The Contingent

A Tendency to Start Fires
Ed comes out of semi-retirement

From his lookout point, Ed watched as Keith and Gavin raced out of the swanky party, security guards hot on their heels. Gavin carried a large bundle under his coat, likely the statue Claire Carver sought. The pair leaped into the getaway car and, moments later, Grace peeled out of the narrow streets. There was no sign of Shandi or Brandon.

Ed waited a few beats before pulling out his cellphone and dialing Grace. “Tell me you didn’t just leave two people in there…” he growled before she could finish her hello.

“I didn’t do a damn thing!” she shouted. “These two jumped in the car and said floor it. Bullets were flying, Ed! Also, kinda busy. This isn’t exactly the interstate. Shit.”

Ed heard the phone go bouncing around the inside of Grace’s car before the call disconnected. Ed cursed under his breath before grabbing his bag and moving towards the door. He had to know what happened to the rest of the group.

About the time Ed intended to rush the door, a cab pulled up. Shandi exited, being escorted by a man that Ed didn’t recognize. She was all smiles and vixen, but there was an obvious tension in her stance. Ed slinked away while she exchanged pleasantries with her host. As the car turned the corner, Ed stepped into the lane, hand on his pistol. As the driver came to a sliding halt, Ed slipped into the backseat. “Keep going!” he said, waving at the shaken driver.

The surprise on Shandi’s face was obvious, as were the constant glances at Ed’s hand on his sidearm. “Where is Brandon!?” Ed demanded, cutting out any introductions.

Shandi’s mask fractured for a moment, both sadness and rage flickering across her features. “They left him! In that thing! I told them how to save Brandon, but then they were just gone. I don’t know what happened, but there were too many of Dubois’s goons. I couldn’t do it by myself.”

The cab let Shandi off at a cafe not far from the airport. In the span of a few panicked moments, Shandi explained how Brandon had fallen victim to the Iron Maiden in Dubois’ collection. She doubted he’d survive long, and her brief exposure to the events of Brandon’s capture had left her certain that Brandon’s death would fuel some dark ritual. The events had obviously shaken her.

“Listen to me.” Ed said, grabbing Shandi’s shoulders and locking eyes with her. “This isn’t your fault. You tried. You did the smart thing, getting out alive. Now, get the hell out of Paris before he realizes you’ve duped him. I imagine Grace is holding the plane for you at Charles De Gaulle.”

He let Shandi go and stepped out onto the curb to hail another cab. He opened the door and motioned for her to enter. Shandi gave him a quizzical look when he didn’t join her. “What about you?” she asked.

Ed shook his head. “The last place I need to be right now is on that plane. Take care of yourself, Shandi.”

Ed closed the cab’s door and made his way to a nearby bar. A brief interaction later, mostly with slow talking and hand motions, Ed had a glass of dark liquor in front of him. Slamming back the contents, he motioned to the bartender to refill the glass while pulling his cellphone from his pocket.

Skaar, it’s Ed. I need a favor. I’m stuck in Paris—and if I get back on the plane that brought me here, the Contingent is going to be short a few members.”

There was a slight pause. “Intriguing. I’m in Geneva for a conference. These so-called peers have worn on me; I look forward to a reason to make my exit. I’ll send a car when I’m in the air.”


By the time the town car retrieved Ed, he was roaring drunk and angrier. He stomped up the steps of the private jet and found Dr. Skaar lounged in one of the leather chairs, crystal rocks glass in hand. “Ed! Tell me, what has darkened your doorstep?”

Ed collapsed into the chair across from Skaar. “This backseat bullshit is getting old, Skaar. Twice now I’ve rode bitch with Grace and these new kids. And twice now they’ve fucked up. They’re damn green! And obviously don’t give a fuck about one another. They left someone, Skaar. They left someone bad. It’s that Brandon guy who ran with you, and Domino’s other half says he’s stuck in some torture device. Who does that?!?”

Skaar leaned forward, staring intently at Ed. “So, what do you intend to do about it?”

Ed sat quietly for a moment. The plane accelerated and Ed’s ears popped as it began to climb. “Damn the consequences. I’m going back into the field. Like I used to. No more of this hiding bullshit, I don’t care who’s looking for me. The wrong people are dying, Skaar. And I intend to change that.”

Skaar leaped to his feet. “Excellent! Action over inaction! Where do you start?”

Ed leaned back in the chair and rubbed the bridge of his nose, deep in thought. “The Zoo. We should have done more…I’m going to do more.”

Skaar pivoted. “Hmm, I cannot take you to San Diego. Not directly. I have my own plans in New York. However, once the jet is refueled at JFK, it can take you to San Diego International, or one of the nearby private airports.”

Ed nodded. “Okay, great. I’ll make some calls and see if I can get a ground crew together on a short notice. It’s time to start clearing these ledgers.”

View
Guys and Dolls
and Ghosts...

“Here’s the package. Delivered intact and undamaged…for the most part.”

Granger sets the two foot tall canister on the table and slides it over to Grace. She cocks and eyebrow at Granger and says, “For the most part?”

“She got a little violent and our martial arts friend didn’t take to kindly to that. Were she a football, she would have cleared the uprights.”

Grace chuckled, set the canister containing the over active children’s doll, Joilette, off to the side and then said with a more serious face, “Alright. Debriefing time. How’d it all go down?”

