Thursday, 7th May, 2009, 12:56 PM #511
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Wild Hunt: Part 3 – My Scuffle With Magnus
Back at the Itchi-Leng, Magnus was waiting for them.
Jim-Bean and Hammer slid into the seats across from Magnus.
“Did you bring the book?”
Magnus nodded, one hand tapping the cover of the dusty tome he had provided last time. “The De Graecorum Hodie Quorundam Opinationibus isn’t going to make much sense to you of course. Only Agent Archive will be able to read it—“
“We’ll be sure he gets it,” said Hammer. “We’ve got him examining the forensic evidence.” But Magnus didn’t lift his hand off the cover.
“From what I can discern, the history of the Vrykolakas dates back to the time of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. To become a vrykolakas, one had to be cursed, die a violent death, do a dishonorable act, or be excommunicated from the church. Such vampires usually return to complete some unfinished business in their lives.”
“It’s not a Vrykolakas,” said Hammer.
Magnus continued. “The method of destroying them usually was with fire. Crosses and sunlight are not mentioned as being effective. Neither are stakes; many accounts describe vrykolakas being impaled over and over, beheaded and so on, and still returning to haunt the living. I recommend that the police arm themselves with holy water, flame-throwers, and flare guns.”
“Magnus,” said Jim-Bean. “It’s not a vrykolakas. It can’t be.”
“The word "vrykolakas" means "wolf-pelt wearer,” said Magnus.
Jim-Bean pounded one fist on the table. “It’s not a vampire damn it!”
Magnus stopped speaking. “And how do you know that?”
“Because I SAW it.”
Magnus’ eyes widened in surprise. “When?”
Jim-Bean started to speak then caught himself. “Doesn’t matter. I saw it. It looks nothing like a vampire or a vrykolakas. It has a tongue like a snake and its face is almost all jaws, no eyes or nose…”
“Wolf-like jaws,” exclaimed Magnus. ““This matches up with what the witnesses reported, a wolfish look of the vampire--”
Jim-Bean hauled off and slugged Magnus across the jaw.
It was a perfect hit. Magnus’ head bobbed back and for a minute he just clutched at his mouth, blood dripping down his split lip.
“You…you hit me?!”
Jim-Bean leaned forward. “You’re lucky it was me who hit you. Because if it was Hammer here, you’d be dead. And Hammer really wants to hurt you right about now.”
Hammer crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair.
“You keep this vampire crap up and somebody’s going to get killed. Now I suggest you shut up about the vampires and stop talking to the police.”
Magnus abruptly got up and stalked towards the exit. “You’ll hear from my lawyers.”
When he was gone, Hammer sighed heavily. “Did you really have to do that?”
“He was pissing me off,” said Jim-Bean.
Hammer was about to say something more when his cistron beeped. He picked it up.
“A police patrol spotted three shadowy figures heading into an alleyway. Let’s go.”
Hammer stomped out the door. Jim-bean got up to go.
A second later he came back to scoop up Magnus’ book and then dashed after Hammer.
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Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Wild Hunt: Part 4 – Gregor and Co.
The three shadowy figures were heading into an alleyway connecting Mercer and Greene streets, between Spring and Broome.
Hammer pulled their car in front of the alley and hopped out. There were three tall, snarling, skinny men with fangs, dressed in black clothes and trench coats at the center of the alleyway.
“Federal agents!” shouted Hammer, flashing his badge. “Stop right there!”
The three started climbing a fire escape. A police car screeched to a halt, lights flashing, on the other side of the alley, weirdly illuminating the fleeing figures.
Hammer swore and holstered his pistols, climbing up after them.
“Jimmy!” shouted Hammer. “Cut them off!”
The Goths clambered up above him, onto the rooftop, only to bump into Jim-Bean. He was standing imperiously on the roof, pistol out. “Going somewhere?”
All three of them gasped. Then they bowed down. “Lord and master, we have searched you out so that you may bestow your gift upon us. Please bring us across.”
“What?” asked Jim-Bean.
Hammer cuffed the three young men, who offered no resistance. “What are you three on about?”
“You wouldn’t understand, mortal,” sneered the leader.
“Great,” said Hammer. He looked Jim-bean up and down. “They think you’re the vampire.”
“I should have punched Magnus out earlier,” muttered Jim-Bean.
They led the three men to the police waiting below the fire escape. Their cistrons beeped.
“Don’t tell me,” said Hammer.
“While we were out dealing with these idiots, our guy committed another murder. This time there’s a coherent witness.”
