The Shenandoah Reports

Spooky Sayings
A meeting with a Shadowy Agent Turns Fruitful

The team definitely got a Snoddy feel from this Reidel character. He told them to meet him on the mall, and some skatepunk dropped off a box of cupcakes from Capellino’s Crazy Cakes. After a bit of back and forth… and some tasty treats, they found a phone number. A distorted voice on the other end said that he had to make sure they weren’t being followed- and were who they said they were. A visit to a local Staples to buy a particular USB stick, then directions from that stick were their next tests, along with a password encoded file on the stick. That password allowed them on a WiFi network set in a pirate pickup, that finally led them to a familiar location- the area where they first were put on to Harris.

This immediately put them on guard, but they noticed that things had changed since their earlier adventure. People were outside, and there was a shopping mall built into the back with an open air park and newly paved roads. There was also an industrial art shop in the bottom- and that’s where the address led them to. Walking in, there was a real air of community- people helping people to learn how to do hands on work and create works of art. And in the process enrich the area- there was a lot of the artwork apparently created in the shop on display in a community gathering place right outside of the shop.

As they watched and marveled at the change, a voice from behind said, “You’ve done really good work here.” Turning, they saw who they assumed was Bruce Reidel- a handsome man sliding into middle age, well built, with an air of true charisma and confidence around him.

He’d brought them on their little trip in order to have time to check them out, and he liked what he saw. The help they did, the strides they were making in breaking the vampires’ hold on the city. He was impressed. And so, he’d decided to help them out, rather than just appropriating the USB drive.

It was apparently meant for a dead drop- one that someone in his immediate operational area had been waiting on. Apparently, Kai had dealings with some covert alphabet agencies- dealings that the Warden had set up to help him get more information on his background. This was information that they already had- but it did help to cross reference Reidel’s bonifieds. He did confirm that the mission was a hit, but it wasn’t supposed to go down like it did. Something or someone took over Kai- and he was acting and appeared out of nature. There was also information that was supposed to be retrieved. And Reidel needed that information and was willing to help in order to get it.

Taking them into the back, they found out that at least part of the changes to the area were a front- but their dealings really did help out with getting things going for the community. And the residents were really benefiting. It’s just that the covert ops were helping that move along.

The USB drive turned out to be a wealth of information- but a lot of that wouldn’t have context without Reidel’s input. But in the end, because it went into mystical realms, he didn’t have a lot of the puzzle, and he hoped that they would be able to get the rest of it. They were wondering what they would do without Arcas nor Nikodemus- when Arcas called on Hugo’s cell. They decided to accept the agent at his word, and told him they would get back to him after they dealt with the magical side with Arcas’ help.

A Little Help from My Friends
With their resources tapped, the group starts to look to unconventional means

A mesopotamian cult ritual. An encrypted USB Drive. White powder. What do these things have in common?

Even with Alucard’s increased investigation skills and all of their normal resources, the group has no ideas. So they start to look towards other avenues.

Snoddy isn’t likely to touch this again, and they don’t have a way to get him to do so. There’s nothing in this that is likely to get the Order’s attention. Arcas hasn’t been around- and Hugo doesn’t really want to push his luck with the magical rituals. Officers Ramirez and Ingrey aren’t likely to have any information in this area. Drexl Wallace does have a pretty good reach. And Jefferson Green does owe them quite a bit. Killian has some.. dodgy contacts also.

It is decided that Hugo will contact Wallace, Soup will take Green, and Kassandra will take Killian. In the meantime, Alucard has a few ‘things’ to look into also.

Pulling up to Wallace’s mansion, Hugo can’t help but think that crime really does pay- if you get out fast enough. But then, thinking about how close things were with Trish reminds him the Devil will always have his due. He’s lightly screened by the security Wallace has currently- they don’t know the extent of Hugo’s involvement, but they do know that he has a free pass to see the man. Wallace doesn’t really have anything for him, regrettably. He seems sincerely sad about that fact- and Hugo realizes that this is not a man that likes to be in debt to anyone. But the meeting goes favorably if non-productively, and Hugo is sent on his way empty handed.

On Soup’s part, he finds out the Green is out of contact. He is put in contact with one of Green’s aides, but he doesn’t feel comfortable relaying the information to anyone other than Green. Another dead end.

