The Contingent

Claudia, priestess of the Followers of the Flaming Heart

Jack looked over the research he’s accumulated. The Contingent had been digging into this for months and made very little progress; it only took him two weeks.

Maybe I have more to contribute to the Contingent than I thought. Maybe they didn’t dig back far enough…she has been around for a very long time and the Flaming Heart iconography has been used so widely for so long. Even the Catholic Sisters of the Sacred Heart adopted it. Hopefully the interrogators will get more out of Claudia now, but it’s difficult to get answers out of someone that only speaks with her hands—and every time you free her hands she tries to kill you.

Claudia earned a doctorate in ancient history with a specialization in Ancient Rome. She hasn’t been highly productive, but the papers she does release always seem to have ground breaking insights into Roman history. Usually her papers were involved with more rural and agrarian areas than the normal population centers that most historians focus on.

We know who her source is now that, but I guess we always did. I can’t believe she was cheeky enough to actually cite herself. A number of Claudia’s papers—including her thesis—cite Antonia Scaletti, which was the name on the deed of the house that Sarah Winchester bought and continued to build and expand on. It seems that this site was known as being close to the underworld, or prepared for this task for at least a century. Looking back on Antonia’s work, she also cited some of the same sources that Claudia did. She’s probably been doing this for a long time, always being recognized as a Roman history scholar every half century or so as she changed identities. This certainly made collecting all of the relics from Pompeii easy to explain. It seems like anything authentic that she could pry out of museum or university collections, she would grab; vases, pipes, broken pieces of murals, bowls—all fair game.

Through an "Immortals Among Us” conspiracy site, he was able to find pictures of Claudia going back centuries. Stella has only shown up more recently. She wasn’t listed in the “Immortals among us” database, but has shown up recently in pictures with Claudia. One of the members has been feeding any photo archives she can get her hands on into a facial recognition system she designed to run on Amazon. Never underestimate what smart, obsessed people can accomplish. Conspiracists will continue long after a research assistant has given up, even post docs. If only that effort could be spent on more productive studies, think of what they could do for humanity. On the other hand, maybe she just did. Some of the most interesting photos showed that she was at the first excavations of Pompeii and even most of the subsequent large excavations…and that was the key.

Focusing on Claudia’s and her previous nome-de-plumes’ research and papers around Pompeii turned up a story of a prostitute with dark hair and a beautiful voice. One of her clients apparently became too jealous of sharing her with others and in a fit of rage cut out her tongue, leaving her mute. This woman went on to become a priestess in a cult called the Followers of the Flaming Heart. This passage didn’t have much additional detail on the cult—that requires more research. However, it did say that shortly before Vesuvius’s eruption, the cult was trying to warn the citizens of Pompeii to get them to leave.

That definitely falls in line with what was on the video recording and what was found in the cave at the fountain head. It appears that as they drained the souls from the homeless and indigent of San Francisco and used them as vessels for their followers from Pompeii. They were able to coax the memories (or the souls?) of them out of the River Lethe where they brought it to the surface under the Winchester House. The Contingent has the lists of people, who they were, and who they are. He shook his head. I’m not even sure which deserves the past tense now, or what we can do about them.

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