Everything Must Go (Chrismon, Robert)

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Everything Must Go (Chrismon, Robert)

Postby Okamisan » Sun Feb 19, 2012 9:16 pm

Part One

Chrismon --
You have just returned to San Francisco after a short trip down the California coast to help Darcy settle a problem. Between her, Robert, and yourself, things got sorted out very quickly indeed. You enter your shop mid-morning. All seems well, until you take a look at Tim, who you had left in charge while you were away. He is looking at a heavy, white envelope sitting on the desk, with a distinctly anxious expression.

Chrismon took a deep breath, steeling herself - Tim didn't freak out easily. "What's going on?"

He picks up the envelope and hands it to you. "A man dropped that off this morning. He said he was representing your landlord."

And indeed, you can see the name and return address on the envelope is that of your landlord. You've always been quite punctual in paying your rent, and your lease has three or four months left to run.

She frowns, but opens the envelope, to see what's inside. "No indication what it was?"

"No, he said it was something you'd have to address yourself."

The letter inside is indeed from your landlord; it informs you in brisk terms that, having entered
into some new plans for the building, he is terminating your lease. A check for two months' rent is enclosed, representing his obligation to you for breaking the lease; you have thirty days to vacate the premises. There is a check for $285.75 enclosed. (Your present rent, for approximately 850 square feet of space, is $142.85 per month, equivalent to about $2000 today.)

Chrismon mutters something foul under her breath. To Tim, though, she says, "Well, it looks like we're moving house." She lets him see the letter.

He looks the letter over. "Good grief," he mutters, then looks up at you. "What are we going to do? Maybe more to the point, what do you want me to do?"

"I guess start scrounging boxes and crates and such. And, for heaven's sake, if you see anything to let big enough..."

"You bet. That's a section of the classifieds I don't usually read, but I'll start. I know it's something not usually done in this particular business, but should you think about having a sale? Could raise some fast cash ... and everything you sell is one less you have to move."

"Hm. that's not a bad idea. We could pass it by word of mouth, though. And not on quite all the volumes." She nods at him. "Not planning on closing, don't worry."

"You want me to get started on the legwork now? I still have a couple weeks before I need to start cramming for finals."

"If you don't mind. Hopefully between the two of us we can find something quickly."

"There's got to be some space somewhere," he says, standing up and grabbing his book bag. "And it feels good to be able to do something. I'll check in with you later this afternoon." Slinging the bag over his shoulder, he heads out the front door.

For her part, Chrismon turned and headed for her office, and her phone list.

What exactly are you going to do?

See if there is anyone who might have a lead on a space to rent.

Would it be a safe assumption that you worked with a real estate agent of some kind to find the space you have now, or did you find it on your own -- hunting the classifieds and whatnot?

I would think I worked with an agent, at least to reduce (if not eliminate) the legwork.

Okay. You give the agent you worked with before, a gentleman by the name of Bryan Cao, a call. After asking for a moment to retrieve your file, he says, "I've got here that you have 850 square feet, at 17 cents a square foot. I presume you'd like the same price, if not better. Looking for the same square footage, or looking to expand? Also, I understand that while you're a bookstore, you deal mostly in antiquarian and rare books, right? Do you need a street frontage, or would interior office space work for you -- I might be able to get you a better price if we go that route."

"I'd at least like some sort of outside draw, either a direct door, or a sign or something - I do get a little walk-in business, and I'd lose that otherwise."

"Understood. Let me check on a few things, and I can call you back shortly."

A couple of hours pass, and Bryan calls you back. "I think I might have something for you. The Morrison Building, corner of Golden Gate and Hyde. Mostly offices but there's a diner on the ground floor, so they get good foot traffic, and they wouldn't have a problem with a sign. There's a 900 square foot space on the third floor, twelve cents a foot; and the entire seventh floor is open. There's 900 square feet, 1015, or more if you wanted it. Nine cents a foot, and they might well go lower."

"That's pretty cheap, even for the seventh floor. Have you seen it yourself?"

"I have, though it's been a year or two. It looks just fine, as I recall. The main problem is that it has the reputation of being haunted. There were a series of murders there back in '31, and no one's been willing to keep space on that floor since."

"You don't say. Well, worth a look, at least, I think."

"Sure. I can set up a meeting with the manager -- James Grayson's his name -- as early as tomorrow. Particular time that's best for you?"

"I can be flexible - this is kind of important."

"Understood. I'll have him call you." He hangs up, and a very short while later -- less than half an hour -- your phone rings again.

"Miss Yarborough? My name's James Grayson, and I manage the Morrison Building. I understand you might be interested in our seventh floor. What can I tell you about the building?"

"I'm not sure - Bryan tends to be thorough in his descriptions. He told you what I'm looking for, for outside signage?"

"Yes, he did. I don't think that will be a problem."

"Good. Well, I wouldn't mind seeing it, and unfortunately, I don't have a lot of time."

"First thing tomorrow morning -- say, nine o'clock?"

"Thank you, Mister Grayson, I'll be there."

I'm assuming the rest of the day and into the evening will be spent passing the word to clients, etc. about the impending move (wherever it ends up being) and other preparations. Feel free to elaborate on that.

In the morning, you head over to the Morrison Building. The corner of Golden Gate Avenue and Hyde Street is only a few blocks from City Hall, but it's also only a few blocks from the Tenderloin, a less than savory part of the city. The dedication plate on the building tells you that it was constructed in 1907 -- which certainly makes sense. Very little of this part of San Francisco was left standing after April 1906.

The ground floor is taken up almost entirely by an establishment called Joe's Diner, which appears to be doing a brisk business at this hour. The building's lobby is to one side of the diner.

I go in and have a look around. The location isn't enough to entirely rule the building out.

The building's lobby is a long, narrowish space, running a little more than 45 feet from the street door to the pair of elevators. To your left is a concierge desk with the building directory on the wall next to it; just beyond it is a shoeshine stand where an elderly man waits for his next customer. To your right is the doorway to the main stairwell. Next to this, situated underneath the stairs, is a small newsstand, where a middle-aged man is selling a copy of the Chronicle to a young woman who appears to be of Middle Eastern descent.

The lobby overall appears clean and well-lit; the walls might be a bit overdue for a fresh coat of paint, and the floor overdue for a stripping and re-waxing; but neither by too much.

Have you made it a point to arrive early, or right on time?

Right on time, I should think.

The man at the newsstand checks his watch and hurries across to the concierge desk, then looks across to you. "Good morning. Can I help you?"

"Good morning. I have an appointment with Mister Grayson."

He brightens. "You must be Miss Yarborough," he says, extending a hand. "I'm James Grayson."

"Good to meet you," she returns, shaking his hand.

"I understand you're interested in space on the seventh floor, for your bookselling business? That would fit well with our other clients, I think. Would you like to see the space available, or is there anything I can tell you about the Morrison first?"

"Might as well have a look at it, thank you."

"Sure, just a moment." He ducks back into the newsstand, and returns with a ring of keys. "This way."

You walk to one of the elevators. A young man is sitting on a stool inside -- he jumps to his feet as you and Grayson enter. "Seventh floor, please, Ned," Grayson says. The young man's eyes open a bit wider, but he closes the gate and door briskly and operates the controls. The elevator rises smoothly and stops precisely. Ned opens the door and gate, and Grayson leads the way out into a hallway.

"Main restrooms for the floor just to your left," he says. "The largest space on the floor has its own washroom, and a few also have sinks. Was there a particular space you wanted to look at here? We can go through them all if you like -- I can also point out which of the smaller blocks we could combine to a single larger one."

"Go through all of them, if it's no bother. All I have in my head at the moment is what I'm moving from."

[I have just finished a small map of the immediate area. I'll try to get it scanned and emailed or posted tonight for you. Turns out City Hall is four blocks away, the Federal Courthouse two, and the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library three.]

"No bother at all. It would be nice to have someone on this floor."

A few short steps and a turn to the right, and you are facing down the main corridor for the floor, with office doors to both sides. At the first pair of doors, directly across the hall from one another, Grayson pauses and fishes out his keyring. "We can begin at the beginning, suite 700." He unlocks the door on the right (the north side of the hall) and ushers you inside. A tall counter splits the front part of the area off from the rest; a swinging gate opens toward the back. Dim light filters in from narrow windows on the back wall, which opens into the service alley. There's a number of large metal shelving units in here, and also several good sized workbenches. "We can arrange to move or remove any of the interior furnishings," Grayson tells you. "This space is 754 square feet."

This being serious business, Chrismon looks over the whole space, including corners and back room(s). She isn't in so big a hurry to make a snap decision to regret later.

Everything here seems normal, though the corners in particular show the dust of a space long unused -- a pattern which persists throughout the floor. Grayson will show you each of the spaces in turn. This is, briefly, how they look:

#701, opposite 700: This would appear to have been a doctor's office at one time -- there is a reception area at the front, as well as a full bathroom, office, and exam or consulting room. A number of furnishings remain -- including a large leather couch in the exam room. The office and exam room both have windows facing Golden Gate Avenue. It has a total of 1014 square feet.

#702: This space has a nice set of double doors. It has a carpeted floor but is otherwise bare of furnishing. The windows at the back open on the alleyway. It has a total of 566 square feet.

#703: This door still has the legend "Patrick Chang -- Oriental Imports" painted on it in fading letters. There are few furnishings here but the most striking is a walk-in safe, open and empty. The windows face the street. It has 897 square feet.

#704: This is the smallest space on the floor, at 464 square feet. Its windows open on the alley. This room is completely bare.

#705: This room has two small offices and a room with a sink partitioned off at one side. The rest is painted a particularly bright white which hasn't dulled overmuch with the passage of time. Its windows open to the street, and it has 1014 square feet.

#706: At the end of the main hallway, this is the only space which has windows opening on Hyde Street. It has a connecting door to #707, and has been partitioned off into a number of offices and small cubicle-type spaces. It is the only other space on the floor that has a full bathroom, in this case including a small shower. It measures 667 square feet.

#707: The largest space on the floor, this is the southwest corner of the floor. Its windows open both to Golden Gate Avenue and Hyde Street. One of the inside walls (the one that backs up to #705) is almost entirely covered in mirrors -- although several of the panes have been cracked or broken entirely. A ballet barre is also mounted to this wall. Also in this room are a large record player, a three-foot high stack of gym mats, and a piano. This space has 1521 square feet.