Kassandra, on the other hand, has a pretty good time of it. Killian himself doesn’t have any information, but he does give her the name of Bruce Riedel- and cryptically says he might be able to help with the drive if the markings are any indication. Looking it over, Kassandra asks him what he’s talking about, and within the normal markings one might find on a USB drive, a tactile message was present. It didn’t mean anything to Killian, but he did know it was ‘spook stuff’.

Meeting up again, they are congregated together when they contact Riedel. He seems a bit skittish at first, but when they tell him what they have, his attitude changes. It will take him a while to get there from DC, but he says that he will meet them the next day.

An Unexpected Surprise

Arriving back at the Sanctum, Soup and Hugo set to work on the drive, but it confounds them. They find that they can’t find any indication of the geolocation that the drive has to be taken to in order to open safely. Alucard, bored of waiting on the two, comes into the room while Kassandra changes. He notices runes on the underside of the drive, hidden within the patterns on a label that Soup and Hugo had overlooked. Once his attention is drawn to it, Hugo realizes they are the components of a spell. But the other part of it is gibberish. Alucard knows that they are significant, and they tickle the back of his mind- but he can’t place it, even with the power of his relic backing him up. Kassandra is able to tap a contact from her college to research the issue while Hugo deciphers what the spell does. And Soup, thinking it might come in handy, starts to work on another variation of his elusive will-infused potion.

After many hours of work, all of them are successful to varying degrees. Hugo realizes that the drive is a more insidious device than he’d thought- it had a magical component on the surface- apparently the drive itself is sealed within, protected from the magical energies. If you get the spell wrong, and don’t have the geolocational key, the power of the spell is released, with presumably negative effects. Kassandra’s contact found out that the inscriptions were from a little known mesopotamian cult- an encrypted dialect that he could not decipher. But that information was enough for Alucard and his relic- he was able to figure out that the location was on the campus, in Garrett Hall- the same building where Dr. McIver worked before her untimely demise. That couldn’t be a coincidence, could it?

As it’s already the dead of night by the time the group finishes their research, they decide to try Garrett Hall at that time- no one will be present to see them do their investigation, and no one will be present if something goes wrong. The fact that the spells held in abeyance will release their power explosively is very disconcerting, but they go ahead with the plan. With Arcas who knows where, it falls to Hugo and his eidetic memory to attempt to unravel the protections with the spell. Soup surrounds him with a protective circle- not to protect Hugo, but to contain whatever happens.

Hugo makes his preparations, and begins the torturous unweaving. Painstakingly, he formulates the symbols in his mind, then begins the incantation, slowly constructing the spell. When it feels he must explode from the energy he contains, he releases his will into the spells surrounding the device.

For a pregnant moment, everything is silent. A few more moments pass, and held breath is released as the tension breaks. But then, there is a pulse from the drive, then an explosion of… powder. It radiates out to the circle Soup set, then stops, the particles falling and covering Hugo. But nothing seems to be wrong. Hugo looks closer at the drive, and notices there is a blinking red light, and a recessed button has become visible. In for a penny, in for a pound, he thinks as he depresses it. A seam appears, going along the drive, and it opens- revealing a simple USB stick.

What could be on this USB drive that would be worth the effort that was put into hiding it? And is it still viable?

That's What Friends Are For
As they find out more about the situation, the group wants to bail, but loyalty keeps them going

At the mall, the group goes through the song and dance to get Plotius to help, and realize that the obvious solution was right in front of them- the wall itself. Few people know, but the wall is not only an expression of free speech, but it is also a point where the veil between worlds is quite thin after a long time as the focus of much Will in action.

The images drawn every once in a while by local artists? Sometimes, they’re just innocent expressions of unrealized Will. Other times, they’re portals, making use of the massive battery of energy to pierce worlds. It does have it’s dangers, however, and the way that Plotius emphasized this made the group think that this was something they wanted to table for now.

Heading to Kai’s studio, they hoped they’d find something that would at least let them know what they were getting into. Using Alucard’s infrequent help of Kai with classes, they were able to pretty easily get past the manager he’d left- the man had seen them around enough to take them at their word. Pressed a bit more by Kassandra, he admitted that he’d been more than a little concerned as he’d not heard from Kai in a couple of weeks.

They learned little from what he was willing to show them, however, an obstacle that Hugo solved with his growing powers, convincing the manager that he should leave since he’d had such a long, trying day.

