Hidden 7 mos ago 7 mos ago Post by Penny
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Penny

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That Which is Written


Prologue


The bray of hounds echoed off the darkened walls, reflecting and multiplying as they came closer. She leaped over a hedge of rose bushes, scraping her exposed legs as she went. The lights were on in every building, burning out into the damp heat of the night like watch fires. Women stood in the windows, their silhouettes searching the patches of darkness for the fugitive, for her. The men were already out in force, calling to each other or speaking into radios as they swept the grounds. It was a good thing there was no moon, the darkness the only reason she hadn't been caught already. She had to get out of here. This was the story of a lifetime, but only if she lived to publish it. There was no point going for the motor pool or trying any of the cars in the driveways. The former was guarded and the latter had their keys removed with the pedantic attention to detail these brethren paid to all their tasks. If it were not for the hounds, she might have considered hiding in the trunk of one of the cars, but there could be no hiding from the snuffling nostrils of those slavering beasts. No, her only hope was to reach the chain-link and go over. It was a hike of a mile and a half to the road, a mile and a half through thick scrub and then, with luck she could hitch a ride to some place safe. It was a desperate longshot, but it was her only option. Where in the world could be safe from these people? If ‘people’ was even the right term.

“Sweep west from Luke!” a voice called, harsh and grating ahead of the squelch of a radio. She pressed herself back against the wall of a potting shed a moment before the speaker, an indistinct shape with a big military flashlight rounded the corner. The walkie talkie in his hand squawked something that was too distorted for her to make out as he tramped through the flower bed. It seemed impossible he couldn’t hear her heart hammering in her chest, but he walked past without seeing her, the frosty white beam of the flashlight sweeping back and forth closer to the wire. Fuck, how was she going to get out of here? Fuck, fuck, fuck. Desperate she risked a look at her burner phone, cupping a hand tightly around the display to block any light. No bars. Fuck. The hounds were closer now. No time left. She edged along the wall of the potting shed, all her control employed to stop herself from shaking.

“All clear to the wire from Luke,” the patrolling man said into his walkie talkie. He was only six paces from her, his back turned, the flannel of his shirt black on gray in the gloom. She could smell the scent of bleach and woodsmoke on him. He sighed, playing the beam of his flashlight across the woods a hundred yards from the wire. Owls hooted in annoyance and there was a chitter from some other animal. Just a hundred yards. Now or never.

“Where is this bitch,” the man muttered to himself. In a movie she would have made some witty remark, but this was no fairy tale, at least not the kid friendly Disney kind. She jammed her taser into his back, right between his shoulder blades where the nerves sprayed out from his choroid plexus. His body spasmed and he dropped to the ground with a thump where he continued to thrash and spasm until the butt of his mag light cracked into the back of his skull, and he went slack.

“Right here,” she allowed herself, buoyed by her own success, but she wasted no time rifling his pockets and retrieving a small caliber handgun from his waistband and a leatherman multitool from his pocket. Boyscout assholes. The hounds howled again, close now, no further than the end of the street. She ran for the wire and began clipping the links with the cutter as quickly as she could. Click-click, click-click.

“There! STOP!” someone shouted, but there was no force on earth that could have stopped her now. She snipped one more link and shoved herself through the gap. The jagged edges of the short vertical incision raked cuts across her thighs and arms that burned like fire. A gunshot cracked out and something whined past her head but she was free now, running like the college athlete she had been, though the sophomore long distance championship’s had never motivated her like flight from this nightmare. Two more shots cracked behind her before she reached the treeline but she didn’t look back. She crashed into the undergrowth, the mag light held in front of her as hurdled over fallen trees and wove around stringy saplings. Branches scratched at her like skeletal hands, a vine caught her across the forehead stripping back skin as effectively as a burn. Her breath burned in her chest, her muscles screamed with lactic acid, behind her the bark of the dogs and the bloodthirsty shouts of their masters. The only thought in her head was flight, flight and escape from this horrible night. Any hurt, any pain, was worth it if it meant getting away from this place.

Run, weave between the trees, don’t slow down. Not for anything. Time lost its meaning. Every second took her further from the horror behind her. Just keep running.

The ground suddenly gave way beneath her. Screaming she tumbled, the flashlight was smashed from her hand as it struck a rock with a crack that probably meant a fractured wrist. The night sky and the dark earth cartwheeled as she careened down the steep slope, long grass ripping at her like stinging nettle. She crashed violently into a ditch, the impact driving the air from her lungs. Gravel cuts covered her arms and blood was leaking from above her right eye, though scratched on something in the forest or in the fall she couldn’t tell. She was in the drainage culvert on the side of a paved road. Lights were approaching. She staggered to her feet ignoring the pain, waving her arms and shouting herself hoarse. The lights dimmed to low beams and began to slow. An old but well-maintained Buick rolled to a halt in front of her and she ran to the door, ripping it open frantically.
“Help you missy?” An older man with salt and pepper hair asked in concern, reaching up to squelch the harangue of talk radio pouring from its ancient sound system. He had a kindly face that was contorted in concern by the mask of blood and dirt worn by the woman before him.

“I need to get away from here, now!” she cried, finally pulling the passenger door open and hopping in, heedless of the small avalanche of trash and personal possessions she caused.

“I see,” the kindly old man replied. Something in his tone tipped her off and she glanced over at him and saw it. He gave her a hopeful smile. She pulled the pistol from her pocket, pressed it to his head and pulled the trigger in a single panicked motion. It was very loud. The gunshot blew out the driver’s side window as the round empties his brain case and sprayed the wooden door paneling with gore. The jet of ejecting brain matter lolled the driver's head towards her for a moment before his seat belt snapped him back in a motion curiously reminiscent of a crash test dummy in slow motion, flicking a lazy tail of blood and pulped synapse over her. The concussion of it shattered two more windows. Luckily the car was too old to have an airbag or a car alarm. Her ears rang tinnily, and the car stank of blood, cordite, and human waste voided when the body died. Her heart seemed to be trying to rip its way out of her chest. Thump-thump, thump-thump. The old man shuddered and then sat up, his face horribly disfigured by the gun shot that had punched through his head. Blood ran down into his face and his thin fringe of hair was on fire from the muzzle flash, his right eyebrow burned away entirely. Grains of burning powder flecked his face, glowing like the coals of damnation.

“Well, that’s just unfriendly,” the man wheezed, its voice hideously distorted by its gunshot opened nasal cavity. It’s hands grabbed for her, closing around her throat with a maniacal strength, fingers sinking into her neck like a wire noose. The gun rang out three more times before the darkness took her.


Part 1


July 5 2022
Outside New Orleans


“You hate that I’m going,” Eleanor Tregellan stated in a tone that clearly implied she hoped the answer was ‘no’. She buttoned the top button of the white dress shirt. It was a good match to her gray pencil skirt, though the effect was somewhat ruined by the custom shoulder holster of black polyester weave that she buckled on over it. Across from her Emmaline Von Morganstern, or Doctor Emma Stern as she styled herself, lounged on the bed in her Tulane t-shirt. Emmaline never failed to take Ellie’s breath away. She was blonde and high cheekbones with piercing blue green eyes that should have belonged to a fashion model or movie star. She was perhaps a little heavier than was the taste in the tabloids, but Ruben’s would have painted her as Venus. It made Ellie feel somewhat tawdry by comparison, with her dark red hair and pale gently freckled skin. There was nothing remarkable about her, just a fit looking thirty something whose youthful glamor was slowly fading. Emmaline sighed and stood up, treating Ellie to a long look at those amazing legs and a timely reminder that the shirt was the only thing her lover was wearing. Emmaline walked over and made a slight adjustment to the holster, settling it into place more comfortably. Emmaline had worked for the Sunday Group for eight years, a year longer than Eleanor. In some ways they had come up together, but Emmaline was retired now, two years retired after a case that had claimed the lives of three agents and put Eleanor in intensive care for a month. She still consulted, sometimes officially, more often in her role as Eleanor’s long suffering confidant, but her time as an active field agent was over. Eleanor had thought that boredom would drag her back into the field before too long, but dammit if she wasn’t born to be a domestic goddess, Juno and Venus both, the bitch.

“You will do what you will do Geliebte,” Emmaline said with a slightly sad smile, her slight Austrian accent thickening. “What do bold chevaliers do when there are no quests to pursue after all.”

“Lay in bed with their beautiful Maid Marions?” Eleanor asked, disarmed in spite of herself. Emmaline snickered.

“I was thinking, help their beautiful Maid Marions hang the drywall, but sure. There is life after you know. It can be something wonderful.” There was a gentle desperation in her words that made Eleanor’s heart throb.
“If I don’t go, who will?” she replied simply. Emmaline hugged her tightly with a sudden fierceness.

“I hate that you are going Eleanor Tregellan,” she breathed, “but I love that you are the kind of person who feels that you have to.”




To: PChastain@sg.org, FLaplace@sg.org, MRavenwood@sg.org, ABellamy@sg.org
CC: ETregellan@sg.org, EVM@sg.org
BCC: SPriest@phi.org
From: Operations@sg.org
Subject: Case 7.7.22 <urgent>

Please report to the scene of an MVA at 30°39'44.2"N 90°42'45.8"W ASAP.
Sunday Group Operations

<Security Under the Seventh Sign of Abrogation>


There was a faint heat shimmer over the bitumen as Eleanor arrived at the coordinates, a quiet country road a few minutes from a major artery. An SUV of new but not brand new make was crumpled against the bohle of a gnarled tree thirty feet from the road across a flat gravel turn about. Beyond the tree that had done for the SUV was a thick wall of scrub trees, luxuriant in the yellowing green of the July heat. It was easy to follow the SUV’s last few moments, skid marks in burned rubber transitioning to deep grooves in the crushed stone before meeting the tree. The front was folded up like a tuna can and pieces of windscreen and windows had been thrown in all directions like glittering confetti. For a miracle there were no rubberneckers, merely a single police cruiser with the shield of St Helena Parish on the door, its dome lights not even flashing. It was exciting in a way, they almost never got to work with a crime scene. Usually it was a call out to investigate some strange happening, or the body arrived post mortem after release to the family. Not today apparently.