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Wild Hunt: Part 5 – Shadow of a Man
Jim-Bean and Hammer entered the neurosurgical unit at New York General Hospital.
“What have we got on our witness?” asked Hammer.
“Quentin Collins’ back was broken when the attacker hurled him against a wall. He’s thirty, single, works at the symphony, and has a clean police record.”
They entered the hospital room. Collins was in a full-body truss, his head and limbs surrounded by metal structures and most of his upper body in a cast. Only his right arm was free. A morphine drip provided a sinister rhythm in the background.
“Mr. Collins,” said Hammer. “I know this is a difficult time, but we need to speak with you.”
Collins’ eyes rolled open. “You’re…with the police?”
“Federal agents, actually,” said Jim-Bean. “I’m Agent Grange, this is Agent Baxter.”
“Good.” Collins licked his cracked lips and tried to speak; nothing but a croak came out.
“Let me help you,” said Hammer. He went into the bathroom and came back with a cup of water. “Here.” He tilted it to Collins’ lips.
Collins took several swallows until Hammer took the cup away.
“Tell us everything you can remember,” said Jim-Bean.
"We were walking to her place when a horrible decomposing rot—I think that is the best description—breezed over us. I held my dinner down, but poor Wilma doubled over and vomited. I was suddenly shoved from behind by a powerful blow, and was hurled into the side of a building. I twisted up in pain, and I saw…him.”
Hammer leaned forward. “Go on.”
”He was dressed in a black trench coat and wide-brimmed hat. His features were hidden by the hat and upturned collar. He had lifted up Wilma with one hand. He then walked into the alley with her, but as he walked it was if his shape rippled—dark ripples swimming over him. He was moving as if twisting, or swirling…bending. I—well, this sounds fantastic—but I glimpsed his face.”
“Yes?” asked Jim-Bean, rapt.
“I don’t know if you can even call it a face. It appeared to be a giant set of jaws—wolf-like.”
“No eyes or nose, right?” asked Jim-Bean.
“That's right, just fangs! Fangs…poor Wilma…I passed out. When next I awoke. I was in the hospital, getting this cast. The doctors say I only have a slim chance of walking again.”
Hammer nodded. “Thank you Mr. Collins, that’s very helpful.”
They turned to go when Collins’ arm shot out and gripped Hammer’s sleeve tightly.
“You get this bastard—you get him good.”
“We will,” said Hammer, gently releasing Collins’ grip. “We will.”
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Wild Hunt: Part 6 – Bad Dog
It was nearly two in the morning when Jim-Bean and Hammer arrived at the crime scene where Collins was attacked.
Jim-Bean yawned and stretched as they got out of the car. “Can’t we investigate this tomorrow morning?”
Hammer shook his head. “The killer’s moving fast. We can’t spare the time. Besides, do you even sleep anymore?”
“Yes, I sleep,” said Jim-Bean, irritated. “I just don’t…look, I sleep okay?”
Hammer leaned down and scanned the crime scene with his cistron. It beeped.
“What?” asked Jim-Bean, peering over his shoulder.
“Footprints.” The cistron analyzed the footprints. “Size 11 shoe. A dress shoe.”
Hammer followed the tracks via the cistron’s night vision optics, the subsequent image illuminating his face with an eerie dark green glow.
A muddy, litter-strewn alley showed that the person seemed to walk toward a wall. Then the tracks stopped.
“Weird, he ran towards this wall here and then stopped and turned…” Hammer turned to follow the trail. The trail continued to a blind comer of the alley. “And the tracks end right here.”
“Maybe he climbed up?” asked Jim-Bean. “It’s a corner after all.”
“Maybe,” said Hammer. “Or maybe he travels through corners.”
“Tindalosians,” said Jim-Bean. “That’s right, didn’t Morrow cover up every corner of his mansion because he thought they could come after him that way?”
Hammer nodded, distracted. “Yeah, but I’ve got something more important.” He reached down and picked up a crumpled up hat in one corner of the alley. “I think this is the killer’s.”
“Only one way to find out.” Jim-Bean picked up the old, wide-brimmed black fedora and concentrated.
Something barked in his face. He stumbled backwards as a long, lean canine form oozed out of the corner of the alley. Bluish pus coated the thing. The flowing, dripping integument gave it a half-formed appearance. Beneath the goo, was the indistinct form of a very large greyhound.
It advanced on Jim-Bean, snarling.
Hammer drew both Glocks and sprayed the back of the beast. Some of the bullets passed right through it.