Granger stretched and took on a more relaxed posture. " Well, it started out nice enough. We met at a coffee shop and Natalie tried her best to get everyone to introduce themselves. Most were pretty reserved at first. They obviously had their secrets like most of us do. Right off the bat though I began having reservations. The two occult specialists weren’t being very forthcoming with info on how to deal with ghosts. The emo theif, Conner had to work some serious google-fu to let the rest of us in on things like “Anchors” and “Essence.” Any way, we split up and did some digging around. "

In our investigations, we found out that our pal Jackson Carver had hired a law firm to try and buy out the property from Alistair Thorne for whatever reason. Don’t know if he wanted the land itself or the stuff in the museum. Regardless, we suddenly realized the stakes of resolving this were a little bit higher and that Carver probably had a hand in what was going on. Seems a good power play to ratchet up the hauntings of a haunted museum in order to force the tenants out.

Any way, we assembled at the museum, walked in, and met Calliope. She was the employee of the museum that contacted us in the first place. Apparently a ghost had been attacking her in the upstairs bathroom. I’m talking scratches raking the lengths of her arms and what not. She said she caught a glimpse of the thing in the mirror. Long black hair, pale, blood stained teeth. Terrifying. She said there had been other victims, all female. "

“Is this where you started flirting?” Grace interrupted.

Granger shifted uncomfortably. “I mean…yes. Listen she said all the ladies had something in common. She was damn attractive. So I suggested the common thread was all the victims were attractive. And I was right and it was an important clue…and you’re making me defensive on purpose to get a rise out of me. Well played.”

Grace smirked.

“Any way! It was an important clue. And this is where I feel our occult specialists let us down a bit. We get to the painting room on the tour and see a painting titled ‘Botan Dōrō’ which I have since Googled and in hind sight should have set off all kinds of alarms because it had to do with a ghost story featuring a jilted Japanese woman.”

“Seems a bit on the nose,” Grace said.

" Right? Chuck Manson was in the religious artifacts room studying various implements used in exorcisms. Also,can I just stop here and highlight the fact that we have a Charles Manson on the team who, upon googling after the fact as well, turns out to be a mass murderer who somehow avoided prison? Not only that, upon rejoining us in the gift shop he proceeded to try and use this infamy in order to extract information from one of the other employees of the museum. This did not go his way and the gift shop attendee tried to leave. He was obviously lying and knew something. Our martial arts friend tried to detain him and that’s when Guy, the security guard, showed up."

“Oh lovely. I’m sure he welcomed you guys with open arms.” Grace said, rolling her eyes.

“Yeah not so much. Had to talk him down and explain we’d get out of his hair quicker if he let us get the info out of the kid. Luckily, the kid was willing to listen to reason at this point and let us know that the ghost was actually a beautiful Japanese lady that he obviously had the hots for. So that pretty much confirmed our ghost was the Botan Dōrō from the stories. At this point the employees are informed by Alistair that we are to have free reign of the place. They lock up and leave. Meanwhile Richard Miller the archaeologist/conman was downstairs in the Projector room and apparently saw our jilted lover ghost whose name it turns out was Akane. We of course didn’t find this out till later when we found him downstairs in a salt circle trying to reason with the crazy ghost lady.

This is where I kind of lose track of the order of events because a cascade of fairly horrible things started happening. Conner, the emo thief I mentioned earlier, was busy breaking into Alistair’s office and stumbling upon a treasure trove of information concerning our current mission and Jackson Carvers interest in the property. So good on him. The martial artist discovers that Joilette has decided to get up and take a walk, like creepy kids dolls are want to do. Chuck and I decide to grab the Botan Dōrō painting because it is probably Akane’s anchor, so I go to walk into the painting room and am struck by a blast of heat. Turns out Akane isn’t the only ghost we’d see that night. Standing before us is a literal man on fire. And he also happens to be standing between us and the painting we need.

SO I do what any mildly sane person would and call for someone to grab the fire extinguisher we saw in the bathroom earlier. Martial Arts man bravely steps into the bathroom, where the door slams shut. Apparently Joilette wanted to play with him. Seeing the burning man winding up for another fire blast, I say screw it at this point and run at him with an upside down can of condensed air…"

“You what?” Grace says doing her best not to spit her drink at Granger.

“Listen we needed the painting and it seemed the thing to do at the time. You can get a good blast of cold air out of those things when you turn them upside down. Any way…it was actually pretty effective and it bought me enough time to grab the Botan Dōrō painting off the wall. As i turned and ran to drop kick the door that had slammed shut behind me, I caught another blast of fire in the back which I actually used to propel me harder into the door and break it down. Back in the hall Chuck was apparently trying to divine where the source of all the insanity was and found out it was downstairs somewhere. As I run downstairs with the Botan Dōrō, i drop the canister ASI provided for Martial Arts guy (who had apparently round house kicked his way out of the bathroom) to put Joilette in should he catch her. I get down stairs and see Richard being fully embraced by Akane. Like predatory seduction embrace. She tries to work her brain magic on me and Conner who had just emerged from the office, but she must have been sufficiently distracted by Richard’s swooning because it had no effect on us. Turns out burning man wasn’t content staying in his room upstairs and followed me down the stairs, setting the place on fire in the process.”

Grace shakes her head disapprovingly.

