with the invoices tomorrow. We’ve got to keep the money rolling in, you know.”
Jake looked with disfavour at the stack. “Isn’t that your job? Or at least, half your job?”
“This is your half.” She belted her coat. “Enjoy your afternoon. I’ll be back later; toodle-pip!”


Dean looked thoughtfully at Alisha. He’d heard her story before in brief, which was why he had scheduled this meeting between his young agent and the second-in-command of his cell within the Cabal. It was no less bizarre the second time round, though. “What do you think, Duo?” he asked. “This is outside of my area of expertise… although I’ve heard that great white hunter types have a thing about bringing home strange souvenirs.”
Duo looked very excited. “I can hardly fault his wish to find out more about these beasts,” he said. “Remarkable! But of course, wildlife magic is one of my little hobbies.”
“Have you ever heard of someone suffering a transformation like this?” asked Alisha. Dean was a close colleague and a good friend, but at the end of the day he had little more experience than she had. Duo was a different proposition, though. The Cabal elder was exceptionally learned in matters of the arcane, and was rumoured to be much tougher than his frail form indicated.
Duo rubbed his chin. “Statues coming to life; well, that’s new to me, I’m afraid. I’ve heard of wizards performing summonings, but not from solid stone. This could be some form of curse. I’ve heard of devils performing them. I’m not sure how they work, though; it’ll need a lot more digging. Oh, and I’ll need to see the site, if at all possible.”
“That might be possible,” Alisha said, “but I’ll need to arrange it with Frakes. My other worry is that the creatures will get loose and cause more havoc. Is there any way we could prevent that magically, do you think?”
“Hmm,” said Duo. “That would be old magic, and of a kind I haven’t performed in a long time. Very difficult. We’d need an uninterrupted session; probably would need this man Frakes’s permission, and I doubt he’d grant it.” Duo rose creakily to his feet. “I think, my dear,” he said kindly, “that this will have to be submitted to the Cabal for further consideration.”


Alice hustled Pearl carefully into the hallway of the small, somewhat dark house, and past an open doorway into a cramped living room. Pearl could see the back of a tall chair, partially hidden by a potted palm.
“Sorry about this,” said Alice nervously, looking into the room. “My mother’s asleep, I’m afraid. We’ll have to be quick.”
“No worries at all,” said Pearl in a stage whisper. “How are you feeling?”
Alice blinked. “All right,” she said unconvincingly. “I mean, I haven’t been quite well enough to go back to work yet. I’m not sleeping well, you know, nightmares, and I get these terrible headaches when I go outside in the light.”
“You poor thing,” said Pearl. She presented Alice awkwardly with a bunch of grapes, which Alice took with a whispered thank-you. “When’s this doctor’s appointment? Alisha and I will go along with you, if you like.”
“That would be lovely,” said Alice with relief. She glanced nervously into the living room. “Listen, I don’t mean to be rude, but… my pop’ll be home soon, and I don’t want him to know too much about…” She gestured vaguely.
“I’ll be off, then,” said Pearl, and was manoeuvred out the door with her hat and umbrella without waking Alice’s mother, somehow. Alice closed the door, leaned her forehead against it, and sighed. It had been hard enough explaining her disappearance and injury the previous week from her father and her mother’s day nurse Rose; the last thing she needed was to have to deflect inquiries about why there were strange female detectives calling around to the house. She went into the sitting room, sat down, and took her dozing mother’s hand.
“Mom, how did I manage to get involved in all of this?”


“So then what happened?” asked Jake, through a mouthful of chicken and noodles. It was the following evening, and the team had regrouped back at the office with a Chinese takeout from the Central Kingdom House five blocks over; Pearl had found the place. “You went along to this quack, and what?”

“It was okay,” said Alice, shrugging, and fiddling with the wrapper of a fortune cookie. “Lots of needles and cold exam tables. They were nice, mostly. I talked to some kind of psychoanalyst guy for ages, and then another doctor checked me over and made me run on a treadmill. They were really interested in my eyes, though.”
“Ugh, needles,” said Alisha, shuddering. “Pass me the prawn toast.”
“It was okay,” said Alice. “My mother’s a nurse, so that kind of thing doesn’t bother me. What did you do today, after Pearl brought me home?”
“Meeting with the cabal,” Alisha said. Better not to share too much detail with the rest, she thought; need-to-know was best. Christopher, the head of her cell, was much less approachable than Duo or Dean. He wasn’t easy to read, but he had taken a strong interest in Alice, and was particularly concerned about whether she was a danger to the public. Or to their mission.
Christopher had quizzed her thoroughly, making her feel unnerved and guilty although she hadn’t violated any rules; even though she knew it was just how he operated, it was still alarming. She had managed to convince him that Alice wasn’t dangerous, but he was not entirely pleased with her standing agreement with Frakes. Duo, however, had come to her aid, enthusiastically arguing the case for studying the strange creatures on the roof, and had brought Christopher grudgingly around. The seer of the group, Maria, had dreamily predicted that the girl could have potential, and that Frakes could be a powerful ally or a dangerous enemy, which might have helped persuade Christopher. Or not. It was hard to tell.
“And what did they say?” asked Jake, blinking at the legend from his fortune cookie. Did that say BEWARE ZOMBIES? No, it said BEWARE SOME PEOPLE. Well, that was helpful.
“I have orders to investigate Frakes and his warehouse further,” Alisha replied, “and they’ve authorised me to work with Alice, see if any of our order’s techniques can help her. Meditation and that kind of thing.” She had actually been ordered to keep a very close watch on Alice, and if the opportunity arose, to put her into a situation that might trigger her abilities again, without causing unnecessary risk, of course. But again, that was need-to-know. “In the meantime, they’re discussing her condition and the monsters with the other cells, see if anyone has any knowledge in that line.”
“Well,” said Pearl, rummaging at the bottom of her cardboard carton with her chopsticks, “I suppose we keep our ears to the ground and see what we can find out. Anyway, good news! My cookie tells me we’re going to come into money soon! It must be because of all those invoices you posted out, Jake.”
“Huh,” said Jake.


