Saturday, 5th April, 2008, 04:56 AM #121
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Dire Wavelengths - PrologueLife is a series of hellos and goodbyes
I'm afraid it's time for goodbye again
Say goodbye to Hollywood
Say goodbye, my baby
--Say Goodbye to Hollywood by Billy JoelThe Rising had barely finished setting up and performing a sound check when people began filtering into the room. All were dressed to the nines, though the attire varied. Some came in suits, others in dress reminiscent of Victorian England. Still others looked like doctors, bankers, rap stars, and gang members. They all gathered around tables, each with their own posse, which made for a crowded room. Nobody was dancing.
The Rising started to play, timidly at first. The men looked on, whispering amongst themselves. Spider wisely switched gears to songs you could talk around, although they still involved a lot of screaming. It just took longer for him to reach the screaming part.
Blade sat down. He was dreaming. Again.
"Oh good, you're here," said a smooth voice.
Jake knew who would be sitting across the table from him this time. It was a thin, fine-looking Arab. He was dressed impeccably in a white suit.
“Hi Jacob. How are you?”
“I’m good. I did what you told me to do.”
“Yeah, that was great. I loved that part where you rammed the Humvee. And that whole thing about terrorists…” Alzis shook his head. “You know they’re saying it’s Al-Qaeda? Can you believe that? Now terrorists are attacking movie directors for their portrayal of ‘loose women in film’. Ridiculous!”
“Yeah, ridiculous,” said Blade.
Alzis glanced down at his own drink. “How rude of me! What are you having?”
“I’m fine,” muttered Blade.
“Oh, right, right. You don’t drink. I keep forgetting.” He paused. “So let’s talk about you. How you feeling? Have you talked to Christine lately? Called her up? Shot the breeze?”
“You know I haven’t.”
“Right, right. Ever since that whole alcoholism thing, hmm? Tough situation, very tough. That kind of thing needs to be handled delicately. Really.”
“But you’re not a delicate kind of guy, are you? Look, Jacob. I’m in a real bind here. We’re working on a timeline, so I’m going through the trouble of popping in and out of your head multiple times.” He gestured at the walls of the club. “I’ve got to say, there’s some pretty scary stuff in here.”
“Thanks,” said Blade.
“No need to thank me! I’m just trying to be helpful. I really want you back in your son Alex’s life. I think it might change things for the better, you know what I mean? And what’s more important than a father’s love for his son?”
Blade just looked at him.
“Nothing, that’s what. So here’s the deal: go to the Excelsior Hotel on the corner of Maple. Stop Christine from going to the movie set today in twenty minutes.” Alzis tapped his watch. “Time’s ticking buddy, tick-tock, tick-tock.”
“You said that last time,” said Blade. “Would it be too much to give me a little more of a heads up?”
Alzis looked offended. “Hey now, that’s no way to talk to a friend. I wasn’t going to tell you at all, but you’re going to be dead in a few weeks so I figured I’d…oops.” He put his finger to his lips. “Did I just let that slip? I’m sorry. You’re running out of time.”
“Wait, what?” Blade stood up. “Are you threatening me?”
“Threatening you? No!” Alzis shook his head. “I’m trying to help. But we’re wasting time just talking here. Beep. Beep. BEEP. BEEP!”
Last edited by talien; Tuesday, 17th March, 2009 at 12:54 PM.
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Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Dire Wavelenths: Part 1 – The Excelsior Hotel
HOLLYWOOD, CA -- The Excelsior Hotel was just fifteen minutes away. After waiting for his teammates to gear up and get in the van, he covered the distance in ten.
“Christine!” Blade shouted into the phone.
“Who is this?”
“It’s Jake. Listen, you’ve got to—“
“Are you drunk?”
“I told you to stop calling me, Jake. I want you out of my life and out of Alex’s. I don’t need you to mess things up anymore. Things are just turning around for me.”
“Don’t call me again, Jake.” She hung up.