“Wait. It gets better. Conner decides he’s had enough of this craziness and slices up the Botan Dōrō. Akane shimmers and blinks and disappears. Conner then bee lines it for the projector that had been showing old documentary footage of ghosts and what not in the first room on the tour downstairs. I turn to deal with burning man and take another blast of fire to the face. I grab the fire extinguisher from downstairs and put him out…which didn’t really make anything better because now there is just a charred man coming at me. Richard burns the Botan Dōrō in the now impressive fire on the stairs though, and we do the same with the Burning Man’s painting that Chuck retrieved. That’s about the time I look over and see Conner taking the lens off the projector and smashing it with the butt of his knife. You could feel the tension fall away at that point. Apparently that Lens had been put there by the kid in the gift shop and had a strange symbol etched into it that was weakening gauntlet in that area allowing the spirit free-for-all we were enjoying.

We put the fires out at this point and realize martial arts guy, who’s name I really should have learned but I realize now he never told us and nobody thought to ask, is upstairs still dealing with Joilette. They’re in the gift shop playing a cat and mouse game in the dark. So I go upstairs, hearing the commotion the whole way up, and flip on the lights…much to the surprise of Joilette who is pressed up against the wall trying to hide on one of the now very well lit shelves. She called me a cheater and martial arts guy scooped her up in the canister ASI was so nice to provide for her transfer."

“Well good job on that and getting rid of the ghosts. But it sounds like you pretty much wrecked the place. I got a pretty good report from Alistair…” Grace said with a confused tone.

“Come on, Grace. I wasn’t going to leave the place looking like that. We spent the rest of the night fixing up the place as best we could and when Alistair got there in the morning we convinced him to power through the loss of some of his most prized artifacts and enjoy the hunt for newer even better items of spooky nature. Even convinced him not to sell his place to Jackson Carver. So while we lost the “gateway lens” from the projector, things went pretty damn well I’d say."

“It could have gone worse, that’s for sure. Alright then. Here’s your pay for Joilette. Anything else?” Grace said, rubbing her temples.

“Yeah actually. There is something else. I’m not sure about some of these people, Grace. I’m hearing stories of past exploits that honestly have me wondering if the Contingent is less a bulkhead holding back the flow of darkness or more a contributor to the darkness itself. I mean I’m all about fighting the good fight, but mass murderers and orphanages blowing up? I’m just saying I’ve got some concerns at this point is all. Maybe it’s nothing. Any way, let me know if ASI needs anything else. I’m gonna kick back on the beach and get some relaxation in before something else comes down the pipeline. "

Grace smiles. “Thanks, Granger. Good work out there.”

As Granger gets up to leave Grace puts her hand on his and says “As a friend though, be careful who you share those concerns with. There’s others that feel the same way, but there are those who won’t like that line of thought. Just try and relax and enjoy the beach, friend.”

Granger nods appreciatively and heads off to do some much needed thinking.

View
Action / Reaction
A news clipping

FedEx Flight Crashes on Takeoff

Federal Express Flight 508 crashed shortly after takeoff from Charles de Gaulle last night. Eyewitnesses report both engines erupting into flame as the plane began to climb over nearby farmland. Rescuers reported unusually dense plant growth in the area hampering their attempts to reach the site.

According to preliminary investigators, both pilots died in the crash. The impact ruptured the fuel tanks and the plane and cargo were entirely engulfed. The investigators are sifting through the debris in search of the flight recorder at this time.

Terrorism hasn’t been ruled out at this time, but no group has taken responsibility for the event.

Published on the front page of the New York Times the day after the events of New Killer Star and Modern Love.

View
New Killer Star, Not-So-Abbreviated
I need the darkness; someone please cut the lights

Most of the time when I go on a mission, I come back from it either permanently scarred by the knowledge that some new horror I could never have previously comprehended exists, or just kind of bored by the routineness of it all. The fact that any of this shit could become routine should probably scare the balls off me, but that’s the lifestyle for you, I guess.

This time, though…this time was different. I actually feel some kind of hope for the future knowing what I do after our trip to Jericho Mills, TN. Finally, I’m getting the sense that what we’re doing is right. That I was meant to spend my life helping the helpless and righting wrongs, empty as that might ring in some ears. That we can beat the bad guys if we work together.

(Soundtrack)

Jericho Mills seems like a small-town American paradise, one not yet marred by decay and capitalist shenanigans like Braxton Falls, MO had been when we traveled there last summer. It’s straight up suburban heaven, with some light industry hubs, a gorgeous state park, and lots of outlying areas dedicated to agriculture. Every store and restaurant boasts local produce and farm-to-table delicacies. I thought they only had this shit in Vermont. Alex and I check in at the motel and hit the lounge to wait for the others. Charles gets there first, which is a relief—at least I know if things go sideways we’ll have one person with us who can take care of the punchy-shooty work. Of all the newbies who hunted with us in Alexandria, we’d worked together the best—he might even make me think twice about my stance on dealing with law enforcement types. Charles says there’s a crazy woman yelling on the phone in the parking lot; I look out the window and see Mal and Eva getting out of a vintage sports car whose origin I’m pretty sure I want to be able to plausibly deny. Mal’s ranting into her phone about something; she hangs up abruptly when she sees us. Two more hunters join us within the hour: a guy named Wayne who dresses like a mechanic (which is because, as I later find out, he is one) and talks like a yokel, but seems savvier to all this than he’s letting on, and an attractive young woman I recognize from her byline portrait in the Washington Post, a political correspondent named Josephine Bennett. She tucks tail and goes cold when I mention that I’m familiar with her work. Guess I hit a nerve.