Thursday, two in the afternoon. Jake and Pearl were walking back to their office building from an unproductive early-morning stakeout outside a grungy betting office downtown. The day was warm for a New York winter, with a glaringly bright sun, and there was a shimmer hanging in the air, along with a strange smell. The odour became more intense the closer they got to the building. As they approached, they noticed Alisha and Alice waiting for them outside, Alice holding a handkerchief over her mouth, and Alisha wearing a disgusted expression.
“I think you may have a problem with your drains,” said Alice, politely.
“Oh, fantastic,” said Pearl with annoyance. “We’ll have to call the landlord, again.”
Jake said nothing, but sniffed the air thoughtfully. “I don’t like it,” he said at last.
Cautiously, he went through the building’s main door, and slowly climbed the stairs; the other three grudgingly followed.
The smell definitely got worse indoors, and got stronger, as Jake had feared it would, as they made their way toward the office. Jake drew his .44. When the door of Spencer and Stanhope came into view, Alisha and Alice looked at one another, having both noticed the same thing. “You’ve had a break-in,” said Alisha.
Kicking the door inward, Jake stepped into the outer office, holding his gun poised and ready at his hip. The stench was nearly unbearable at this point, and the door to the inner office was ajar. “I think this is one of your cases,” Pearl hissed at Alisha, as they gingerly approached the interior door and pulled it open.
Sitting, or rather crouching in the client chair facing Jake’s desk, was a bizarre apparition. It wore a ratty trench coat and a fedora, and had a lot of long black hair. There was no doubt about where the smell was coming from.
“Reach for the skies, bozo!” barked Jake, gesturing unnecessarily with the Colt. The person turned around. He was wearing a large scarf, a clearly false beard, and dark glasses, which fell off as he moved, revealing milky, yellowy-gold eyes.
“Ah, it is you!” he declared with evident delight, seemingly unworried by the presence of the gun. “You are the ones that help, the ones that watch! You are in! You will help us!” He bounced up from his seat.
“Office hours are nine to five, Monday to Friday, sweetheart,” said Jake. He coughed and took a step back.
The apparition blinked. “The money. Yes. You will help us?” He withdrew several fistfuls of slightly stained cash from the pockets of his trench, and offered them hopefully to Jake; the top of his head only reached up to Jake’s chin.
Pearl and Alisha exchanged glances; Jake had that look, the one that said he was nearly just about sold. It was the request for help that did it, every time, no matter how freakish or odorous the client. “Just leave it in the sink and tell us what to do,” he said, putting his gun back in its holster and surreptitiously waving a handkerchief in front of his nose. “Or the trash can.”
The creature obediently deposited his cash in the bin, and perched on the edge of his seat. The others took up positions around the room, attempting to be polite while keeping as far as possible from the source of the smell. “There’s your money, Pearl,” said Jake under his breath. Pearl gave him a look.
“I store many things in trash can!” announced the creature, grabbing Jake’s hand and pumping it in a vigorous and friendly manner. “Many legends about you underground! I am Matthew!”
“Uh, nice to meet you,” Jake mumbled. “What are you, exactly?”
“We are trogs!”
Something stirred at the back of Alice’s mind; strange tales from her childhood, told on the playground by the kids with the patched clothes and scabby knees. There was something about people who lived in the sewers. Whole underground civilisations of them down there, living in the filth.
“We live underground,” said Matthew, confirming her recollection. “Trouble with man. One eye. No mouth. Attacked us.”
“How?” asked Jake.
“Hands, only. Groaned.”
“What were his clothes like? Were they nice?”
“Surface clothes!” said Matthew. “Of course nice!”
“So, what do you want us to do, exactly?” asked Jake, as politely as possible.
“Protect us!” said Matthew fiercely, grabbing Jake’s lapels with his gloved hands, causing him to rear back in alarm. “The elders send me to get help! Surface people hunt us, but you protect us!”
Pearl and Alisha exchanged another look; this time Alice joined in. “Down into the sewers we go, I suppose,” said Pearl.