Once they were able to get upstairs in the studio, they worked with his computer a bit, but didn’t find anything that was of note, even after finding his password taped under the keyboard. Bad practice- but it almost convinced them that there was nothing to find. Alucard’s new investigational powers and change in focus from just hitting everything came in useful as he was able to locate a second computer- one that they were not able to crack. And indeed, when they tried, the computer erased itself. They knew that it had also sent out a signal, so figured they had little time before there was some sort of response to their snooping. But their investigations had also turned up a hidden safe, and Hugo didn’t think they should leave without trying to get past that, for anything of value would surely be sanitized if someone knew they’d been there but didn’t find them.

There were no magical alarms or other paranormal security precautions- and so it was a simple, more tangible trap that caught them- the simple needle trap. But the poison was of a different payload, and Hugo started to almost immediately feel his mind splintering. His recent work in that arena both helped and hindered him; he was able to self-diagnose what it must have been- one of a class of toxins that Henry had told him about that target the psyche, and he’d actually used to help expand his abilities. But in this uncontrolled environment, and in the dosage taken, he was having a hard time purging it. In the end, he was saved by Alucard’s quick thinking and abilities- Kai wouldn’t leave such a trap around without having some way to neutralize it, and thankfully, Alucard was able to find it.

That done, they found a flash drive in the safe- hardware encrypted. Still not knowing if someone was on the way, they decided to decipher this particular puzzle somewhere else…

The Battle's Done, and We Kinda Won...
Everyone's cheering, so why isn't anyone happy?

A long time coming, the group should feel some measure of success at stopping Harris. But the fact that they couldn’t bring that to a ‘final’ conclusion stuck with them. Especially after losing Nickodemus in the bargain. Though Hugo seemed ok, and assured them that he was, that close call made them realize that they were perhaps underpowered. But, as is usual in such cases, they were victims of their own success. Their ability to identify and take down the threat- even with their lack of wizardly support- convinced Ramirez, and by extension The White Council, that the area was in good hands. And with no Wardens to take up the mantle, they left Hugo as their liason once he contacted Beatty on awakening. Their charter was to assess, investigate, and protect- until they couldn’t. And the White Council would send in help in those cases.

But somehow that wasn’t the vote of confidence it should be.

The White Council was also able to intervene on Alucard’s behalf, and his standing was restored- something that many in the Order were not too keen on. And their star was on the rise. But with only the four of them now, it seemed like a lot to lay on their shoulders. Which begged the question- where was Lumin? Where was Kai?

An e-mail pointed to more serious things, though they knew not how to take it… other than it must be from Snoddy. And he seemed more paranoid than usual. After figuring out his needlessly cryptic message, and jumping through many hoops, they determined that he wanted to meet.

Snoddy? Setting up a meet?

Maybe it wasn’t so needlessly cryptic after all. So they met him on the mall. Well, not him. He was still as paranoid as ever. But someone that gave them a flash drive and a note.

“This is all I can do. Good luck.” – S

The key that they’d deciphered earlier to get the location and time of the meet unlocked the file on the drive- and a whole lot of trouble.

Apparently, Kai had been following his own agenda- one that started with the Warden’s help, to look into his past. Someone showed up that made it not seem even less benign that they had thought- Sir Windsor Beck. Head lawyer for Haring and Drake- the law firm that Blackthorne worked for. Maybe their case wasn’t as closed as it seemed to be. Snoddy had apparently been running support for Kai in some tit-for-tat information gathering for someone in the DC area. Someone that definitely didn’t want to be known, and someone that even Snoddy wasn’t going to look into. Things went bad- real bad. Kai had gone undercover to get the information, and had gotten blown. What they saw on the surveillance footage wasn’t something fit for casual consumption, as the reconnaissance seemed more like a hit, and Kai barely escaped- only to get whisked away by a rift into the NeverNever.

With no magical heavy hitters, this was going to be tricky. How were they even going to get into the NeverNever… let alone deal with anything there.

It seemed it was time to call in one of the few supernatural favors they had, and pay a visit to Plotius at the wall.

Stick a fork in it, Morton
When all choices are bad, what do you do?