Blade rang the phone again several times, but Christine wouldn’t pick up.
“Guppy, can you trace this phone number?”
“Trace the phone number of your ex-wife?” asked Guppy. “Sure…” He tapped away at the keyboard in the van. “No luck. I think she turned off her phone.”
They reached the hotel. Blade ran in along with Hammer and Guppy.
“I’m looking for Christine Dee,” said Blade, flashing his badge at the concierge at the front desk.
“That’s nice, sir. We don’t give out personal information for any of our clients.”
Hammer sighed and leaned forward. “I wonder if we should inspect this place. I bet we might find something wrong with it. What do you think, Blade?”
The man swallowed. “Let me see…” He tapped a few keys. “She just left a few minutes ago in a limousine.”
”Do you know where?”
The man looked at Blade like he was nuts. “Doesn’t everyone? She’s filming on the set of Curse of the Undead.”
Blade tapped the counter with a knuckle. “Thanks.”
“Who are you people?” shouted the concierge.
“Oh don’t worry…” Guppy shouted back. “Just her ex-husband.”
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Dire Wavelengths: Part 2 – The Soundstage
What was once an abandoned desert airport was transformed into a low-budget soundstage. With no lease and only a token rent, Vanvon reasoned the isolation would be good for creativity.
Blade flashed his badge to the guard at the front gate and kept on running. Archive, Hammer, and Guppy trailed behind.
The crew was laughing at something. Christine Dee and Allen Roberts had just engaged in what looked like a kiss in front of a window.
“This is DRAMA, you ignorant cretin!” shouted the portly Derik Vanvon. “What the HELL is going on?”
The laughter died quickly.
“I know the script calls for my animal magnetism, but I thought a light moment might be more…”
“SHUT UP!” shouted Vanvon. “You’re not a comic—you’re a BUFFOON.”
Two men of average height with athletic builds, dressed in casual clothes covered by windbreakers approached. Each had a mustache and extremely short hair.
“Hold it buddy,” said one of the security guards. “Who are you?”
“Think they recognize us?” Guppy whispered out of the corner of his mouth.
Blade shushed him. “I’m Jake…” he paused. “Iron Shirt.”
“Jake?” The man’s eyebrows shot up. “Jake Blade? What the hell happened to you man? Rule number one in security: never get involved with a client!”
“Yeah, thanks for the advice. Listen, I need to talk to my ex-wife.”
“Don’t we all,” said the other guard, snickering. “You have to leave. You can’t be here.”
“I’m a federal agent.”
“I don’t care who you are,” said the guard. “We have specific orders to keep you off the set.”
Behind them, a wiry man of just under average height, dressed in jeans, a stained sweatshirt, a long leather coat, sunglasses, and carrying a messenger bag over his shoulder. He was clearly suspicious, but the guards were so focused on Blade that they had missed him.
Hammer didn’t miss him. He edged over.
The man was about to reach into his pocket just as Blade poked a pistol in the man’s ribs. “Easy. Put your hands up. Slowly.”
The man slowly took the item out of his pocket. It was a Desert Eagle.
Hammer got the bodyguards’ attention. “You guys may want to pay a little more attention to the real threats to the stars here,” said Hammer. “This man is carrying a gun and he’s NOT a federal agent.”
One of the guards plucked the gun out of the man’s hand.
Blade squinted at him. “You? You’re the threat?”
“I’M the threat? I’m trying to protect Christine from her crazy ex-husband!”
Blade turned to the security guard. “This is Carey Vora. He’s a real nut. She has a restraining order against him for stalking. I dealt with him years ago.”
Vanvon was still ranting. “Follow my direction and my camera will convince the world that even a SNIVELING idiot MILQUETOAST like you can be a hero.”
“You’re wrong,” said Carey. “You’re the stalker!”
Guppy rifled through the man’s bag. “Duct tape. A knife. A sock.”
“Looks like a kidnapping kit to me,” said Hammer.