Any questions for Grayson?

"It's a nice space, some good units. But you haven't been able to keep tenants up here?" Direct seems best.

You're still standing in the middle of 707, your last spot on the tour. When you ask the question, Grayson takes a few steps over and sits on a corner of the pile of mats, offering a sigh and a weary smile. "No," he says. "To be honest, I have a hard time keeping the janitorial staff on top of things here. How much of the story have you heard?"

"I remember hearing something. Eight years ago, wasn't it?"

"Yes. I wasn't the manager then, but I did work here. A string of murders on this floor. We haven't been able to rent any space on here since -- well, a couple of people have signed up, but never stayed longer than a month or so. They say the place is haunted, and the janitorial staff say the same."

"Refresh my memory. Was anything ever found out about it?" She asks as much to watch his reaction as anything.

If anything, he looks a little sad. "I guess Le Brouillard knows," he says. "He told everyone he'd ended it, but I don't think he ever said how. No one got turned in to the cops, or anything like that."

<<I'm going to presume Le Brouillard is known; if this is the case...>>

"Le Brouillard. The killings did stop, though, didn't they?"

<<Quite well known; a small local radio station has even been running a series of stories purported to be from his "secret files.">>

"Yes, they did."

"Interesting. Makes one wonder what happened."

Grayson nods. "Sometimes I wonder if knowing the whole story would encourage people to take another look at the building -- or at least, look past all these stories about hauntings and give us a chance." He sighs softly, and says, "I'll be honest with you, Miss Yarborough. I know as well as anybody the Morrison isn't the greatest. It could do with a bit more care. But the owners don't really want to bother. I keep hoping that if I can get some tenants on this floor, it might encourage them to invest a bit more in the place. It would benefit everyone." He flushes slightly, as if embarrassed about being so candid. You get the sense that he is being completely honest.

She nods, appreciating that, and understanding. "No stories of anything during the day that would drive away customers? Because the location is pretty good, and there are some nice-looking spaces here."

He thinks for a minute, then says, "Nothing I remember. The janitorial staff talks about the shadows not seeming right, and feeling like they're being watched. But they're only up here in the evenings."

"I'll want to talk to my staff before I sign anything, but I think we can start talking size and such." She gets out a notebook, where she's written her current square footage, etc.

Grayson's expression brightens considerably. "That's wonderful. How much space do you think you will want?"

According to your notes, you presently rent 850 square feet, at 17 cents per square foot, for a total of $144.50 per month. Bryan Cao told you that you can probably get space on the seventh floor of the Morrison for nine cents a square foot, or less. A quick bit of mental calculation tells you that you could get about 1600 square feet here for the same rent that you are presently paying.

"I have 850 now, but I can always do with more, and no sense moving to move again shortly."

"Well, 703 has just shy of 900, and 701 and 705 have just over 1000," he says. "Those all have street windows. This one -- 707 -- is a little over 1500. That would almost double what you have now. We could always close off the door to 706."

"701, perhaps. But we should discuss the rate."

"Of course. For the units on the street side, I'd like to get nine cents a foot. You probably noticed that there's still some furniture in 701. No one has tried to claim it in nine years, so you can consider it your own when you move in. Or if you prefer, we can arrange to have it cleared out."

She considers. It would probably be safe to haggle, but she sort of feels sorry for him, and the situation. "If you can refinish the floor, I think that'd be fine."

<<Just to make sure, 701 is the one that looked like it was a doctor's (or more likely, a psychoanalyst's) office. That's the one you want?>>

"Shouldn't be a problem at all. I can get the contract written up and ready for you to sign early as tomorrow. It can be ready for you as soon as this time next week, or whenever after that you'll need it."

<<That's right - not overhuge, and the street-facing windows mostly. The double doors would be striking, but a small space. wink.gif>>

"That sounds perfectly fine, thank you. And I'll talk to my staff today."

"Wonderful." Grayson gets up, and the two of you make your way back downstairs and to the lobby. A young man who is dressed in the uniform of a messenger brushes past you as you exit the elevator. Standing in front of the concierge desk, Grayson shakes your hand. "I'll be seeing you tomorrow, then," he says. "Come by at your convenience."

Anything else you want to do in the building, or is it back to your shop?

Back to the shop, I think. And a bit of research probably. ;)

Okay. Tim has arrived, looking a little bleary-eyed. "Ran out of coffee at home. Any left here?" He also informs you that he's got a good lead on some sturdy boxes, from the college bookstore.

What sort of things do you want to research?

"Just finished brewing, as it happens." And she fills him in on the meeting.

Anything else odd in the area, and this crimefighter (I'm not up to typing the French name just now, sorry, and resisting giving him a nickname wink.gif).

[chat transcript]

Tim heads for the coffeepot and you settle in for research.
Do I find anything of interest, even of the maybe-trivial sort?
Some, yes. A lot of the information most readily available about Le Brouillard comes from a radio show that's been airing on a small local station, "The Fog Bank."
Which may or may not be very reliable, given the context, I imagine - "enhanced" for entertainment, etc.
While it does purport to have stories based on information from Le Brouillard's "secret files," most people tend to think the stuff on the radio is made up. One of Le Brouillard's signature powers, gained through a mastery of the ancient arts of alchemy, is the ability to become incorporeal through the imbibing of a special potion of his own manufacture. (So says the show, anyway.)
Hence, "Fog". ;)
Precisely. More prosaic sources, i.e. the newspapers, do have reports of his activity dating back to about 1927 or so. As far as is known, he's only ever been active in San Francisco and the immediate environs.
There's not much information about his real identity; he seems to guard his secrets quite
Any reliable way to contact him? Not necessarily planning to just at the moment, but in case...
Nothing definitive, although he has been known to work with a fairly well known private detective in the City, Richard Merlin. You've heard of him too -- "the man who never sleeps." In fact, you think he might have been a customer of yours at least once. Le Brouillard has been a bit less active in the last two or three years, it seems, although he's not disappeared entirely, by any means.
The customers are starting to come in -- the word has begun to get around, of the sale, apparently.
Then I'll go help Tim, and wait for an opportunity to fill him in on the Morrison.
He's tending to a man with a small stack of books already on the counter. "How much of a
discount did you want to offer, boss?" he asks.
"Fifteen percent, I think, except on the rarities." (Since haven't signed the paperwork yet - anything could still happen. ;) )
"Got it." He starts writing up the receipt, as you see who has just come in the door. It is, in fact, Richard Merlin. (Commendable caution.)
I sniff, amused, then greet him.
"Good day, Miss Yarborough," he says. "I've heard we may be neighbors quite soon."
"Oh, really?"
"Heard you were looking at space in the Morrison. Having to move?"
"Yes, the owner is looking into some... other plans for the building."
"Sorry to hear it. Moving can be troublesome. Still, I thought I'd be a crass opportunist and see if I could wrangle a discount on some books." He grins.
I chuckle. "Certainly. Looking for anything in particular?"
"Not really. I'll read just about anything, really. If you do end up in the Morrison, I'm sure I'll be giving you plenty of business there too."
"I'm flattered. But if not there, I'll be sure to let you know where."
"Good enough! I'll just have a look around."
I nod, and let him get to it.
The next half hour or so is taken up with greeting customers as they arrive and helping Tim write up receipts. (He doesn't necessarily know all the stock well enough to distinguish all the rarities, so he asks you from time to time.)
(Fair enough - probably not that many sold anyway, as a rule.)
Finally, around 1pm, the shop is empty of customers for a few minutes.
I fill Tim in on the morning, and my research too.
"Haunted, huh? Sounds like just the place.."
"Thought you might like it. But it's a good space, and a good location, and a very good price."
"If it works for you, boss, it works for me. No problem."
"Still had to check."
He smiles. "I sure appreciate that. Suppose we'll run into Le Brouillard sometime?"
"I don't know. He doesn't seem to be working as much as he used to, but who knows."
"I suppose even mystery men get old ... although with the alchemy, you never know, do you?"
"Yeah. If that part is true.... Well, maybe he's researching or something. We'll have to see."
"I mean, if we meet him. I've known scientists, and sometimes the call of the lab is too strong for a while."
He grins. "Yeah, I've noticed that in school."
I return the grin. "Anyway, I'll keep you in the loop. They were going to refinish the floor too."
"That'll give us a bit more time to pack. It's going to take a while."
"Oh, don't I know it."
"When should we start?"
"Oh, I'd imagine as soon as we have boxes. Rarest first - easiest to keep track of that way."
"Okay. I should be able to bring some in tomorrow."
"Thank you."
Another customer enters the shop. "Should I take care of him?" Tim asks.
"Go ahead - I should start sorting my office. Wish me luck."
"Good luck!" What do you want to do at this point?
I'm not planning anything out of the ordinary before signing the contract.
Okay. Would you like to just "cut to" that? (BTW, I have a map drawn of the space now, showing the office areas, etc. I'm going to scan it and also mail you a hardcopy.)
Unless you have something interesting in mind. ;)
Can't think of anything at the moment.
Then yes.
Grayson is as good as his word, and has the contract ready for you. A one-year lease, at the terms previously specified.
I have only a little trepidation at signing, but don't say anything about it.
"I've talked to the janitorial staff -- the floors should be taken care of by this time next week. But I'll call you in case there's any kind of delay. We'll pro-rate the first month's rent based on when you actually move in."
"I appreciate it. We're starting the sell-off and the packing."
"It's going to be a pleasure having you here, Miss Yarborough."
"Thank you. It'll be good to have the extra space."
Anything else you wanted to do while you were in the building?
I don't think so. I take it Richard Merlin's office is in the Morrison, though?
Yes. You can see the entry right on the building directory, near Grayson's concierge desk: "Merlin Detective Agency."
Okay. But no, nothing else in mind.
I didn't have anything else in mind myself until the actual move is completed. Do you have any particular plans to accomplish that?
Probably pack ourselves, but then hire professionals to take the boxes and transport them. Except for the rarest. ;)
Okay. Going to try and get through it as soon as possible, or play out as much of the remaining month at the original location?
Oh, as soon as possible, I'd think.
Okay. I'm assuming you could accomplish the move within about ten days, of very focused effort.

It's been about three days since the move has been finished. I imagine you're still setting things up to your taste, but I'm also assuming that you'll be open for customers. (Please correct me if I'm wrong on that. Also please let me know if there's any particular business about the shop you'll be working on.)

