The Contingent

Better monster hunting through technology
email from Fina Aquinas to Ryan Langston

To: Ryan Langston
From: Fina Aquinas

Subject: Better monster hunting through technology

Body:
Ryan,
After your experience during our mission, I thought you might be interested in investigating what happened. I’m working on a database of supernatural threats. I’m using advanced data mining techniques to pull a normalized dataset from the (very messy) source data.

I’m currently working on designing a search interface for the frontend data set. I’ve to set it up so that it would be easy to get a quick overview in urgent situations, but would still provide the level of detail to be a useful research tool. However, I need input from potential users to know what adjustments are needed.

That is where you come in. This link to the dataset has the appropriate initial search terms already filled in. If you could take a look and provide your feedback using this survey link, that would be helpful.

Join the computer age. There’s lots of knowledge here and its much more portable.

Fina


Link leads to a search for “boiling blood”, “threatening places”, and “personal experiences” that provides an overview of know incidents:

Summary

  • Threat mitigation:
    • Retreat. If you know in advance that you will be facing this threat, plan multiple escape routes.
  • Overview:
    • There has been one incident of boiling blood and personal experiences resulting in a serious place-based threat.
  • Attributes.
    • When experienced together, these factors have been know to have the following characteristics:
      • Sudden unexplained manifestation (1 incident)
      • Possible temporal phenomena (1 incident)
      • Possible concurrent physical attack from supernatural creatures (1 incident)
      • Possible personal flashbacks and/or temporary personal displacement (1 incident)
  • Geographic Contexts
    • New York City area (1 incident)

*Incidents with all factors

Incidents with at least two factors

Incidents with one factor

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Childhood Terrors: mommy said it was just your imagination
Storyteller: Justin

Hi, this is detective Laura Shearer. I’ve got some weird shit that I think is your area of expertise. Some big guy got into and out of a locked house to rough up the couple who own it. Here’s the thing, according to the couple’s kid, it came out from under the bed. My bosses won’t approve though, so, keep it quiet, and keep it between us.

Investigators

Eileen Fisher
Maddy Summers
Jack Mills
Fina Aquinas
Dr. Ryan Langston

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Some Kids Are Dying To Graduate
Storyteller: Richard

Hi, this here’s the hotline for them monster hunters, right? I’m Delores Gutierrez, an EMS dispatcher working in Klein County, North Carolina, and there’s something very bad about to happen here….This ghost keeps appearing on Prom Night along Paper Mill Road near the Simpkins Farm, and there’s a fatality out there nearly every year going back to 1968. I been workin’ this job goin’ on 23 years and never wanted to make any trouble, but I got a niece and nephew at Triple H High School and I can’t bear to think of them bein’ the next ones to die. Can y’all send someone down here to bust the ghost, or exorcise it, or…whatever it is you people do?

Investigators

Reyna Parker
Willard Buss
Daisy Mei
Junior
Eugenia

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Half Man, Half Beast, ALL HORROR!
Storyteller: Evan

Hi, is this the Contingent? Yeah, I’m down in Bishopville, SC, in Lee County? I was out with a search party looking for a couple of missing college kids. They just called the search off. I don’t know if it’s relevant or not, and the sheriff acted like I was out of my mind, but I saw the Lizard Man out in the swamp while we were searching…

Investigators

John Miller
Tyr Anasazi
Alexander Nolan
Sir. Nigel Mulberry
Kenny Crowder

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It's Not Human, and It's Got an Ax!
Storyteller: Adam

Voice mail? Really? Well this is the number Granger gave me so listen up. This is Leanna. I’m calling in one of the favors the Contingent owes me…us…my people? For the thing we did for you with the Door. Capital D. You get me? Anyway, I have an…acquaintance in your neck of the woods who is in a bind and needs your help. Alley Cat Jack gave me a call this morning with a problem. I know it’s bad because Jack hates owing folk. He’s good people and I’m doing this for him no strings attached. Besides, it sounds like what’s happening is directly because he helped you people out last year. Just…just find a way to save him or deal with the problem or whatever. Ok? He said to meet him after sun down in an alley off Avenue B across from Tompkins Square Park. Granger better hope he’s right about you guys…

Investigators:

Darren Knox
Zak Zimmerman
Father Xander Court
Adam J. Weiss
Meredith Cohn

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Who's Richard?
There and back again

Rhys wrinkled his nose. The smell was horrendous, and it took most of his concentration to keep himself from retching. Wherever John was for the last year, it certainly wasn’t sanitary. The filthy remains of what looked to be a WWII uniform was strewn on the floor of the motel room, alongside scattered belongings: A crude quiver with various arrows and bolts, a bow, crossbow, and a worn and illegible journal. “This is fucked. He’s been living like an animal, he certainly smells like one, and he is older?!”