The lexus had hardly crunched onto the gravel when the cruiser's occupant, a portly older officer, quickly losing the battle to donuts and diabetes, hopped out and half jogged across the intervening ground equipment belt rattling and cheeks blowing. Eleanor turned off the engine and the alt-rock she had been playing died abruptly. Warm summer air rushed in to greet her as she left the comfortable embrace of her air conditioning.

“Ma’am you can’t…” the cops voice stumbled in an instinctive reaction to a woman in a business suit. She could see it in his eyes, FBI? DEA? He had no idea. He didn’t need this shit. Just punching a clock. He had a BBQ tonight he didn’t want to be late for. Reaching into her pocket Eleanor produced a business card. It tingled slightly against her palm. To her the card simply read: Eleanor Tregellan - Sunday Group but there was a geas woven into it, carefully picked out in expertly laid, hair fine, gold wire. To a receptive mind it simply carried the imperative that the holder of the card was someone important and not to be troubled. The effectiveness of the geas varied from person to person, but the cop pulled up suddenly and came to something like a posture of attention. He was drooling slightly. To those whose world view centered on a chain of command the effect of the geas was potent but not subtle. Perhaps Primrose might be able to work up something a little more subtle. Primrose Chastain. That needed some thinking on. The cop made an inarticulate gurgle.

“What have we got?” Eleanor demanded in the brusque, straight to business tone of all self important federal agents. That jolted the poor policeman’s mind back into action.

“Ma’am, one white male between the ages of thirty and forty deceased, looks to be from impact with the steering column, EMS should be here within thirty minutes.” That was a slow reaction time, unreasonably so. No one was exactly certain how the higher echelons of the Sunday Group functioned, even long time operators like Eleanor, but it was obvious some kind of delay was being put in place to give the team a chance to take a look at this. The cop, CPL Stevens, by his name tag, stared at her in slack jawed expectation, awaiting instruction.

“Why don’t you go take a rest Stevens,” she told him, driving the geas home with the use of a partial name.

“And when you wake up, best not to mention I was here. National security and all that.” Stevens nodded his head so vigorously the clacking of his teeth was audible. She hated using the thing on the man, the effects should be temporary, but they weren’t pleasant. The cop began to lay down, taking her instruction to rest with dogged compliance.

“I meant rest in your car,” Eleanor added quickly, “you will be more comfortable there.” The geas tendered towards the literal, intolerant of linguistic shorthand.
With the cop out of the way she approached the wrecked SUV. The smell of burned rubber and leaking oil pricked the back of her nose as she came alongside. She couldn’t see anything through the crazed windows, the safety glace having shattered the dark tint to opacity, and the scene was silent save for the distant rumble of traffic and the tick-tick-tick of cooling metal. The driver's side door hung open, crumpled and twisted, the glossy black finish ruined. The doorwas dented with the imprint of a boot, probably where Officer Stevens had kicked it to get the cab open. The image of the fat policeman frantically kicking the door open to free the driver made her feel even more of a shit. Flies buzzed as she reached the door, stepping carefully to avoid the broken window glass in the dirt. The driver hadn’t been dead long, but the corpse was already looking gray and waxy in the heat. Flies crawled over his eyes and lips and she had to clap her hands to make them disperse. He was an ordinary looking man, clean shaven, probably of Latin American extraction. He wore denim jeans, a brown t-shirt that looked about the right shade of olive to be army surplus, though the lower half was copiously stained with dark blood. Boots were steel capped and without laces. Initially she had wondered why Stevens hadn’t pulled the man out of the wreck. Little wonder. The steering column had been smashed back so far it crushed the drivers ribs, pinning him to the seat like an entomologist’s needle. Judging by the pooling of blood around his waistband, the impact had snapped ribs and shoved the fractured bone out through the flesh. Probably pulped the liver and spleen for the bargain. Massive internal hemorrhage, concurrent spinal injury. She glanced at his lips. There was a wash of dark blood across the right side of his face and both of his pupils were blown. Death instantaneous. COD: blunt force trauma to the lower abdomen. Crush injuries unusually low. Victim standing at time of impact? No seat belt, no airbag. Unusual for a car this new to not deploy airbags. Eleanor glanced at the tree the car had struck. Six feet thick at the base and monumentally unconcerned with the impact, some superficial damage to the bark. She turned back to the body, to the reason she had gotten a call rather than the cops just hauling the corpse down to the morgue.
Juan Doe’s body was covered in glyphs.

It looked to Eleanor like they had been applied with yellow paint, sloppy and uneven, more like finger paint than henna. The glyphs themselves were weird asymmetric things that made her thumbs prick to look at. She leaned closer and sniffed, detecting the acrid tang above the reek of crushed intestines and blood that was already beginning to rot. There was something else there also. At the lips and around the neck. She had taken it for blood at first but it wasn’t, something black and viscous, like bile or tar but not quite either. In places it was smeared over the glyphs, but with no organization that could be detected.
“Curious and curiouser,” she said to herself and reached into her pocket to produce her smartphone. It looked for all the world like a regular samsung galaxy, but it had considerable aftermarket upgrades, all of which would void the warranty and played merry hell on the battery life. She punched in one of her access codes. The phone had three sets of codes courtesy of Fynn Laplace. One code gave access to the true phone, one pulled up a fake profile that revealed nothing more than she spent too much time on candy crush, and one code would trigger the memory chips to fuse into blackened slag. It was nice work she had to grudgingly admit. The true code brought the phone to life and she opened a piece of very non standard software. The program was called Nachfragen, which was too long for the size of an icon on a phone. Eleanor had shortened it to Nacho, for ease of display and to poke fun at Emmaline’s grandiose nomenclature. She lifted the phone and pointed it at the glyphs, a video feed of the camera displayed on the screen. The moment she tapped the app to active the image began to glow slightly green, a string of numbers cascading down the right side denoting the number of thaums the glyphs were putting off. Detecting magic. There is an app for that. The glyphs were definitely juiced, not just some meth head having fun with spray paint.

“Well, well,” she said to the corpse as she switched to her camera and began taking photos, sending the pics out on the team discord, even though most of them should be here momentarily.

“I guess there is a mystery afterall.”



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Hidden 7 mos ago 7 mos ago Post by Hellion
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Hellion Nulla Dies / Sine Linea

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interacting with @Penny


“Four hours of sleep if I was lucky.” The girl yawned, reaching for her favorite ceramic mug that hung just above the coffee maker, and poured a bit of coconut milk in before slowly stirring in the freshly brewed essence of life.

“Really? What the hell were you up to last night?” A concerned female voice on the other end of the phone asked. “This side hustle you have is really messing up your sleep pattern, hun. Is it even- ”

“Yes.” Alyx interrupted. “It’s worth it, and it’s an outlet I need, okay?” She said matter-of-factly, anxiously curling a lock of her short dark hair around an ear, before taking a long sip of the coffee, which kept an awkward silence going for at least five seconds.

“Okay.” The woman in the ear piece cleared her throat. “Your dad and I are just worried about you, Ally. But…we also trust you to do the right thing. So, that’s that.”

Whenever her mother ended a conversation in that manner, it was never really over, but moreso, put on hold for another opportune time. Probably the next time she visited them. I guess like many parents, they assumed to know what was best for their kid, but why aren’t we ever allowed to just learn on our own and at a pace we deemed appropriate?

“Look mom, I gotta run, but I’ll call you later in the week.”

“Alright baby, stay safe.”

“Always. Love you. Give daddy a big hug from me.”

Alyx ended the call and tossed her phone on the counter, trying to enjoy the rest of the coffee, only to hear the low notification of an email coming in. There were times where a moment's peace from all electronics would be awesome, but duty seemed to call at the most inopportune times…

[:: Please report to the scene of an MVA at 30°39'44.2"N 90°42'45.8"W ASAP. ::]

Really? We’re being summoned for traffic infractions? The girl smirked, knowing there was more to it than that, especially when it concerned such an off-the-books division as the Sunday Group. And besides, Eleanor didn’t mess around, which was one of the greatest traits a leader could have. Who wants to waste their time running around in circles? Alyx had mad respect for the woman, and is also one of the reasons she’s decided to stay on with the Group.

Not long after the email, she received a few images from her boss of what appeared to be very poorly rendered symbols, and yet -right off the bat- the crude cross hatches and formations looked quite familiar to that of ancient Vodou culture, something of which was fairly common in that part of Louisiana. However, the images revealing the auras of magical energy, did not seem as common to traditional Vodou practices. In fact, Alyx really had no idea, per the unusual colorations.

But, she would need to get a better look once she had arrived at the GPS coordinates, as only being up close and personal with the naked eye would allow more information to be collected.

“Ugh, I hate dealing with dead bodies.”



At least the drive wasn’t too bad, and rather adventurous admittedly, being sent through backroads that probably hadn’t been used all too often by the general populace. There were a few moments she thought her Honda Civic would get stuck in softer and muddier areas, but thankfully today was not the day. She rolled up to the scene and gave Eleanor a bit of a half-hearted wave as she parked next to her vehicle, and stepped out, taking a deep breath as though to prepare for the worst case scenario.

“Mornin’ boss” Alyx smiled, adjusting the collar on her favorite gray button down blouse she’d decided to wear with a dark pair of slacks and matching low-cut boots. The girl didn’t wear a lot of makeup to begin with, save for a bit of eyeliner and a layer of “brick red” lipstick, which looked great against her dark skin, also doubled as a great moisturizer. Overkill for field work? Possibly. You never know when you have to dress to impress.

“So, that’s a hell of an ornament wrapped around the tree.” She motioned toward the crash site several feet away. “Great pics, by the way, but it was tough to discern anything more than surface information. Looks like a mixture of magical properties. I’m thinking Vodou in origin based on the technique, but that’s easy enough to assume considering where we are.”