It turned out the entrance to Matthew’s unpleasant underground realm was only a few blocks away, through the subway and down one of the train tunnels. The group attracted a few funny looks on the way down, but Matthew’s aura turned out to be helpful; nobody was interested in looking too close or interfering in their business. The five stood looking into the mouth of a dark subway tunnel.
“Creature came up near our homes,” said Matthew, and ventured into the dark, his voice echoing off the tunnel walls. The others started to pick their way along after him in the pitch blackness. “Other surfacers come down, wearing very nice clothes. Bring not living surfacers with them, carrying hands and feet.”
“Were they like the creature who attacked you?” asked Jake, puffing. The air down here wasn’t the freshest, and Matthew’s presence was not helping much.
“A bit like sleeping surfacers. Moans. Claws. Trogs ran away.”
“How many of the nice-looking surfacers came down?” asked Pearl.
“Two.”
Matthew had taken them off the main tunnel and was leading them through winding brickwork passages, grimy but dry; some were partially collapsed, some with low ceilings. He stopped to pull aside a grate and took them into a tunnel where the ceiling was lower, and a trench full of dark liquid ran down the centre. Brickwork walkways ran along either side, and the group worked their way along these until eventually coming to a sort of crossroads in the sewer.
“Must swim here,” said Matthew, and hopped into the trench, the wings of his trench coat trailing behind him as he crossed over. The others looked at one another.
Jake mustered his courage and strode into the water; conveniently, it was only up to his knees. The others followed suit, Pearl taking slightly longer in her high heels. Climbing onto the opposite bank, they continued through the tunnel until they reached a vaulted door, on which they could see a long scratch mark; passing through, Pearl noticed a similar scratch on the other side. These tunnels were dry and had clearly been unused for a long time. Eventually, they led out onto an enormous sub-basement, clearly some kind of massive storm drain constructed against the possibility of flooding. This room was dimly lit, revealing scores of dark shapes watching them through the same golden-yellow eyes that they had seen on Matthew.
“Those who help have come to protect us!” announced Matthew to the throng. “We will take them to the monster!”
“We said we’d investigate,” put in Jake. “We can only promise so much in the way of protection, you see…”
Matthew nodded several times. “Yes!” he said, and turned to the audience, translating. From their cheers, it appeared that Jake’s message had not quite gotten through. Two more trogs approached; one possibly female, another probably male, and wearing a ragged tie wound round his neck and chest and knotted.
“Trog chieftain,” said Matthew. “He says welcome! Hopes you are pleased with our home and with our offering of money.”
“Let me help you with that,” offered Alisha, and leaned in to retie the chief’s tie. He glowered at her, and she took a step back, embarrassed. Matthew stepped in diplomatically.
“I show you to the creature!” He marched out of another tunnel opening off the cavernous chamber.
“Well, on we go,” said Pearl, and followed him, as did the rest, more slowly. Pearl had adjusted to the unpleasantness of the ambient smell by this stage, and it was no longer bothering her as much; the others, however, were still suffering considerably. Matthew led them up to a large door and then paused.
“He through here,” he announced. “We come back when safe!” He then turned on his heel and scuttled at high speed back up the passage.
Jake gripped his pistol and opened the door. Blackness was beyond; it was impossible to tell how large the room was. One by one, the party tiptoed inside and made their way forward; there seemed to be a double line of pillars leading from the doorway, and they followed these.
A few yards in, it became apparent that something was in the room with them, towards what seemed to be the back wall. Jake approached the source of the low grunting noises, with Pearl following closely behind, sword in hand.
A loud, baleful moan could be heard, and a zombie stumbled into view, arms thrashing, aiming for the two in front. Startled, Jake got off a shot to the creature’s head, and he stumbled backwards, allowing Pearl to run forward and slash at him with her longsword. The creature dropped, rolled over, and was still.
“That was almost too easy,” said Pearl, wiping her blade on the creature’s clothes. Alisha and Alice moved cautiously forward and looked at the corpse.
“These things, I’ve heard of,” said Alisha. “This is necromancy. The reanimation of the dead is bad magic, no matter what culture it’s in.”
“He looks like he’s been dead for a while,” ventured Alice. Jake wiped his brow, and nodded. Above their heads, just visible through a space in the upper part of the wall, a train rolled by.
Matthew poked his nose around the door, and was overjoyed at the news that the creature who had attacked his friends was out of action. Alisha, however, was more concerned about the necromancers who had raised him.
“I bring you to where the surfacers are,” offered Matthew, and quickly ducked down a side tunnel. This was wide and dry, probably for bringing in vehicles in emergency situations, and was illuminated by weak natural light filtering in from a grate somewhere high above. “Come at darkness time. Up and down here. Always go down that way.” He pointed down the tunnel.
“Well, show us where,” said Jake. Matthew shook his head, eyes wide.
“No! Don’t know where. Too dangerous for trogs. Always we run away. Surfacers hunt trogs, maybe kill if they see.”
No amount of persuasion would convince Matthew to join them, so eventually the group proceeded on their own down the dim, quiet tunnel. Alice was beginning to notice evidence that others had been this way; her sharpened night vision was identifying traces of soil, fibres, some tracks, and something she thought might be blood mixed in with the floor dirt. At intervals, they passed blank doorways.
Eventually the tunnel came to its end and the group found themselves in an open chamber with a deeper level below them; a concrete walkway ran all around the room’s outer edge, with metal ladders leading about ten feet down to the lower level. Additional tunnels could be seen, wide and spacious on the upper level, and on the lower level, narrow and covered with chicken wire.
Below on the lower level were twelve more zombies, milling around. “Oh no,” said Alice, gulping. “Oh no. This is not good.” She backed away, moving toward the mouth of the nearest upper-level tunnel. The others looked grimly down at the scene.
“What’s that down there?” said Pearl, pointing to a lower-level grate, near one of the corners of the room. It looked as though the chicken wire had been clipped and pulled back, leaving the tunnel open. “It looks like someone’s been through there. I think we should look closer. We might find our necromancers.” Jake peered at it; he thought he could see traces of damaged mortar, and something caught in the wire.
“Uh, no!” said Alisha. “Are you crazy? You’re going to go down there, with twelve zombies, and crawl up a disgusting tunnel in the dark?”
“Come on, it’ll be fun!” said Pearl, already half way down the nearest ladder.
“I’m not going down there,” said Alisha, as Jake followed Pearl down the ladder. Alice skirted around and spotted a lump of something red and sticky near the entrance of the nearest upper-level tunnel; she hurriedly made her way to the ladder and climbed down after Jake.
The zombies somehow remained unaware of the figures sneaking past them toward the open grate. Jake reached the mouth of the tunnel first; it was dark and slippery, and angled sharply upward. Cursing under his breath, he managed to successfully climb the tunnel on his second attempt. Alice scampered after him and followed upward into the dark. Pearl, however, found all of her martial arts training useless ; no amount of struggling would get her up the slippery tunnel. Sliding back downwards, she landed in a gooey heap.
Alisha, who had climbed down as far as the base of the ladder, rolled her eyes. “Get back here!” she hissed, and climbed back up to the upper level. Pearl followed as quietly as possible, but thought she could see one or two zombies looking around, sniffing the air. “Now what?” said Alisha.


Jake and Alice found themselves looking upward into a high-ceilinged room, the floor of which sloped downward toward the tunnel they had just come up from, and which was looking more and more like a drainage chute. Immediately above their heads was a platform that jutted out into the middle of the room, consisting of a metal grid. There was someone up there.
Alice braced herself against the wall, trying to blend into the background as much as possible. Jake decided to try and get the attention of the person pacing up above.
“Graaaaah!”
The person stopped pacing. “Go down!” he ordered.
Jake waited a few moments, then tried again. “Graaaaaaaah!”
“Go down!”
A zombified corpse lurched off the platform and fell across the slanted floor towards Jake. With great presence of mind, Jake leaped over the zombie and watched it slide helplessly down the chute.
“Graaaaaah!”
The person up above, surely the necromancer, peered over the edge of the grating. Jake took a
quick shot at him. The man fell backward, clutching his cheek.