Jim-Bean backed up and drew his own Glock, firing into the things face. It crouched and then shifted sideways, so quickly that it became a zig-zagging blue blur. A searing hot pain pierced his shoulder. Jim-Bean screamed and fell backwards.
The hound was atop him, its long, snake-like tongue darting towards his forehead. Hammer hesitated firing, lest the bullets pass right through the thing and kill his companion. But if he didn’t fire Jim-Bean was as good as dead.
With a yelp, the hound was blasted to the side into a bluish mist.
Archive, magical pistol still smoking, lowered his weapon. “Sorry I’m late guys.”
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Wild Hunt: Part 7 – All That Glitters
“I think the FRACTAL GODS virus may have weakened the boundaries between Tindalos and our world,” explained Archive over the back seat to Jim-Bean, who was driving the agents’ standard-issue Honda Civic. “That’s why your powers summoned the Hound.”
“So this is all related to Centurion Computer Systems?” asked Jim-Bean. “It’s too much of a coincidence that these freaky dogs show up repeatedly.” Jim-Bean rubbed the bloodless wound that the hound’s tongue had left in his shoulder. “Is this ever going to heal properly?"
“Not without the assistance of some magical poultices, no,” said Archive. “In the mean time, I don’t recommend using any powers if you can help it. These Hounds travel in packs, and I don’t think we could take on more than one.”
“What did your forensics study find?” asked Hammer.
“In all cases, death came quickly, within a minute, by strangulation. The killer's grip is inhumanly strong, literally bone crushing- the humerus of the first victim was gripped and pulverized; the second had her scapulas squeezed to small fragments. The vertebrae of the neck were also crushed. Analysis of the tissue found under the victims' fingernails-the tissue is crumbly and almost crystalline. By optical microscopy, the tissue is not made of animal cells, but crystal dust. Under electron microscopy, the crystals can be seen as tiny triangular objects, which seem to shift and vibrate. They appear to vanish over time. The same crystalline substance is found in the claw wounds of the victims as was found under the fingernails. The edges of the tissue seem totally intact, as if the neighboring cells simply winked out of existence, or disintegrated. This phenomenon applies to all edges of the hole.”
“That’s the same kind of holes the Hounds made in all of us,” said Hammer, looking around at each of them. Jim-Bean reflexively scratched at the bandage where the Hound had pierced him. “So it seems the murderer and the Hounds are related.”
“Great,” said Jim-Bean. “Are the Hounds smart? Can they talk?”
“Not that I know of,” said Archive. “But as PROJECT RELISH discovered, they’re intelligent. So it’s possible.”
Hammer pulled the car over at the southeast comer of the Avenue of the Americas and West Houston Street. A storefront read: EUROPEAN TREASURES.
“What are we doing here?” asked Archive.
“There were two jewelry store robberies over the past two days. The police think it’s related.”
Detectives Rice and Curtis met them at the store entrance. Rice recognized them with a nod of his head. “Agents.”
“What have we got?” asked Hammer.
“Both the Royal Fine Gems and the European Treasures jewelry stores were robbed within a span of two days,” explained Rice. “At close to midnight, each store was robbed of numerous diamonds.”
“Anything on the security feed?” asked Hammer.
Detective Curtis shook his head. “The security videotapes show nobody in the store during the time of the robbery. Motion detectors went on and off over and over again, indicating the presence of something, then nothing. When we arrived, nothing could be found. The doors, windows, and other entrances were locked securely.”
“How much time elapsed between when the alarm was sounded and you arrived?” asked Jim-Bean.
“Approximately four minutes each time,” said Rice. “In that time. diamonds worth over five million dollars in total were taken from both stores. That’s not the weird part.”
“It gets weirder?” asked Archive.
“Incredibly, the thief stole only internally flawless diamonds, E color, round cut stones, of a variety of karat sizes,” said Curtis. “These were taken from the safes and display cases. In the European Treasures store, the thief must have been in haste; three large diamonds of the type usually taken remained in a display case clearly visible in the middle of the store.”
They walked into the store as Rice continued. “There was a horrible charnel smell present at both scenes. One police officer swore he noted a small patch of mist fading away in the shadows.”
“What about the safe door?” asked Hammer.
Curtis frowned. “You’d better see for yourself.”
The door of the safe lay warped and torn on the floor. A huge bite mark had rent it open.
“There’s a hole just like this at the other jewelry store,” said Rice.