She shrugged, and adjusted the strap of the small leather satchel slung on her shoulder. “Anyway, let me take a closer look.” The girl started toward the twisted steel mess, sliding an N95 mask over her face, and pulling on latex gloves that she retrieved from her bag. The closer she got to the driver’s side, the more she regretted it, as the stench of petroleum and death penetrated her mask and senses.

“Why is it always a dead body?” She mumbled under her breath as she stopped inches from the opening and peeked in, pulling out a small metal flashlight to illuminate the area a bit better, and making a guttural sound in the back of her throat as she saw first hand the thick, dark inky substance emanating from around the glyphs. As if the smell of the corpse wasn’t bad enough, whatever this mess was had a very unique & pungent scent that almost brought Alyx to the brink of vomiting in her mouth.

“Good thing I didn’t eat much this morning.” She exhaled heavily, trying to refocus her attention on the glyphs as she shined the light against the yellow pigment used on the man’s skin. With a twist of the cylinder on the front of the flashlight, the lens changed to a warmer color, which then revealed details within the paint itself. Flecks of green were detected, which most likely made up the properties of the yellow paint, along with base red pigment.

Alyx pulled a small stainless steel dental “scraper” from her bag, along with a small vial that had already been prefilled with solution. She carefully peeled away a small piece of paint from the skin, and dropped it into the vial, shaking the small tube, sealing it, and replacing it in her bag for later inspection.

She stood up and stepped a few feet away from the car and slid the mask down a bit trying to catch her breath once again, and perhaps a bit of fresh air not being nose-deep in a corpse. After a few moments, her eyes caught something that she hadn’t seen before. Perhaps taking a step back did her more good than she first thought.

“Uhhh, Eleanor.” She raised her voice based on the distance they were apart. “I think we have a scrambled message on this guy.”

Alyx was pretty sure the glyphs were not random wards, but perhaps some kind of message jumbled up via magical symbols. All that needed to be done now was to put the puzzle pieces together.

“I’m sure as hell not touching him though…”
Hidden 7 mos ago Post by PatientBean
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PatientBean Problematic Gay

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The phone vibrated on the counter, moving slightly near the edge. Primrose sat on the chair, sipping a cup of tea she just brewed and glanced at it. It was from her mother. She didn't see the entire message as it cut off, but what she did see didn't make her want to read it.

"Dear, what is this I hear about you working...."

She could easily sum up the rest of it without needing to open the message. Her mother was curious why she was working, essentially, with the police. After all, Chastain's didn't need to work and, if they did, it wasn't in the civil services. And she had no intention of explaining herself.

She wasn't blind either. She saw the looks she got at the parties she attended. Whispers said she was having a mental breakdown. Perhaps that was the better explanation than the truth. She joined mainly for herself. To answer questions. To put together messy situations so that others got closure. Something she never got. Maybe she never would get it. And, if she were being honest with herself, she was also doing it to spite her family. They didn't care about anything she did growing up, but now all of a sudden they do? Screw them.

Her phone buzzed again and she rolled her eyes, expecting a follow-up text. Instead, she noticed it was an email. She unlocked her phone (the real one that Fynn set up for her team) and opened up the email.

Please report to the scene of an MVA at 30°39'44.2"N 90°42'45.8"W ASAP.
Sunday Group Operations


MVA? She had to piece together what that meant. Magical Violence Accident? That would be right up her alley. She finished her tea and got herself ready. Her phone vibrated again and Primrose looked at the pictures she was sent. Glyphs. She didn't recognize them fully, perhaps she would on the scene itself. She had a feeling today was going to be a long one.




As Primrose pulled up, she saw the scene and did a mental facepalm. It looked like a traffic accident. Why the hell were they called in? She stepped out of her car. Dressed in a light pink blouse and black pencil skirt, her heels clicked as she walked towards the two people on her team she noticed. Her commander...or leader...or boss...really what was the right term for Eleanor? Was looking in the car. Alyx, painter extraordinaire, was also here. As Primrose walked up, she heard Alyx mention a scrambled message. Primrose finally took in the scene as she stood near the others. The man looked like he wasn't having the best day. Glyphs aside, this seemed like a traffic accident.

Which led her to believe it was anything but.

"Well that's....okay I'll be honest. That's gross. Like sorry and all that, but geez, look at the state of this." She took a deep breath. She knew going in that she would be seeing scenes like this, or worse.

"Do we have any witnesses? Any security or traffic cameras that might have seen what happened? I can pretend to be someone and talk to them if need be." Her illusions ranged from helping mask a scene from onlookers to cloaking herself to appear as someone else or even invisible. So long as people were willing to suspend belief for even a second, she could get away with a lot.

She also didn't want to be around the scene any longer than needed be. The glyphs seemed more in Alyx's territory than hers and she wasn't dumb enough to pretend she could do everything.

Hidden 7 mos ago Post by POOHEAD189
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Malcador & Jaelle Collab



Jaelle Codona sat at a tiny, rickety table in a tiny, shitty kitchen beneath a flickering bulb and faded flower-print tile. Her arms were crossed before her, her chin resting atop them, and she could see a sliver of sky between yellowed curtains. It was gray still—growing lighter only in the smallest increments, hardly measurable to her eye. She sank further into her seat, her incorporeal form softening into less and less solid states until she oozed across the table, dripping off the edge or sliding down the legs in fat, viscous drops.

In life, Jaelle had loved the night; in death, she hated it. Nothing was as boring as waiting for the world to wake back up. It was bizarre that all the people she knew had to sleep at the same time! Didn’t they realize she hadn’t been able to since her soul had been shoved in the bloodstone?! YouTube and Netflix wouldn’t play end—

The laptop sitting on one side of the table pinged dully and a discord notification popped up on one side of the screen. Eleanor Tregellan to the Sunday Group.

Jaelle jumped out of the chair, her appearance intact and any leftover spectral liquid disappearing into so much air. She spun, the dirty apartment a blur around her— just a kitchenette and sitting area with three doors. One to the outside, one to a dingy bathroom, and one that used to open to a matching bedroom. Jaelle took the last, stepping through the wood panel and into a roomy, middle-sized house.

The house was in much better condition than the apartment it hid within–not especially tidy, but comfortable in earth tones and leather, spattered with stacks of arcane books and magical tools. It was, by all rights, the nicer place to spend any time in, if you counted out the fact that pocket realms got horrible wifi and you couldn’t tell what time of day it was from the endless expanse of star-clustered black outside the windows.

Mal’s room was just down the hall. Were she corporeal, Jaelle would have slammed open the door and turned on the lights, but as it was, she could only step through the walls and yell at the nest of blankets on his bed. “Mal, wake up! The Sunday Group needs us!”

Malcador Ravenwood had been in the midst of a good dream. A soliloquy of self-agrandizement, where the attractive young mage spoke amidst a council of older, far more exalted sorcerers as they spoke and treated with him as an equal, praising his work and tome of spells he had concocted. Just before he was about to shake the arch-mage’s hand to be inducted into the ranks of his esteemed order, a familiar voice tugged at his consciousness and brought him hurtling out of his reverie.

He gave a very unwelcoming groan, his muscles still aching from his workout the other day. The trim man rolled over on the bed, having not yet opened his eyes except a small peek to confirm that Jaelle was, in fact, hovering about and telling him to get up. Mal yawned, about to tell her to buzz off and wait a bit, like one might tell a dog that was begging to be let out. He quite liked Jaelle but Mal was touchy about sleep when he didn’t have to sacrifice it for work or pleasure, but her mention of the Sunday Group made him reconsider. He pulled himself up into a sitting position, yawning again before stretching his arms.

Mal wasn’t powerfully built. He couldn’t throw men around with ease or wrestle with a lycanthrope like a warrior of old. But he kept himself in fine shape, his physique sculpted and with very little fat so he could have a chance in surviving encounters with more physical supernatural creatures. Or so he liked to say. That was only half the story, really. The other half was his barely-hidden vanity, something he tried to suppress but something he never did fully keep out of his thoughts. His childhood scar was visible on his left shoulder, masked as a tattoo, it was still horrendously jagged, covering below the neck and snaking down his pectoral.

“What is it, Jaelle? Did they say it was important or is this another frivolous meeting on work regulations?”

“Really, Mal. Would I wake you if it was nothing?” She put her hands on her hips and rolled her eyes, even though they both knew perfectly well that not only would she, she certainly had before. In fact, since she couldn’t physically click on the notification to get the full story, it was almost guaranteed that she didn’t actually know. “It was Eleanor! Let’s hurry up and go see what the new case is about!”

He didn’t answer her, just slid out of bed and gave another satisfying stretch and stepping out of his bedroom into the well-furnished hall, the embroidered, soft carpet very comfortable to walk on. It made him sleepy again, but he knew he had to check the message. Planting his ass in the chair, he opened the message and read it silently, knowing Jaelle would be hovering around his shoulder anyway. With all the extra time she had when others were sleeping, learning to read modern English hadn’t seemed too daunting to her.

She seemed to read it just as quickly as he did, anyway. “Yes! Yes yes yes yes!”

“Dammit, we need to go.” He said, no longer moving about begrudgingly. He went to his room again and changed, throwing on jeans and a button-down, grabbing his staff he transmuted into a pen and placing it in his pocket. He was out of the pocket realm, out of the apartment and down the road in the matter of a minute. Once they arrived, he saw most of the gang had beaten him to the punch.

Jaelle moved before him, taking in the scene in her quick, curious way while Primrose spoke of cameras and witnesses. It was a sticky day, so humid that sweat pooled, stagnant on skin rather evaporating away, and cicadas hummed despite the early hour. It was no wonder, really, that the corpse was already stinking, but it didn’t seem to bother Jaelle any. She moved through the car, peering in its nooks and crannies.