The sound of gunfire echoed through the upstairs chambers. Alisha’s head whipped around towards the wide tunnel, the one with gore at the entrance. “That way!” she yelled, and ran for it. Pearl drew her sword and followed. Spotting light coming from a side-passage, the two women skidded to a halt and turned, to find themselves in the same room as the necromancer.
A good distance behind them, a group of zombies slowly began to climb a ladder.
The necromancer, bent double and clutching his face, was on the metal platform Jake had seen, which was linked by a metal walkway to the doorway in which Pearl and Alisha were standing. He straightened up and began to swiftly perform some kind of rite upon two cadavers that were laid out on tables in front of him. As they watched, one began to twitch, then sat upright, swung its legs over the side of the table and lurched towards them.


After several futile attempts at climbing into the upper part of the chamber, Jake looked over at Alice. “It’s no good.” he said. “I’m going back out there!” Holding his gun in front of him, he dived back into the chute and slid down toward the lower levels at high velocity, coming neatly to a stop just before the tunnel’s exit.
Alice screwed up her courage and followed him, but stumbled at the top of the chute and lost control of her descent. Flailing wildly downwards, she came to an abrupt halt by smacking full-tilt into an obstacle blocking the mouth of the chute: Jake.


Alisha shot at the necromancer, who ducked; her fireball burst itself out against the opposite wall. In retaliation, the necromancer shouted “Go after her!” to the zombie he had just raised. It lumbered towards her and slashed at her, ripping her clothes slightly as she jumped backwards.
The necromancer shouted some arcane words, and a flickering green aura sprang up around him. An explosion rocketed outwards from his direction, and Pearl let out a momentary shriek. Gripping her sword, she brought her wits back in line, and just in time, for low groans were suddenly erupting from outside of the doorway.


The pair sprawled over, Jake landing flat on his back on the concrete floor of the sub-basement, Alice landing prone on top of Jake. Both were momentarily breathless and stunned, looking into each other’s eyes.
“Er, pardon me, ma’am,” said Jake. Alice blushed furiously and scrambled up as quickly as she dared.
Several zombies were approaching. Getting to his feet, Jake ran backward a few feet and shot twice at the nearest, who dropped to the floor. Panicking, Alice felt herself undergoing the same transformation as before, solid grey skin and claws erupting.
Again Jake shot and killed a zombie. Valiantly Alice joined the fight, striking out at a nearby zombie, who stumbled backwards, but appeared otherwise unharmed. Her efforts attracted the attention of some of the other creatures, however, who lumbered towards her. As Jake took aim again, four zombies bore down upon her, concealing her from view.


A flurry of fireballs ricocheted around the chamber as Alisha attacked the necromancer savagely. Behind her, Pearl fended off the attacking zombies, slashing and disabling one. The necromancer ducked away, but Alisha angrily ran after him. Pausing in the centre of the room to aim, she blasted him with a fireball that knocked him backward. After that he lay still. Turning, Alisha spotted another zombie about to attack Pearl from behind; with an expertly-time fireball, she reduced it to a pile of ashes.
With a shout, Pearl managed to dispatch the final zombie, leaving a pile of corpses by the doorway. Pausing, she heard an ominous silence echoing through the halls, and then from a distance, a scream. Alisha, recovering her breath, looked at Pearl, and the two dashed back down the hallway toward the main underground chamber.
As they approached the ladder, they could see down into the lower level where the struggle was taking place. Alice, transformed, was fending off zombies from all directions, yet her claws were doing minimal damage to the zombies’ decayed forms. As they watched, Jake carefully took aim and got a clean head shot on one of her attackers. The zombie’s head exploded, spraying Alice with gore.
Alice struck out wildly at another zombie, bringing it down to the floor, where it lay still. One of the zombies turned and lurched toward Jake; as Pearl and Alisha hurried toward the scene, he shot at it, missing. The zombie swiped heavily at Jake, nearly knocking him to his knees. Alice struck again, distracting a zombie but not harming it.
From the top of the ladder, Alisha took aim at the zombie attacking Jake; her fireball blew its upper half clean away, spattering him with viscera. Jake staggered to his feet and took aim at the two zombies with which Alice was struggling. Before Pearl and Alisha could reach them, he had blown them both away.


Searching the bodies of the necromancer and the remaining corpses revealed a small number of miscellaneous valuables. The necromancer owned a pocketwatch, and his chamber contained an interesting grimoire (retained by Alisha) and a number of medical texts, anatomy and basic biology. Alice turned over one zombie corpse to discover something odd; his body and clothes were riddled with bullet wounds, and on closer examination he was found to have a strange talisman in his pocket. It was a smooth, faintly glowing stone, marked with a strange unidentifiable symbol, and it was definitely magical. Alisha parcelled it up with the grimoire, for examination by the Cabal.
Matthew was overjoyed to see the team return relatively unscathed, and his people were equally happy to hear that the zombie menace was for now neutralised. Accepting thanks as gracefully as possible, they promised insincerely to return to visit in the very near future, and started on their long, unpleasant journey back toward the light of day.

“Well,” said Jake cheerfully, “we may be completely disgusting, and possibly suffering from Legionnaire’s Disease, but let’s focus on the important things: we got paid, just like you wanted!”
“Shut up,” said Pearl.

View
The Case of the Statuesque Lady

Chapter 1
It was late November and I was having a bad day.
It wasn’t because of the pile of bills teetering on my stained office desk like a paper Empire State building, or even the four alarm hangover that refused to go away despite the hair of a pack of dogs.
No, I was having a bad day because Alisha was in my office. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like the kid just fine. She’s cocky, but she’s got a sense of humour and plenty of smarts. The problem, is that her presence tends to lead me into situations I never expected to get into in this job. Strange situations.
When Alisha turns up, you can forget about insurance scams or missing persons. When Alicia turns up, you need to start worrying about ghouls that want to chow on your face, or honest-to-god wizards setting you on fire. Alisha represents some sort of Cabal of magic users whose purpose is to limit knowledge of the supernatural to a select few.
See what I mean? Strange.