“Miss Dee, since you seem INCAPABLE of delivering even a SINGLE line with conviction,” ranted Vanvon, “let’s continue with you doing the scene in DISHABELLE.”
There was the screech of metal overhead and the lighting above snapped.
Blade and Hammer rushed forward. Blade tackled Christine and Hammer grabbed Allen, shoving them out of the way just in time as the lighting structure collapsed where they had stood.
That was all Vora needed. He grabbed the pistol from the stunned security guard and turned it on the prone Blade…
Archive slammed into Vora, tackling him to the ground. He put his full weight on the stalker’s chest, pinning his arms.
Christine was also pinned beneath Blade. Their eyes met.
“You can have visitation rights once a month,” breathed Christine.
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Dire Wavelengths: Conclusion
“Are you done using my van for your stupid personal problems?” snarled Drake, chewing Blade out for his actions.
“Yeah,” Blade said glumly.
“You’re going to turn Majestic-12 into COPS if you keep this up.”
“Look,” Drake’s voice softened. “I picked you, all of you, because you’ve dealt with some weird things in your past. So I expect you to deal with it. But you’ve got to do it in on MJ-12 terms. I want field reports. I want you to act like you’re part of an organization, or I will bounce your ass out of it. And nobody leaves MJ-12 alive. Do we have an understanding?”
That seemed to mollify Drake somewhat. “Good. I’ve got Caprice filling out the paperwork for the last mission. He’ll be busy for weeks at this rate. You owe him.”
“I’ll be sure to remember that.”
“Right,” said Drake. “Anything else you want to tell me?”
“Good. Get some rest, Blade, you look like crap.”
Blade shut off his Cistron in the hotel room.
As he lay down, he wondered how he would spend his last few weeks alive.
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Chapter 6: Love’s Lonely Children - Introduction
This scenario, “Loves Lonely Children,” is from the Cthulhu Now supplement “The Stars Are Right” by Richard Watts. You can read more about Delta Green at http://www.delta-green.com. Please note: This story hour contains spoilers!
Our cast of characters includes:
- Game Master: Michael Tresca
- Hank “Guppy” Gupta (Smart Hero) played by Joseph Tresca
- Jake “Blade” Iron Shirt (Strong Hero) played by Matt Hammer
- Joseph “Archive” Fontaine (Dedicated Hero) played by Joe Lalumia
- Kurtis "Hammer" Grange (Fast Hero) played by George Webster
This is probably the nastiest scenario we played to date.
Love’s Lonely Children primarily takes place in a two-story hovel. But of course, that’s not how things go down. Once again, the PCs provided me a gift in splitting up (they seem to enjoy splitting up), creating a cinematic effect where Hammer investigates what happened at the house while the other three agents tracked the bad guys down.
I was surprised that the action moved beyond the house and that the agents didn’t move earlier. But in the end, it was even spookier.
There’s one problem with this scenario, and that’s the bad guy. Put plainly, unless the agents do something boring like calling the police without investigating the place themselves, or something totally psychotic like attacking presumably innocent people with no evidence, when the bad guy does finally show up the agents are dead meat. There’s one “out” that the scenario provides that I used as a last resort when it became clear that the villain was going to eat the entire party.
We used the “Tower of Sanity” to good effect this game. At the end, Guppy’s player had to pull twelve times from the Tower—a very tense moment. It also proved my point about having sanity loss be more in the PC’s hands. If Guppy had failed his sanity check, all the agents would have been massacred.
Defining Moment: Hammer, without my prompting, split from the rest of the team to search out the cultist house. I went back and forth between the two scenes so that Hammer discovered the true nature of the thing in a picture just as the agents encountered it face-to-face.
- The Hand That Feeds: by Nine Inch Nails.
- The Stars Are Right: The original source of this scenario, for Cthulhu Now.
- Fargo: I used the scene from Fargo as my inspiration for the chase.