“I doubt there are many cameras out here in the middle of nowhere,” she said, the implied eye-roll mostly masked in her voice. “This thing is empty. Like weirdly empty. No coins in the cup holders or wallet on the seat. The guy doesn’t even look like he brought a house key or a pack of smokes. Is it even his car?”

Maclador stepped out of the vehicle behind Jaelle, donning a pair of glasses. He had 20/20 vision, but the glasses allowed him to see hexes or trails of magical run-off he would normally only be able to detect if he performed a twenty minute ritual. The only downside to the glasses were he had blurry vision in real-space, and they were as easily broken as any pair of spectacles.

Looking like a suspiciously young college professor, he approached the group and covered his nose, giving a nod of greeting to those already gathered.

“Well ladies, let’s see what’s…” He started, leaning into the car after Alyx announced her findings. Mal halted his speech when he blinked, his memory tugging on him once he spied the glyphs that shimmered in his vision. He adjusted his glasses and squinted, trying to recall where he might have seem similar etchings.

“Well, it’s not a curse.” He murmured, contemplating with a professional air. “Whoever wrote these has read a lot of Theodor Ruess, but they don’t entirely match with his magical theorems…”

He shook his head, pulling himself out of the car and taking in a breath of fresh air, waving a hand before his face to blow away the wafting stench of decay. It didn’t entirely add up, the markings. They were blase in style, too ostentatious for someone who was a true professional. It made him think this case would be solved in a matter of days, or if they were caught in something made by a genius in misdirection.

“I can’t give an accurate translation, but it’s a message that says ‘Once you discover it, the pain will begin.’” Mal iterated, raising an eyebrow to denote how little the warning impressed him. “A rather vague threat, though one that could potentially be targeted at us, unless we know of someone else who would walk in on something like this.”

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Fynn LaPlace


Click. Click, click, click! Click...

Fynn's hand was bumped against the small folding table quite purposefully as yet another fluctuation in the local mobile communications grid caused his virtual avatar to find a cruel death in the midst of a bunch of zombies. The rather isolated atmosphere inside his van did not really allow him to notice that his vehicle was already driving on gravel instead of thick tarmac polished by millions of tyres, but the shrinking of available bandwidth was indication of being further and further away from the big city enough.

A gentle jolt pushed the rather small man back into the seat.

"You have reached your destination."

Fynn walked forward through the small door into the driver's cab and toggled a red switch that was hidden away in the center console, causing the hologram portraying a slightly overweight individual with long, blonde hair -- himself! -- occupying the driver's seat to vanish. It was not really of the insane quality he would have preferred, but combined with a darkened windshield the illusion was good enough to make other drivers think that someone was actually driving the thing at a glance. Driving around in a car that looked a bit like a cliché gangster's escape vehicle was not illegal, but... technically not even being in the cab it while it was still moving... would have a slightly different affair as certain car makers were will struggling to achieve that kind of autonomy. Maybe it was save to say that the exterior crappyness of the elderly Dodge Ram Wagon was an understatement in terms of its true qualities.

His eyes struggled with the blazing sunlight as the rear doors opened in front of them. Through the flood of light he could see the rough outlines of the other members of the Sunday Group already being there. Being late was certainly his fault, but he could hate it nontheless! The small, but sturdy suitcase was grabbed quickly and Fynn hauled it over to what he internally already designated as 'wreckage'. The reek of oil reached his nose soon, too, but that was to be expected given that the car had been pretty much wrapped halfway around the tree.

That little fact in itself caused Fynn to take a break and turn left and right on the spot. This was a super low traffic country road and not exactly riddled with many trees of the kind present here, right ? So how much reckless smartphone fiddling did it take to veer so dramatically off course here ? The thought was quickly interrupted though as Fynn's eyes finally saw in more detail how his colleages had gathered around the open driver's door and just how they were taking a few closer looks inside. Something was missing here, something that sheer probability dictated should be around given what the wreck's brand and model label on the trunk said.

"Hey! Erm... you guys and girls do know that you should not stick your head inside the vehicle while there are at least several undetonated airbags around you ? Just in case you don't want your faces to be rammed into the corpse in there. And has somebody already checked where all that oil smell comes from ? That stuff can burn and the exhaust manifold's gotta be pretty warm, still."

Fynn put down the small suitcase in his hands and walked over towards the ruined SUV's front to try and open the hood, but that was an effort only achieveable by means of a crowbar out of his van. Of course things were all over the place in there, but having inhaled some more air much closer to the potential source he could at least tell it was only oil leaking and not much more easily igniteable gasoline as well. He'd still need the battery connected, though.

The poor dead man in the driver's seat found his left shin moved and squished a little bit as Fynn had to make some room to access something on the lower part of the dashboard next to the brake pedal. He could already feel on his arms how the onset of decay was outfitting the victim's skin with a waxy layer of disgust, but at least the diagnostic connector didn't jam! He needed the data, and not just the data but also some data behind it, and that was why the thing he had just shoved in there was not just any piece of electronics, but... something a bit more special.

Fynn had little trouble with dumping the hardened suitcase right onto the SUV's roof. Nobody would need the layer of paint to be intact anymore anyway, so he could just as well use it as a makeshift desk while looking onto what the built-in laptop had to show. "Just trying to confirm or rule out the obvious here..." Fynn mumbled more to himself, but still loud enough to make any claim of this also being an attempt to explain what he was doing to his colleagues not entirely unbelieveable. "No matter what kind of runes or other shit the victim has on his skin, we still got a very serious car crash here and quite a bunch of malfunctions after that, too, and I wanna know why..."

Hectically, Fynn's fingers moved accross the keyboard and injected a barrage of instructions into the device before a louder, more distinct thud indicated he had finally been able to hit the return key just knowing everything was ready. "That will take a few minutes. Can you all stand back a bit please, I want to photograph stuff..."

Now just where had he put his camera ? The real camera, not one of those limited excuses that littered every modern smartphone! Some very traditional police work did still have value, too, especially if his boss had already put the real police at sleep!

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Predictably Alyx and Primrose were the first to arrive. They exchanged minor pleasantries but went right to work, which was good as the EMTs would be here before too long. Neither woman seemed entirely comfortable with the corpse, not unreasonably as the bloat, and blood and ruptured intestines were hardly pleasant. Eleanor remembered her first ‘meet the cadaver’ in med school, the sterile smell of the exam rooms, the reek of formaldehyde. It didn’t prepare you for a real corpse of course, but she had seen plenty of those in her time as well. Far too many. She ran a hand over her face.

“We will let the coroner do a full work up, I’m sure Fynn can get us a copy of the report when its done. Vodou huh?” Eleanor asked, taking a step back to try and see what Alyx was seeing, it remained a series of meaningless markings to her but now that it was pointed out to her she thought she could detect the aesthetic. Unfortunately, given they were in the largest center of Vodun practice west of Hatii, that didn’t narrow things down very much.

“What is a Latino doing decked out in voodoo glyphs,” she asked though it was a rhetorical question to frame the problem in her own mind.

“And what is that black stuff? It doesn't look like paint to me.”

Primrose arrived before Alyx could elaborate. Eleanor felt a slight pang of jealousy. The woman looked great as always. What did the repairer of reputations bring? And what of the court? And what of the King? Eleanor didn’t like to think of herself as a vain woman, but she was honest enough to admit that she chafed a little at the passage of the years.

“Sounds like a good place to start,” she agreed with Primrose, nodding towards the police cruiser. The pudgy cheek of Officer Stevens was visible against the window where he slept obedient to Eleanor’s suggestion.

“You might start with him, I hit him with a geas when I first arrived so his mind maybe a little tender,” the flat matter of fact delivery belied the queasy feeling it gave her to have warped the mind of a man who was just doing his job.

“He probably has some ideas about where we might look for cameras, or at least likely witnesses.” Eleanor hesitated for a moment, calculating risks and rewards in her mind with quick efficiency.

It was a considerable relief to have Jaelle able to search the car without contaminating the physical evidence of the scene. It confirmed her impression of an empty, deliberately cleaned vehicle.

“I’m thinking…” Eleanor began, pausing to make it clear that it was just a thought and not an idea that she had completely committed to just yet, “that this guy might have been a professional wheel man.” She walked slowly around the SUV trailed by Mal and the ghostly Roma.

“No way all the airbags failed on a SUV this new. Probably they were manually disabled,” she mused. They wouldn’t be able to tell that without a forensic investigation of the vehicle, something she was willing to leave to the police if they were so inclined. There was an outside possibility that the car had been in an accident before and the airbags hadn’t been repacked, but she didn’t think so.

“Mississippi plates,” she mused, pointing to one of the license plates now hanging askew. Probably that meant nothing, it had the feel of a former State vehicle, probably bought at auction for cash in order to avoid a paper trail. Perhaps Fynn would be able to shed some light on that she thought as she obediently stepped back to allow him space to work.

“See if you can pull a vin number,” she told the IT specialist. Any professional getaway driver would have manually erased identification numbers with acid or a file, but they might lack the expertise to thoroughly scrub it from the cars on board computers. With all their magical clout, it was possible that Fynn’s more physical investigation might turn something up that their more esoteric methods missed.

Once you discover it, the pain will begin.

She wasn’t certain how far she trusted Mal’s translation. Not that she doubted his skills exactly but arcane messages were notoriously tricky, even when you set aside things like the Cassandra Effect. They needed a vodun expert, something the Sunday Group hadn’t had since Juliette had been killed. Eleanor winced inwardly at the memory. Fortunately New Orleans was well supplied with such experts, if one could sift the charlatans from the true practitioners. Alyx and Primrose for that. Mal might be a better choice but a genuine voodoo practitioner might take offense to being visited by an unbidden ghost, and might be able to make that offense felt.

