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Sunday, 9th March, 2008, 01:33 PM #81
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
Puppet Shows and Shadow Plays: Part 1b – Welcome to Phoenix
“Okay, so here’s the latest.” Archive brought up the information on their next mission on everyone’s Cistrons. Not that it was necessary; they had a big screen television in the van too.
People had begun disappearing near the southern edge of the San Carlos Indian Reservation, west of Phoenix, Arizona. The first people missed were an elderly couple, the Curtleys; they were due at their son’s home for dinner a month ago. The Curtley’s car was found on State Road 70 with a flat tire, but there was no sign of the Curtleys. At a nearby gas station on State Road 70 an attendant, Felix Royos, disappeared while working the night shift two days after the Curtleys vanished. Four days later, Ed Stoltz and Chris Martin were reported missing while fishing on the Coolidge Dam reservoir, less than four miles from State Road 70. Their camp was found abandoned, with no signs of violence or emergency.
“As the Arizona highway patrol and the Apache tribal police began to investigate, they noticed more disappearances connected to the area,” said Archive. “The abandoned rental cars of two European couples—Rolf Trautner and Fred Ollenburg, and Mr. and Mrs. Van Olson—were found two weeks ago. Both cars were on the side of State Road 70, and neither showed signs of sabotage or mechanical failure. An Apache sheep rancher, Victorio Begay, as well as his wife and two teenage sons, vanished from their beds, leaving their flock unattended for at least a week.”
“Let me guess,” said Jim-Bean. “State Road 70?”
“Right,” said Archive. “Fifteen miles out.”
“The FBI is treating it as a kidnapping,” said Hammer. “So that’s our cover. Blade’s team leader on this mission.”
“Did I hear Drake correctly?” asked Guppy in his thick Indian accent, “or are we getting a new agent?”
“I heard that too,” said Jim-Bean. “Guess Drake’s already calling in the second string.”
“But we completed our missions!” said Guppy with enthusiasm. “…right?”
Hammer shrugged. “We’ll meet Agent Caprice at the Phoenix police station.”
They passed a road sign that pointed to Route 70, southbound.
“This Road 70 sounds like a bad place” said Jim-Bean.
“They call it the Devil’s Highway,” said Blade, driving the van.
“How do you know that?” asked Guppy.
Blade never took his eyes off the road. “Because I used to live here.”
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Monday, 10th March, 2008, 11:25 AM #82
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
Puppet Shows and Shadow Plays: Part 2a – The Begay Ranch
Archive and Hammer approached a man they caught sight of while investigating the Begay family’s ranch. He was just sitting there on his own porch in a rocking chair, watching them. When Archive tried to ask the man if he’d seen anything unfamiliar, he responded in what Archive could only guess was Apache.
“Blade? This is Archive. We have a local here who either unwilling or unable to speak with us. Can you translate?”
“Be right there.”
Blade was over in a few minutes. The grizzled old Apache sprung up from his chair at the sight of him.
“Blade? Jake Blade? Is that you?”
Archive huffed with the realization that the man could speak English. Hammer just smiled.
Blade smiled and shook his hand. “Yes?”
“Name’s John Rope.” He took Blade’s hand and pumped it. “You should have beaten Rodriguez in that match, man. You were robbed.”
“I know,” said Blade. “But that’s old news. What can you tell me about the Begays?”
Rope nodded. “Victorio had complained that someone was stealing his sheep these past two months. They were disappearing without a trace. Even coyotes leave carrion, but whatever this thing was, it did not. The night before he disappeared, Victorio told me he was going to sit out all night with his rifle until he caught the culprit.”
“Thanks, that’s helpful.” Blade flashed the man another smile. “If you remember anything else, please don’t hesitate to contact the police. They’ll get in touch with us.”
“Will do, Blade.” As they walked away, he called over his shoulder. “What that whore did to you, sucked, man! You deserve better than Christine Dee!”
Blade’s smile disappeared.
“Guys,” came Jim-Bean’s voice over the Cistrons. “You’d better take a look at this.”
Tuesday, 11th March, 2008, 11:19 AM #83
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
Puppet Shows and Shadow Plays: Part 2b – The Begay Ranch
Caprice stood alone under the watchful eye of Guppy and Jim-Bean. They followed him around the property, pretending they weren’t. He knew they didn’t trust him.