It's a fine morning, Tim's day off, when a man of about fifty enters the shop. "Good morning," he says politely. "You're the bookseller? I'm looking for three titles, Californiana from the last century."

(That's fine, and probably just the last settling in.)

"Well, let's see what we've got," she says, leading him to the most likely section. "And if I don't have it, I may be able to get it."

"Thank you, that's good to know," he says as he scans the shelves. "Hm, here's one," he says, gently pulling it down and offering to you to hold. "One is actually a law text, so ... good lord!" He pulls down another volume, very gently. "This is pristine. Pristine. Unbelievable." He looks at the book in his hands as if it is wrapped in gold leaf, rather than yellowing paper. After a moment, he collects himself. "Do you think the law book would be in this section also?"

She smiles, pleased. "Doubtful - though sometimes it's hard to settle on just one category. The legal books would be back here..."

He nods, understanding. When you reach the shelves, it doesn't take him long to find the book he is seeking. "Not a first edition," he murmurs, "but that's not so important." Handing this -- and the pristine copy of the second title -- over to you, he says, "Thank you. I'll look forward to coming here again."

"Always glad to help someone out." She tucks a business card into the law book. "Call if there is anything you need us to look out for."

"I certainly will. Unfortunately I only have a few minutes right now, or I would stay and browse longer." He pulls out a checkbook as he walks to the counter.

The first thing you notice is that all three books -- Business Law for Businessmen, Indian Wars of the Northwest, and History of Del Norte County -- have the same author, one A.J. Bledsoe. Then you set to checking the prices. The former two books are relatively inexpensive, at $15 apiece. The third one, however, is most decidedly not. You have it priced at $600. [The equivalent in today's money would be $8500.]

She gives him the total price. The divergent titles make her take special note of the author.

He nods, seemingly unfazed by the figure. "Will you accept a personal check, or would you prefer I go and return with a cashier's check?"

"Since you're a new customer, please don't take it personally if I'd rather wait. But I will set these in my office until you can return."

"Not at all," he says. "A most sensible precaution on your part, particularly with such a large sum involved. I have to meet a client shortly, but I will go to the bank and return after lunch. Perhaps I should take one of your cards with me." He offers you one of his own.

I trade with him, and look at his card.

The card reads "Jennings Bledsoe, Esq. Attorney at Law. Business and civil cases." It has an address on Bush Street.

That would explain at least the law book interest. "Good to make your acquaintance, Mister Bledsoe."

"And yours, Miss Yarborough. I'll be back after lunch." He tucks the card into his wallet, puts his hat back on his head, and departs.

I stack his books and take them back to my office, as promised.

Is there anything else you'll be doing in the meantime?

Nothing out of the ordinary, I imagine - organizing, appraising, etc.

Okay. One question about how the shop is organized. There are two large rooms at the back (one with shelves in it, the other with a rug, couch and chair). Are you going to have either of them open to customers, or are you reserving both for your own use?

Shortly after one pm, Bledsoe returns, removing his hat and pulling an envelope out of his jacket as he enters the shop.

Probably keep the one with the couch (but toss the couch) as an office and storage, and have the other semi-private - a workroom, and keep the rarer things in there.

I greet him, and go to get his books.


You return with the books, to see Bledsoe looking at another book from the shelves, reading a passage and laughing to himself. As he sees you approaching the counter, he closes the book and returns it to its place. He comes to the counter and offers you the envelope. "Six hundred thirty dollars, as agreed," he says.

I open it to be sure, before thanking him.

It is indeed a cashier's check, drawn on a nearby branch of Bank of America, in the amount of six hundred thirty dollars.

"You are most welcome," Bledsoe says, adding, "I can't help but wonder what my father would have thought."

I closed the envelope again - most people are honest, but business meant making sure. "Oh?"

"Of his books becoming such rarities, and so expensive," Bledsoe says. He offers you a somewhat wry smile. "He would probably just be happy the money wasn't going to his ex-wives."

"I can attest to that, at the very least. And I am continually surprised by what becomes collectible and what doesn't."

"The desires of human beings can be unpredictable, to say the least." He sets his briefcase on the counter, and tucks the three books into it, all the while looking at you -- you get the distinct sense that he is sizing you up, in a benign sort of way. Finally, after the latches on the briefcase click into place, he says, "I wonder if I might make two requests, Miss Yarborough. One, would you be willing to notify me if you come into possession of any alchemical texts, no matter how … commonplace ... they might seem?"

"Nothing on alchemy would I call 'commonplace'," I say drily. "But I don't think that will be a problem. And?"

(Is that one of the things Tim-the-clerk is interested in? I don't recall now. wink.gif Even if so, if it doesn't make it out to be sold to the public... wink.gif)

Not especially, though Tim does have at least a passing interest in anything remotely connected with the occult. You do recall that there's someone else you heard of recently, who did have an interest in alchemy, though.

"Might I call on you again, and take you to dinner?"

That wasn't quite expected. "You flatter me, Mr Bledsoe. But how do you know an angry husband isn't now going to hunt you down?" I say lightly.

(Chrismon doesn't wear a wedding band, but clearly has in the past - a dent on her ring finger from one.)

"It appears to me that you are either no longer married," he says, unfazed, "or no longer interested in being married. If the latter case, I'm prepared to deal with a potential angry husband. But I don't think there is one."

Chrismon laughs. "All right, Mr Bledsoe. Dinner only, perhaps."

"As you wish. Six o'clock tomorrow, perhaps? Shall I call on you here?"

"Here would be fine, thank you."

(On the off chance he turns out ot be a mad stalker.... ;) )

"Very well. I will be here at six tomorrow. Be thinking of where you would like to go." He gives you a brief bow and heads for the door.

Anything of interest happen before then? And any suggestions of a good restaurants? ;)

Nothing of particular interest happens between now and then.

Restaurants? Well, if you want to go whole hog for elegant, there's the Garden Court at the Palace Hotel; or the new Top of the Mark on the 19th floor of the Mark Hopkins Hotel. If you don't want something quite so fancy, there's Alioto's at Fisherman's Wharf, or the River Dragon restaurant in Chinatown. Or, if you want to go someplace where you know someone will have your back if something goes awry, there's always the Shangri-La Club.

Precisely at six the next day, Bledsoe steps through the door. He is dressed in a dark suit similar to the one you saw him in the day before -- not quite a dinner jacket but formal enough to fit in anywhere. He has a light overcoat over his arm, and as he removes his hat, you catch a sparkle from his cufflinks.

He smiles warmly. "Good evening, Miss Yarborough. Where are we going for dinner?"

"I was thinking about the Shangri-La Club, or perhaps the River Dragon."

He smiles. "Mysteries of the Orient, eh? Certainly -- the Shangri-La Club, then. I have a taxi waiting downstairs."

(Anything in particular you wanted to say or do, or shall we cut to entering the Club? And shall I invite Joe to peek in on the thread?)

(Nothing in particular, so a cut is fine. And by all means!)

The maitre'd, a young woman in a tuxedo, greets you as you arrive. You drop off your coats (and Bledsoe's hat) at the coatcheck counter, and are then shown to a table on the upper floor, overlooking the dance floor. A number of the other tables are already occupied, and more patrons appear to be arriving at a fairly steady pace. At this moment, most of the band stage is empty, with just a piano player at work.

"A fascinating place, this," Bledsoe says as you are both consulting your menus. "I've been rather impressed by the ... shall we say, progressive nature of the owner."

After he places his order for dinner, he pulls a small velvet pouch out of his inside jacket pocket and lays it on the table.

She looks at it, but doesn't comment. "As have I. I've been here... more than once, though alone."

"Perhaps after dinner we'll be able to dance," he says. "I'm sure you know how good the house band is."

The waiter brings the wine (or whatever other drink you might have ordered), and when he has departed again, Bledsoe picks up the pouch, and offers it to you. "Despite an extremely short acquaintance, I've been very impressed with you, too," he says. "I'd like to give you a small gift."

"Oh, I couldn't possibly accept anything, Mr Bledsoe."

(I don't know about Chrismon's, but my radar is pinging, just because that's the sort of game this is. ;) )

:) What sort of shadow does that pinging on the radar look like, perchance? Given Chrismon's ability to suss people out, she might have a chance to put some things together and make a few shrewd guesses too.

"Oh but please," he says in absolutely flawless French, "I insist. At least, see what it is before you decide."

Honestly, with the "instant" interest, and asking for alchemical text, and I don't know what's going on in my brain, but in fact mind control or something like. I doubt she'd attract much attention for kidnapping or whatever. (ETA: Kidnapping for ransom, that is.)

"You presume much, Mister Bledsoe, else you've been checking up on me," Chrismon returns in the same.

Continuing in French, he says, "I'm afraid I do presume, and that I have been checking up on you. And your associates. Call it ... professional courtesy."

"An interesting definition of 'courtesy'. So, what have you found out?"

(And I flash to "Are my eyes really brown?" in Casablanca. ;))

"That you and your associates have been quite busy of late; that you [here and in the next instance, he uses the plural] have attracted the attention of some less than pleasant characters, though you have told them in no uncertain terms what to do with themselves; and --" here he leans in a bit and lowers his voice, "that we are all on the same side."

He sits back again as the waiter arrives with your salads. As the waiter departs, Bledsoe continues, "While some would say that Miss Aisling is more exotic, I personally find you quite charming." This is spoken with absolute sincerity.

"Thank you. I'm afraid my books and I are often put in the same category."

"I believe it was Shaw who said, 'Youth is wasted on the young.'" He smiles, and takes a few bites of salad. "Are you sure you can't accept a small gift?"

"I normally do not after such a short acquaintance, though I'm flattered. Thank you."

"As you wish. I certainly would not want to make you uncomfortable." He picks up the pouch and slips it back into his pocket.

As you finish your salads, he asks, "I trust all has been quiet on the seventh floor?"

"For the moment, at least. And yes, I heard the stories before leasing."

"Good. Would you do me a favor, and let me know if you experience anything unusual? Anything at all?"

"I can do that. Another interest, I take it?"

"Yes. I fought that battle once, and I pray I will not have to do so again."

"I will be sure to tell you of anything odd that happens. This is one thing I haven't dealt with yet."

"What's that?"

"Well, if the stories about the building are true, that is. And I have dealt with many odd things. As you know, apparently." She does smile then, though having an almost stranger know that much about her was strange.