- What's Eating Gilbert Grape?: For the huge Edith, I pictured Bonnie Grape (played by Darlene Cates) from What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.
- Worlds of Cthulhu #2: I used the round by round growth chart from Worlds of Cthulhu to deal with the mechanics of turning into…well, you’ll see.
- Ramsey Campbell's Goatswood and Less Pleasant Places: The source of Blade's nightmare.
Last edited by talien; Thursday, 17th April, 2008 at 12:40 PM.
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Love's Lonely Children: Prologue
Blade’s Cistron chirped. He picked it up. “Hello?”Just how deep do you believe?
Will you bite the hand that feeds?
Will you chew until it bleeds?
Can you get up off your knees?
Are you brave enough to see?
Do you want to change it?
--The Hand That Feeds by Nine Inch Nails
“Jake? Jake, is that you?”
“How the hell are you!”
“I’m…I could be better. Listen, I saw what you did with your ex-wife there. Good save.”
Blade frowned. The news reports had barely mentioned him. Drake made it a habit of keeping a running tally every time Jake’s name showed up, keeping a scorecard of his publicity. And Drake was never satisfied with anything less than zero.
“Uh, thanks. How’d you get this number?”
“I called the FBI and they routed it to you. Are you near a telly?”
Blade looked around the hotel room. That was Drake’s doing. One didn’t just call someone up on their Cistron. “Yeah.”
“Turn to Channel Seven news.”
Blade fumbled for the remote with his other hand and switched on the television.
“…body of Katherine Louise Hammond, a seventeen old prostitute of no fixed address, was discovered early this morning in downtown Caufield Park by city workers. Pieces of the body wrapped in black plastic bags were found in several garbage cans along the edge of the park’s ornamental lake.”
The story was complete with on-the-scene interviews and moody shots of Caulfield Park at dawn.
“Who’s this?” asked Blade.
“Keep watching,” said Spider.
“…the corpse was crudely dismembered with a heavy instrument, possibly an axe. Numerous savage bite wounds also marked the body. These wounds, although definitely human, indicate a possible jaw or facial deformity of distinctive appearance. Hammond’s boyfriend, David ‘Spider’ Holloway, a musician with a popular underground bad called The Rising, is currently assisting police with the enquiries.”
“Damn,” said Blade. “So you’re considered a suspect?”
“Person of interest, yeah. Jake, I need your help. You used to be great security for us in the past, and since you’re in California anyway…” Spider rushed ahead in his speech, “Samson’s just a few hours away and I thought—“
“Did you do it?”
“What? F*&k no, how could you ask me that? I was in love with her, man.”
“You’re asking me to risk my hide to save you, so I thought I should ask.”
“The day before she died…we were debating about whether or not to be tested. I thought we should, she didn’t…”
“Don’t blame yourself, Spider.”
The television report continued. “…forensics established that Hammond’s body showed evidence of heroin use in the hours preceding her death…”
“She wasn’t high, Jake. I know that for a fact. She gave up shooting and was clean for over a week.”
“I’ll check it out. Got her address?”
“Yeah.” Spider gave him the address. “And Jake?”
”When you find this guy…I want you to make him suffer.”
“You can count on it.”
Blade hung up the phone. A second later a text message flashed through. It was from Drake, with a mission briefing to all of the team’s Cistrons. Another message came in immediately afterwards, just to him.
The text read, “YOU’RE WELCOME.”
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Love's Lonely Children: Part 1 – The Squat
SAMSON, CA -- Like a cancer in an otherwise healthy body, the ramshackle house that was Kathy’s squat stood out clearly on an otherwise ordinary city street. Broken glass gleamed in its windows, wooden boards nailed behind the shards. Across its gray brick façade was painted the words, “Need a home? Here’s one. Anarchy.”
Instead of a front door, a rusty slab of corrugated iron was nailed over the doorframe. Blade lifted it open at one corner, providing entrance to the dark and dirty place. The rest of the team filed in behind him.