Caprice was focusing on the vultures. They were circling in a particular area.
He positioned himself beneath them. Then Caprice looked down at the ground.
The ground beneath his feet was damp and spongy. It didn’t feel right.
Caprice reached down and scraped away some dirt with one hand. It came away easily, too easily in the arid desert air. It was if an animal had been digging there.
Perhaps encouraged by Caprice’s actions, Jim-Bean and Guppy pointed excitedly at the ground. Then they left.
Caprice returned to digging. He was sure he was onto something. The dirt was harder in some parts, hard enough for…
He wiped away some more soil, only to reveal something bone white.
Behind him, Guppy returned with two shovels. He and Jim-Bean started to dig at another spot.
Caprice kept digging with his hands. He pulled up great clumps of dirt. The white, hard mass was a skull.
“Mother trucker!” shouted Guppy. He stumbled backwards from where he had been digging. Jim-Bean turned away and retched, hunched over on his knees.
Caprice stood up. “What is it?”
“Bodies,” shouted Guppy. “I think it’s…the Begay family…” He dropped the shovel.
“I think I found a grave too...” Caprice looked down at the dirt where he had been digging. The recently unearthed soil was a different color. Now that he knew what it looked like, it was easier to spot from far away.
“Sorry, didn’t copy that?” asked Blade over the Cistron. “Did you say you found a grave too?”
Caprice’s eyes widened as he looked out across the ranch. “I may have underestimated…” was all he said.
Dotting the landscape were dozens of mounds just like the one he had dug up.
Wednesday, 12th March, 2008, 12:55 PM #84
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
Puppet Shows and Shadow Plays: Part 2c – The Begay Ranch
Soon a swarm of police personnel were on the Begay ranch with a bulldozer.
The agents were huddled around in a circle, all except for Blade, who stood off to the side with Colorados.
“Forensics found multiple needle-like wounds in all the carcasses so far,” said Caprice, shouting over the beeping of the bulldozer backing up. “They pierced the heart and lungs of all the humans the sheep.”
“Blowgun darts?” asked Archive.
“Don’t think so,” said Caprice. “But there was traces of a tranquilizer evident in all the carcasses’ nervous systems.”
“What kind of tranquilizer?” asked Guppy.
“Don’t know,” said Caprice. “It’s not anything that exists in nature.”
Jim-Bean took a deep breath. “Well gents, I’d say that since this seems like less than your usual serial killer on the loose, who also has a fondness for sheep, we can safely assume that there’s something a bit paranormally off about the whole situation, yes?”
“That’s not the only weird thing,” said Blade, interrupting the conversation. They team became silent when they saw Colorados trail behind him within earshot.
“Oh?” asked Hammer.
“There are coyote tracks everywhere. But they disappear a few hundred yards out.”
“I’m sure coyote tracks are everywhere,” said Jim-Bean. “And surely the desert…”
“Have we got anything else?” asked Blade quickly.
Archive nodded. “I took a look at the satellite images to see if there’s anywhere a predator of this size might hide out. It looks like there’s a cave formation about eight miles from here.”
“Caves,” said Jim-Bean. “Great. You know it’s almost nightfall…”
“Gear up,” said Blade. “We’re moving out now.”
Jim-Bean approached Garrett. “You’re a big tough fellow, right?”
Garrett laughed. “Tougher than one of you tea-swillin’ Brits, damn straight.”
“I realize that we’re out in the middle of nowhere, but I’m sure a manly man like you has access to a wealth of material, specifically nightvision goggles. We could use a few pairs.”
Garrett laughed even harder. “You’re with the Fed, boy! Go buy yourself some with yer fancy pants budget you get from all those drug deals in Columbia.”
Jim-Bean rolled his eyes. “Conspiracy theory. Choice.”
“Move out,” ordered Blade.
Caprice leaned in close to Garrett. “Seriously, we could use any resources you’ve got.”
Garrett shook his head. “You think I got those kind of resources?” he whispered. “We’re lucky we can put together candles and a match!”
Caprice thanked the big man and left with the rest of the team. That left Colorados and Blade.
Colorados crossed his arms. “You knew what those tracks meant,” he said. “Why didn’t you tell them?”
Blade shook his head. “Because I don’t think they’d believe Coyote exists. I’m not sure I believe in him myself.”