There was a lot going on here that didn’t make sense. What was the black fluid? Why was a latino getaway driver, if that is what he was, decked out in Vodun glyphs? Was the mysterious message for him, for them, for someone else? Where had he been coming from and where had he been going? Eleanor closed her eyes and made a sound. To the uninitiated it sounded like nothing more than a simple tonal hum, but music, like everything else in the universe, was mathematics. Perception shifted and she was standing in a gray landscape. It was identical to the scene she had just left, save this existed entirely in her mind. Emmaline called this ‘die Arbeitsfläche’ but Eleanor just thought of it as ‘the place’. Mal, Jaelle and Alyx still stood beside her, or at least Eleanor’s mental constructs of them did. She focused her mind and formulae sprang into existence all around her, shimmering with soft golden light. The light coalesced into a point as she finished the calculation and then zipped over to the ghostly representation of the car. It moved over the corpse inside, rendering the magical gradients line by line, like an old fashioned printer. The glyphs and the black residue both shone with streaks of entropic potential, but the construction of them was very different. Both were powerful, but the black goo seemed much more angry, much more directed than the glyphs. It gave her and odd taste in the back of her throat, familiar yet defying recollection. She slipped back into the moment, only a heartbeat having passed in the real world.

“The black stuff is a magical attack of some kind,” she said with certainty. The violence of it burned at the back of her throat like bile as her mind tried to find ways to convey a sense of malice in a physical way.

“Lets see what Primrose turns up. Once she is done she and Alyx can…” Eleanor trailed off. A silver car was coming down the road, a clip on siren on its roof flashing but without sound. They should have had another twenty minutes before any official attention arrived.

“Fynn, I hate to rush you but in another few minutes we are going to be tampering with a crime scene, I’ll see if I can buy you some time…”



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The quicker she could be away from the dead body, the better. It was starting to ooze and the heat wasn't making it any more bearable. The others quickly joined them. Jaelle and Mal together followed up with Finn. The gang was all there, such as they were. If someone was asked to put differing personalities and clashing personas together on a team for a comedy TV show, she had a feeling their group would be prime time.

Despite Jaelle's insistence that there would be no cameras (no cameras in this day and age? Even the middle of nowhere had technology), Eleanor felt it was a good idea to check. Primrose tried to bite down a self-satisfied smile in Jaelle's direction but did not do a good job of hiding it. Primrose glanced over at the police officer who had his mind warped. It couldn't have been a young, hot cop? Just her luck.

She debated on how to handle this. She could probably get by on charm alone. She was sure the officer would be like putty in her hands if she laid it on thick. She could also use her family's name. Despite their hesitancy in working for any civil service areas, they maintained a good relationship with the police (for reasons, Primrose was sure, not so honorable). The man's brain was already impacted by Eleanor's abilities, so perhaps that led him to be more susceptible to hers.

Primrose left the others to go over the scene, nodding at Finn as she passed him. Out of everyone on the team, apart from Eleanor who she considered being above the others on authority alone, Finn was the one she could see developing a possible friendship with the easiest. She also had to hand it to him, his skills were incredibly useful. As she walked, Primrose threw up an illusion over herself. So long as she maintained it, anyone who did not know it was her would see an older woman, her late 40's, dressed impeccably in a black suit, hair cut short and no-nonsense glasses over her eyes and a facial expression that read "I am wasting my time talking to you already so don't make me waste anymore."

She made her way over to the officer, who sat there, a speck of drool forming at the cusp of his bottom lip and dripping down over his uniform. Primrose fought a groan. She had a job to do. She snapped her fingers in two quick successions to get his attention. The man shook his head and looked over at her. "Huh? Wha-" was his response. She was quick to respond back. "Save it, I am already annoyed we were not contacted sooner. Agent Beatrice Burns, FBI." She held up a black card, also managed with an illusion. To the untrained eye, it would look like FBI credentials. "I'll make this quick so you can go back to standing there while the trained professionals clean up your mess. This now falls under FBI jurisdiction. I'm going to need the names of anyone who might have seen the car or the driver as well as any camera footage nearby. I also need that yesterday so..." she raised an eyebrow at the officer, expecting him to jump at the chance.

To his credit, he did.

"Um yes, yes ma'am! Sir! Umm..." He fumbled his words a bit more before he continued. "The only camera we have near here is at the gas station up the road a ways. As for witnesses, maybe they saw something there? Last I noticed there was a car parked in the lot that isn't the owner. I'm close with the owner. We go bowling every th.."

Primrose cut him off. "Do I look like I want to know about your recreational pastimes officer? Unless it pertains to the poor dead sod rotting in the car over there, I don't give a damn! Give me whatever reports you have and be on your way. I'm sure there's a box of donuts that needs your attention." She paused a bit as the officer looked at her. "Now!" At her yell, the officer scrambled into his car and grabbed a police report, and handed it to her. He saluted her too, which was a nice touch. "Forget this interaction ever happened officer and I won't have to talk to your supervisor about your absolute tomfoolery. Dismissed!" At that, she turned and walked back to the others, leaving the officer to pick up the pieces.

As she walked, she read the report. It appeared as if someone called in the car. According to the information listed, it was a "Cecil Peterson" and his wife. Last known location of the Petersons? The gas station, where they seemed to remain, despite the long number of hours. Why are the Petersons still there? Surely their information would be gathered and they could be on their way.

As she got closer, she heard tired and turned to see a car pull up. She glanced at Eleanor to see if she knew who they were and, judging on her facial expression, she did. They would have to work fast now.

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Fynn LaPlace


Had it not been for the invention of charge-coupled devices and the wide arc of digital cameras employing this technology, Fynn would probably have needed an awful lot more workouts than he apparently used to subject himself to. It would have been barely possible for the small-ish man to handle the sheer amount of analog film produced by the number of crime scenes the Sunday Group encountered otherwise. The IT specialist continued photographing the car, the rubbermarks, the grooves in the gravel and everything else he deemed to be of importance until he was confident to have gotten everything from all perspectives needed. Also he had littered the place with small rulers and cubes indicating lengths and volumes for later reference.

Or, in other words, now that Eleanor had clearly pointed out the need for speed and his laptop also requested his attention by means of beeping, Fynn was in an elevated state of haste in order to wrap things up. Lowly muttering something to himself that could hardly be understood as anything else than a curse, he started picking up his various utensils from the ground again and drop them into a leather bag where they'd find some more protection.

The corner of his eyesight still found an opportunity to pick up what Primrose was doing. To him it was rather obvious out of sheer experience, but at the same time he was certain that, for the cop in the car, the situation was very grim without him even noticing -- simply because Primrose once more sold it with just the right mixture of determination and charme. Maybe she'd even be able to convince the man to give up on donuts, thereby extending his potential lifespan ?

Unfortunately however the laptop on the car's roof didn't stop indicating that it had finished the job. Somewhere inside its pretty vast solid state drive were now located all of the car's internal error flags, a complete copy of each control unit's flash memory and various other information and measurements as far as these could be done just by accessing the diagnostic connector. For more he'd have to get the car into the workshop, or just the time to tear it apart on the spot. The latter however was pretty much ruled out.

"Hey, Eleanor ?" he asked with a fairly obvious smirk around his lips, "Would you like me to implant some other data into the car so to make it look less like a worthy crimescene to the police ? Because, according to what I can see here by means of a short glance only, that's what it really is unless we're dealing with a case of extreme improbability. This car has airbags, but either they have been removed or disconnected. All of them. And either our dead driver has decided to just commit to an horrendous act of stupidity and ignored all warning lights, or the dashboard has been rigged for them not to work anymore."

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Eleanor Tregellan did not like to be rushed. For ritual magicians rushing got you killed and that was only if you were very, very, lucky. Fortunately or unfortunately, working with the Sunday Group had given her a great deal of experience with the sensation. Her eyes flicked to Primrose, noting with relief that she seemed to have concluded her interview with Stevens. That was something. For a moment she considered Fynn’s suggestion, weighing the pros and cons.



“Leave it,” she decided, “we can’t conceal the glyphs and we don’t have the resources to break down the car forensically. If we let the cops run with it we can follow their investigation and let them swing the wrenches. If we let them have the full deck maybe they will come up with something we can use.” It was a risk, the authorities were at best an irritation when the supernatural was involved. At worst they either impeded the Group’s work, at worst they charged in and got themselves killed to no purpose. Why the hell was this guy on the scene so fast, she still had ten minutes of the window she had been promised. For a moment she considered asking Primrose to make the whole crime scene disappear, but the approaching car was already crunching onto the gravel and even the most gullible observer was likely to have questions if a half dozen cars vanished before his eyes. Eleanor headed for the car, intending to buy Fynn a few more seconds to conceal his tampering. As she approached the flashing lights flicked off and a handsome looking man stepped out. He was dressed in slacks and the cuffs of his dress shirt were rolled up against the heat. He wore a shield and sidearm on his belt, the emblem identifying him as a detective with the State Police.

“I’m…,” Eleanor began, lifting her card from a pocket and flashing it at him. Rather than recoiling from the charm he plucked it from her outstretched hand.

“Eleanor Tregellan?” he read, squinting against the morning sun on the white paper. Eleanor felt her thumbs prick. The card worked best on people who considered themselves part of a chain of command, it was much less effective against sharps, people who had some degree of magical talent, even at a latent level. Was it possible this detective was a latent? Or was he just so strong of will he could ignore the geas? The other possibility was that he had some kind of active magical defense. The Sunday Group routinely monitored Law Enforcement types for any kind of magical ability. More than once they had shut down well-meaning mediums who had been brought in as consultants. The risk of one player or another in the supernatural world deciding the police were a threat was too great. Such things had happened in the past, and they never ended well.



“What the hell is the Sunday Group and why are you interfering with a crime scene?” he demanded, looking over her shoulder at the assembled group, all of whom were now well clear of the car.



“I’m a physician,” Eleanor explained smoothly, “merely rendering aid as a Good Samaritan detective… Schilling.”



His eyes narrowed as she read his name of his badge and at what she had just said. In addition to being a biblical allegory, a Good Samaritan was a specific legal category, one that held individuals legally blameless if the intervened and tried to provide first aid.