If misery had an odor, it smelled like the inside of the squat—stale, damp, and slightly rotten.
A human form was huddled on the sagging couch in the lounge-room, watching the rats play amongst the ruins of his life.
“Hi,” he said.
The man wasn’t a pretty sight: sunken eyes, bruised skin, cracked lips, and matted hair. His emaciated frame was racked with tremors.
“Who are you?” asked Blade.
“Matthew…” he said, his voiced slurred.
“Do you know a Kathy Hammond?”
“Oh yeah, I remember Kathy…”
“Where is she?”
“You got any smack?”
“What?” asked Blade. “No.”
“Front me some man, you’ve gotta front me some…and I’ll tell you where Kathy is.”
Hammer rolled his eyes. “We’re not drug dealers.”
Matthew made an animal-like noise and then began sulkily searching among the litter on the floor for a syringe, scraping powdered remains of heroin out of discarded foils.
“I think I found it,” said Archive.
The bedroom that was Kathy’s was little larger than a closet. A stained mattress covered most of the floor; the rest scattered with clothes, cosmetics, and assorted rubbish. A collage of faces cut from magazines and newspapers covered one wall.
Archive picked up a magazine. “Huh, Girltalk,” he said, reading the cover aloud. He opened it and winced. It was a pornographic publication featuring photos of naked men in various provocative poses.
Blade squinted at the cover. “Interesting. The sticker on the back cover gives the name of Hammonds Adult Books along with an address.”
Guppy picked up a photograph of three people: a weaselish man with thinning, ginger hair, and a grossly overweight woman. The shape of the third person was carefully cut out of the picture. Part of a storefront appeared in the background of the photo, on which parts of the words “Hammonds Adult Books” could be seen.
“I don’t know where the missing picture is,” said Guppy.
“I do.” Hammer pointed at one of the photos pasted among the montage of rich and famous faces glued on the wall. It was Kathy, in her schoolgirl uniform, her hair in braids.
“I guess we know where we’re going next,” said Blade.
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Love's Lonely Children: Part 2 – Hammonds Adult Books
The street consisted of small storefronts with apartments above. Hammonds was sandwiched between a butcher’s shop and a place specializing in electronic goods. A green sedan was parked out front. The bookshop’s front window was painted over, and the words “Hammonds Adult Books” lettered upon it. A handwritten sign on the door warned patrons not to enter if “nudity offends.” The hours indicated it was open from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m., six days a week.
As they pulled up, a woman entered—rare in a place whose customers were most often nervous adolescents and skulking men. She was wrapped in a coat and scarf. Moments after she entered, a “Closed” sign appeared in the front window and the door was locked.
Hammer went down the alleyway to cover any escapes from the rear entrance. Blade, Archive, and Guppy knocked on the door.
After more insistent knocking, an unremarkable, weak, unassuming man answered the door. He was older and balder than he appeared in the discarded photograph.
“We’re closed,” he snapped.
Blade pressed his badge against the window. “We’re federal agents. We’d like to speak with you a moment.”
“I said we’re closed…”
Blade put his foot in the door. “We can do this the hard way or the easy way.”
The man sighed. “Fine, come in.”
Inside, the fluorescent-lit store was stocked with inflatable plastic sex dolls, row after row of shrink-wrapped magazines, clinically gleaming toys of plastic, leather and steel, and a glass-topped counter displaying dope pipes, condoms, and lubricants. Presiding over it all, leering at the agents from behind the counter, was the weasel-like Hammond.
“Do you know Kathy Hammond?”
The man’s features twitched. “That’s my daughter, yes.”
Blade and Archive exchanged a look. “You haven’t heard?”
“Heard?” The man’s head swiveled from Blade to Archive and back again. “Heard what?”
“She’s was found dead this morning.”
“Dead?” The man’s gaze wandered to the counter. He bit his lip. “I had no idea…”
“What’s your name, sir?” asked Blade.
“Colin,” said Colin. “I live here with my wife Edith.”