As Hugo made an arrangement to meet Drexl and get the money for Trish’s ransom, he received a call from a number he didn’t recognize- for an unlisted number, that was happening more than made him comfortable. Andrew Morton, a representative for Councilman Harris called to congratulate them on their strides to clean up Charlottesville, and arrange a meeting to discuss finishing the job, and a mutually beneficial relationship. It seemed that Councilman Harris didn’t agree with Mac’s latest decisions, the way that business was being handled, and the information that he was seeking. He was also interested in the information that the group had retrieved from the warehouse. Hugo told him in no uncertain terms that he couldn’t deal with anyone other than Harris, and to call back when he could make that possible before hanging up.

About the time that they had retrieved the money from Drexl and had to decide how they were going to handle the situation, Hugo received another call- this time from Raymond Harris himself. He offered to meet them to arrange the transfer of information for Trish- and that Mac would be taken care of also. But in the meantime, Hugo had availed himself of having a direct line to Wizard talent again- and Ramirez was able to tell him from materials that they had retrieved from Drexl that Harris didn’t have her- she was still at Mac’s club. Drexl had also been able to tell them that the club was a fortress, and always open- it was going to be a bloodbath one way or another assaulting it to get Trish, and it was very likely she’d be killed if they didn’t follow Mac’s instructions.

The group had two choices- either trust Mac’s intentions, and that he was very interested in covering his tail by taking Harris out, or trust Harris’ intentions, and that he would be interested in trading honestly for Trish. In either case, one of the bad guys would be left holding the cards. That’s when Soup came up with a third choice- to get enough firepower to back them up, make the trade, and kill Mac in the bargain. An intricate plan unfolded…

Arriving at the club with a briefcase full of cash, the group was let past several layers of normal security- the entrance had a high end security scanner, and while they were scanned, they were in an enclosed space, with guards watching their every move. Though there was magical security- the downside of it being a club was no threshold. So veiled, Soup slipped in beside Hugo, Kassandra, and Alucard. Once in the club, they were escorted through a sea of innocents dancing on the floor to the rear of the club. Alucard saw that the club was laid out specifically to deter anyone that might be trying to get to the back quickly, with dead spots and switchbacks to make it impossible to take a straight path, or even to go if you knew where you were going. But being subject to public codes meant that it had weaknesses related to adhering to fire codes, and they were taking them right to where they needed to be to exploit it. There were still intricacies to work out, but so far things were going according to plan.

As anticipated, they made Alucard wait outside, completely ignoring Kassandra as only eye candy, and completely missing Soup. Near the back of the club, there was a hidden trap door underneath the DJ booth that led down to a hidden lounge underneath the dance floor. The glow from the area underneath blinded them as they descended down the stairs, and as their eyes adjusted, they could see that the area was longer than it was wide, with a bar next to the stairs (with a man making drinks, no less), a sectional that ran along the walls with LCD TV panels embedded above them, and a long, minimal coffee table running the length between. Standing in the space there were two huge guards and Ephraim Law. Mac, Trish, and one other man they didn’t know sat on the couch. Other than Mac, everyone else in the room was tense. But he said relaxed as if he didn’t have a care in the world, watching a game on TV.

As Hugo took the briefcase to lay it out on the table, Kassandra maneuvered to give the unseen Soup space to pass. Then, all hell broke loose. Soup protected Trish, keeping her out of the line of fire as he took the man beside her out as he tried to rise, pulling Trish away from Mac. But Mac wasn’t interested in her, pulling a nickel plated revolver even as Hugo lashed out at Law, having seen him in action and deeming him the greatest threat. He found that the man’s secret was a demon that possessed his body, and as they tangled, Law fled through the Nevernever, but not before taking a shot at Hugo. The bullet seemed on target as it hit him in the head, but did nothing. Mac gaped at the sight, and took a shot with his revolver, also hitting Hugo in the forehead to no effect. In the meantime, Kassandra made short work of the other three, taking them out with precisely placed blows, as Hugo unleashed the power from the shots that he had taken into Mac with spectacular effect.

Up above, Alucard had maneuvered himself to be close to the exit door. It was there as a necessity as a fire exit, but it was sealed against code. But that didn’t last long, as Alucard gathered himself and kicked it open, pulling the non functional door bar off of it and making a bloody mess of the guards around him. The calvary came in the now open door, Warden Ramirez, his junior Warden Bethan, and Kai making short work of the Mac’s security measures in the now panicked crowds.