"I am sure I don't know more than the smallest part of what you have dealt with," he says, smiling warmly. The smile fades, though, as he says, "I do not know all the things they say about the seventh floor, but the ones I have heard, I have no doubt are true. What was done there ..." he sighs, his frown deepening. "What was done there weakened the veils between this world and the ones beyond. More than once I have wished that I could find someone with the gift of communicating through those veils, coupled with enough courage to stand against what might be there. Psychic mediums who are genuine are rare enough, it seems -- ones who are both genuine, strong and fearless are rarer still."

"They are rare," she agrees. "Though I have known one or two. So you're interested in fixing what's been damaged, so to speak?"
If you've got eyes to rhythmatize / Bring your flat hat and your ax / 'Cause tonight at ten / We'll be working again / At the teahouse on the tracks
--Donald Fagen, "Teahouse on the Tracks," from the album Kamakiriad
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Re: Everything Must Go (Chrismon, Robert)

Postby Okamisan » Sun Feb 19, 2012 10:09 pm

Part Two

[Ironically, one of the one or two Chrismon has known is the owner of the club you are dining in. Either that's one of the things Bledsoe doesn't know about Robert, or he's still playing things really close to the vest.]

"If it can be. At the very least, to make sure that what manifested back then does not do so again, whether by design or simple misfortune."


She nods. After a moment, she asks, "If I can find one, you would know how to go about it?"

"Yes. I have studied the art; it appears, however, that my gift lies elsewhere. Which, perhaps is just as well.... But yes. If you could find such a person, I would be much in your debt."

"I will certainly let you know." She turns her attention to the salad for a few moments, at least.

The salads are done and your entrees have arrived, and Bledsoe has said little, remaining quiet and thoughtful.

[Would you please email me two rolls, following the instructions in the Vestibule posting? This is to see if Chrismon notices that she's being observed, and to see if she recognizes the significance of what Bledsoe is about to say. Does Chrismon have any awareness at all of the French Foreign Legion?]

You realize that Bledsoe is murmuring something to himself, still (as the conversation has been since he first switched to it) in French. "Au combat, tu agis sans passion et sans haine, tu respectes les ennemis vaincus, tu n'abandonnes jamais ni tes morts, ni tes blessés, ni tes armes."

["In combat you act without passion or hatred. You respect vanquished enemies. You never surrender your dead, your wounded, or your weapons."]

[Done, and yes, I think she does, generalities at least.]

You realize that Robert has been watching you -- not too closely, but apparently he's been keeping an eye on things, watching for any potential trouble. He's at a nearby table just at the moment.

Hearing Bledsoe's words, you recall that the Foreign Legion has a code of honor, a statement that every Legionnaire takes great pains to memorize and recite in formation. Maybe what he just said is part of that code ... it sounds like it could be.

She doesn't want to interrupt, opting instead to wait for him. But she's still pretty clearly has her attention on him.

[chat session transcript]

Sailbourne: Robert, can you give me two rolls, please? This is for things you may see while you're keeping an eye on Chrismon and Bledsoe. [ 11 and 17.] A little earlier, you noticed Bledsoe pick up a small cloth pouch from the table and slip it deftly into his jacket. A bit later -- just after the entrees have arrived -- you think Chrismon might have noticed you.

Neargrai: Robert gives her a quick smile as he moves to greet another customer, basically starting a new orbit around her table.

Sailbourne: "You are being well looked after, it seems," Bledsoe says to Chrismon.

ToranaDain: Chrismon decides against playing innocent. "The owner is a friend."

Sailbourne: Bledsoe nods. "And a very good friend to have. If one's worth can be judged by the enemies one has made, the three of you are most precious indeed."

ToranaDain: "Or nuisances, depending on who you ask," she says, wryly.

Sailbourne: "True enough." He takes a few more bites, then frowns. "I should speak to both of you plainly. Perhaps you could get his attention again, discreetly?"

ToranaDain: "I think so. Does it need to be more private?"

Sailbourne: "That would be wisest."

ToranaDain: She glances around again for Robert.

Neargrai: Assuming he notices, Robert crosses to their table. "Good evening, thanks for coming. Mr Bledsoe, welcome back! How is everything?"

Sailbourne: "Quite well, thank you. Your chefs are excellent as always."

ToranaDain: "A question of business has come up, though, before dessert."

DarkKarma0: Robert nods to Chrismon. "All right, why don't I show you to one of the private rooms? I can send for coffee or tea."

CyberIstari: "Thank you."

Ayeshalan: "Perhaps a cognac as well, if it would not be too much trouble?" asks Bledsoe.

DarkKarma0: "No trouble at all," Robert says. "This way."

CyberIstari: Chrismon gets up to follow.

DarkKarma0: <<A wipe-dissolve to private room? ;) >>

CyberIstari: <<Fine. ;)>>

Ayeshalan: <<Would this be set up like a conference room, or more like a private lounge?>>

DarkKarma0: <<Private lounge, I think. I know we were playing a map idea, but I can't remember the layout.>>

Ayeshalan: <<OK. Yeah, we had gotten as far as where the rooms might be -- on the third floor of the club, in this case -- but not what they might look like.>> Bledsoe settles back in an armchair, warming a snifter of cognac in his hands, waiting for each of you to get comfortable.

DarkKarma0: Robert pauses to check his cup of coffee, more for safety than for taste, before he takes a seat. "So you said there was business to discuss?"

CyberIstari: Chrismon nods towards Bledsoe. "I don't quite know what it is yet. But he's been checking up on us."

DarkKarma0: "On...us?" Robert says innocently.

CyberIstari: "Well, certain of my friends, that is."

Ayeshalan: "Miss Yarborough, Miss Aisling, and you, mon argent ami," Bledsoe says quietly. "As I said to Miss Yarborough, a professional courtesy, if you take my meaning?"

DarkKarma0: Robert decides to test their guest. "Well, I wouldn't want to go deeply into the fog, any more than necessary."

Ayeshalan: He smiles, reaching into an inside breast pocket of his jacket. Keeping his eyes on both of you, he pulls out a small stoppered vial, held neatly between his thumb and second finger. "You could," he says, his gaze shifting momentarily back to the contents of the vial, "but I might find it uncomfortable after a short while. And so might you."

DarkKarma0: "You're a valued customer, Mr Bledsoe," Robert says with a genial air, "but I should point out that we discourage anyone bringing foreign substances onto the premises."

Ayeshalan: He smiles again. "Understandable. I'll just put this away, then. Unless you would like me to dispose of it -- and prove my bona fides in the process?"

DarkKarma0: "Bona fides are always welcome. And an explanation is in order. What is that?"

Ayeshalan: "My own unique example of the Great Art," he says, handing his glass to Chrismon as he stands up and strips off his jacket. You can see the sparkle of jewels at his cufflinks and tie-pin. "Will you keep that warm for me, Miss Yarborough? I might need it shortly."

CyberIstari: "I will," she agrees.

DarkKarma0: Robert speaks gently and plainly, without his usual dramatic affect. "I suggest you tread carefully. You were welcomed here as a guest. If you misuse my hospitality, even as an ally, you won't be allowed to return."

Ayeshalan: "I shall not leave this room," Bledsoe says, with quiet sincerity. "If I do, I would not ask to come back."

DarkKarma0: "Then tell us what this is all about," Robert says. "And I'd prefer honesty."

Ayeshalan: He nods. "In words of one syllable. I have been watching you for some time. I know who you are. I thought it time that I revealed myself. I am Le Brouillard. If you wish, I will prove it with this." He holds up the vial.

DarkKarma0: Robert raises a hand. "No need, at least for now. But go on with the rest."

Ayeshalan: "Thank you." He slips the vial back into the jacket pocket, and tosses the jacket over the back of his armchair before dropping into it, and asking for his cognac back from Chrismon.

CyberIstari: She returns it. "That's your interest in the Morrison."

Ayeshalan: He nods. "Our paths have not crossed directly before now, although they came close when the three of you did battle with the Order of Maya. Beware of them, by the way. They are not finished with you. But when Miss Yarborough decided to relocate her business to the seventh floor of the Morrison, I thought it necessary to make her aware of what happened there. She, and perhaps others, could be at risk."

DarkKarma0: "Something is wrong at the Morrison building?"

CyberIstari: "THey can't keep the seventh floor rented - word is it's haunted."

DarkKarma0: Robert's ears perk up at that.

Ayeshalan: "Eight years ago," Bledsoe says, after taking a long drink of the cognac, "there were a series of dreadful crimes there. Ending in eight murders over seven months. I managed to stop the killing, but with people coming back to that place, I am beginning to wonder if I did all that should have been done. Did I leave wounded ... or weapons ... behind?"

DarkKarma0: "What set off this chain of events?" Robert asks.

Ayeshalan: "The first of the crimes," Bledsoe says. He drains the rest of his glass, glances at it with an expression that suggests he wishes there were more, then says quietly, avoiding looking at Chrismon, "A rape."

DarkKarma0: Robert looks for the bottle of cognac. Bledsoe might need a refill to get to the rest.

Ayeshalan: <<I'm guessing there might be a bottle in the sideboard. Probably several bottles of several different things.>>

CyberIstari: Chrismon isn't offended by the mere mention of it, or even terribly surprised - it was far too common. "Tell us, if you can. The whole story is better than part," she asked, quietly.

DarkKarma0: Robert quickly raises a bottle to Bledsoe, offering a refill.

Ayeshalan: He lifts his glass and accepts the refill gratefully, taking another long drink before continuing the story. "Thank you, both of you," he says. "I didn't know about that part -- how it began -- until later. But the victim decided she would have her revenge, in her own way. She started by killing her attacker. Then she called on ... even darker forces." He pauses, looking back and forth to both of you. "I believe you have had more than a little experience with supernatural manifestations, yes?"

DarkKarma0: Robert nods, reluctant but acquiescing.

Ayeshalan: "Then I can explain this without worrying about whether you will believe it. Which is, I confess, a relief by itself." He takes another drink, smaller this time. "She animated her attacker's corpse, and it was this walking dead man who did the other killings. One at every other business on the floor."

DarkKarma0: "Avenging herself on bystanders who did nothing to save her?" Robert says.

Ayeshalan: "Precisely."

CyberIstari: "Probably regardless of who had actually been present and aware of what had happened."

Ayeshalan: "At the beginning of it, I don't think she much cared. By the end, I think the scope of it all ... it went far beyond her control."