Samantha shot a barbed glare at Rhys, sitting impatiently on the bed. John was in the bathroom cleaning up. "We thought he was dead, Rhys. Show a little sympathy. He told us he was working with this “Contingent” and that he may not return. With what’s been happening, who knows what happened to him?"

“Well, for starters, he certainly doesn’t. And That doesn’t excuse him stealing my car. That thing was paid off.”

“Oh my God, Rhys. He’s alive and… “well”, and suddenly the waterworks turn off and your hung up on your car?"

“I was nearly arrested for grand theft auto! And for what? His weird-ass World War Two re-enactment trip? What the hell is up with the bow anyways? And he’s married?”

Samantha palmed her face in frustration. “Yes, I know. But he called_us_ for help. I don’t think he remembers very much anyway. He wasn’t able to answer very much at all, either. He needs us, Rhys.”

Rhys crossed his arms, creasing his brow with doubt. “Yeah, sure. Are you paying for it? Because I’m still paying for a car.” He mumbled under his breath before speaking up again. “Why doesn’t this… ‘Contingent’, or whatever, help him? What about this? He has this worn out thing tucked in his journal.”

Rhys produced a very old and worn business card, for a “John Burrhus Skinner”. Old pen markings on the card had a phone number and the name “Richard Miller” written on the back. “Maybe we can give this guy a call? It looks old as hell though…”

Both turned to the bathroom door with an inquisitive look as John finally exited, half dressed in new clothes.

Samantha peered at the card, reading it over front and back before looking back up to her brother. “Who is Richard?”

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Craigslist Roommate

I’ve made a mistake. Pro-tip; never advertise for a roommate on Craigslist.

When Amanda first messaged me, I was excited, because I’ve never really had many friends who are the artsy type. She just landed a role in an off-Broadway musical, which is cool in theory, but in reality, it’s not so great What it means is I have to listen to singing, ALL the time. And God forbid that I deviate from the strict diet and exercise regimen that she posted on the fridge. Guess what Amanda, Kale is gross. I tried telling her that, and let’s just say that didn’t go over well.

Don’t get me wrong Amanda is great. She’s just so…_passive aggressive_. She has this scrunched up judgement face that just drives me up a wall. No, I don’t care how many grams of sugar are in a Red Bull, and I’m not switching to sugar free because that’s just nasty. Yes, I am aware my soldering iron is a fire hazard. I know that I’m a bit of a slob, but I’m working on it. Seriously dude, if you have a problem with something just tell me, and we’ll work it out. It’s not hard.

For some insane reason, I really want her to like me, and it’s not just because I can’t afford the rent on my own. I guess having a roommate is all about comprising. I think that’s something I can handle. Except for the soldering iron, that’s where I put my foot down.

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I Joined a Demon-Hunting Organization. Here's What I Learned.
A look inside the mysterious world of The Contingent, from the eyes of one of its newest members

[An article appearing on the front page of the New York Post, April 7, 2018]

If you’d told me at age ten that I would grow up to be a journalist, I would have jumped for joy.

If you’d told me I would grow up to be a demon hunter, I would have laughed in your face.

Today, I am both. This afternoon I dotted the final i’s and crossed the last t’s to become a member of the Contingent, the organization that made a splash last yer by fighting off a zombie horde in Washington, DC, and alerting the world to the existence of the supernatural.

Already, I’ve met fascinating people, and seen things I never would have thought possible. From ghostly department heads to shapeshifting plants, the Contingent is every bit as mysterious and otherworldy as it claims to be. Here’s a quick trip through my first day as a paranormal agent.

We gathered outside Hearst Tower this afternoon for a tour of the Contingent’s new headquarters. (Before you ask: yes, I did go into the Cosmo office; no, I didn’t get Amy Odell’s autograph.) Several people on tour with me seemed to have been Contingent operatives for some time already, while others were as new – though not quite as curious – as I was. We were taken to the seventh floor of the Tower, which houses the Contingent’s call center. That’s right, everybody: there’s a hotline for monster hunters now. Who ya gonna call?

Our tour guide briefly explained the procedure for vetting calls – the Contingent can handle up to a dozen at once. Apparently these folks have been in business for years before going public! Thanks to their experience, they have a huge database of monsters to compare against the calls they get, and can figure out whether something paranormal is happening. Once, our guide confided, somebody called in about hearing strange noises upstairs, but it turned out their neighbors were just, well, a little bit freaky, if you know what I mean.

The Contingent’s call center is a part of the Logistics department. This was headed up by an ex-Marine who, in her own words, was “not paid to be fun.” Super scary, super hot. She also had some kind of tentacle in a jar near her desk- a classified tentacle, according to her.