I’m a shamus. Private now, but I used to work for the City. I’ll take anything; missing persons, divorce work, insurance scams. My rates are reasonable. Twenty five bucks a day plus expenses. I won’t touch honeypot cases though.

Jake Spencer, Private Investigator.
Jake Spencer, Investigator of the Strange has a nice ring to it too don’t you think? It would look nice etched into the glass of my office door. It probably wouldn’t affect the bottom line, despite the nature of the work. See, that’s me – always the optimist.

Of course, with Pearl around it would be more likely to say Jake Spencer & Pearl Stanhope. Or maybe Pearl Stanhope and Jake Spencer. Pearl’s my secretary. At least, she was. Now her name’s on the door too. I had no say in the matter, though I’m not sore. She’s the only thing that’s kept the business out of the red since I hired her. She runs the office and helps out with the investigations. She’s a natural copper. She wants to know all the secrets and the hidden things. She doesn’t do much legwork for the traditional jobs, but she really steps up to the plate for the kind of cases Alisha throws our way. She knew about the Strange side of life long before she came to New York. Plus, the withering looks she gives me whenever I open a bottle of bathtub gin in front of clients keeps my drinking somewhat in check. English broads have withering looks down pat. Between her short brown hair and the withering looks, she has a similar effect on my wilful behaviour as my Aunt Gerty’s used to have when I was still wearing short pants.

So there we were, sitting in my dirty little office, with the sound of Bernie and Irene next door arguing as usual and we were talking about how it was all quiet on the Strange front. Alisha’s visit did not have some fell purpose this time. It was more of a social call. I started to relax a little and thought about visiting that new clip joint over on 9th when we closed up.
Like I said, an optimist.

So there we were, me on the leather swivel, Pearl sitting on the edge of my brown second hand office desk and Alisha on the couch, when the most beautiful dame I’d seen since last Wednesday walked in. She was a real looker, but you got the sense she didn’t know it. She was small, with short brown hair similar to Pearls’. She looked tired.

Her name was Alice Jenkins and she was nineteen years old. Her father worked over at Remington Rand and her mother, an ex-nurse was some kind of a mental case, recently released from Bellvue. Alice spent most of her time looking after her mother who was housebound. She worked over at Frakes Manufacturing which is where the accident happened.
The case seemed straightforward enough. She was at work the night before and went up on the roof for some air and got knocked out cold by some falling masonry hitting her shoulder. Just a nice normal case of someone getting hurt on the job, maybe looking for a little compensation money. I listened with one ear and took the opportunity to clean my gat. I’ve found that impressionable young women are sometimes excited to see a man handling a gun. No such luck this time. Maybe she wasn’t so impressionable.

I was removing the top slide to oil it when I dropped the firing pin. I picked it up and threw a glance up towards Pearl, who as I suspected, was giving me the full force of her withering gaze.
As I looked up, I was alarmed to see that Alisha’s eyes were like pottery. Glazed.
“_Who_ sent you here?” asked Alisha, eyes focussed on nothing. Her interest was clearly sparked.
“Dr. Seward. Over at Mother of Mercy. He said he’d never seen an injury quite like it and suggested I come see Mr. Spencer” said Alice, all puppy dog eyes, her soft voice cracking. “I didn’t know what else to do. When your shoulder is turning grey and feels like the sidewalk and a doctor tells you to go see a private detective, what else are you supposed to do?”
Pearl and Alisha gave me a knowing look. Alice Jenkins gave me a hopeful one.

The picture I had in my head of that place on 9th evaporated and blew away in the cold, Strange breeze I suddenly felt pass through my bones.
“Ok” I sighed. “You better let us take a look at that shoulder”.

Chapter 2

“I could pose as a journalist?” said Pearl, staring into space as the plan formed in her mind. “Maybe tell them I’m doing a piece for the New Yorker on the skyline of the city?”
I was cold and I hadn’t had a drink in hours. The four of us were crouching behind a trash can down the street from Frakes Manufacturing. It was in the warehouse district on 16th. We were surrounded by the long, low redbricks they built towards the end of the last century.
“I don’t know. I don’t think they’d fall for that.”
“Well what then?”
I thought on it. It was cold. The sky was clear, but it was cold. It was only a matter of time before someone noticed a man and three women hiding behind a dumpster. I made a decision.
“Wait here. Pearl, be ready.”
She nodded and put her hands in her pockets against the November chill.
I walked up to the front of the building and went in the lobby. It was well lit. It had a couple of couches for visitors and lots of marble tile. There were two guards sitting behind a desk and three doors leading into the building. One was the door to the stairwell, but I couldn’t tell where the others led. It was too old and cheap a building to have an elevator.
I walked up to the desk and got polite but blank looks from the guards. Lobby security is not a mentally stimulating profession.
“Spencer. NYPD. I need to take a look at your rooftop. It’s a follow up on that accident that happened there last night.”
“Sure.” the younger guard spoke up. His partner went back to the Times. “You got some ID?”
I flashed him my buzzer. Ex-Cops are supposed to hand in their badges, but I “misplaced” mine.
The guard got up and walked around the desk. He was tall and had an earnest look about him. Just a regular joe.

I walked with him over towards the stairwell doors.
“Didn’t you fellas get everything last night? Maybe I should call my supervisor.”
I didn’t want him thinking too much. A quick call to the precinct would blow my story. I tried a different tack.
“Aww c’mon fella. My captain says go here, so here I am. You know how it is.”
Earnest still had that look.
“Shake my hand will ya? Me and my Uncle Andrew just need to take a look at the roof for a minute.”
His eyes lit up. I passed him the twenty. He took a quick guilty look back over his shoulder but his partner was engrossed in the funny pages.
“Oh, OK, but just a quick look. I’m not supposed to bring anybody up to the roof without written permission from Mr. Frakes.”