Alex says four dead bodies have turned up recently in the state park within the town’s ETJ, all of them with two-inch-diameter stab wounds through the torso. The park is right next to a large cosmetics plant, and my Spidey sense tingles when I start looking at the layout of the park—because it’s a lot like the woods I dreamed about before I left Philadelphia. We go our separate ways to do some investigation and decide to meet up for dinner later to debrief each other.

Mal uses our connection at the morgue to get access to the stiffs (like I even need to tell you that), and it quickly becomes clear that we aren’t looking at your average idiot vigilante vampire killer or psychopath. The four victims include a pair of male security guards from an organic cosmetic plant called NuStar, a female banker, and a local high school football star (also a male). The stab wounds are weird—no wood or metal fragments are left in the tissues, and the murder weapon seems perfectly conical and smooth. Josie and Wayne do some digging on their own at the town’s most popular watering hole and find out some more dirt: each of the The security guards are known for unnecessarily roughing people up (and one of them has a domestic assault record), the banker is apparently a former teller who slept her way up the ladder at the branch where she works, and the football player is a dick and gets into a lot of fights. Revenge killings spring to mind, but there’s no other discernible pattern or link between the deceased persons.

Alex’s research pulls up a few more gems: NuStar Cosmetics is apparently a subsidiary of Cloverleaf, the shale oil company that Jackson Carver backed in Braxton Falls. On top of that, some of the books she brought back from Prague indicate that there’s a convergence of two massive ley lines right in the middle of that park. Me, Charles, and Eva decide to stake out the place overnight since Mal says all the murders happened between 7pm and 4am. Alex, Mal, and Josie are planning to stay where it’s safe and let us handle the rough stuff; Wayne wants to scout out the street layout of the town to make sure we have a clear getaway route if things go to hell (a reasonable plan, considering our general track record and the mess his group got into in San Diego).

(Oh, I should also mention that we’re having this group dinner at this nice little log cabin-style restaurant recommended by the local medical examiner—who’s evidently sweet on Mal and hasn’t realized she doesn’t drive stick—and they’ve got some of the best damn apple pie I’ve ever eaten in my lifetime. Charles and I both order a second piece, and I end up buying a whole one to take back to Delaware with me. The stuff is downright invigorating. This is actually kinda important; I’ll tell you why later.)

We’re all getting along splendidly until the orders from headquarters start rolling in. Sharpe wants samples from any creature we happen to come across—blood, hair, ectoplasm, whatever we can grab. Adrian seems convinced that there’s a supernatural creature behind all of this and directs Mal to install a tracking device on the thing even if she can’t capture it (or convince the rest of us to). Josie’s obviously in this for any video footage she can get, probably because she got fired from the Post awhile back and has had trouble springing back into her career since then. Turns out she was writing a huge exposé on Cloverleaf’s dealings down in Missouri last year and someone wanted her gone, fast.

So off into the fucking woods we go. And it’s the exact location I dreamed about. More than that, it feels as if I’m walking into one of my dreams. This place defies reality. I’m no expert on Tennessee flora, but I don’t think some of the plants we see there belong in this universe, let alone the Appalachian Ridge. It’s the exact. Same. Fucking. Place. In my dream. I can’t let it go. I have to know who she is. Charles starts talking about old fairy stories when we spot a ring of mushrooms at the ley line convergence, and Alex doesn’t laugh at him, which worries me. I touch one of the mushrooms in awe and blisters ripple across the back of my right hand. Mal says it probably won’t fall off, likely to her disappointment, and then throws some ointment and bandages on it, because Mal’s good people.

North of our position, we hear screaming and gunfire. A couple of hired security mooks from NuStar run out from the treeline like they’ve got fucking Nazgul after them.

And that’s when we see it. A white horse the height of a mack truck with a half-meter ivory horn sticking out of its head. It skewers one guard like a fucking kabob and kicks the other one in the head, killing him instantly.

We try to rationalize what the hell it is we’re seeing. I think Wayne is the first person to use the ‘U’ word. I recall that only virgins can tame one of these things, supposedly, and simultaneously realize that also means we’re fucked.

It comes closer to us. Sniffs us one by one. Stops next to Charles for a second and gets a mean look in its eye.

And then it steps right in front of me, looks me in the eye, and gives a low whinny.

It doesn’t impale me, so I ask it if it’s her guardian. It nods in a stately equine fashion. Through yes-no questions, we figure out that its mistress, the woman in my dream, is being held captive at NuStar.

Now, I’m not really one for fairy tales. Heck, most fae scare the ever-loving shit out of me, and most people who tangle with one sure as hell don’t have a happy ending. But I’ve been a D&D player for a long time, and I know damn well that when you get a quest from a unicorn, you say yes.

I want to go in right then. I feel certain that my vision has brought me here to protect something pure, something that should have been left alone by the evil people who took it for their own gain.

Charles says we need a fucking plan or we’re gonna die trying. Charles is a smart guy. We promise the…you-know-what…that we’ll be back, and it runs back into the woods. We head back to the parking lot and there’s a woman there inspecting our license plates. Charles puts on his best cop voice for a “Can I help you, ma’am?” and it stops her in her tracks. Turns out she’s a botanist with NuStar and she can’t shake her conscience on the deaths and the weirdness she’s seeing in their labs. She’s willing to help us put a stop to it, but she has a kid to worry about. I reassure her that we can get her and her daughter to safety, and Mal FLIPS THE FUCK OUT, accusing us of sniping more people for Sharpe to exploit. She wants to call Adrian, which I say is a terrible idea, and Alex and Mal have it out. Maybe I shouldn’t tell her I gave Mal that HIPAA authorization…

Charles loses his patience with our bullshit, understandably, and tells the botanist to get in his Crown Vic, leaving us there looking like assholes. Wayne thinks we’re all batshit. I kind of agree.