Hammer took some pictures with his cistron and ran calculations via Blacknet. “One and a half meters. Jagged tooth-like marks. They appear to be from different lengths and diameters of teeth, as if the jaw contained teeth that either kept shifting or kept changing their lengths.”
Jim-Bean turned to Archive. “Can your Hounds do that?” he asked apprehensively.
Archive swallowed. “I hope not.”
“What about the video tapes?” asked Hammer.
Curtis handed them a jump drive. “It was halfway recorded at the time of the four-minute robberies. We didn’t find anything but maybe you guys will have more luck.”
Hammer plugged it into his cistron, then fed the feed to Jim-Bean’s.
On screen, jagged holes suddenly appear in the safe's door. Some movement could be seen in the darkness inside the safes. A moment later, police came into the scene, guns drawn, searching about.
Hammer tapped a few keys. The images enhanced.
Within the safe, diamonds could be seen being shifted about by some invisible force. Some of them floated up and vanished, as if pocketed in an invisible pouch.
Hammer applied some light-distortion enhancement. It showed the floors of each room beginning to fill with a fine mist from off-camera. A strange distortion could be seen moving from that source towards the safes. It looked like triangular fragments of heat distortion that shifted and reshaped in geometrical patterns. The distortion moved towards the safe, and as it hovered over it, the tear appeared over the doors. After the diamonds were scooped up into the distortion, it moved away off camera.
“There,” said Jim-Bean, pausing the video. “See how it keeps its distance from the large display case in the center of the room?”
Rice led them over to the display case. The gems were displayed in the middle of the shop, suspended on special holders within a spherical display case of one-inch thick bulletproof clear plastic- polymer. The case rested on a platform and was partially sunk into it. The case itself was one meter in diameter.
Rice read from his notepad. “According to the owner, the gems in this case are twenty karat, perfect cut, E color, and internally flawless. They are called the Stars of Shiva.”
Archive nodded. “The Stars of Shiva were a gift from the god Shiva, the Destroyer, to a high priest in the 11th century. Each stone had amazing protective powers, and together they could be used to banish all forms of evil demons from the earth, especially rakshasas.”
“Rakshasas?” asked Hammer.
“A rakshasa is an Indian spirit who can take on the form of the person you trust the most, so he can sneak up and eat you.”
“So that’s what we’re dealing with!” asked Jim-Bean.
Hammer shook his head. “Keep that up and you’re no better than Magnus. We don’t have a clear identification of this thing just yet.”
Their cistrons beeped. “Looks like we’re about to,” said Jim-Bean. “The killer’s been spotted off of Wooster Street.”
The agents ran out of the store.
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Wild Hunt: Part 8 – The Thing in the Alley
Hammer pulled the Civic to a screeching halt in front of a dead-end alley leading off of Wooster Street facing Hob's Court. A police car was already parked in the alley, lights flashing, blocking the agents’ progress.
There was a dark figure in a black overcoat and broad-brimmed hat. A limp body was in its arms, and three young men were at the far end of the alley behind the killer. They were on their knees, shouting “Master!”
“Looks like the kids found their vampire,” said Jim-Bean.
Two police officers were firing their pistols as they ran down the alley.
The thing didn’t wait. With a casual swipe of its arm, it dismembered the first cop. Its snake-like tongue shot out and pierced the head of the second cop. He fell to the ground, dead.
Three more police cars pulled up around them.
“Wait here,” rasped the killer to the three Goths. Then it slowly, casually turned to face the agents.
“Fire!” someone shouted.
The cops, crouching and running towards the abandoned cruiser in the alley, unleashed a hailstorm of gunfire on the figure. It shimmered as it advanced, unhurried, until it reached the front of the police car in the alley.
With a mighty heave, it hurled the police car end over end. It rolled up in the air and landed on the other cops, smashing some and scattering the few who were fast enough to get out of the way.
There was just one problem: the upside-down cop car was now blocking the cops escape. Hammer and Jim-Bean fired around the vehicle as the black-clad figure hurled policemen all over the place.
Hammer and Jim-Bean hopped over the car and ran down the alley.
All that was left were dismembered bodies. A patch of mist dissipated away, with a remnant stench of decaying flesh.
“Jesus,” whispered Hammer.
Every policeman involved in the fray was killed. Their heads were crushed, their necks broken, whole limbs torn off. The legs and pelvis of one man had vanished, bitten in two like a cookie.
As the agents took in the scene, a brilliant light illuminated them.
“I’m Nina Juarez, here at the crime scene of the recent attack by the SoHo Killer…” She craned her neck to try to get a better look at the bodies littered in the alley, but the ruined police car mercifully blocked her view.