Frakes. The company president. A big shot. Why would a big shot be concerned about who goes to the roof of one of his many buildings?
“Sure, sure pally. Let me just get my secretary."
I went to the lobby door and called for Pearl. She came over.
“You never said nothing about a secretary!”
He was nervous. I gave him the stare. Once someone has decided to bend the rules, it’s easy to get them to keep bending them up to a point.
He relented.
“OK, but we gotta be quick.”
Earnest, Pearl and I went up the concrete stairs. We passed the entrances to three floors. The first two stories of the building were a factory floor. The noise of machinery was loud in my ears. The next two floors were offices. One floor looked nice, the other not so much. Alice Jenkins worked in the not so nice one. We reached the top. There was a large steel door that led out to the roof. It was padlocked.
Earnest looked confused.
“That’s new. That wasn’t there before.” I looked over the door quickly, knowing our time was short. It had an alarm. Strange for a rooftop exit.
Earnest, thrown by the change, started to panic. “We’d better get back down. You’re not supposed to be here. I could get in trouble!”
Pearl tried to take advantage of his confusion.

“Would you mind terribly if I used your bathroom?” Earnest didn’t know what to do. He clearly wasn’t used to well spoken English dames.
“Ah, I dunno lady…”
She pressed the advantage.
“I simply must go. Now.”
She gave him the withering look and he folded like a deck of cards. Maybe he had an Aunt Gerty too.
He hurriedly led us back down the stairs and much to our bemusement, right back down to the lobby. We now knew that one of the other two doors there led, according to Pearl, to a rather unkempt bathroom. We also knew that the top floor was false somehow. It was like someone had built a wall around the outside of the roof.

We came back to the dumpster and barring any other options, sent Alice Jenkins in to say hello to her boss, Mr. Burnside. She asked about the guard who had taken her to hospital the night of the accident and got his home address in case we needed it. She also determined that the building had three guards at night, even after the workers went home at eight o’clock. That was a lot of guards.

We all met up in a diner around the corner. Alice Jenkins seemed to know the staff and we got a few free drinks out of it. We talked. We needed to form a plan of action.

Chapter 3

An hour later we had a plan. Pearl was going to head down to the city office to see if she could find any leads on the building. Alisha was going to see if she could identify the source of Ms. Jenkins injury. Ms. Jenkins was going to check in on her mother.

I walked up towards broadway to the 34th Precinct building. I was based out of there when I was a patrolman, flattening my feet in Washington Heights and again when I moved to homicide. I still had a lot of friends there, despite what happened when I was shooed from the force.
The Desk Sergeant on duty was Jerry Stanislawski. He and I are old buddies. We served together in France and met up again in the department.
“Jake, you old sonofabitch!” Jerry bellowed as I strolled up to the desk.
He slapped me on the back and gave me a toothy grin. Jerry’s about six two and plenty rugged. He tickles like a gorilla, so the slap left me wheezing.
“What brings you down here?” he smiled. “Another dame trying to see if her pill of a husband is pitching woo with the maid?”
“I wish.” I said, gasping. “Looking to talk to whoever took the call out to that accident out at Frakes Manufacturing last night”.
“Frakes….Frakes….” He tapped his chin with a finger like a Polish sausage as he pondered.
“Yeah! Bobby Buzzetti took that call. You’re in luck, he just came in. Hey Bobby!” he bellowed towards the back of the office.
That Jerry. Always bellowing. A slim, rat faced patrolman with a dark mop of hair looked up from booking a street walker.
“Yeah Sarge?”
“Come on over here and tell my buddy Jake what he wants to know before he beats the tar out of another Mob boss’s son and gets us all in trouble!” he laughed.
Every copper, suspect and civvie in the room looked around and gave me the eyes. Some of the coppers gave me the knowing eyes.
That Jerry. Always with the tactful sense of humour.

I hurriedly agreed to meet Jerry in a police bar later on, as his attention was taken with two drunks who’d just been dragged in screaming.
Bobby came forward and quickly gave me the rundown. It seemed like an open and shut case. Alice Jenkins went up where she wasn’t supposed to go and got hit on the shoulder by something. The police thought the something was falling masonry. Alice Jenkins, Pearl and Alisha thought it was some thing. I was starting to agree. The company owner had personally given Patrolman Bobby Buzzetti the dime tour of the place. Bobby Buzzetti didn’t see anything strange about a captain of industry like Daniel Frakes making time for a flatfoot copper but it smelled fishy to me. I thanked him for his time and left.

I went over to the Flamingo Club and wet my whistle with a few old friends. Jerry Stanislawski came by after an hour. We drank to old times. I asked some fraud dicks I knew if there was any dirt on Frakes but came up with zip. Again, we drank to old times.
Troubled, I walked back to the office in the dark.

Pearl hadn’t been lucky. The city likes to make people wait for information and it seems the guy at the city office didn’t go for limey dames.
Alisha told us with a straight face that she was pretty sure it wasn’t vampirism or lycanthropy. I felt relieved. When she told me what lycanthropy meant, I felt even more relieved.

We weren’t quite back at square one though. Alice Jenkin’s shoulder had gotten worse. The grey tinge had spread to her neck.
Alisha called Pearl and I into the front office.
“She’s getting worse. We need to do something.”
“Like what?” I asked.
“We need to get on that roof. Tonight.”
Pearl nodded. “It’s our best shot.”
“All right.” I said. There was a chill doing laps up and down my spine. I had a drink and we planned.

Chapter 4

We broke into the building around eleven o’clock that night using the fire escape. Pearl climbed up on it like a cat and lowered it down for the rest of us. We entered on the third floor. Someone had removed the fire escape access to the roof. We brought Alice Jenkins along just in case we got rumbled. The guards were based in the lobby, taking turns to do a patrol of the building every hour or so.
We came in on the opposite side of the building to where the stairwell Earnest had showed Pearl and I was located, so we had to cross the breadth of the office floor. The office was eerily quiet. I had a flashlight with me and the beam bathed the still typewriters and empty offices in harsh light.