After the fight in the basement, Hugo fell insensate to the ground. Ramirez took a look at him, but was unable to figure out what might have happened to the man. They took his unconscious form and Trish and beat a hasty retreat before the authorities came on the scene. Before they were back to the Sanctum, Hugo awoke, a bit worse for the wear, but still with no tangible evidence of the trauma he had received. But he was out of it enough that Soup had to field his call from Morton. Morton made threats on Harris’ behalf, but they were half-hearted; Harris had already left Charlottesville, and it appeared that the group had carried the day.

Caritas in Veritate
In which the path to truth is found in a charity

After Soup found the keycard at Drexl Wallace’s estate, the group decided to pay another visit to Harris’ Charity. All roads seemed to lead there, and they were running out of other options to get to the bottom of the crimson snow epidemic. They came up with a plan for Alucard to attempt to take an extra shift at night, then head down into the basement area, and hopefully get through the secured door there with the keycard. Hugo also attempted to make contact with his handler on the White Council, but wasn’t able to secure any help for the mission. He left a message, with a report of what they had found and what they were going to do… but they couldn’t wait for a response.

For once it seemed that things go according to plan. Alucard was easily able to get the night guard to switch with him- his want of an extra shift to get extra money raised no eyebrows. They decided to strike a couple of hours past midnight, and as they put their plan into motion, everything seemed quiet. Nickodemus shorted out the CC TVs, and they made a beeline through the offices to the secured door. Nickodemus took a look at the door again to make sure that nothing had changed, and after they were sure of this, they swiped the card, and were rewarded with a simple click. They opened the door into a sterile light shining on tiled floors and plain walls. Nickodemus probed before them for magic, and came up against a hotspot of magic- some sort of sensor. By interspersing these magical sensors with technological ones, the designers of the area where they were had effectively left the short cuts out of the equation- they could not short out the cameras without setting off the magical sensors. But the cameras covered the area they had to go through. But they had not counted on the combination Hugo and his growing mental abilities, and Soup’s faerie magic. Utilizing the cloak and veil with Nickodemus’ magic, they were able to disable the cameras, one at a time.

Finally coming to the end of the corridor, they breached one final door before coming into an area that was a strange mix of a drug den and a medical facility. Unfortunates drugged out on crimson snow were being bled dry by an elaborate set-up to distill their saturated blood for some purpose. There was also a darkened pit in which they heard growling at the other end of the floor, and guards patrolling the hallways. But the group had the feeling that this was just the tip of the iceberg, kept going, veiled by Soup, to see what else they might find.

Heading up the stairs, they came into a warehouse area, patrolled by even more guards. It was surrounded by a catwalk and office space upstairs. There were several guards patrolling the warehouse floor, but once again they made their way through, veiled by Soup’s magic. As they made their way up the stairs to the office areas, things became a bit more murky- literally. Some sort of darkness that they had a hard time penetrating inexplicably covered the whole office area- walking through it was even a difficult task. They attempted to continue their sneak, but it was quite hard to do so in the dark. So Nickodemus decided to cast a light.

In the office surrounding them were a combination of faerie creatures, apparent vampires, and a mage. Not what you want to run into in the dark. One of the faeries barreled through the thin drywall, cutting off the group’s escape. The vampire wanted to know what they know and how they found out. He let them know that they knew of the group’s coming from the moment they used the keycard, and that he knew it was Mac’s extra card, cursing the man for his carelessness. But for all of that, he seemed pleased at the way that things turned out, and stated that if the group wouldn’t tell them what they needed to know, they could find out from their bound spirits.

Nickodemus decided not to wait on that, and let loose with a powerful spell, hoping to take out of a few of the faeries and neutralize the mage. A beam shot forth from his hands as he channeled it forward, cutting two of the fairies in half with the concentrated light as he drew a line towards the mage. But she was ready for him. As the light outlined her, he could make out everything, from her startlingly green eyes to her skimpy leather outfit and chains and piercings- more befitting some Harajuku Girl than a true mage. But the outfit belied her power as she held forth her hands to catch the channeled energy. The light from the beam began to be snuffed out as the two mages battled for control of powerful magical energies. In the darkening light, the teeth of her master could be seen as he bared his fangs in delight seeing her bearing down on Nickodemus. Strands of darkness invaded even the light on Nickodemus’ end, and he knew that he couldn’t beat her. His choices were few- ground out the energy, in which case everyone would take the brunt of the resulting blast. Or internalize it, and die. But in these two choices, he found a third.