DarkKarma0: "And you suspect these forces are gathering again," Robert asks.

Ayeshalan: "It may be. As I was explaining to Miss Yarborough, all that happened in that place, eight years ago, weakened the veils between this world and the one beyond. But I cannot speak across that divide. I would like to find someone who could, and who could stand against what might be there."

DarkKarma0: Robert takes a breath. "Maybe I could help."

CyberIstari: Chrismon looks at him, surprised he would admit it.

Ayeshalan: Bledsoe looks between the two of you. "So, Mr. Kane here is one of the one or two?" he says to Chrismon. And looking to Robert, he says, "You have even more talents than I knew, it seems."

CyberIstari: "Yes, but I couldn't speak for him."

DarkKarma0: "I would need to make some preparations before I go to the Morrison." Robert smirks. "Including a Thermos full of coffee."

Ayeshalan: "I don't think we need rush headlong, in any case," Bledsoe says. "Miss Yarborough has been there for some days now, and hasn't yet seen anything untoward, isn't that so?"

CyberIstari: "Nor my clerk, so far as I know."

Ayeshalan: "What more can I tell you?" Bledsoe asks.

DarkKarma0: "Is there any information about the forces that were summoned years ago?" Robert asks.

Ayeshalan: "I have notes of my ... interview ... with the woman who started it all," he says after a moment's thought. "I can look through them, refresh my memory."

DarkKarma0: "Or perhaps I could see them before we begin," Robert says. "I... might need help reading them, though, if they're written in French."

Ayeshalan: He smiles a little wryly. "They are. Not my native tongue, but after so many years in the Legion, it might as well be. And it is at least a small step in keeping them private." He looks toward Chrismon. "If I deliver them to you, perhaps you could help?"

CyberIstari: "I would be glad to."

Ayeshalan: "You will have them in the morning, then." He sighs. "Thank you both. I am not used to battles ... unfinished."

DarkKarma0: "As long as we contain the battleground to one place," Robert says.

Ayeshalan: He looks at both of you in turn. "I've been a poor guest, and I do apologize. Might I leave you with a token of my apology?"

DarkKarma0: "If you wish," Robert says reluctantly. "You must understand. I'm very protective of this place. And of my friends."

Ayeshalan: "I would not think as highly of you if you were not. And despite appearances, I do think highly of you. I would not have been able to ... practice the Art as much as I have, these past few years, if it were not for you and your friends." He puts his jacket back on, and pulls two small pouches from a pocket, giving each of you one. "Would you like me to see you home, Miss Yarborough? What I said before ... it was the truth."

CyberIstari: She dips her head. "Thank you, and yes, I'd like that."

DarkKarma0: Robert accepts the small pouch, with a nod of thanks. "I should go back and see to the rest of the club. You're welcome to stay here for coffee, if you wish."

Ayeshalan: Bledsoe bows. "Thank you. I'll leave the decision to Miss Yarborough here."

DarkKarma0: "Well, I'll take my leave now," Robert says. "Chrismon, I might pay a visit to your new place in the afternoon. I'll see you then."

CyberIstari: "I'll be there." To Bledsoe she adds, "A cup for the road, I think."

Ayeshalan: "Of course." <<I assume you each look in the pouches after you're alone?>>

DarkKarma0: <<Yup... Robert in his office, of course.>>

CyberIstari: <<Definitely.>>

Ayeshalan: Each one contains an uncut ruby, deep red, about the size of the nail on your forefinger.

CyberIstari: After Robert leaves, Chrismon says, "I must apologize - I normally am not nearly so paranoid."

Ayeshalan: "You, like he, are protective of your friends. That is an admirable thing."

CyberIstari: "Even before that. I was suspicious of your invitation, after such a short acquaintance.

Ayeshalan: He shrugs. "Think nothing of it."

Ayeshalan: Bledsoe arrives at the shop a few minutes after opening, a bouquet of flowers in one hand and his briefcase in the other.

CyberIstari: "Mister Bledsoe, I think you're trying to make me blush," Chrismon greets him, smiling.

Ayeshalan: "Well, it does become you," he says. He opens his briefcase on the counter, and pulls out a leather bound notebook, with a red silk ribbon trailing from roughly the center. "I've marked the relevant notes for you."

CyberIstari: "Thank you, I appreciate this."

Ayeshalan: "As do I. I have to be in court today, but you have my office number. I use the answering service downstairs. Please call me if you need me."

CyberIstari: "I will, thank you. Good luck in court today."

Ayeshalan: "Thank you!" He bows again and departs.

CyberIstari: If the shop is quiet, Chrismon will sit down and have a look immediately.

Ayeshalan: Okay. The book is written in French, in a very neat, careful hand. The page that is marked with the ribbon is notes on an interview with one Neva Baratta, who ran a dance studio on the seventh floor of the Morrison. Her story matches what Bledsoe told you the night before. Is there any particular information you might be looking for?

CyberIstari: I'm not sure - hard to say what might or might not be useful. Maybe details on how she reanimated the corpse, for clues on exactly what tore open.

Ayeshalan: Apparently she called on some kind of malevolent spirit. She had used a ritual she found in a book which she had since destroyed, when she realized that the spirit was not going to be satisfied with only a few deaths. Le Brouillard destroyed the animated corpse, but there's no guarantees that would banish the spirit.

CyberIstari: I was just going to agree about not knowing if the spirit was banished at the same time.

Ayeshalan: Baratta thinks there may have been a banishment ritual in the book, but she couldn't be sure. She destroyed the book in a panic.

CyberIstari: Is the book named at all? Rather convenient being a book dealer. ;)

Ayeshalan: She couldn't remember, though Le Brouillard did press her on the point.

CyberIstari: Okay. Anything else of particular note? I can't think of anything else specific.

Ayeshalan: Can't think of anything. But if Robert has any questions when he arrives, we can cover those.

CyberIstari: Okay

DarkKarma0: So there's no idea which book it was? Or what she summoned?

Ayeshalan: Apparently, she could not recall the name of either the book, or what the spirit was that she summoned.

DarkKarma0: How about where she got the book? Maybe we can backtrack the source.

Ayeshalan: According to the notes, it was a legacy. Baratta had inherited it. There is a note at the very end of the section of the notebook, apparently written a little later, in different ink: Neva Baratta's address, apparently. Another town in California.

DarkKarma0: Maybe Robert can track that down. If we can figure out what kind of power she got into, we can prepare wards, etc.

CyberIstari: Oh, is there any indication of how he interviewed her? Could she have been conveniently "forgetting" details for some reason?

Ayeshalan: He talked to her, after confronting her with his knowledge of all she'd done, and after destroying the animated corpse. He notes that he pressed her fairly hard, and thinks she was being honest as much as she could be. Part of the reason why he didn't turn her in.

CyberIstari: Okay.

DarkKarma0: And she died there, in the building?

Ayeshalan: No, apparently Le Brouillard let her go. The address is where she went to, afterward. Possibly she lives there still.

DarkKarma0: (I'm assuming Chrismon and Robert are discussing all these things when he arrives.)

Ayeshalan: (That's pretty much what I figured.)

CyberIstari: (Me too. :) )

DarkKarma0: Robert contemplates all the details. "Maybe I should talk to her. Hopefully she can be coaxed into talking about it, if she realizes we're on her side in this."

CyberIstari: Chrismon nods. "That may be a good idea. And as you're not involved in what happened initially..."

DarkKarma0: Should I assume the train will be faster than, say, motorcycle?

Ayeshalan: Actually, when you look up the name of the town, it appears to be in a pretty remote part of the Sierras. Probably faster to take the motorcycle.

DarkKarma0: Robert will have to make a few quick calls... especially one telling his family might be late for dinner. :)

For Robert:
You leave San Francisco early in the afternoon, heading east. The address you have for Neva Barratta is in Strawberry, California, which your map tells you is on Highway 50, up in the Sierra.

It's several hours later, late in the afternoon, when you arrive in Strawberry -- which is basically the proverbial wide spot in the road. There's a general store/filling station/post office on one side of the road, and a small cafe on the other.

What do you want to do from here?

For Chrismon:
After Robert leaves, you have a couple of hours, at least, before you would expect Bledsoe to come back. Is there anything you would like to do during that time? You still have the book which amounts to Le Brouillard's case notes, and it looks like there are at least a few other sets of notes on either side of the case involving Neva Barratta and the Morrison Building.

Or anything else you might care to do, related to this business or otherwise?

Oh, I don't think I could resist looking at the case log. :)

I think Robert's first stop in town is the filling station, to fuel up his Harley. He'll play tired but friendly, tired because he probably is, after such a long uphill drive. He's particularly curious about how locals react to strangers.

If the reaction is neutral or better, Robert will ask about the address, "how to get there from here."
If you've got eyes to rhythmatize / Bring your flat hat and your ax / 'Cause tonight at ten / We'll be working again / At the teahouse on the tracks
--Donald Fagen, "Teahouse on the Tracks," from the album Kamakiriad
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Re: Everything Must Go (Chrismon, Robert)

Postby Okamisan » Wed Mar 21, 2012 10:42 pm

Part Three

The young man you talk to at the filling station is quite friendly -- rather admiring of the Harley. You also see at least one older man sitting on the porch of the general store, and a woman who looks out briefly from the door of the cafe across the highway. Both of them appear at worst neutral, perhaps would be friendly if approached.

The exact address you have is "Neva Baratta, Stillwater House, Strawberry, California." When you ask how to get to Stillwater House, the young man you are speaking to seems a bit surprised, and a little hesitant about his answer.

"I can tell you how to get there," he says, "it's easy and not far. You sure you want to go there? You know what it is, right?" Before you can respond, he flushes a little and says, "I'm sorry. I'm sure you do. Probably going to visit a relative or somethin'. Anyway, just keep heading east, second side road on the right is Stillwater Drive. Just follow it to the end. There's a few potholes, but if you take it easy, no problem with a bike like this."

"Thanks, I appreciate it." Robert decides to play the clueless outsider. "Excuse me...about this Stillwater House. It's a nursing home, isn't it?"

"Sort of," the young man replies. Lowering his voice a bit, he adds, "For crazy people."

Robert shrugs. "Can't argue with that." He gives him a sizable tip, to show no hard feelings, and rides out to Stillwater House while he still has daylight.