They could hear the thumping of the woman as she stalked around the upper floor. Judging from the heaviness of her footsteps, she must have been huge.
“When was the last time you saw your daughter?”
Colin sighed. “Kathy was always a difficult child, but as a teenager she became wild and uncontrollable. At fifteen she began listening to that dreadful punk music. It’s media like that Rising group that corrupted her mind, you know.”
Archive blinked. “He’s serious…?”
“By sixteen she was addicted to heroin. Kathy ran away from home shortly after her seventeenth birthday,” said Colin.
“When was that?” asked Archive.
”Eight months ago. Ever since then we’ve been dreading, but half-expecting, the worst.”
Guppy held up a magazine cover. It was a recent issue of the sadomasochistic magazine Dungeon, featuring a photograph of Colin on the cover. Though bound and gagged, enough of his face was visible for him to be recognized. Posed with him was a grossly obese woman dressed in black leather and carrying a whip.
“How much for this?” asked Guppy.
“Five dollars,” said Colin.
“I will give you two.”
Colin’s nose wrinkled. “I don’t know what country you come from, mister, but we don’t haggle here. It’s five dollars.”
“Fine.” Guppy put the magazine back on the shelf.
“Can we speak with your wife, Mister Hammond?” asked Blade.
Colin sighed. “Edith? EDITH!”
There was more thumping upstairs. “What?” she shouted.
“There’s some men here who want to speak with you!”
“What NOW?” More rumbling. “I’m coming down.”
Edith surged through the double doors behind the counter, a great, blubbery mountain of a woman, dressed in a floral print dress the size of a small tent. Her tiny eyes glared out at the world from a red and angry face. Although her hair was long, it was pulled back in a tight bun.
She ordered Colin out of the room. “Let me deal with this.” Her breathing came in loud, heavy gasps, sweat dotting her brow from the exertion of climbing down the steps.
Colin slunk away and Edith turned back to stare at Blade. “Now. What can I do for you gentlemen?”
“We were asking about your daughter.”
“Yes, our daughter,” she huffed. “Ungrateful little bitch.”
“Are you aware we’re conducting a murder investigation?”
“No? She’s dead then? Good.”
“You seem be taking this awfully well,” said Archive.
“Look.” She leaned forward, and Edith’s pendulous rolls of fat consumed the counter. “Kathy was nothing but trouble. Good riddance to her, I say.”
“Where is the woman who just entered the bookshop?” asked Guppy.
“A private customer. She is in our parlor.”
“We’d like to speak with her,” said Blade.
“Absolutely NOT.” Edith drew herself up. “Our shop prides itself on providing privacy to our clients. Now unless you have anything further to ask me, I will bid you good evening.”
“We can get a warrant and search this place,” threatened Blade.
Edith moved around the counter and ushered them out with her great bulk. “You have no cause. Now get off my property.”
She slammed the door behind them.
“That went well,” said Archive.
“Now what?” asked Guppy.
Blade jangled the keys as he walked towards the van. “Now we wait.”
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Love's Lonely Children: Part 3 – Watching the Book Shop
Staking out the Hammonds’ Bookshop was not a difficult task. The team spent several boring hours watching people enter and exit the bookstore. Now and again Colin left the shop.
Around 2 a.m., Colin and Edith left the house and loaded a series of black plastic bags into the trunk of their car. With the trunk loaded and closed, Colin locked the front door of the shop.
Guppy took his eyes away from binoculars. “I think that’s a body…”
“That’s it, that’s what we need,” shouted Blade. He slammed on the gas.
The green sedan swerved, avoiding the van. The car accelerated and roared past and away.
Blade gave chase. They could just make out the silhouettes of Edith and Colin in front.
Small red taillights fishtailed up ahead.
Blade wasn’t gaining on the taillights. He fought with the wheel as the van swam on the road face.
The red taillights ahead started to turn. With a distant crunching sound, they disappeared.