“And what is this Sunday Group Miss Tregellan?” Schilling asked extending the card back to her.

“Doctor.” His hand froze in mid reach.

“Excuse me?” Schilling demanded.

“It is Doctor Tregellan,” she corrected, plucking the card from between his fingers and making it vanish into a coat pocket.

“As for what the Sunday Group does, we leverage unique skillsets to provide a dynamic best-of-breed service to facilitate optimum outcomes for a variety of clients.”

“Uh huh,” Schilling replied, a slight burr of irritation at the evasive answer evident in his tone.

“And just driving through were you? When you saw the crash?” he asked, making a gesture towards the wrecked SUV.

“Company picnic,” she replied blandly and she could almost hear him grinding his teeth. Something about the man bothered her and her attempts to rattle him didn’t seem to be shaking it loose, for a moment she considered magic, or even using Nacho to read him, but that might tip their hand if something strange was going on.



“Right…” he drawled, pulling a pair of sun glasses from a pocket and slipping them on. Eleanor was vaguely disappointed he didn’t make a pun CSI style.



“You have contact infor…” Schilling began but trailed off as Eleanor produced another business card, this one simple card stock as opposed to arcane geas. He took it from her.

“Just in case I have any questions, or I need to leverage unique skillsets to get a dynamic best-of breed service to facilitate an optimum outcome,” he deadpanned, letting her know that he could play too.

“Best of luck detective,” Eleanor called and waved for her people to move out. Better by far if they were gone before Schilling started asking questions about
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Mal tapped his pen, and Jaelle slipped back into the transmuted staff like a genie in a bottle. Neatly he slid it into his shirt pocket and adjusted his glasses as he reviewed the corpse one final time. It wasn't as reliable as one of those spy glasses one saw in movies, but it saved a 'picture' of the corpse in his glasses to be saved in a way for a later date. He walked over to his vehicle, a stylish red ford fusion, and drove off at Eleanor's behest.

He drove off out of the countryside, past Lake Pontchartrain. He let the windows down as he drove, his glasses glinting in the sun. Jaelle tended to stay in the staff when he drove, because they found that the physics of her floating was centralized to the earth's rotation, not a moving car. She would need to truly concentrate to treat the car as the 'physical realm' she was attached to. If not she would have to fly and catch up to him, so it was good to keep her in the staff unless they had something to talk about. Though she had merely poked her top half out of a staff before, adorably making herself miniature sized while she did so.

Once he and Jaelle reached the Sunday Group headquarters, Mal strode in, adjusting his jacket and taking out his pen, and once he passed through the glass doubledoors at the front, the pen wheeled betwixt his fingers three times before transforming into an arcane staff, nearly five feet of obsidian topped with a bloodstone that held Jaelle and a few extra tricks he had conjured up and kept in there in case of emergencies. He passed by the lady at the front desk and gave her a deft wink, lowing his glasses for but a moment before sauntering into their offices, her giggles audible until the door closed behind him.

Taking his glasses off, he stepped into his personal office and found the scrying stone he kept, picking it up and taking it out to the center of the first floor. Lightly placing it on a desk, he gently applied the glasses to the stone and drew a summoning circle with erasable chalk, using the magic the Sumerians called Zisurru. As he uttered the words in the language of the ancients, a picture began to form above the stone.

"Abnum muda'um abartum, subulum naplusum." He revealed, and before his eyes was a picture of the corpse, able to be viewed from three hundred and sixty degrees from any angle, as long as the chalk remained in place. He gave a smile, admiring his handiwork.

"The things I do for these people," he deadpanned.

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Jaelle hung in a red world.

From within, the bloodstone felt almost incomprehensibly vast, a hollow sphere of red stone, the edges of which blurred to indistinguishable blood-fog with distance. It was lit from outside so that she could only see the color now because of daylight. All those insufferable years in the dark of a tomb, she had seen nothing but black. It was silent now, though when the edges of the living world lay close to that of the dead, moans and voices slipped through.

The bloodstone was a necessity of Jaelle’s continued existence in the world unless she wanted to fade away, to lose her mind to the vast nothingness beyond. But that couldn’t keep her from hating it. Prison and lifeline in equal parts.

Time did not seem to pass quite the same while she hid within, so it was not long before the light around Jaelle changed—morning sun to a bright, phosphorescent glare. She relaxed. The cop that spoke to Eleanor at the crime scene made her more than a little uncomfortable, even invisible as she could be to mortal eyes. If she and Mal were inside somewhere, they had likely gotten away fine.

With a little bit of effort, Jaelle moved toward the edges of the bloodstone, the space of a few millimeters stretching ahead like miles. When she finally made it, she pressed her face to the inside of the stone, squinting at the fuzzy shapes of the world outside—sharp edges, bright lights, the softer forms of desk chairs.

The office?

Jaelle took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and imagined a door on the inside of the gem. It bloomed into existence, the same red hue as everything around it, but with a big, old-fashioned handle. Light leaked from the keyhole, white and green and promising entrance to the real world. She reached out and turned the handle. Leaving the bloodstone didn’t feel like much of anything, really—like stepping through an inanimate object. Then she was out, the world immeasurably brighter and full of color. It was a good thing she didn’t have physical eyes any longer, or the difference might have been uncomfortable.

She was in, of all places, Mal’s office. It was fine as far as offices went, she supposed. More carefully decorated than Mal’s house with impressive-looking magical objects and thick, dusty tombs lining the shelves. Disappointing. She had wanted to see something more interesting than Mal chanting to yet another rock in his collection.

“Mal, why are we here? Aren’t there like people to question? Clues to track down? Strange, hidden parts of New Orleans to uncover? I thought Primrose said something about witnesses at a gas station.”

Honestly, why he insisted on spending so much time at the same few places every day was beyond her. People these days were far too well-rooted. Never mind security! There was a whole world out there, and they could still touch it. Why waste that time in one place?

“What are you doing, anyway? Did the others come back too?”
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"How long have we done this, Jaelle?" He asked her with a sardonic wit, unable to keep himself from examining the phantasmal image before him. Oddly enough, the message written on the corpse was now something entirely different than what he had initially read. Either it was meant for physical eyes only and he saw the true message, or it was something to merely throw them off. All he could tell was it was in a language he couldn't quite decipher, which was rare for him. He would look through his books later and see if he could get a grasp of the etchings, but for now he had to leave the mystery lying. "Don't you know I always have a plan?"

"The others will come back soon, but we'll go to them first." He explained, holding his hands out for patience at her curious look. "I know Sherlock Holmes was a bit after your time, but I thought you watched the Robert Downey Jr. one on Netflix a few weeks ago. We need to study every possible angle of this man's body to find out what was the cause of his demise. Though this is for later, mostly. Right now I merely wanted to make a get-away in case we needed it."

He stepped into his office and grabbed his personal grimoire, flipping open the pages to twelve seven, understanding suddenly sparkling in his mesmerizing eyes. It was a very small ritual, easy to complete as long as he had already made a mark at the desired location. Stepping back, he placed his body right under the doorframe to his office and gave a quick series of arcane syllables, intoned in a delectable, aqueous fashion from his silken voice.

A visible blur began to materialize in the doorframe, coming alive as soon as he stepped out of the doorway himself. Mal looked at his handiwork with a grin, grabbing his staff. In front of he and Jaelle was an image of the Gas Station Primrose had iterated the importance of. While Jaelle was in the staff, Mal had driven by the Gas Station and left a small arcane marker, connecting the location to wherever his destination would be, i.e. the office.

Placing his sunglasses back on, he tapped the staff twice. "You might want to hop back into the stone. There's no real telling how a spirit will fare going through an extrardimensional portal." Mal usually called it a 'Realm Spanning' portal, but Jaelle had grown quite fond of modern popular culture. The sci fi name for something that was fairly synonymous with his own meaning would probably grab her attention more.

Once she joined him, he held his breath and stepped through the doorway. For the briefest, smallest moment, he felt what the Aesir must have felt when traversing the nine realms of ygdrassil. Pure, insane chaos of unfathomable knowledge and physics men nor any physical being could ever conceptualize assailed his senses, burning into his every pore until he stepped lightly out into the shade behind the gas station. To someone new it would be an overwhelming experience, but to Mal it was like flossing. You didn't like it, but it wasn't too bad after a few times.

"You can come out, just don't be too tangible." He told her, turning the staff into a pen and placing it in his pocket.
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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Fetzen
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Fynn started sweating. According to his inner expectations, at least one member of the Sunday Group might have easily succumbed to the temptation of blaming his lack of exercise for this, but Fynn himself more felt like just working damn fast at the moment. In the heat! Under time pressure!

Hadn't his ears picked up Jaelle mentioning something about Primrose having heard Eleanor saying something about witnesses at a gas station or the like ? Even the most run-down gas station had CCTV these days, so somehow obtaining this data right away would have been beneficial for sure. Unfortunately though, given that the whole team by now was not only chasing a culprit, but also had to get away from the official police arriving, that was a retrieval operation to be deferred to a later date -- and probably from a very different source that would require way more of his hacking skills if neither verbal convincing nor another miracle coming from the Sunday Group's higher ups would work.

The IT specialist felt a fair degree of frustration coming up as he was forced to leave all the evidence behind. Getting that from the cops was just so tedious and introduced so many more variables into the mix that it absolutely felt like second choice. Maybe, if he didn't come with the van but a full-blown tow truck next time, Eleanor could be convinced to just let everything magically 'disappear' before the cops arrived ?

This time he drove himself for the density of police cars in the area would foreseeably increase and officers always had a nack for looking a bit more closely into other vehicles. Also getting into the Sunday Group's underground carpark was a bit more of a delicate task with such a large vehicle: He'd rather accept blame for lacking proper driving skills than accept blame for being unable to develop an autonomous car that could get in there without an incident!