Thursday, 13th March, 2008, 12:42 PM #85
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
Puppet Shows and Shadow Plays: Part 3a – The Sacred Cave
When night fell in the Arizona Desert, it went from scorching hot to freezing cold. With no trees to protect the land, a cold blew through the landscape that chilled everything it touched. Blade drove the van in the darkness. The distant lights of the Begay ranch were the only evidence of civilization for miles around.
The vision struck Blade hard.Blade snapped out of the vision as the van struck a large cactus.He was standing naked under the night sky in the chill desert mountains. A coyote howled.
He turned to see a large coyote staring down at him from a nearby boulder. The coyote tossed its head, turned away, and led him toward the cave. With the coyote in tow, they wended their way down fissures in the mesas and rock hills until they arrived at a cave mouth, from which ran a shallow stream.
Blade’s nostrils were suddenly assaulted by the smell of blood—the stream was running red. The coyote howled mournfully. Blade got the sense that something dark and malevolent was stirring in the cave.
Wind, with the stench of abattoir, rushed from the cave mouth as a flailing shadow began to emerge…
“What the hell!” shouted Jim-Bean.
Blade shook his head to clear the cobwebs. “Sorry. It just popped up in front of me.”
Caprice hopped out of the van and came back a few seconds later. “Front wheel is busted.”
“Great, now what do we do?” asked Guppy.
“Now we walk,” said Blade. “Get your gear, only what you can carry.”
“Wait, we’re WALKING there?” asked Jim-Bean. “Do we even know how to find this cave?”
“I know how to find it,” said Blade.
“And how exactly do you—“
“I KNOW how to FIND it,” Blade said forcefully. He clicked on a flashlight and the beam tore through the darkness, illuminating at patch of desert sand. “Follow me.”
Friday, 14th March, 2008, 12:39 PM #86
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
Puppet Shows and Shadow Plays: Part 3b – The Sacred Cave
The cave was windblown and dark, but it twisted and turned.
“Guppy, Caprice you two stay out on watch out here,” said Blade. “The rest of you are with me.”
They crept slowly, shifting their flashlight beams to and fro like searchlights in a fog. Blade’s foot hit something and it skittered across the room, echoing as it went.
“Oh, that’d be the skull…” began Jim-Bean.
Blade turned the beam on the source of the sound. There were three bodies. The first two were little more than knife-marked bones. The third was drained of blood and partially devoured.
“…of a victim,” he finished.
There was the unmistakable crack of a rifle shot followed by Guppy’s yelp.
They rushed to the front of the cave. Caprice had dragged Guppy further into the cave, leaving a smear of blood behind them.
“Mother TRUCKER!” shouted Guppy, bleeding from a wound in his shoulder.
“What happened?” asked Blade.
“Somebody shot Guppy!” shouted Caprice.
Jim-Bean unholstered his HK-G36 and turned on the heat vision scope. He crept up to the mouth of the cave, scanning the countryside.
“See anything?” whispered Hammer, who had his pistol out.
Jim-Bean turned to look at Hammer. “Nothing,” he said. “Nothing but a lot of cold desert.” Jim-Bean put his eye to the scope again and then shrieked, firing a burst.
The others had their weapons out, pointing in every direction.
“What? WHAT?!” shouted Archive.
“There was a…” Jim-Bean was panting. “This big dog…in the scope. Right in front of me.”
“I didn’t see anything and I was right next to you,” said Hammer.
“I know what I saw,” said Jim-Bean. “It was a big, bloody dog.”
“So Guppy got sniped by a dog?”
“No,” said Blade grimly. “What you saw was a coyote.”
“That’s some coyote,” muttered Jim-Blade.
“It wasn’t an ordinary coyote. That’s THE Coyote. The guardian spirit of my tribe.” He rolled up one sleeve and flashed a light on his bulging bicep. A stylized coyote head was tattooed on his arm.
Archived had his medical kit out. He probed Guppy’s wound. The Indian winced. “The bullet went straight through his shoulder. That was some caliber rifle.”
“Guys,” wheezed Guppy, “I think I should go to the hospital…”
Blade dialed a number on his Cistron.
“Who are you calling?” asked Caprice.
“Palmer, a shaman I know,” said Blade. “He’ll have some insight into all this stuff.”
“Shh!” said Jim-Bean. “What was that?”