We rendezvous back at the motel; Eva is nice enough not to steer the car off an overpass on the way. She gets a call from Kincaid, who says a portal to the fae world is gaping open in the middle of that mushroom ring and any Union members on deck need to shut it ASAP. He also offers asylum for Marcia in Denver, which I’m fine with—that lady and her little girl couldn’t be in a safer place than with Kincaid’s packs. It also shuts up Mal and Alex, which is an added bonus. We can’t afford to get this angry with each other over who we work for, as Charles points out very assertively, so we put aside our differences and pound out a plan while I scarf down some more of that delicious pie. The pie is apparently tainted with fae energy, and I wake up with movie star looks, which Alex attributes to a residual glamour effect that should wear off after a few days. In the meantime, though, even Eva and Mal are kinda checking me out, which is just creepy at this point.

Marcia gets Mal and me inside the facility the next day, posing as her visiting cousins Randy and Suzy, and we see the setup. There’s tons of fae-world plant specimens…and a beautiful apple tree in a massive grow pod, anchored into the soil by cold iron. Tubes drain sap from it into other parts of the plant. I start feeling sick, thinking about all the things that might have ended up in a batch of my serum, feeling for this abused creature. I vow then and there to myself that I’ll get her out or die trying. When we report back to the group, Alex identifies the creature as a dryad. Its presence supercharges plant life around it, which explains all the awesome local produce.

We decide to split into two teams: me, Eva, Charles, and Josie will hit the plant while Alex, Mal, and Wayne cover the fairy ring to keep anything else from escaping and line up a ritual to open it so we can send the dryad home.

Marcia says the facility only has three or four guards on duty at night with one guy working the door. I ask Josie to go honeypot the guy; she gives it her best shot, but he’s all business. Eva walks in and gives the dude an eyeful of Sapphic passion by facehugging Josie, which gives Charles the perfect opportunity to introduce the back of the guy’s skull to the butt of his shotgun. We check the security cams and catch the other two guards on duty having a Pop Tart break, so Eva and Josie trap them in that section of the building by bracing the fire doors shut with some janitor’s equipment. Between the four of us, we manage to pry up the cold iron holding down the dryad’s roots, and the tree turns into the woman from my dream. She’s very weak. I tell the others to cover me with their guns while I carry her out of there, since I’m not field-certified for firearms yet. Lucky for us, the guards don’t break through the doors before we hightail it out of harm’s way.

(Soundtrack)

We get the fae woman back to the portal and Alex wrenches it open with a ritual from her new book. The dryad walks through it, and a dark shape appears in her place, then coalesces into the form of a little girl. She’s cute and creepy all at the same time, like a sociopathic doll in taffeta and ribbons, and she looks at me when she exits and says, “I know who you are. I don’t have business with you today.” The unicorn comes trotting out of the woods and joins the little girl. She says his name is Carfax, and she’s acting as his mouthpiece; she also insinuates that she’s normally a liar but he’s forcing her to be truthful with us. Carfax offers, through his proxy, to grant each of us a wish.

Like I said, I’ve played a lot of D&D, so I know how bad this shit could go. Charles keeps it simple and asks for a strand of Carfax’s mane. Eva nopes right out, proving that she’s probably the smartest person I know. Mal doesn’t watch her words carefully enough when she asks the creature to take the tracking collar Skaar overnighted to her, saying her wish is “knowledge”, but the unicorn seems to keep the little trickster just enough in line not to overload every neuron in Mal’s brilliant brain for a lark. Josie gets cute and wishes for Carver to be exposed to the world for his misdeeds, and Wayne adds a codicil to her wish that the Contingent not suffer any fallout from it. (That one gives me a really bad feeling, but I can’t do fuck-all about it, so why worry? Just let the record reflect that if it goes bad, it’s totally the reporter’s fault.)

I think long and hard while they give their answers. I can think of any number of wishes I’d make: things I’ve done that I’d take back, stuff I want to have or be able to do—heck, a lifetime supply of those movie-star glamour apples would be pretty awesome.

And then I realize why I’m here.

“I want to have control of when I open myself up to the visions,” I say, sealing my fate for good. I don’t want to wish them away; I’m not sure what kind of life I’d have if I wasn’t doing this any more. The visions are a part of me, the thing that’s given my life purpose. I don’t want to be rid of them. I want control over them.

Instantly I feel the change. Like having a room opened up in the back of your mind, a room that used to terrify you, that someone used to drag you into kicking and screaming. Until you realize, it’s just a room. You can walk out of it as easily as you walked into it.

Wishes having been granted all around, Carfax and his proxy head back through the hole in our reality and close the gate behind them. It’s then that Alex collapses to the ground, exhausted, blood dripping from her nose. Mal and I run to her; her vitals seem okay, but Mal says she needs rest and leaves behind some medications she says will help when Alex wakes up.

I take Alex back to our motel room and get her situated in bed, and then, for the first night in a very long time, without a single shot or pill or anything, I pass the fuck out.