The turn onto Stillwater Drive is exactly where you were told it would be. A small sign is posted, next to the mailbox. It reads:

Stillwater House
Rest Home
Lewis Geiser, PhD
Christa Geiser, MD

The drive is a dirt road, but appears relatively well maintained. It runs for nearly a mile among stands of pine trees. It begins to slope downward in a long, sweeping curve, and ahead to one side, you can see a large house. Behind it you can see the shoreline of a small lake, with a dock stretching out into the water. To one side of the house there is a garage and a barn.

Much of the bottom floor of the house is enclosed by a large porch/verandah. As you get closer, you can see a woman sitting in a chair, facing a man in a rocking chair who seems to be mostly looking past her, in your general direction.

Robert shuts his engine off and walks his motorcycle to a good parking spot in front of the main house. He raises his hat to the man watching from the verandah. "Hello, sir. Sorry to intrude. My name is Argent. I'm looking for a Dr Geiser?"

The man gives you a blank look and an automatic sort of nod, while the woman rises from her chair and turns to face you. "I'm Dr Geiser," she says, walking down the veranda steps toward you and extending a hand. "One of them, anyway. What can I do for you?"

This Dr. Geiser appears to be in her late thirties or early forties, with light brown hair cut short but neatly. Her eyes are dark brown, made to look a bit darker by the dark circles underneath, but they regard you with a friendly enough expression. She's dressed in ordinary clothes which look like they were chosen for comfort rather than stylishness, but you can still note a trim and sturdy figure.

"Thank you, ma'am," Robert says. "I'm looking for Neva Baratta. I got the impression she might be here." He gives the other man a glance, habitual caution more than anything else.

The man in the chair has turned his attention away, and is now gazing out at the treetops, or perhaps something beyond them.

Dr. Geiser brightens when you mention Neva Barratta. "Yes, she's one of our patients here. Are you a relative?"

"No," Robert says, "I need some information and I wasn't sure where else to turn. A Mr Brouillard suggested I talk to her."

Dr. Geiser nods. "I can't promise she'll be able to help you," she says, "but you are welcome to talk to her. It's hard to say, sometimes, how coherent she is." She gestures to you to follow, and you start walking around the house.

Behind the house, the lawns slope gently down toward the lake. On one level section, you can see a woman, dressed in a plain skirt and short sleeved blouse, barefooted, dancing ballet.

"Neva," Geiser calls as you approach. "There's someone here who would like to talk to you."

As she pauses in her dancing and turns to look at you, her eyes and manner bring to mind a word you haven't heard since your time in the war, among the British lines -- "fey."

"Hello," she says.

"This is Mr. Argent, and he needs your help, Neva. Can you talk to him?"

"All right," Baratta says.

Geiser nods to you and walks back toward the house. You can see that she's paused on the verandah, watching you, but out of hearing unless someone shouts.

"Hello, Miss Baratta," Robert says gently. "I wanted to discuss something with you, but it might upset you. Is that all right?"

"I ... suppose so," she says. "Do you mind if I practice while we talk?" Her feet begin moving, in a pattern which you guess are a series of dance steps. (I'm not sure how much knowledge Robert has of ballet. If he has any at all, he'll likely recognize that she is working her way through the various basic foot positions, one after the other.)

"You dance very well, miss," Robert says gently. "You once had a dance studio of your own, didn't you?"

"Yes, yes I did," she says. "I trained a lot of dancers. Some went on to the City Ballet. One even went on to New York."

"And later, you closed the studio," Robert says. He pauses, watching her closely. "I wanted to ask you about something ... at about that time. About a book you once had."

Her steps falter for a moment, and then she begins dancing a little faster than before. "I ... I'm afraid I don't remember. I know I closed my studio. Doctor Geiser has helped me remember that. But I still don't remember why."

Robert glances toward Dr Gaizer, then back to Neva. "You also had a book. Was it passed down to you?"

"A book ... yes ... " Her feet are moving even faster, yet her breathing seems hardly disturbed. "My grandfather gave it to me. I remember now. He was my last relative. The book ... he said it was all he had left to give me. Then he died."

"Do you remember where the book is now?" Robert says.

"I ... I burned it," she says, her feet moving even faster. "It frightened me. So I put it in the fire." She is looking beyond you, deep into the past. "I remember now. It didn't want to burn. And I couldn't stop watching it. It wanted me to pull it out of the fire, but I was strong. But I couldn't look away. The name ... the name was the last. Glowing in the flame like the Cheshire Cat. The name --"

She stumbles and falls to the thick turf. Yet she is still muttering. "The name. Lae'shagath. Lae'shagath..."

Dr. Geiser comes running toward you, kneeling beside Neva. "What happened?" she asks, looking up to you.

"She went into some kind of daze," Robert says quickly. He rushes to them, pulling his watch off his wrist. "Hold her still. Neva, listen to my voice! Follow my voice! Answer me and follow me home! Neva, answer me!"

Geiser cradles Neva's head and shoulders on her lap. Neva has fallen silent, but after a moment, she answers you, soft and faint, her eyes struggling to focus on you. "I hear you."

"The name grows dark, Neva. It means nothing in your world. Another light shows the way home, warm and bright like gold... the sunlight in the trees over Stillwater House. Dr Geiser is calling you home. Can you hear her?"

Robert glances up at Dr Geiser, giving her an encouraging but insistent nod.

She says, "I'm here, Neva. Come home to us. You are safe with us. There is nothing to fear."

"Yes," Neva answers after a moment. "I'm all right." She blinks, slowly. "May I go practice my dancing?"

"In a little while," Dr. Geiser says. "Dinner will be ready in a few minutes. Go get yourself cleaned up, and I'll see you in the dining room, all right?"

Neva nods, and gets up and starts walking toward the house. Still kneeling on the ground, Dr. Geiser looks at you. "You're a very strong hypnotist," she says.

Robert sighs. "It's just as well. I think I nearly undid all the help you've ever given her. I'm sorry I interfered, but I have a better understanding of what happened."

(Question for the DM: Does the name "Lae'shagath" ring a bell at all?)

She gets to her feet. "Do you know anything about her background, then? If there's anything you could tell us, it could help a lot. In any case, I'm sure my husband would want to talk to you. He's the psychiatrist."

(No, you're pretty certain you've not heard the name "Lae'shagath" before.)

"Well, you already know most of it," Robert says. "She used to have a dance studio in San Francisco until she was attacked one night. Sketchy details. Nobody seems to know anything about it. She seemed fine early on, if a little distant. Then she lost control, sort of rambling about old books and burning them."

He watches her for a reaction, especially at the mention of old books.

She nods thoughtfully. "I don't think she's ever mentioned books before, though I'd have to talk to Lewis to be sure. Most of what we know about her we've learned in bits and pieces; from her. Her lawyer brought her here, and pays her bills. He didn't know much."

She looks out across the lake, then back toward the house before looking at you again. "Can we at least offer you some dinner?"

"Thank you, Doctor, but I should get back into town." Robert puts his wristwatch back on and heads back to his motorcycle. "I wish you all the best of luck... especially Miss Baretta."

"We'll do our best for her," Christa Geiser says, shaking your hand. "You can be sure of that."

You head back toward San Francisco, arriving about nine pm.

QUOTE (CyberIstari @ December 20, 2007 01:50 pm)
Oh, I don't think I could resist looking at [Le Brouillard's] case log. :)

The first set of notes in the log are from 1929, and involve an operation against a young gangster named "Needles" Duncan. Duncan, it seems, has a great fondness for two things: tattoos, and sadistic control of the people in his organization. Le Brouillard was able to eventually trick him into being in one of his warehouses during a rare police raid, and Duncan was arrested and can be expected to spend some years in prison. The entry on this case closes with the note: "I fear for the time, five or perhaps six years from now, when Duncan is again a free man; for he is contemptuous of fear, heedless of pain in himself, and altogether too enamored of pain in others."

QUOTE (Ayeshalan @ March 09, 2008 06:42 pm)
You head back toward San Francisco, arriving about nine pm.

Robert heads home to check his old inherited books on the occult, to see if he can find any references to Lae'shagath.

The collection -- between the books you have gathered yourself and the collection you inherited from old Mrs. Spengler -- is a fairly substantial one. It's hard to know where to start. Trusting to luck, you pull a volume at random. It is called "The Lost Crystal Cities," and as you skim through it, you realize this book documents the existence of places such as Destiny, in the Pacific, and the abandoned city in the caves a few hundred miles to the north.

"There are other places too," the book says, "where the resonant crystals are concentrated in the earth, and they are all places of magic and transformation. Even as the great guardian cities were founded, the power of the crystals drew the attention of a being not of this earth, a being of vast reach and incomprehensible evil. It is accounted that it was this being who created the demons who tormented and in time, brought down the guardian cities.

"The wisest gave him a name, but only the foolish, or the mad, dared speak it. I will write it here but this once: Lae'shagath."

QUOTE (Ayeshalan @ March 12, 2008 12:26 pm)
The entry on this case closes with the note: "I fear for the time, five or perhaps six years from now, when Duncan is again a free man; for he is contemptuous of fear, heedless of pain in himself, and altogether too enamored of pain in others."

Five or six years would mean it was entirely possible he was on the loose again, I would think. Is this a name I should know?

QUOTE (Ayeshalan @ March 13, 2008 11:19 am)
It's hard to know where to start. Trusting to luck, you pull a volume at random. It is called "The Lost Crystal Cities" [....]

If Robert has a number for Chrismon or Bledsoe, he'll call it ASAP. He eyes the book collection again, thinking where to start next while the call clicks along the phone line. There is more research he wants to do before he goes to bed, but feels compelled to warn the others about what he's learned.

You don't have a phone number for Bledsoe, but you definitely have Chrismon's.

You think you might have read something about a Needles Duncan in the papers, but it was a couple of years back, so you'd probably have to look it up to be certain. There's more in the case log, which I'll be able to write up for you soon -- definitely enough to keep your interest for quite some time.

Early in the evening, Bledsoe calls you to tell you that one of his cases is going to keep him working until late in the evening, but to leave word with the answering service if there are any new developments.

It's nearly ten p.m. when your phone rings.

Not asleep, she can get it quickly. "Hello?"

<< At long last....>>

He takes a deep breath, assembling his thoughts, suddenly paranoid about who might be listening, whether on the line or in the ether. "Hello, Miss Yarborough? It's Mr Argent. I'm sorry to call so late, but I have some more information regarding the old dance studio. I wanted to pass it on in case you wanted to speak with another consultant right away. Certainly a wise precaution, in light of the current facts.