Fynn's office was maybe a bit larger than would have been necessary for a pure desktop job, but to his excuse it also had to offer enough room for the occasional colleague who was in dire need of IT support. Also, while the primary services were of course outsourced to a professional hosting company that had it's own server farms, Fynn had a few blade servers himself on a small rack next to his desk. Some technological enhancements had been capable of making things just so less noisy and power hungry that he happily kept these going all the time for whatever round' the clock task neccessary.

He entered the room and put the reinforced bag with the laptop in it onto his desk. That would be dealt with later, right now he was fully expecting some kind of meeting to be called in order to discuss the next steps or the like and he needed some coffee for that, first! Meetings could be amusing, but more often they were just boring! Fynn was just about to leave the doorframe behind on his way out again to the small office kitchen when he noticed something was missing...

Oh noes!

This was definitely bad news. Choppy, the robotic recreation of an Arthropleura, a long-extinct species from the Paleozoic, had apparently successfuly vacuum-cleaned the floor, but its docking station was vacant! Had he accidentally left the door open before leaving ? Now the thing was probably crawling around somewhere else on this level of the building. Maybe it had even found its way through another open door into somebody else's office and moved in there. Or, even worse, it had stopped doing so and was hiding in a corner or beneath a drawer in a low-power state waiting for rescue. Or, even worse than worse, it had been stopped dead in its tracks by the elevator cabin in which it was now ready to welcome the next person to step in...

People really tended to dislike a roughly six feet long millipede-like creature with pincers looking as if capable of cutting away one's feet, did they ? Of course they did! Discreetly and indirectly lowering people's comfort level while in his office, in revenge of them annoying him, had been a purpose of building this prototype in the first place! It still was a bit too prototypic though, perhaps...
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The amount of frustration Primrose felt at having discovered something important, only for it to be taken from her in a matter of moments. She let the pleasant thought of throwing an illusion to scare the authorities but thought better against it. For now, this was their scene. They had the images in their heads, she knew about the camera and the witnesses at the gas station. She at least knew their names. She could look them up (or ask Fynn to since he was the resident nerd).

She blew out a breath of frustration as Eleanor dealt with the police. Once it was apparent they would get nothing else, she made it towards her car, driving back to the headquarters. As she drove, her mind worked. There was something more to the dead man, but that was out of her wheelhouse. Hopefully, the others would begin working on that aspect while she focused on the witnesses.

She finally made it back to the offices. She quickly went in, ignoring everyone else at the front. She called the elevator. Stepping inside, she pressed the button for her floor and waited as the irritating elevator music played. As it inched closer to her floor, she felt something watching her. She glanced around but didn't see anything. Then she sensed movement. She looked down.

It would be a lie to say it was anything other than some spawn from the pits of hell. She detested bugs on a good day, but today had already worked her up. She let out a scream that would put any final girl to shame. Thankfully the elevator made it to her floor before she all but jumped out.

She glanced back at it before she put it all together. It wasn't an actual bug. It was some robot...thing. And that meant it was one person's concoction. "Fynn! Get your disgusting bug thing out of the elevator before I fling it off the roof!"

Honestly...these people!

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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Atalanta
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“Too tangible, ha ha. I can’t touch anything, remember?”

Jaelle slipped from the red world and into the too-bright Louisiana sun. It was hot enough that the air above the asphalt road shimmered in the distance, though she couldn’t feel it, and those at the gas station were beaded with sweat from the few moments outside that it took to fill up their cars. Despite her sarcastic remark, Jaelle kept herself carefully invisible to mortal eyes—she was just too irritated with Mal to be nice about it.

“We’ve talked about this. Just because I’m tied to that damn staff doesn’t mean you can go haring off on whatever plan without telling me. I might have useful ideas! Insights! Opinions! I’m not a dog that you can pull around on an invisible leash.”

Mal was like a brother to Jaelle. He had saved her from the void of indeterminable years and helped her find a much more interesting existence with the Sunday Group. When he wasn’t trying to show off, he was funny and nice and fun to be around. But damn her fading remains if he wasn’t so self-absorbed that he forgot the people around him were intelligent beings as well.

The gas station was of the typical, back-roads sort. Two old pumps sat beneath a cover that looked to have been half-blown away by the last hurricane. A sizable corner was missing, the rough edge showing the frame and torn plastic. The car at the pump left with a fuller belly, leaving the lot empty except for two vehicles parked to the side. The windows advertised The Double Gulp for 89 cents around a big plastic cup spilling soda, and the over-stuffed cigarette disposal was surrounded by a halo of fallen smokes.

They stepped inside to the distorted jingle of an electronic bell, and three sets of eyes turned towards Mal. A middle-aged couple leaned against the far wall, exchanging anxious looks, and the decidedly unhappy store owner glared at Mal over her glasses, her curly hair pulled back in a tight, frizzy ponytail. “Welcome to 7-Eleven. Do you want gas or tobacco?”

Jaelle floated up a couple of inches to whisper in Mal’s ear. “I guess those are the Petersons— Primrose’s witnesses. I’ll go see if I can find where they keep the cameras.”

She sped off through a series of poorly-stocked shelves of cheap chips and candy. There was a shut door to one side of the garish Big Gulp machine, but she didn’t bother trying to see if it was locked. Jaelle just slid through, her body warming slightly with proximity to the mortal plane.

The hallway behind the door was disappointingly mundane. A bright yellow rolling mop bucket sat overturned in a square basin, its mop hanging above so that the discolored head dropped the occasional plop of murky water. Other cleaning supplies cluttered once-white shelves next to bulky wheels of toilet paper and paper towels. The door to an employees-only bathroom was open, showing stained tile, and crates of merchandise stacked against the walls in lopsided towers.

So much stuff. They’d never be able to take it with them if they left.

Just before the emergency exit on the far end, there was a second door. Jaelle went through into a closet stuffed with a desk stacked with old papers and an HP monitor showing the paused video of their victim’s car. She could see Mal and the witnesses in the live feed minimized in the bottom left corner, but none of the angles caught the edge of the crime scene down the street, and she could tell nothing about the victim’s car from the stilled image.

“Play!” she said, but nothing happened. “Google Assistant, play!”

Jaelle growled. The thing was too outdated for such useful features, and chances were they wouldn’t necessarily work with the program anyway if she’d been listening to Flint right. Hopefully, Mal would have more luck with the Petersons, or the others would find out something about the magic.
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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Fetzen
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Fynn LaPlace



Fynn's white sneakers came to a sudden and no less skidding stop on the office kitchen's ceramic floor tiles as he heard the unmistakable outcry of his colleague. Had they not been pretty white themselves and outfitted with a smooth surface on top of that, he might very well have left some mild rubber marks there that moment.

The IT specialist had started his search here, in one of areas most commonly used by everyone, for just finding Choppy there would have been the easiest imaginable fix for his quite acute issue. If his Arthropleura wasn't idling around here, or in the elevators, or just some random piece of corridor, then he'd have to bite into the very sour apple and invent some fake reason in order to get every single of the other rooms. Also he still was in need of some coffee that could just as well be consumed while on this top-priority job. Now however it seemed that Primrose had been quicker than him. Fynn was happy about the prospect of hours of frantic searching no longer looming over his head, but he was definitely not looking forward to the few moments of lambasting Primrose would happily unleash against him.

Fynn's facial expression therefore perhaps looked more like some shitty computer game's inept attempt to execute a smiling animation than the real thing as he approached the vertically mobile disaster zone called 'elevators'. How the hell had Chobby gotten in there ? The whole team had been out of office so nobody could have called the elevator to stop at this floor, and Choppy certainly wasn't tall enough to push any of those buttons itself... Even if just for debugging his robot pet he certainly had to have a look into the elevator's logs -- assuming that bloody thing had any.

"I'm sorry! I'm really sorry!" Fynn exclaimed and was quick to try and reanimate Choppy by waving his hands in front of its bug eyes. Well, at least these were not as fake as some other things for these technical marvels indeed had quite a few cameras facing into different directions to give more of an allround view! However even some gentle prodding against the polymer carapace did not instigate any movement to occur.

"Erm... do you know that there's a strong correlation between the speed at which the internal batteries drain and the amount of dirt on the floor it's moving over and has to suck in ? So, let's see it this way: at least our part of the building has become a bit more tidy now!"

Fynn reached into his pocket, but found nothing but emptyness. Damn! That second battery pack was still lying around in his office. Normally that would have been a far cry from a problem, but what if Primrose would turn her threat into action and indeed push the elevator button to get herself and Choppy to the rooftop while he was absent for half a minute ?

"I... I strongly suggest not flinging it off the roof! There's absolutely no guarantee that Choppy won't remain functional after that fall and..." Suddenly, Fynn's so far anything but chesty voice turned into something much darker, and if one looked closely into his eyes just at the right moment, one could see how his pupils became narrow dots and his knuckles turned white due to inner tension in his hands. "...there's no guarantee for you to remain functional for long should I find Choppy's debris down there!"

Fynn shook is head. This was not an appropriate time for this! He had to suppress the urge for it was fairly obvious to his inner self that his alter ego would just stop apologizing and instead point out the woman's ignorance towards his work with pinpoint aggression.

"What I meant was... Choppy, if still in working condition, might subsequently continue on his quest and maybe end up in an open-topped car, for example ? Imagine somebody driving on the highway and suddenly this robot you complain about starts crawling from the back seats down along the center console and onto the driver's feet! The driver then might be eager to find the person responsible for putting Choppy into places he was never meant to go!"

Fynn reached for the robot's head and started dragging the thing out of the cabin and down the corridor towards his office. While having to bend down in order to stay in arm's reach of his creation, he apologized once more towards Primrose. That day was ruined for sure... and now he had all reason to look forward even less towards the meeting he still expected to come!
Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by POOHEAD189
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Malcador hid his features well at Jaelle's comments, letting her blow off some steam before she zipped off to fulfill her duty. Often-times it seemed like he was just thorough with her, having a penchant for explaining matters to her and talking to her as if he hadn't mentioned the same thing a half a dozen times, and thoroughness was a part of it. But he felt a brotherly responsibility to her, and as quickly as she learned aspects about the modern world, there was always three things she still didn't know connected to what she did.