About halfway across the building, we found an office that was better appointed than the others. Outside, in what I assume were the secretary’s digs, there were various paintings of a man in different parts of the world. He cut a dashing figure and appeared to have travelled everywhere from Tibet to Timbuktu. A real Allan Quatermaine type. Frakes.
Pearl’s curiosity got the better of me and we silently broke into the locked office, despite Ms. Jenkins’ increasingly panicked objections. It was a nice office. The leather chair alone probably cost more than I make in a year. The walls were adorned with more paintings of the man of the hour.

A quick search identified some interesting things. We found a dark room hidden behind a think velvet curtain. We found a bundle of files and some newly cut keys. There was a high powered dart gun mounted on the wall and three tranquiliser darts in the desk drawer. Pearl and Alisha informed me they were strong enough to put an elephant to sleep for a week, or a man for the rest of his life.

We heard the slow stomp of a patrolman on his rounds and took cover in the dark room until he passed. Alisha took the opportunity to read the files we’d found and Pearl and I read them over her shoulder by the glare of the flashlight. Alice Jenkins sat in the corner and I assume, began to mentally type up her resume.

The files told a tale of a scientific expedition to the jungles of South America, funded and accompanied by Daniel Frakes. Of the discovery of ancient temples erected by a long dead race of men in honour of ancient gods. Of an unholy curse and statues that moved in the dark and stayed still in the day. Statues that killed. Statues that Daniel Frakes had brought back to the United States. The dart gun started to make a terrifying sort of sense.

We knew we had to get to that rooftop. Whatever it was that was waiting for us up there, held the key to Alice Jenkins ailment. And she needed it. Whatever change was happening to her was accelerating. She didn’t look tired anymore, though the rest of us did. She looked alive, animated. There was a strange light in her eyes and even with the flashlight off, she saw in the dark like a cat. The grey tinge that started in her shoulder was spreading to her face.

Time passed. The guard finished his rounds and went back to his friends. We left the office and headed for the roof. I took the dart gun and two of the darts. The third I gave to Pearl, should the need arise for a hand to hand encounter. I’m pretty handy with my fists, but Pearl is well versed in Chinese boxing and despite her girlish figure can box my ears nine times out of ten when we spar down at the boxing club on 22nd Street. Coupled with her Chinese sword, she is not to be trifled with.

We got to the rooftop door. After much discussion about how to pick the padlock, Alice Jenkins suggested we just open it with the keys we’d found in Frakes office. Smart kid.
Alisha picked the lock on the door once we had the padlock and chain out of the way and Pearl disabled the alarm. We stepped out onto the roof. The night was clear and dark and the lights from the skyscrapers downtown glittered like diamonds. Hoboken was a grimy smudge on the horizon across the river. The gentle hum of traffic sang to us from afar.

The four of us huddled by the doorway, afraid of what we might see. There were rows of man high chimneys, going two by two across to the other side of the building where I could see a steel door like the one we stood beside. Our small group was silent.
I heard a low growl. A thing padded silently out of the darkness ahead. I couldn’t see it clearly apart from its eyes which glowed like embers.
“Get ready” I snapped, loading the dart gun. My .45 was heavy in its holster under my arm and my mouth was suddenly dry. Pearl drew her sword from the hidden sheath in her coat with one hand and tossed the flashlight to Alice with the other. She began to root in Alice’s bag. Alisha assumed a fighting position and moved protectively in front of Alice.
The growl from the creature moving towards us was answered from behind and above us. I cursed myself for forgetting to check above the doorway as I turned my head and my blood turned to ice in my veins. I could see this one clearly and I barely suppressed the urge to gibber and shake like a madman. It looked like a stone gargoyle, but it was moving. It had burning red eyes, animated by a terrifying alien intelligence. Its gargoyle maw was open, showing wicked grey stone fangs.
Experience took over.
“Alisha, Pearl!” I roared. “That one’s yours!” Alice cowered on the floor as Alisha moved to face the new threat. Pearl pulled Alice’s camera out of her bag and raised both it and her sword. Spinning around, I turned the dart gun on the first creature. I raised the weapon to my shoulder, sighted and fired in one smooth motion. The marines are good at making riflemen and I still honed my skills at the shooting range. There was a dull cough from the muzzle and the bright red feathers of the dart blossomed in the chest of the beast. It sank back to the concrete surface of the roof, senseless, lit by the sunburst flash of the camera in Pearl’s hand.
Behind me, I sensed a wrongness, like someone had twisted the very fabric of what was real and I turned to see Alisha gesturing at the second creature and its head turning to slag in a flash of blue fire. It collapsed, smouldering and was still.
Alice Jenkins screamed and fainted. As she fell, her body went stiff like a plank of wood and turned grey. She hit the floor and went limp. Something was happening to her hands. In the reflected light from the fallen torch, it looked like they were growing and changing shape.

My heart beating like a drum, I reloaded, putting Alice from my mind. I knew there were three darts for a reason. A hellish roar split the night and beast twice the size of the other two lumbered into view ahead of us. It too looked like a gargoyle, but it had the body of a man and the wings of a bat. There was an iron ring pulled through its wings, pinning them together. Its legs and arms were muscled and heavy and it had stone spines jutting from its elbows like daggers. It must have been two feet taller than me and I’m no slouch. It charged, its lower jaw hanging down, exposing cruel teeth.
My instincts were screaming at me to fire, to run, to drop the weapon and cower, but instead I took a slow aim. I lined the sights up on the central mass, steadied my breathing and slowly squeezed the trigger. The dart leapt from the muzzle in a puff of compressed air and flew straight and true and hit the creature dead centre, right in the chest.
It didn’t even blink. I dropped the rifle and drew my pistol.
“Pearl?” I whispered.
I looked over to see the fear I felt reflected in her eyes.
“No. I can’t take that thing. Not in hand to hand.”
“What the hell is going on up here?”
The creature, bearing down on us like a stone tornado, yelped and jumped behind one of the chimneys, hiding.
I turned towards the voice and saw one of the guards emerge from the doorway, gun drawn. Our client Alice Jenkins, was hidden from his view on the other side of the door, holding her hands up to her face, her eyes disbelieving. Her hands were like stone claws and she almost merged into the background, so grey was her skin. Alisha was giving her an calculating look. As I watched, Alice turned back to herself and her hands shrank back to normal. She was weeping silently.
“I said what the hell is going on up here? Who are you people? What are you doing here?” The guard was angry.
We had a lot of explaining to do.