"I spoke to the previous owner. She wasn't exactly herself, but she was helpful. She did have that missing heirloom. Apparently she made some use of it, but it caused her no end of grief. It's in no condition for resale, but it's just as well, I suppose. A most infernal matter. Either way, it requires some, shall we say, rather 'arcane' research before it's resolved. I've already started on my own.

"Perhaps we can discuss all this in more detail, at your convenience?"

"Under the circumstances, I would be available this evening, else in the morning."

"Right, I'll bring a few other things of interest and see you there. Goodbye." Robert tries to be cordial, but he ends the call abruptly to be sure.

Now that he knows the crystal caves are involved, he grabs a few other books that might cover that topic. He wraps them together with the "Lost Crystal Cities" volume in newspaper and twine. If his nearest motorcycle has saddlebacks, he'll ride over to the bookstore ASAP. Otherwise, he'll call a taxi and offer the cabbie a hefty tip if he can get there fast.

Robert, I'll assume you can take the motorcycle. You arrive at the Morrison Building in short order. The bulk of it looms large and mostly dark above you -- the only lights to be seen are on the ground floor, where the diner is, the top floor, where the radio station has its studio, and perhaps one floor in between. You can park the cycle in the alley and head for the front door of the building.

Chrismon, you head for the building yourself, and meet Robert in the lobby. At this hour there's no one to run the elevators, so you'll have to either take the stairs or run the elevator up yourself.

The stairs are fine, barring any disagreement? ;)

You both make your way up the stairs, passing a few of the janitorial staff between the first and second floors and a pair of young women coming down from the third floor, chatting to one another in German -- something about a date one of them has for her evening off, sounds like.

The stairwell is dark between the sixth and seventh floors, and several of the lights in the hallway are burned out also. The door to Chrismon's shop is the first you reach after leaving the stairwell. Looking to your right down the length of the floor, the shadows cast by the few lights seem strangely long, and at the far end of the hall -- where Neva Baratta's dance studio once was -- the darkness seems almost fluid, moving slowly toward you.

Not knowing if it's just her eyes playing tricks, Chrismon stands her ground a moment, staring at it before moving to unlock the shop door.

Robert fishes a coin out of his pocket and tosses it into the legs of the shadowy figures. Do they react?

The shadows seem to curl up and into themselves, then vanish with a clearly audible, animal-like shriek.

A moment later, you can hear footsteps, running up the stairs and approaching. You both see Jennings Bledsoe, running toward you from the stairwell. "What on earth was that?" he asks. "Are you all right?"

"I think we're fine," Robert says. "It seemed as if a few other people were coming down the hall. Near the old dance studio. Then that...noise." Despite himself he studies the hallway, unnerved but fascinated. "You heard it too?"

Bledsoe nods, taking off his hat and running a hand through his graying hair as he follows Robert's look down the hallway. "Not for the first time," he adds sotto voce. A moment later he says, "Perhaps we'd better go inside."

Chrismon lifts her eyebrows, but moves to unlock the shop, to let them all in.

Robert seems transfixed at first, watching the hallway, then reluctantly nods and follows. When the door is shut, he tells them softly, "This is more complex than we thought. Any intervention here could be dangerous."

"What have you learned?" Bledsoe asks as he is taking off his hat and coat.

"Miss Barratta did indeed summon a supernatural creature years ago," Robert says. "She inherited a book from her grandfather and she used it to get her revenge, not realizing what she had released -- an ancient malevolent force, powerful enough to destroy entire cities.

"In a panic, she destroyed the book to stop it. But it's still here, trapped on this very floor, gathering strength. We must find a way to break its grip on this building."

"I remember she thought there might be a ritual to banish the thing, back whence it came, in the book, but was too frightened to try it. Or something like that," Bledsoe says. "Could she remember what the book was called? Perhaps there was more than one copy." He sighs softly. "How was she?"

Robert hesitated. "She seems to be in good care, but... what happened still haunts her. Any mention of it sends her mind spiralling back. I put her into a hypnotic trance to focus her memory and steady her mind. But it was as if that creature had some hold over her, even now. It took everything I had to bring her back.

"And no, I couldn't get the title of the book... only the name of this being from other dimension. I did some research on my own. That revealed some of the folklore around the name, including a warning not to say it aloud. Hopefully that will give some privacy. And time."

"I'm afraid demonology is not my strong suit," Bledsoe admits ruefully. "What should we do now? And is it safe to stay here in the meantime?" he adds, looking toward Chrismon.

"It's hard to say," Robert answers. "I'm not sure what to make of the shadows we just saw. It could mean the creature's influence is growing or that it's testing us. Or it's coincidence, one of many side effects as it grows in power." Robert glances at the door despite himself, contemplating the corridor beyond.

"We need more information," he continued, speaking gently. "Maybe it's recorded in other books, possibly in Miss Barratta's effects, wherever they are. Either way, we must not let it know what our plans are."

"Would it be safe enough to write the name down?" Bledsoe asks. "Miss Yarborough might be able to find a reference to it in her collection, perhaps another copy of the same book." He thinks for a moment. "As for Miss Baratta's effects ... they are in the care of her lawyer." His sober expression shifts briefly into a wry smile.

"It might take some time, as I have quite a few books on the matter, of varying quality. But I can certainly make a search."

Bledsoe turns back toward Robert. "Can you write the name down? I can retrieve Miss Baratta's effects and bring them here, or you could come with me, and we could search through them together." He frowns. "Though I'd rather not leave Miss Yarborough here alone if I can help it."

Reluctantly Robert gets a slip of paper and a pencil, then writes the name down. "This is the name as I recall it," he says to Bledsoe. "If you can retrieve Miss Barrata's effects and bring them here, I'll stay with Miss Yarborough. Whatever you do, do not approach them with that name in your possession. The entity would almost certainly feel it."

Bledsoe nods soberly, and studies the slip of paper for a moment, committing the name written thereon to memory. Then he hands it to Chrismon and puts his coat and hat back on. "I should be back within an hour," he says. He offers Robert a short bow, kisses Chrismon's hand, and departs.

Chrismon: the slip of paper has the name "Lae'shagath" written on it.

In spite of being bemused by that, Chrismon goes to pull some likely texts.

Chrismon: I'm assuming most of the likely texts would be in the back room, possibly locked up?

Robert: anything you want to do in the meantime?

Yes, I would think so.

The first thing Robert will do is, unless Chrismon needs it, get rid of the name he just wrote down. (He'd sooner burn the paper to unreadable ash than throw it away, since he's not sure how much influence the very presence of a mystical name might have.)

He's going to watch Chrismon's back as much as possible, and then apologize if it gets on her nerves. He might be the sort to hover; I'm not sure. But his main concern is losing the element of surprise, minimizing what Lae'shagath can do. It's putting feelers out, testing its power. So it's bound to do something soon.

I don't know that Chrismon will need the name. Hovering would normally annoy her, but not under the circumstances.

Chrismon has located two books that might be of help -- another copy of the book Robert has brought, The Lost Crystal Cities, and a volume that looks like it was hand-written, titled Tapping the Powers of the Crystalline Demons -- when you are both startled by a hoarse, male scream coming from the hallway outside the shop.

[transcript of chat session 12/18/10]

Jamie Lawson: So … Chrismon has very recently relocated her shop to an office on the seventh floor of the Morrison Building. She is the only tenant on this floor, all the others having been driven out by a series of murders in 1931 and haunting since. You both found out a bit more from a new friend, lawyer Jennings Bledsoe, aka man of mystery Le Brouillard. A woman named Neva Baratta summoned dark powers to get revenge on the other tenants of the floor; you have learned that the entity in question is still trapped on this floor of the building, but it is gaining in strength, enough to begin to physically manifest without need of a body to inhabit. Bledsoe has gone to look through Neva Baratta's effects to see if he can find anything that may help send the demon back where it came from; Robert and Chrismon are looking through Chrismon's stock of esoteric tomes with the same intent. You may have just found a book that could help — when you hear a male scream from the hallway. Any other questions?

ToranaDain: I think I've got it!

Neargrai: Whether Robert has any silver items on his person?

Jamie Lawson: Several shuriken, certainly. Is he in the habit of keeping the .45s loaded with silver ammo, or perhaps keeps a clip of such handy?

Neargrai: Probably one at the bottom of his satchel, especially nowadays. ;)

Jamie Lawson: Okay.

Neargrai: Robert is going draw a few silver shuriken and bolt for the door. Did that sound like Bledsoe?

Jamie Lawson: You don't think so.

ToranaDain: Chrismon follows.

Jamie Lawson: There's a mop and bucket lying in the hallway, and a middle-aged man huddled in the doorway of the office suite opposite Chrismon's. He's wide-eyed and trembling. Chrismon recognizes James Grayson, the building manager.

Neargrai: Robert helps the man to his feet. "Are you hurt?"

Jamie Lawson: "I … I don't think so. A little dizzy, maybe." He sways slightly, as if to emphasize the point.

ToranaDain: "Come in the store and sit down."

Neargrai: "Let's find a chair for you." Robert adds to Chrismon. "Maybe I should look for Mr Bledsoe?"

ToranaDain: "Please." Chrismon takes Grayson's arm and takes him into the store. I'm pretty sure there's comfy chairs near the door. ;)

Neargrai: Once she has Grayson steadied, Robert runs after Bledsoe.

Jamie Lawson: :) No problem. Grayson allows himself to be led and settled into one of the chairs. Are you looking for Bledsoe on this floor, or heading downstairs to see if he's on his way up?

Neargrai: Looking for him on this floor. I thought he said something about checking Miss Barrata's effects, so I thought he'd still be nearby.

Jamie Lawson: OK. In fact he'd gone out to his home, where he had her things stored; however, he's been gone long enough that you'd expect him back at any time.

Neargrai: Okay, if I don't see him on this floor after, say, five minutes, I'll check the stairs real quick.

ToranaDain: Chrismon asks Grayson, "Can you tell me what happened?"

Jamie Lawson: OK. The rest of the floor is quiet and dark, few of the hallway fixtures still having bulbs. The closer you get to the far end of the floor, where the dance studio was, the more oppressive the atmosphere feels. As you head toward the stairs, you hear a brisk footstep coming up.