“I curse you…” he whispered. And everything went blindingly bright. There was an explosion centered on Nickodemus, and beams of light streaked out from his person, going not just through the office space, but spearing through the drywall separating the catwalk from the warehouse and caressing the guards. One became transfixed as he ran through the door, instantly turning to ash. But the others were not far behind him, as their inhumanity was burned out of them. In proportion to the portion of their mortality given up to supernatural powers, they were burned from the inside. The vampire lord streaked out of the warehouse, screaming as he ran through the boarded over window into the night.

As the light subsided, and the group could once again see, they saw piles of ashes, and wrecks of humans with half or more of their bodies missing in a macabre display. The mage was strangely untouched… but her eyes stared out into nothing, her mind gone. And of Nickodemus, there was no trace.

They made their way back through the warehouse into the basement. The power of Nickodemus’ death curse had apparently made its way down here also, but was weaker by the time it did. The addicts had the drug burned out of their system, and were in various states of panic. But the calvary had arrived- Ramirez, Warden of the White Council from the West Coast, and one of his subordinates had made short work of the guards that were left. They had also uncovered what was in the pit- transformed vampires that had gone out of their minds. One of these they actually recognized from the pictures in Drexl Wallace’s house- it was his son Colin. They were able to convince the Wardens of the importance of recovering him. Nothing was promised after so long, but they said they would do what they could. And if not, they would put him out of his misery. The mage, they killed. They also searched the grounds, and found definitive information that could possibly, with a lot of work, help to implicate Harris.

Still they had no more information than when they came, though the felt like they had done a great good. But it was still disappointing. That is, until Hugo received a call from Drexl Wallace. Mac had taken Trish, and wanted the group to meet him at his club… to ‘discuss’ the situation, what they had found, and what they planned to do with it… and to bring payoff money from Drexl so that Mac could get out of town.

The Devil You Know
Where the group makes a deal with the a crime kingpin looking to leave his old life behind.

Soup was able to break into Mac’s room on Drexl’s Wallace’s estate and find a keycard- one that he hoped would let them into Harris’ charity.

In the meantime, Hugo and the others were having a conversation with Wallace himself, both to distract him from Soup’s covert operations, and to discern Wallace’s true involvement with the Crimson Snow. Hugo, with subtle cues from Kassandra, was able to reason out that Trish, Wallace’s daughter was the reason that he’d tried to leave the life behind. That, and the death years ago of his son Colin made him see that he needed to make a better environment for her. But his old associates weren’t so willing to let him fade into the background. Mac was for all intents and purposes running the show, which explained his stay in the in-law suite, and the presence of his crew in force in the house. But the detente between them had become strained when this new drug hit the streets and Mac made other alliances that made a lot of scrutiny come down on Mac and his operations- scrutiny that the group had started. As long as they were able to keep Wallace- and by extension Trish- out of any fallout from Mac’s fall, Wallace was willing to give them as much help as he could.

Wallace let them know he couldn’t do anything overt because of the presence of Mac’s men, but told them where his room was (not knowing that Soup had already cleared that area), and where his other hangouts were. He also confirmed that there was a link between Mac and Harris- something that the group had suspicions of, but hadn’t been able to ascertain for truth.

This bit of information, along with the keycard that Soup lifted from Mac’s rooms let them know where they were going next- Harris’ charity to clean up loose ends and hopefully get some solid evidence.

Down on the Upside
Investigating the drug-dealing gangster takes the group in unexpected directions

After piecing together the fact that Ephraim Law had killed their most solid lead, the group decided that they should go after the tenuous link that they had to Law – Drexl Wallace. They decided that they didn’t have enough information on Law or Wallace, and that this investigation should be key. Hugo prepared to do the bulk of the investigation, but was surprised when Alucard weighed in that he would like to help. His brief touch of the investigative arts had seemingly convinced him that the blunt weapon approach wasn’t the only way to solve a problem. Either that, or the fact that investigation could produce more targets than stumbling around blindly. Nickodemus and Soup used the opportunity to prepare magically and procure reagents. Kassandra in the meantime contacted some of their other contacts to help in the research and investigation.

As the group gathered together with the results of the research, they determined some pretty daunting details. This information in hand, they determined that their usual frontal approach wouldn’t work- they needed an in. And Wallace’s dossier provided just that, in the form of Jefferson Green. The group still hadn’t taken him up on his admitted debt to them for saving his life.