Chapter 5

A half hour later we were sitting in the guard room, awaiting the police. The guards had taken us there from the roof and disarmed us. Pearl was sitting daintily on one of the wooden chairs, the very image of an English lady, staring at her shoes. Alisha was sitting patiently beside her, nonchalantly cleaning dirt from her fingernails with a match. Not her first time in incarceration I’d wager. Alice Jenkins was sitting on the opposite side of the room. She’d stopped crying and she looked thoughtful. I was handcuffed to my chair, because I hadn’t wanted to give up my gun and they thought I was crazy, raving about monsters and insisting they shut the rooftop door.

A man walked in. I recognised him as the man from the paintings in the office upstairs. Daniel Frakes. He was older now, a little greyer around the temples and a little thicker around the waist but he still had the same piercing brown eyes and the air of command. The artist, whoever he was, had captured him perfectly.
He called in a guard. I was uncuffed and our weapons and possessions were returned to us. The guard left and closed the door.
“I told the police it was a false alarm. They shan’t bother you” said Frakes. His voice was deep and rich. He spoke like an educated man, used to the mantle of power.
“I should think you should be more worried by the police than we” said Pearl, her voice cold.
“Why? I haven’t done anything wrong. You should not have been up on the roof.”
“We know about everything” said Alisha, looking up at Frakes from her chair. “The expedition, the temples. Everything. We saw the file. You are keeping unnatural beasts on a rooftop in New York City.”
“There’s nothing unnatural about them!” Frakes replied, petulant and angry. “They are a natural wonder, unlike anything else in the world. They are properly cared for and harmless, unless someone is foolish enough to ignore the warnings. They are even trained to fear the guards’ uniforms. They must be scientifically studied.”
I was angry now. I stood up.
“They are monsters!” I spat. “And harmless? What about Alice?” I asked, pointing at Miss Jenkins. Alice looked up at her employer.
“Yes, what about what they’ve done to me?”
“Well, the warnings were there. It says “Strictly No Exit” on the door. You shouldn’t have been up there. Believe me, I had no wish for any harm to come to you or anyone else.” He went down on one knee beside Alice.
“I’m so sorry this happened to you, but I’ve taken steps to ensure nobody else is harmed.”
“What steps?” asked Pearl, raising an eyebrow. “I’d hardly call a padlock a suitable barrier for creatures like that. They are capable of infecting the whole city.”
“Infecting? What on earth are you talking about?” asked Frakes, standing. Either he didn’t know what Pearl was talking about or Wallace Beery and Frederic March were going to have to hand in their Oscars. He really seemed to have no idea what his monsters had done to Alice.
I was furious. I stalked over to him and shouted, my spittle flying into his face, my breath hot with rage.
“Listen Frakes, you greaseball. Do you expect us to believe all that balony? You expect us to believe you don’t know anything about what those things have turned her into?”
He recoiled slightly and looked confused. He looked down at Alice who looked back at him calmly with sad, red rimmed eyes.
“What? I don’t understand.”
“Understand this and keep your lamps open so you can see your mule!”
I turned to Alice and slapped her hard. I looked back to Frakes, triumphant.
He looked even more confused. I followed his gaze back down to Alice.
She was crying again and looking up at me like I’d just stepped on a puppy. Apart from the red welt rising on her cheek, she looked pink and normal.
“Oh. Damn. Sorry.” I said quietly.
“Jake!” hissed Pearl. I turned around. If she’d used that look on the big monster upstairs we wouldn’t have been in this mess.
“Mr. Frakes, if you wouldn’t mind waiting outside for a moment, my colleagues and I need to discuss this matter privately” said Alisha, hurriedly propelling an increasingly discombobulated Frakes towards the door. “We’ll be right with you.”
Pearl had moved to comfort a distraught and wailing Alice. I felt like a heel and cooled mine on the chair.
After Pearl had calmed down and everybody in the room made me feel like a genius, we discussed what to do. Frakes didn’t seem the sort to bow down to heavy handed pressure and he wasn’t likely to allow us back on the roof with chisels during daytime. The organisation Alisha represents maybe had some connections that could house the beasts but she couldn’t say for sure.
We were sitting there in the cold guardroom, trying to decide what to do when it happened.
Suddenly, everything froze. Everything except me. Alice, Pearl, Alisha all frozen perfectly still mid argument like those little insects in amber at the museum. There was no sound. A small tear falling from Alice’s cheek was hanging suspended in mid air as if held in place by an invisible hand. Mesmerised, I slowly reached out a finger to touch it. It was like trying to move a boulder. Increasingly frantic, I shouted at Pearl.
“Pearl! Pearl! Talk to me! What’s going on? What’s happened to you?” I tried shaking her but it was like trying to shake the earth itself.

I was panicking. I could feel blood rushing to my head. Then, I heard the voice.
“All right guys, let’s call it a night. Sorry it went on so late.”
It came from nowhere and from everywhere at the same time. I knew that voice. I’d never heard it before but somehow I knew it. And that accent. Irish, I thought. Maybe Dublin. It was like hearing the Voice of God.
“See you next week.”
Somewhere in the deep, dark places of my mind, a name to go with the voice bubbled up like a dream and slipped from my lips like a prayer.
“GM?”

Well, that’s my tale. I don’t remember what happened after that. The next thing I remember I was in my office and Pearl was asking me if I wanted a cup of coffee.

“Please.” I said. “Black.”

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