So you see, sometimes fairy tales do have happy endings.

View
Rosso Come Il Mio Cuore
Natalie's reply to Aaron

She unfolded the note for the fourteenth time, the paper feeling softer in her hands with each reading.

Natalie…I love you…

Still reeling from the revelations in the letter and not sure how it made her feel, she refolded it gently and placed it on her tray. A slight burst of turbulence caused some of her cranapple juice to splash onto the paper. Natalie watched as the pink liquid spread and soaked into the note.

Suddenly, she had her answer.

She picked up her phone to check the time. If her flight landed on schedule, she might have just enough time to pull it off before leaving for San Francisco.


She burst through the door of her studio apartment, flinging her leather jacket on her plush purple couch. It was 8:30 PM. If she started now, she’d have enough time to finish, get some sleep, and then leave for San Francisco. She headed straight for the shower. She needed to feel fresh and pure for what she was about to do. She also hoped the warm water would calm her nerves. She scrubbed off her make-up, and along with it that grimy feeling that comes with being on a long flight. When she stepped out of the shower and towel-dried her black and turquoise hair, she felt like a new person. All of the tension that she’d been holding in, being with Aaron that week but not being able to be with him, was finally gone. He had finally been open with her, and it was now her turn.

Gazing into the mirror, she took a deep breath, opened up her painting kit, and began composing her response.


2:38 AM

You’ve got heaven
Heaven in your hand
You’ve got heaven
Running through your land
Why don’t you fight for it?
You’re right for it, you know

Robyn Hitchcock’s voice burst through Aaron’s phone speaker. He groggily reached over, grabbing it off the dresser. I wonder if Nat just arrived in L.A.? Then it dawned on him that she must have read the letter. Nervously, he swiped the screen to see her response.

There was no text—only a photo.

Natalie lay nude on her bed, flat on her back. Her arms were in a relaxed position by her side; her legs were crossed at the ankles. Her eyes looked directly into the camera. She wore no makeup—only her somber expression graced her face. The nearly-monochromatic picture rendered every detail of her body flawlessly and honestly in a thousand achingly beautiful shades of black, white, and grey. The only splash of color in the photo was the anatomically-correct crimson heart she had painted on her chest.

Arching over it in bold black letters was a single word: YOURS.

View
Musee De La Macabre To Be Resurrected

Article from Time Out San Francisco dated May 1, 2016

Musee De La Macabre To Be Resurrected

Alistair Thorne, the eccentric local rock star/entrepreneur has announced the closing of his occult museum La Musee de la Macabre. Don’t fear my ghost lovin’ locals, Thorne promises it will reopen soon and be better than ever. He wouldn’t divulge too many details other than he promises an interactive experience guaranteed to frighten even the hardiest of souls.

“There’s been some real supernatural activity here and we’re going to share it with the people. Right now it’s a secret, but when the doors re-open you’ll see visitors arrive in a frequency never seen by the museum before!”

We’ll see about that Mr. Thorne. For now, if you need your Thorne fix, be sure he check out his band, The Wanking Dead playing across the city.

View
Still Life
Revisting The Musee La Macabre

With everything going on lately, I wasn’t sure if this was the best time for me to go on a mission. The past week at Aaron’s was exhilarating and fun but also confusing and painful at times. I was emotionally spent and not sure if I was up to leading a mission with a whole new set of hunters. However, in the end, I was glad I went. Not only did we block Dick Face from buying Alistair’s museum, we may have helped Alistair draw in some new business.

I met the new group at Coffee For the People, an indie coffee shop in the Haight. I love San Francisco. The whole city just has this vibe to it that speaks to me. But this is not a travel blog so let’s get to the new guys. Already waiting for me was Granger. He knows Grace, is ex-military and seems like a good guy. I was instantly relieved to see him because I had the feeling if shit went bad he is someone I’d want to have around. We were then met by Chuck, Richard, and two other guys whose names I never got. One was this total goth kid wanna be. I called him “Hey You” aloud but in my head he was EMO BOY. Then there was the Karate Kid, never got his name either.

I explained what had happened last time we were here and what I had heard was happening now. Then we split off to do some research (well I went shopping. Found some of the NuStar cosmetics I’d been reading so much about on the makeup blogs). They didn’t really find anything useful, which wasn’t surprising as that had been our experience last time we were here. However Richard did find that Dick Face was trying to buy the museum, which was NOT COOL!

We met that night at the museum. Guy was not happy to see us. I think he’s still bitter about Ed. Also, how does Ed keep getting all of these hot guys pining for him? I want some of whatever mojo he’s got! Calliope seemed relieved to have us there. She gave everyone the tour. Museum looks the same. Alistair replaced The Hands Remain with a copy of Crying Boy. Not much less creepy but at least I knew there wasn’t a homicidal child killing ghost waiting inside.

Alistair was gracious enough to leave the museum entirely to us for the evening. I though EMO KID was going to cream his pants, he seemed to be a huge fan of Alistair’s band, The Wanking Dead. He was trying to play it cool though. It was adorable. I’ve know how he felt. Probably how I felt the time I met Rick Baker. Before the employees left, Granger figured out that Kage knew what was really going on. He seemed to have a raging hard on for the female spirit who had been hung up on Skaar last time we were here. Turns out, he was the one who summoned all of these spirits back. Can you imagine being that hard up for a date?