After the call center, we were taken to the Accounting department. Well, I say department. We were taken to a door with no label and told that accounting lived on the other side.We could hear someone clacking away behind the door, but it had no knob or handle, or apparent way to get in. Only one woman comes in and out of the Accounting department, and nobody knows how her job gets done- only that the paychecks keep coming on time.

Probably the spookiest thing I saw at the Contingent HQ today was the director of Human Resources. Ironically, he didn’t seem to be human at all- he walked right through me as he passed by! We also saw somebody throw a cactus right through his body. It seems that the original founder of the HR department lives on – unlives on? – to lead the department as a ghost. I have to say, I still haven’t entirely recovered from the incident.

One of the returning demon hunters in my group seemed antsy to talk with the ghostly department head. Apparently this person was unhappy about what the Contingent has gone through since their involvement in DC. It seems, dear readers, that something more happened between the demon hunters and the National Guard that day. Hopefully I can learn more from my new co-workers.

We were taken downstairs to research and development. I’m pretty sure something in my contract keeps me from talking about what I saw there, but trust me when I say that it opened up my eyes to a whole new world of secrets. The Contingent researches anything and everything that could help humanity defend itself from the supernatural. Imagine some super-crazy science fiction lab, and then make it about twice as cool- that’s the R&D lab at the Contingent. Perhaps even cooler, though, is the plant in the department head’s office. It’s some kind of shapeshifter- a pine tree one moment, a cactus the next! Even more amazing is that nobody in the Contingent knows what makes it change.

The last place we visited was the shooting range. I saw people firing everything from standard rifles to odd, flesh-melting water canons, and even tossing hatchets with great strength and accuracy. I’m going to have to learn to shoot in order to be a demon hunter. Today, I couldn’t even hit the target.

The Contingent may have gone public about its existence, but this place is still full of secrets. I look forward to learning more about this strange and shadowy organization, as well as polishing my own demon-hunting skills.

Meredith Cohn is a freelance journalist, a cat lover, and now, a demon hunter. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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Down in Belize

Down in Belize
John Arthur opened the trunk of his 2013 Toyota Corolla Hybrid. He tossed in the gear he had brought back into the alleyway: axe, shovel, a few empty bottles, and two empty cans of kerosene. Didn’t have the trunk space of his last car, but it was much more inconspicuous. John slammed the trunk, glanced up at the sun beating down, and wiped the sweat off his thick beard. Only the beginning of April and it was already the high eighties. For a boy born and raised in Baltimore, Belize City was brutal. Pretty, mostly quiet… but man, that heat.

John turned back toward the warehouse. He’d been working for the better part of 4 hours. It was one of the old cargo warehouses way up North Highway. It was a ramshackle building, mostly wood and tin. John was thankful for the wood and the seclusion, he decided, as he lit a road flare and threw it through the open window. He dropped into the driver’s seat, and calmly started south on the highway. In the rearview mirror, smoke began to rise as the flare caught the kerosene trail John had liberally sloshed through the warehouse.

It was getting close to 5. Time for an early dinner. Killing’s hard work, after all.

John stopped in at his usual haunt, the Hour Bar. Open to the beach, filled with dark wood and rattan, it was a nice place to sit and enjoy the cool ocean breeze and a drink. The Hour Bar was also open till 2 am, an oddity for Belize City it seemed. Some of the other bars nearby stayed open to 12, but the Hour was the last place you could get a drink. It was Tuesday, or Margarita Tuesday by the bar’s calendar. Hawley greeted John from the bar, the large Mestizo grinning at the sweat wringing off the Yankee.

“You gotta get used to the climate, John. Been here almost a year and you still act like it’s hot or something. What can I get you?”

John smiled, “Margarita for starters. And one of those red snapper fillets, that was great last week. Oh, and a dozen of those wings to start.”

“Sure thing, worked up an appetite today, did you? Oh, by the way, you seen Ravi? He was supposed to show up for work at noon, but I haven’t seen him since he went home with that girl last night.”

John glanced off toward the ocean, where the setting sun behind him was glinting off the Drowned Cays to the East. He’d known instantly that there was something wrong with the girl. Too pale, too hungry. He’d drifted out of the bar after her as she had Ravi take her home. To a warehouse up North Highway. Where John, who had stopped carrying his weapons so he could keep a low profile, had been able to do nothing but watch from a distance as the vampire drained and turned Ravi on the spot, and then bedded down for the day. John had gone home for supplies, drove back to the warehouse, and solved the problem, as he had so many times before.

“No… can’t say as I have. I’m sure he’ll turn up sooner or later.” John glanced at the TV behind the bar, the local news doing a piece on the Contingent’s new headquarters in NYC.

Hawley followed his gaze. “Can you believe that shit? Ghosts and goblins crap. How long do you think they can keep it up? Keeping the public bought into their bullshit?”

John picked up his margarita and headed for the porch. “Got me. But I wish them luck.”

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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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