They found that Green apparently took his debt seriously, as once Hugo identified himself, they were fast-tracked onto his schedule. He conference called them at the Sanctum, but he was a bit less ready to help when he found out their target. They talked for a while about Wallace, and he did help them a bit- filling them in on the fact that he had indeed been in the right side of the law for a while, and bare circumstances surrounding the death of Wallace’s son and his relationship with his daughter. But Kassandra could tell that he was prevaricating, and was warring with different loyalties- that Wallace wasn’t just a client. But he did agree to set up a meeting with Wallace with some reservations. Hugo promised that they would be on their best behavior.

If not by Kassandra’s intuition, they would have been able to tell that Wallace and Green shared more than a casual relationship by the fact that his call to Green was answered by an invite to a late lunch that very day at Wallace’s estate. Green’s limo picked them up from the Sanctum and they traveled to Wallace’s house. During the drive, they talked a bit more about Wallace, but they were not able to get much more out of Green. Hugo asked specifically about William “Mac” Moore, Wallace’s associate from the dossier. Green definitely did not look thrilled to have that name sprung on him, and was very unwilling to talk about him. Kassandra did get a different feeling from him on this regard- not that he was protecting Wallace, but himself.

They arrived at the estate, and though there was little in the way of security present, they did know from their research that there was some security if they were unaware of the form that it took, so were more happy than ever that they had not taken the violent approach. The house was decorated in a functional manner- not as if someone had put time into decorating. It was nice, but had a feel as if someone had gone into a furniture store and bought the display. Sterile, if a word were to be applied to it. The only exception that they saw in their brief time through the front portion of the house was a veritable shrine that held a picture that they knew was Wallace’s late wife, framed on either side by pictures of his son, Colin, and his daughter, Trish. Though there was nothing out of the ordinary or alarming, Nickodemus felt as if there were a malevolent presence permeating the house, growing stronger toward the rear of the house.

About that time, Drexl Wallace came out to greet them. He was a large man- he looked as if he would be home on a football field, approaching Alucard’s considerable mass. He also filled the room with more than his bulk, but a radiating presence, and a seemingly genuine smile that widened as he saw Green. Greeting his friend, he let the lawyer do the introductions, appraising each of them in turn. He nodded politely at the names, before leading them into a sun room to talk more freely. Soup took advantage of the change in venue to veil himself, and go off towards the area that Nickodemus had mentioned to investigate while the others availed themselves of Wallace’s hospitality. Fresh drinks and light snacks were served as they talked; Wallace gave a much different impression than they had expected, looking at his past a list of criminal endeavors that he was allegedly involved in. As Hugo attempted to talk around the subject, Wallace’s demeanor shifted as he focused more fully on his words. Finally, he held up a hand, and stood abruptly, indicating that he’d like to talk more plainly. He told his lawyer and friend that he might want to excuse himself, and he’d see that his guests were returned to their home. Green was taken aback at first, but then realized why he was being asked to leave- to remove the officer of the court from the room. He left as he was bid, but not before a parting shot admonishing the group to behave.

Green was not the only one to leave the room. Nickodemus had surreptitiously communicated to Soup the feelings that he had received from the atmosphere. So warned, Soup felt around with his lesser magical senses, and was able to pick up on the traces. So, with that, he veiled himself, and set off to investigate.

The house was as he initially sensed it was- sterile, as if something was missing. There were areas where it was not so. A room that had dolls and posters of princesses from classic cartoons and furniture that looked as if it were from a fairy tale- a little girl’s room, though his daughter was in her early twenties. Another that looked a bit more appropriate to his dead son’s age, though it was cold the shadows gave it an ominous cast, though the cleaners apparently kept the room immaculate for it had no dust nor cobwebs anywhere.

But for all the life that those two rooms brought, there were only feelings of darkness as Soup ventured towards the back of the house, and it grew in intensity, leading him to where he needed to go. As he neared the rear, he began to hear talking, interspersed with raucous laughter. Almost in the middle of the malign energy, but apparently unaware (or uncaring) were several rough looking individuals- cleaned up for work in the neighborhood in business attire with coats thrown over the back of a sofa, ties loosened around their necks, and sleeves rolled up. But for all of the expense of dressing them up, whomever made the effort might as well not have bothered, for they would never be mistaken for anything but thugs in suits. They were gathered around an impressively sized LCD that took up most of the wall and a gaming system as the football players ducked and dodged their way across the screen, and they stood between Soup and a door to the rear of the house. Veiled as he was, getting past was tricky but not undoable, and soon he was out of the back door, into a walled-in breezeway leading to what was apparently the in-law suite. Inside the small domicile, he found basically a one bedroom dwelling. Though making his way through carefully, he ran afoul of some magics, and definitely found the source of the dark energy, but in the end found a keycard that tingled with energy as he touched it. Was this the key to getting into the room at Harris’ charity?