The van’s headlights showed only empty road, starting to turn. Blade frowned and slowed down.
His headlights showed the sedan up ahead off the road, crumpled around a telephone pole, having failed to hold a turn.
Blade put on the brakes. He swept his bow off the front seat, threw open the door and got out. Guppy and Archive hopped out of the back van.
The wrecked car's headlights illuminated a mound of dirt abutting the highway.
Blade walked up to the wreck and peered into its half-open door. Edith was trapped inside the twisted wreckage, injured and moaning. Dust swirled in the headlights of the wreck.
Blade looked around. “Where’s Colin?”
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Love's Lonely Children: Part 4 – Inside the Hammond Home
The alley ran the length of the block behind the buildings. A stout back door and a curtained, barred kitchen window on the first floor guarded Hammonds. When Hammer heard the Hammonds drive away, he got tired of waiting. He clambered up to the second story bathroom window via a drainpipe. He jimmied the window open and climbed in.
The bathroom was situated at the rear of the house, with a narrow louvered window looking out over the alley. Hammer switched on his flashlight.
Hammer was momentarily startled by a man staring back at him, only to realize it was his reflection in the bathroom mirror. Mold clung to every surface, even creeping in gray blotches across the mirror. He opened the medicine cabinet.
Inside were the usual frayed toothbrushes, razors clogged with soap and bristle, and bottles of aspirin. There were also a container for vials and syringes. It contained a twenty-milliliter syringe and a large bottle closed with a rubber seal. The label, printed in Amsterdam, identified the contents as ninety percent pure heroin. One of the slots was open, indicating a missing vial.
Hammer took a picture of it.
He crept across to the room opposite the bathroom. It was a small, windowless bedroom surrounded by floral wallpaper. Heavy manacles and chains were bolted to the iron bed frame. Dried blood crushed the manacles and stained the mattress. The only other object of note was a one-eyed, fray-eared teddy bear propped on an empty chest of drawers.
Hammer took another picture with his Cistron. The ensuing flash gave a nightmarish cast to the room’s sordid past, burning it into Hammer’s retinas.
He continued down the hall and pushed open the next door.
When the door opened, a gust of foul-smelling air tinged with decay poured into the hallway. Manacles and wicked hooks dangled from thick chains. The chains seemed to strain toward an upside-down pentacle burnt into the wooden floor. The shapeless remains of black candles were carefully placed around the outside of the cryptic symbol, the floorboards stained with dried and drying blood and littered by decaying scraps of food, empty wine bottles, and a motley collection of whips and pincers.
A large axe, encrusted with blood, stood in the corner near a wooden lectern. Resting on the lectern was a tattered, dog-eared manuscript, obviously a photocopy, stapled down one side. Without looking at it too closely, Hammer took a picture with his Cistron.
He had all the evidence he needed to put the Hammonds away for life. That left one more room.
Hammer pushed open the door to Colin and Edith’s bedroom. It was small, squalid room dominated by a large and ugly four-poster bed. Clothes littered the floor, as did empty candy boxes and cigarette butts. A single window looked out over a busy street.
Something peeked out from beneath one of the pillows. Hammer pushed it aside with his Glock. It was a photo album.
Hammer flipped the pages open. It was an usual set of family photos—almost every one of them was of a sexually explicit nature. Kathy was in most of them, her age varying over the years from about five to probably sixteen. The most recent set of five photographs showed Kathy hanging from the chains in the room next door.
Colin Hammond appeared in each of the last photographs but one. Naked in the pictures, there was a tattoo of a broken heart located just above Colin’s groin.
But the last photograph…the last photograph showed Kathy and something else. Something bloated, puffed flesh shining with an unwholesome corpse glow. Of roughly human proportions, it was definitely inhuman in form.
Hammer looked closer. There was a tattoo of a broken heart just above the creature’s groin.
Hammer took a photo of the last picture with his Cistron.
“Guys,” he said, voice shaking. “You’d better take a look at this.”
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