They all quieted down. It was faint but unmistakable.
Blade couldn’t hear it. “Why isn’t he picking up?” he snarled at the phone in frustration.
“Blade…” said Jim-Bean.
Blade was focused on his Bluetooth headset. “C’mon, pick up…”
“Blade!” said Jim-Bean. He took the earpiece out of Blade’s ear. “Listen.”
It was the sound of a cell phone ringing.
Friday, 14th March, 2008, 11:32 PM #87
Novice (Lvl 1)
That is so creepy!Originally Posted by talien
Interesting sig coming soon.
Saturday, 15th March, 2008, 10:52 AM #88
Good Job, eh! Keep it up!~
Saturday, 15th March, 2008, 02:00 PM #89
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
Puppet Shows and Shadow Plays: Part 4a – Santana’s Run
The next day, Archive sent a series of documents with a timeline to all of their Cistrons. “I think I found a pattern.”
They were standing in the waiting room of the Arizona Hospital, waiting for Guppy to be released. His wound was bad but not life threatening. Guppy insisted on being released early so he could tag along.
Blade, distraught over the death of his family friend, asked what Archive had found.
“Check this out: First, there’s a meteor shower in West Virginia. Then, there’s a rash of unexplained disappearances and cattle mutilations in the area. Nine people disappeared. Suspicion fell on Mack Tooley, who promptly shot himself in the head.”
“So that should be the end of that,” said Caprice.
“But the trail doesn’t end there,” continued Archive. “A medical examiner in the Lowery County area, Dr. Brenton Clark, was found with throat contusions in his Nashville apartment.”
“So?” asked Hammer.
“The last job Clark did was an autopsy on Tooley.”
“So you’re saying this is an alien?” asked Jim-Bean. “That’s what you’re saying, right?”
“I originally thought it was a demon who could hop from body to body,” said Archive. “Back when I was hunting the Cannibal Killer. I picked up on the trail in Nashville, Tennessee, when twenty-one homeless people disappeared in three weeks. The suspect, Willard Franklin of the St. Bartholomew’s Shelter for the Homeless, committed suicide by strangling himself to death. I tracked the last person to be seen with Franklin, an Elijah Jackson, to New Orleans. Jackson was shot by David Charles. But I lost track of Charles.”
“You X-Investigations guys are busy,” said Jim-Bean.
Archive nodded. “Charles left for Houston a week later. Two days after that…”
“Don’t tell me,” said Hammer, scanning the newspaper reports that flashed across his Cistron, fed by Archive. “He died of strangulation.”
“Right,” said Archive. “Two months ago there were a number of prostitute murders in Houston.” A map flickered on their screens, indicating the path the murderer had taken. “Police eventually suspected Kenneth Braverman. When they closed in on him, he murdered his children, kidnapped his wife, and fled Houston.”
“How does that bring him to Arizona?” asked Blade.
Archive shrugged helplessly. “I’m not sure, but there’s got to be a connection. The path leads in this direction from the southeast.”
Blade’s Cistron rang. He picked it up. “Yes?”
It was Garrett. “We found a car, about fifteen miles southeast of the Begay ranch. Body’s identified as Kenneth Braverman.”
“Was there any sign of a woman in the car?” asked Blade.
“Nope,” said Garrett. “Why do you ask?”
“We think the murderer might be a woman.”
“Hell, you city slickers don’t know nothin’, do ya?” Garrett shouted into the phone. “My boys got a bloody print off the bones in the cave. And it ain’t no chick.”
“Who is it?” asked Blade. He was losing patience with the man’s ego.
“Master Sergeant Emanuel Santana. He’s a real bad ass too. Deserted the U.S. Army Special Forces in 1972 while on leave to attend his mother’s funeral. He was on detached duty to the CIA’s operation PHOENIX in South Vietnam. This job’s got the U.S. Army CIC, the U.S. Marshal’s Service, and the CIA all over it.”
“Great,” said Blade.
“You wanted night vision goggles? You got it. This case is now an oh-fish-SHAL federal investigation. You boys can keep it.” He hung up.
Blade sighed. “This investigation just got a lot more complicated.”
Saturday, 15th March, 2008, 05:03 PM #90
Holy crap ... I love this story hour!
My only complaint is: Who in their right mind takes a SIG 245 as a sidearm, it's a compact... only 6 shots. *sigh*