Shortly after they all leave, the ghosts decide to come out and play. We found out the fem-ghost’s name was Akane and she seemed to have a thing for Richard. Poor guy tried really hard to help her out but it was to late. I think if she had gotten her way she would have taken him into the afterlife with her. I guess being fucked to death isn’t the worst way to go, but it wasn’t going to happen on my watch! Ol’ Fr. Janssen made another appearance and nearly burned Granger to death. Crazy Chuck ( I still can’t place where I’ve seen him before) ended up tackling him down a burning flight of stairs. It was ball to the walls crazy but worked. It helped us burn the anchors for him and Akane!

Then there was little Miss Joilet. The Karate Kid had cornered her upstairs in the gift shop. She had turned the whole place into a maze and we couldn’t leave. Karate Kid couldn’t catch her until Granger walked up, turned on the lights and BAM! there she was, pressed against the wall with a look of shock on her dead plastic face. They tossed that bitch straight into the ASI container. This seemed to block her powers and we were able to leave.

Which we did and went straight for the Home Depot. We’d nearly destroyed poor Alistair’s museum. Granger knew a thing or two about carpentry (he’s like Jesus!) and with his guidance we rebuilt the place before morning. Grace, if you’re reading this, get on that! He’s a keeper!

When Alistair returned in the morning he wasn’t very happy with us. We’d destroyed several of his exhibits. Even though we’d repaired the damages to the house, we can’t replace the paintings. However, we convinced him he shouldn’t sell to Carver because now he had all of this amazing evidence of the haunted stuff that had actually occurred there. Richard also gave him the strands of Akane’s hair we’d found. Alistair was super pumped to have real ghost hair.

We returned triumphant to our hotel. I was a bit wound up from the events and high on adrenaline because we’d succeeded without anyone getting shot. A few burns but no bullet wounds which is a win in my books. I dabbled a bit with my NuStar makeup that I’d bought, then showered and hit the bed. Maybe I can do this hunting thing after all!

View
Good Talk
Sometime before the mission to Tennessee

Alex, I slept with Natalie.”

The words hung heavy in the air of Alex’s fifth-floor apartment. Aaron had been working up the courage to say them for hours, but the time hadn’t seemed right before now. During the car ride from the airport, he and Alex had been occupied with catching each other up on what had happened while she was in Prague (and, okay, making out at stop lights). During dinner they’d turned to discussion of Aaron’s latest dream visions, trying to make sense of the omens he’d glimpsed. Alex seemed particularly interested in the details about the dark-haired woman in the white gown, but didn’t elaborate on why—and Aaron had been so consumed by the guilt gnawing at his stomach that he hadn’t really given her ramped-up curiosity much thought.

After a quick walk around downtown to unwind and work off dessert, he’d driven the company-issued Audi back to her apartment and she’d invited him upstairs.

He couldn’t hold it in any longer.

Alex closed her eyes in the wake of Aaron’s revelation, not speaking for several long moments. When she opened them, she dug a pack of cigarettes out of her handbag and walked to the sliding glass door leading out onto her porch balcony overlooking a coffee shop. “Come outside,” she said softly.

He hung his head and sauntered slowly toward the door. Alex sat cross-legged in a canvas-back chair, lighting a cigarette and inhaling deeply. He sat down across from her with his elbows rested on his knees; she offered him the pack and lighter. He took one, an indulgence he rarely afforded himself, and waited.

She finally looked him in the eye. “Well, I can’t say I’m particularly surprised.”

Aaron closed his eyes, preparing himself for the worst part. “It’s not just that, Alex. I need you to understand that…that I’m still in love with her, too.”

“That’s been pretty obvious, too,” she said.

He opened his eyes, brows raised. “That transparent, huh?”

She laughed curtly. “Oh yeah.”

Aaron took a drag off the cigarette, leaning back into the chair. “It’s important to me that you understand that this doesn’t change how I feel about you. I love you just as much as I did the day you left for Prague. I know that’s weird, and I understand if you can’t accept it or deal with it. So if you want me to go—if you just want to end this and move on—I get it. I’ll leave. I’m so sorry, Alex. Hurting you is the last thing I’d ever want to do.”

“Aaron Mathias, how many stupid things have I done in the time you’ve known me?” He was pretty sure there was a trace of a smile behind her sternness now.

He did a quick mental review of the last year of their life together. “Um. A few very minor things spring to mind.”

She took another puff and exhaled as she spoke. “I used destructive magic on one of my best friends back when I still had my powers. I’ve rushed into dangerous situations several times—and one of them got you shot up pretty badly. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, too, Aaron, and you’ve stuck by me through every one of them. So I’m not planning on giving up on you for one screw-up.” She stubbed out the cigarette and moved to perch on his lap, wrapping her arms around his neck. “Because you haven’t given up on me.” She kissed him.

He held her by the hips, subconsciously pulling her closer. “Alex…I appreciate what you’re saying, but I want to be clear: I can’t write Natalie out of my life. I can’t turn off my feelings. For either of you. Is that something you can live with?”

“Aaron, you wouldn’t be the person I’m in love with today if it wasn’t for Natalie. She’s good for you. Hell, she’s good for both of us. I’ve never had two better friends in all my life. And the nature of the work we do means that we’re going to have to spend time apart. It’s unavoidable. The world is a big place, and apparently it’s not gonna save itself.” She drew closer to him, pressing her forehead against his, shutting her eyes. “So if I have to share you, at least I’m sharing you with someone I love and trust, who I know will look after you when I can’t.”