He stepped into the store, cellphone at his ear and sunglasses glinting in the reflected sunlight. He cleared his throat, nodding as he passed through the door as if he was listening in on a conversation. Overpriced beef jerky and processed food filled the layout of the store, and a few older folks, a man and a woman, spoke to one another until they noticed he had stepped in. He didn't even look their way, gazing into the back of the store as he conversed on the phone.

"Look, I don't care what they have to say. I want to speak to him, we need this done noon tomorrow. Have him call me back... Just do it." He turned the phone off and slid it into his pocket, turning to face the couple. They couldn't see which of them he was looking at, and he felt that worked for what he was trying to convey. "Hello, are you the Petersons?" When they looked at one another questioningly, he repeated the question.

Malcador could fill almost any role, because he had what an old friend used to call 'hollywood syndrome.' The american public was so used to watching movies with people who looked like supermodels, people who looked beautiful playing police, farmers, secret agents, etc. Most farmers did not look like a young Orlando Bloom, but he could play a farmer if cast. So if Malcador waltzed in wearing a suit and sunglasses with a no nonsense attitude, he had the look of a government official, and his movie-quality facial features subtly enhanced the role.

"We are, who are you?" The husband asked quickly, disrespectfully. Malcador took out his pen and a pad of notepaper with all the casual grace of a professional.

"I'm Agent Walter with the PIK working with the state police. Don't worry, no one's in trouble, but I wanted to ask you a few questions about a car collision that occurred yesterday about six miles from here. I was told you two spotted it, is that correct?" He asked, already writing down what looked like notes, but was actually a continuation of a stick figure, page-flipping animation he was working on.

"Yes, we did." The wife said before her husband could speak. "I apologize about Tom, he doesn't like city-folk." Mal could not help but smile, try as he might to hide it. "We drove by the car, we thought someone was drunk at the wheel. Then later we passed by it, crashed into the ditch. We called the police then."

"Why are you asking us this, wouldn't the police already have told you?" Tom asked suspiciously.

"Mr. Peterson, if you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to worry about, please answer the questions and I'll get our of your hair. Now did you see who was in control of the vehicle? Male, female, black, white?"

"No, we did not." Tom remarked.

"I thought I saw two people in the car," his wife remarked.

"Excuse me, ma'am, what's your name?"

"Debbie. Debbie Peterson."

"Debbie, you say there were two?" Maclador pressed, finally writing down the notes. The erractic driving was one thing, but two passengers? "Any other details, ma'am?"

"No, I don't think so," she said slowly, thinking. As Mal finished scribbling on the pad, a car pulled up out front. He expected a pick-up truck, but it looked like a modified crown vic. Mal's skin began to crawl. He wasn't entirely sure, but only black magic or something similar would do that to him. When one practiced sorcery, anything wrong or at odds with it effected the caster like a prey animal suddenly aware of eyes on it.

"Mr. Peterson, do you have a licensed firearm behind that desk?" Malcador inquired, pointing with his pen past the counter. The man looked at his wife like Malcador was insane.

"What? Yeah, so what?"

You might need it, Mal thought to himself. He cleared his throat and began to categorize what spells he might be able to use to solve whatever situation was about to happen. Mal pressed the button on the back of his pen, a nifty signal to call for Jaelle. He hoped she was close enough to hear his mental shouts of warning.
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She allowed Fynn to ramble on about his hideous creature cleaner for what seemed like hours. Really, they had work to do. Mal and Jaelle seemed to have gone to, she assumed, the gas station to speak to the witnesses, leaving them here to handle what else needed to be done. The magic maybe. There were voodoo elements to it. Plus, Fynn pulled the engine details of the car. Perhaps that would lead them to further clues.

Primrose was about to stop Fynn's rambling to suggest so before he made a very thinly veiled threat. If there was something that Primrose could not abide by, it was a threat. She had no doubts about her own abilities if it came to that, but she also didn't want to have to fight anyone if it could not be helped. "Did you just threaten me? Whatever is going on inside yourself needs a reality check. Keep your gross creature where it is supposed to be and we won't have problems. Now, are you going to continue throwing a hissy fit because your vacuum cleaner nearly got out or do you actually want to help us solve this case?"

As she walked over to the other side of the hallway, past Fynn, she paused and took a deep breath. She got a brief glimpse of her grandma who, after seeing that display, would chastise her. "Sugar, not salt, dear." Primrose turned back to face Fynn. "I am....sorry Fynn. That was out of line. It just surprised me, is all. I don't do well with bugs, mechanical or not." She decided that was enough for now. "Now, please, can we work on this case?"

Hopefully, Fynn would follow since she didn't know technology well. "I'm going to see if I can find a lead on the voodoo element. Can you see if you can find out more about the car since you have its data? That might point us towards where the man worked or frequented, at least."

Primrose debated pulling up Google to search for voodoo places nearby. They were in New Orleans, after all. That would be like asking to find a Starbucks. There was something on every corner. No for this, the results would have to be specific. Mal read the glyphs, so was the message a warning for the man or whoever found him?

She took a shot in the dark. If this was a warning to others, perhaps there was an intended recipient of the message. After all, dead men rarely told tales (though sometimes they did). Was there a gang involved perhaps? Or a coven? A cult? She began punching information into the system. Maybe she would strike gold as she waited for Eleanor to return.
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Jaelle was still standing in the camera room when the car pulled up. Even in the grainy, thumbnail image in the screen’s corner she could tell it was sleek, but after four years of navigating this world, she still couldn’t tell the cars apart other than ‘big’ or ‘small’ or ‘truck.’ Two men stepped out in black suits and sunglasses—not much different from Mal’s “The Authorities” disguise. They just looked like more law enforcement to her, but Mal must have sensed something because his mental shout was enough to rattle her intangible teeth.

Jaelle raced back to the front, taking in the sight of the female gas station owner reaching down for something behind the desk and Mrs. Peterson stepping closer to her husband. They wouldn’t have long before the men entered, but they didn’t seem to be in a hurry. One pointed at the parked cars, and they exchanged a few words.

Mal’s fixation on Sherlock Holmes aside, Jaelle had seen enough Law and Order to know that, in a situation like this, you were supposed to protect the witnesses.

She made herself visible, wearing her own image, but altered slightly, her Roma garb replaced by a copy of one of Eleanor’s blouse-and-skirt combos. The sort that gave the impression that she was the person you ought to trust to know what was going on. So as not to overly startle anyone, Jaelle slipped from around one of the aisles of snacks instead of simply appearing, and wore a smile that she hoped would put the Petersons at ease. “Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Peterson. For your safety, please come with me through the emergency exit while my colleague and the owner find out more about these visitors.”

The gas station owner glared at her. “Where the hell did you come from?” but Mrs. Peterson was well over her head. She seemed glad of any sort of direction.

“Come on, Liam. I think that’s an excellent idea.”

He dug his heels in. “We said we’d wait until—“

“Until the authorities came, yes. And it looks like they’re here.” Debbie Peterson hauled her protesting husband to the door where Jaelle stood and reached for the handle.

It didn’t turn.

The gas station owner cursed. “Here, I’ll get—“


The distorted electric bell chimed with the arrival of the two men. The one in the front took off his glasses, revealing warm, gold eyes set in a well-structured face. His skin was dark, and his hair buzzed nearly to his scalp. He looked at Mal, at the gas station owner, and finally toward Jaelle and the Petersons. He sighed and his partner, a shorter man with a wealth of curling blond hair, shrugged. “Told you we’d need a cleaner.”

Gold-eyes reached into his jacket and pulled out a silenced pistol.
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Fynn LaPlace


Only now it was that Fynn could feel the small beads of sweat that had formed on his forehead and in his neck in full spite of the aircon running. Behind her charming appearance, Primrose certainly was a force to be reckoned with and the IT specialist had not been looking forward to taking the full brunt of a nicely executed verbal offensive. It seemed however that, for now, both he and Choppy had been spared from his coworker's wrath.

"That was what I had planned to do next." Fynn replied appreciatively. He was looking forward to... getting himself out of the way, or rather his alter ego whose appearance had been quite short-lived and no less superficial fortunately. Hiding in the fortress that was his office, feasting upon the vast supply of electronics and data and feeling safe behind the fact that others could not so easily understand his algorithms was just the thing he had hoped for.

"I will tell you once I've found out something interesting." Having said this, Fynn began his retreat with his phone firmly in his hand to place an order for pizza. There was a small restaurant that had become his favorite not just for the taste of the food, but also for some additional options such as 'drone delivery'. No need to take an elevator down or to expose his eating habits to anyone else by letting a foreign guy walk around the offices with a stack of pizza in his hands. An open window was all that was needed and really, his office could use some fresh air anyway!

A few minutes later however, he had already descended into a state of focus onto the three screens in front of him so deep that the sound of the incoming drone nearly failed to grab his attention. Or perhaps it was just that a drone approaching said window no longer was much on an uncommon event for him ? The fast food cast a smile on his face, but so did another discovery... He took the whole pizza package with him towards Primrose's part of the building, but at least took the time to knock at her door politely before entering.

"Hey! Did you know that the car had a built-in navigation system ?" and his teeth snatched away another small bit of pizza before he continued: "I got the record of destinations and routes the vicitm requested recently. If we..." -- a small bit of chewing interrupted Fynn -- "if we correlate the places in the city where he was over the last couple of days or weeks with your findings, we could narrow down the list to a set of places with an increased likelihood of being actually related to the case."

Fynn stood there halfway in the door for a few more moments, then stepped further into the room. "Want some, too ? It's delicious! Oh, erm... we might also have a chance to find out where the poor guy lived. Don't they say that the murderers often come from within the victim's own family ?"
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