Neargrai: "Hello there, watch your step," Robert calls down the stairs, watching for a reaction.

Jamie Lawson: "Janitor quit," Grayson says. "I decided I'd better get to work cleaning up the floor myself. Didn't want to lose my only tenant here. Was just getting started when I felt something … pounce."

Jamie Lawson: Bledsoe's voice comes back up. "Indeed. The management really ought to get more lights in the stairwell." Bledsoe's coming up the stairs, carrying a large suitcase.

Neargrai: "He'd be more sympathetic to the idea now, I'm sure," Robert says. "Come, Miss Yarborough is looking after him inside her shop."

ToranaDain: "Pounce?" I believe him, but it's not quite what I expected.

Jamie Lawson: "Yes, I'm not sure what else to call it. Something grabbed me. It felt … like it was trying to crawl inside my skin."

ToranaDain: "Did you see anything?"

Jamie Lawson: "Black. Like a blanket. I was screaming as it crawled."

Jamie Lawson: Probably about this point that Robert and Bledsoe come back in.

Neargrai: "Mr Bledsoe is back," Robert announces, mostly to offer a distraction.

ToranaDain: Chrismon looks up, rather relieved, but just nods.

Jamie Lawson: "Good evening, Mr. Grayson," Bledsoe says. "I didn't expect to see you here, at this hour."

Jamie Lawson: "I didn't expect to be here," Grayson replies. "Last time I ever question about this floor being haunted, though."

ToranaDain: "It seems like he's met my neighbor," Chrismon adds.

Neargrai: "Yes," Robert sighs, "whatever it is, it's testing the environment. Flexing its muscles, as it were."

Jamie Lawson: "I've brought Miss Baratta's things," Bledsoe says, gesturing toward the suitcase. "The ones that seemed like they'd have any connection. Ballet costumes seemed unlikely."

Neargrai: This gets Robert's mind churning. "Anything that looks like crystal? Or letters from her grandfather?"

Jamie Lawson: "Crystal, definitely. Several of them, a rather unusual composition. Letters, maybe. I didn't take time to look through the box of paper that's in here."

ToranaDain: "Mr. Grayson, you don't have to worry about finishing just now - I'm not leaving over an un-mopped floor."

Jamie Lawson: He nods, looking a bit embarrassed. "I'll have someone up tomorrow morning to see about the lights."

Neargrai: Chrismon and Robert had found some books on the occult that could help, didn't they?

ToranaDain: I think they had.

Jamie Lawson: Yes.

Neargrai: Do either of the books say anything about breaking the crystals? Robert is going pour through them, looking for that.

ToranaDain: "That's fine. Good night, Mr. Grayson."

Jamie Lawson: He stands, still a bit unsteadily, bids you all good night, and leaves.

Neargrai: Any luck with the research?

Jamie Lawson: The volume "Tapping the Powers of the Crystalline Demons" suggests that the crystals can be used to trap souls, and breaking them (the crystals of the ancient cities) can be a way to feed the demons. And that the crystals can be used to focus mystic energies to drive the demons back to their native planes. As Robert is reading all this, Bledsoe's looking through the box of letters from the suitcase.

ToranaDain: "Can I help look through some of those?"

Jamie Lawson: "Please. I'll pull the crystal things out of here."

Neargrai: "May I look at those too?"

Jamie Lawson: "Of course." There are a number of other things in the case, including two large crystal pendants, and an odd circlet encrusted with crystal. Bledsoe hands these over.

Neargrai: Do these crystals look at all familiar?

Jamie Lawson: These definitely aren't the usual sort of quartz one finds. They have a look — and feel — which suggests their origin is from one of the caves you've seen in the South Pacific, or a few hundred miles north of San Francisco, where Davidon found the crystals that are at the heart of his time machine.

ToranaDain: Chrismon sits down to go through the letters.

Neargrai: Any engravings or markings on the crystals?

Jamie Lawson: one of the two pendants, when held up to the light, seems to have a network of fine cracks within it. No other markings or engravings on them. A few carefully inscribed characters on some of the circlet's crystals.

Neargrai: Curious about the inscriptions, Robert flips through the books again, hoping to translate.

Jamie Lawson: Chrismon, one of the letters appears to be the bequest from Neva Baratta's grandfather. It's difficult to read, but it sounds as if he had once had a close encounter with one of these demons, and while he managed to send it away, came off rather the worse, mentally, for the experience.

Jamie Lawson: Robert, it looks like they are the personal runes, for lack of a better term, of some of the guardians of the crystal cities. The powers of Light.

ToranaDain: Gotcha.Any other details?

Neargrai: "I might have something," Robert says. "I need several sheets of paper. And something to write with." (I'm assuming it'll be pencil and/or fountain pens, in 1939.)

ToranaDain: (Or a "don't"? ;) )

ToranaDain: Chrismon gets up to fetch those from her desk.

Jamie Lawson: (Right. The first really practical ballpoint was patented in 1938.)

Neargrai: (Ah, the cutting edge. ;D )

Jamie Lawson: (Surprisingly, no warnings against using any of this information from the letters — but not much else, either.)

ToranaDain: (But I *like* fountain pens. ;) )

Neargrai: (Even while trying to copy obscure runes? ;D )

Jamie Lawson: (a bit further reading on Wikipedia says the first ballpoint pens went on sale in the USA in October 1945 — and at $12.50 apiece, they weren't cheap!)

ToranaDain: (Well... ;) )

Neargrai: (Whew, I guess not. The price of ballpoints, I mean.)

Neargrai: Robert will do his best to copy the guardian runes. "These could well be our protection, my friends…"

Jamie Lawson: "Seems like we can use all the help we can get," Bledsoe says. "Any closer to a way of getting rid of this thing?"

Neargrai: Robert checks the books again. "These crystals could be the answer. But the Barattas suffered the creature's assault, even with these. Hopefully more copies of these runes could help." Anything weird happening while I copy the runes?

Jamie Lawson: Nothing unpleasant. If anything, they seem to bring a reassuring presence into the room. You're beginning to recall how you, Chrismon and Darcy Aisling battled a demon in the mystic city of Destiny. Although this being, Lae'shagath, is credited with being the creator of those.

ToranaDain: Lovely...

Jamie Lawson: While looking through the books again to find more runes, Robert, an additional notation catches your eye: the single greatest weakness that these demons have is, of all things, an aversion to mirrors. They will flee the sight of one.

Neargrai: Robert sits back, thinking aloud. "And mirrors would help. It doesn't like mirrors at all… and yet it was summoned in a dance studio."

ToranaDain: "Oh, my. I'm not sure I like that thought."

Neargrai: "This creature needed these crystals to make more of its kind," Robert says. "Perhaps even to empower itself in its current form. It's dependent on these crystals. If we keep them intact and maintain control of them, it won't be able to use them against us."

Jamie Lawson: "Hm. Here's a crazy idea," Bledsoe says, speaking slowly, as if trying to compose the thought even as he is speaking it. "If it has such a desire for these crystals, what if we could get some more of them … and lure it into a mirror box? If it was trapped with nowhere else to go ... Maybe it would flee to its home dimension."

Neargrai: Robert thinks. "A mirror box… of a sort." He sits up and starts sketching something else.

ToranaDain: "I have heard crazier," Chrismon says to Bledsoe.

Neargrai: "But we need more," Robert says, still working. "We don't dare give it a chance at the crystals… only the illusion of a chance. A mirror box. With a false bottom. A trap door, if you will. A mirror trap."

Jamie Lawson: "Been a while since you've had a chance to work out some … illusionist engineering, I imagine," Bledsoe remarks as he looks over Robert's shoulder.

Neargrai: "Quite a while," Robert says half to himself. "We can line the hidden compartment with more guardian runes. And set another sheet of runes on the table, to confuse it further."

ToranaDain: "I can make copies of the runes from yours," Chrismon offers, since she doesn't have any experience building that sort of thing.

Neargrai: Robert will look around the place for materials. Otherwise he'll have to go to the club or even home to get what he needs.

Jamie Lawson: Materials like wood and glass?

Neargrai: Wood, glass, nails, hammer.

ToranaDain: "I have a few tools. There might be materials in one of the empty units."

Neargrai: With a rare touch of irony for him, Robert adds, "You realize that I'm revealing the tricks of my trade…" Then he rushes to collect what he needs.
Jamie Lawson: Would this be a good place to pause for the evening? It's getting quite late, even out here. ;)

Neargrai: Seems like a good point for a building montage, yeah. ;)
If you've got eyes to rhythmatize / Bring your flat hat and your ax / 'Cause tonight at ten / We'll be working again / At the teahouse on the tracks
--Donald Fagen, "Teahouse on the Tracks," from the album Kamakiriad
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Re: Everything Must Go (Chrismon, Robert)

Postby Okamisan » Fri Mar 11, 2016 6:08 pm

Our story thus far:

Chrismon has very recently relocated her shop to an office on the seventh floor of the Morrison Building. She is the only tenant on this floor, all the others having been driven out by a series of murders in 1931 and haunting since. With the help of a new friend, lawyer Jennings Bledsoe, aka man of mystery Le Brouillard, you learned that a woman named Neva Baratta summoned dark powers to get revenge on the other tenants of the floor; the entity in question -- a demonic being called Lae'shagath -- is still trapped on this floor of the building, gaining in strength. You found mystical crystals that could feed the demon, as well as runes which can ward it off. You also learned that it fears and hates the image of itself, and will thus flee from mirrors whenever it can.

With all this in mind, Robert is in the process of designing and constructing a mirror box trap for the thing, while Chrismon is making as many copies of the guardian runes as she can. You've been able to get the mirrors from the walls of Neva Baratta's old dance studio; Bledsoe has raided the building's janitorial room for the other needed tools and offered a hand in the construction if needed.

What do each of you want to do from here?
If you've got eyes to rhythmatize / Bring your flat hat and your ax / 'Cause tonight at ten / We'll be working again / At the teahouse on the tracks
--Donald Fagen, "Teahouse on the Tracks," from the album Kamakiriad
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Re: Everything Must Go (Chrismon, Robert)

Postby CyberIstari » Fri Apr 15, 2016 3:02 am

Look for any other information on Lae'shagath, while taking breaks from rune-copying. At least a couple will be attempted in ink, in case that's more appropriate. (Asian-made nibs available since the teens, and at least now can be had marvelously fine. :) Or a dip pen.)

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