Aaron pulled her back by the shoulders after a moment. “I gotta say, this really wasn’t the reaction I was expecting from you. You don’t know the dread I’ve felt all week.” He stroked her cheek with his right hand. “I really am sorry, Alex. I owe you better.”

“All I ask,” Alex said, “is that you be honest with me. If you’re going to spend time with Natalie, just tell me about it. I don’t want secrets and lies between us. I’ve had enough of that in the last two years to last a lifetime. I love you, Aaron Mathias. And you’d have to fuck up pretty bad to change that, considering everything we’ve been through together.” She hopped off his lap, pulling the sliding glass door open and sashaying back inside, slipping off her shoes as she stepped over the threshold. “And if you really still feel guilty about it, then I’d suggest you follow me to bed and start figuring out how to make it up to me.”

Aaron stubbed out his own cigarette in the ashtray and stood to follow. “How exactly would I accomplish that?”

She tossed a devious grin back over her shoulder, unbuttoning her shorts and letting them fall to the floor in her wake as she pulled off her top and cast it onto the arm of the couch. “Oh, don’t you worry—I’ve had ten hours on an airplane to come up with some ideas.”

View
Old Notes and Memories II

“And the deal fell through?”, he questioned the man on the other end of the line.

Richard sighed, unsure if he was relieved or disappointed. Wilson, Wilson, and Garner was making moves to acquire Musee de la Macabre, and the owners were nearly of mind to accept the deal. Richard wasn’t sure why Carver desired the site, and had a small bit of hope that Alistair Thorne would sell the little museum, so they could see what Carver had in mind. To give them a little insight to what his end goals were, if anything.

“Yes, yes, I suppose it is a good thing. Just a bit of morbid curiosity, is all.”

In a rare moment of self-reflection and owning up to his mistakes, he was thankful that things turned out the way they did. For the first few months of truly delving into the realm of the supernatural, he was in a bit over his head, and he hated to admit it. Sometimes, a violent apparition was literally just a violent apparition and not some mystery to demystify. It’s a bit hard to understand that at first when the world and everything in it feels new again; except in this case, the “simple” matter of understanding a phenomena could very well unravel your corporeal being.

“Sure thing, and thanks again. Bye.”

The nearly inaudible hang-up tone punctuated the silence of the sequestered hotel room. There wasn’t much for him to do, aside from a little more digging. Perhaps a bit of history of the law firm. Perhaps he could get an idea of what has been shipped to the museum over the past few years. Could be exceptionally easy, if Mr. Thorne was willing to let him peruse any records he had on hand. Reading up a bit on the land it was built upon couldn’t hurt either. It would be amusing to learn if it was the stomping ground for some of the Ohlone tribes, or was one of the more heavily populated area by Chinese immigrants during the 1848 gold rush. With everything he has learned in past months, he wouldn’t be surprised if the area was absolutely drenched in old spirits, considering how strong the idea of communicating with the dead tied in with traditional Chinese practices. He was tempted to scour the area for a crazy old rice woman to stir up a ghost himself, maybe get some answers or insights.

A frisson took hold of him, though if it was from fear or excitement, he wasn’t quiet sure. Maybe a bit of both? Working with the contingent has certainly been as entertaining, if not more, as his usual excursions. Just one big archaeological dig, except now he was digging into the mysteries of the supernatural, not just some tomb. Where before, he wouldn’t have thought twice about desecrating a site for the sake of study, now, each excursion with the contingent was one careful misstep after another in the hopes of not pissing off whatever lurked around the corner.

He mulled over the though. He wasn’t sure if it was fun or not.

View
Sound and Vision
Session 2 (Cathy)

To: The Secret Frequency
Hello, my name is Calliope. I work at the Musee de la Macabre in San Francisco. A group of you helped me with a demon we had terrorizing the museum last year. Well, I think it or something else is back. I was attacked by something when I was closing last night. I couldn’t see it, but it scratched me all up and down my back and arms. There’s been some other weird stuff going on too. I told my boss, Mr. Thorne, and he was hoping you could check it out before someone ends up in the hospital again like last time.
Thanks!

Hey guys, it’s Natalie! Found this message on the Secret Frequency and would love to help them out again. I could use a break from…things, here. Last time we were there, we dealt with some intense hauntings that could affect us living and breathing guys and gals, so be prepared for anything. Oh and Ed, I’ll tell Guy you said “Hi!” ;D —Natalie

Hunters

Conner “Blackcat” Reese
Chuck Manson
Granger Simms
Richard Miller

Synopsis

The hunters met Natalie at a coffee shop in The Haight, where she filled them in on the situation. They did some research into local lore about the house and its previous owners. Once prepared, they entered the museum and identified a number of haunted items and ghosts. In the end, they banished, captured, or destroyed all of them, while repairing the substantial damage to Musee de la Macabre. Mr. Thorne agreed not to sell the building to an unknown buyer in a proposed business deal which was being brokered by the law firm of Wilson, Wilson, and Garner.

Major Clues

  • The hunters uncovered a link between Jackson Carver III and the law firm attempting to broker the sale.
  • In Sound and Vision, an employee of the museum had re-awakened the haunts in the place using a projector lens that had the Key etched into it.
  • Ghosts had come to life and were being bolstered as they wreaked havoc.
View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.