Digging in the Dirt
The group tries to get to the bottom of the attacks, and ends up in a seamy part of town

After returning to the Sanctum and comparing notes, the group realizes that everyone was attacked other than Nickodemus, who says only that he was out of contact, so they wouldn’t have been able to find him. Letting the cryptic statement go, Soup realizes that only Kassandra had actual interaction with her attackers and left them alive. Searching her clothes and person, they are able to find fabric which Nickodemus fashions into a tracking ritual. It takes them to a pretty rough part of town; posing as a repairman, Nickodemus is able to find out that the man isn’t there, but he offers to stay, pulling off his hobo con, to see when the man returns. The group agrees, as Soup sees someone that he recognizes- the man that he followed from Tracy’s apartment when they had their encounter with Gersic.(ref: Mind Games)

They were able to keep him from recognizing them- he seemed to be in deep conversation with someone across the street from the apartments. But soon enough he left, and they were able to surreptitiously follow him to Friendship Court apartments. Once there, they are able to see the typical traffic outside of the apartments in a different light: there is a security detail out front, and other security walking the grounds. Alucard took out the one tail they had on them- apparently their arrival hadn’t gone unnoticed- but with the person on them gone, they had a small window in which to operate.

They made their way into the apartments, and Soup led them, veiled, to the apartment that he saw their mark go into. After some rather interesting tactics to get into the apartment and expose security that involved Hugo posing as a Mormon of interest, Hugo talked to the man in charge, D. L. Hawkins. Apparently, D. L. was a semi-reformed criminal mastermind, that used his wit and contacts to help keep the people of Friendship Courts safe from a predator that had been preying on the underclass. The police were either involved, or just didn’t care, so that left it up to D. L. The man that they had been chasing was his messenger, scout, and evangelist, Deveaux. He owed D. L. for help rendered- not in the normal way of owing, but felt and obligation. It was obvious he believed in D. L., and what he was doing. His encounters with the group had indeed been coincidental: he was in the area and noticed them leaving after the fire, and was at the other apartments to talk to a possible convert- someone that had only started down the path. The path to what? Crimson Snow addiction. Apparently anyone that became addicted seemed to disappear. And the one person that they had managed to find had their neck ripped open as if by some animal. D. L. knew who the person was behind Tracy and the distribution. Deveaux had seen Law doing some cleanup- Ephraim Law who was the hand of Drexl Wallace- big time dealer and gangster. Not the right hand, in the silken glove. But the left hand… the mailed fist. As an interested citizen, D. L. knew that the group that moved on Harris before had some sort of conflict with him, and he was more than a little sure that the path would lead from Law, to Wallace, to Harris. Where he couldn’t get involved, maybe they could?

The group left on good terms, and just in time, too. As they were returning to the van, Hugo received a call from Nickodemus- the fake policeman that had assaulted Kassandra was on the move. They gunned the van’s engine (not very fast for a VW, but still), and hoped to get there before Nickodemus got into too much trouble.

When they arrived on the scene, all seemed quiet. Nickodemus approached the van as if he were offering to wash their windshield, and let them know what had transpired. The fake cop came out, and got into his car. Another man walked up, and leaned over, talking to the cop through the driver side window. They talked for a bit, there was a flash, like a cigarette lighter or something. At least, that’s what Nickodemus assumed, as the man was smoking when he backed away from the car, holding up his hands as if to say I’ll leave or something. Then he waved the guy off as if it wasn’t worth it and walked away.

The car was still there, idling, as if the man was waiting for something, so the group decided to move in. When they checked out the car, however, it was apparent what the flash that Nickodemus had seen was. The man had two precision holes, one in his stomach and the other in his head. Kassandra was able to tell that this was indeed the man- and that he was red court infected, which made the fact that the man was able to take him off guard and kill him like that even more impressive. They questioned Nickodemus a bit more about the killer, and were able to piece together a description- though he hadn’t gotten the best look, they were pretty sure it was Ephraim Law.


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