Archive rolled up his sleeves. “I know how to take care of her.”
Jim-Bean put one hand out. “I’ve got this one.” He hopped over the car.
“Nina Juarez,” said Juarez, introducing herself quickly. “Are you one of the federal agents involved in this case? What happened back there?”
Jim-Bean nodded. “Yes, and all will be made clear. But this is a crime scene, we can’t talk here.” He put one hand over the camera and pushed Juarez’ microphone with the other. “We can conduct an interview tomorrow night at 8 p.m. at this location,” and he whispered the location in her ear.
Juarez blinked and nodded as more police cars screeched onto the scene, ushering the GNN reporter away.
“What did you tell her?” asked Hammer.
“I have no idea,” said Jim-Bean. “But that should keep her busy for at least one night.”
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Wild Hunt: Part 9 – Desperate Times…
The agents, along with what remained of the police force, were gathered for the daily briefing at the NYPD station. Captain Matheson’s face was beet red. He flipped on the television.
“This is a Global News Network Special Report,” said Juarez on the screen. VAMPIRE ON THE LOOSE was plastered across the bottom of the news report in bright red letters.
“Last night there was a battle between dozens of police and the lone killer. I spoke with an expert on vampires last night…”
“Oh Magnus,” snarled Jim-Bean, “I am so going to murder you.”
Sure enough, Magnus’ mug appeared on screen. There was makeup over the bruise on his face. “The only explanation is that the killer is indeed a vampire. No one person could take on that many police, much less flip a police car!”
Matheson clicked off the television.
“We lost eight men last night. Eight men to this son of a bitch!” Matheson paced in his rage. “I want roadblocks. Checkpoints on every street leading to Hob’s Court. I want a door-to-door search. Helicopter surveillance! And I want this F&*CKER caught!”
Sergeant McGarnagle cleared his throat. “I think we can do better. I think we should leave out bait.”
“Bait?” asked Matheson, catching his breath. “What do you mean?”
“This guy likes to kill women, right? We send out one of the vice girls. Set up a trap. Then we wait. And when he springs, we hit him with everything we’ve got.”
Jim-Bean and Hammer exchanged glances but stayed silent.
“Don’t either you think this is a bad idea?” asked Archive when they were outside of the briefing room.
Hammer nodded. “It’s a terrible idea. But it may be our only chance to catch the SoHo Killer.”
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Wild Hunt: Part 10 – …Desperate Measures
The three agents staked out the policewoman, who walked down the alley as bait.
“You think this is actually going to work?” asked Archive. “If this killer is intelligent, would he really fall for this?”
“It doesn’t seem to be afraid of anything,” said Hammer. “But no, I don’t think this will work.”
“At least it will buy us some time to get a fix on him,” said Jim-Bean, staring through his binoculars at the alley across the street. “Those poor bastards don’t have a chance.”
Archive looked curiously at Jim-Bean. “Since when did you become so casual about sacrificing people?”
“Sacrificing people is right.” Jim-Bean lowered his binoculars. “We’re all that stands between total chaos and reality as we know it.” He laughed a bitter laugh. “If we have to sacrifice a ten or twenty people to save a thousand, so be it.”
“He’s right. We’re doing this for the greater good.” Hammer pursed his lips. “When did we become so cold?”
Jim-Bean lifted the binoculars again. “When I became the discarded class project of an alien research lab.”
Suddenly their cistrons crackled with warnings.
The agents were sitting in their Civic across from the alley. Jim-Bean lowered his binoculars. “It’s him.”
“Go, go, go!” came the command across the police channel.
Four police cars blocked both ends of the alley. Eight SWAT team members, Bill Mayham, and Captain Matheson charged into the alley.
“Give me your pistols,” said Archive.
Jim-Bean looked at Archive sideways. “What for?”
“Hello, Captain Matheson,” rasped the killer at the far end of the alley.
Matheson responded with “Fire!”
Automatic gunfire erupted. It was followed by screams and shouts.
“Just give me your pistols damn it!” shouted Archive.
Hammer and Jim-Bean dutifully handed over their pistols as Archive inscribed the Elder Sign on each of them with a piece of chalk.
Helicopters flew overhead, shining spotlights over the alleyway. The shimmering black overcoat and fedora of the SoHo Killer whirled as he tore through the cops, tossing one here, tearing one in half there.
In the spotlight, the killer was momentarily illuminated as its whip-like tongue snaked around Matheson’s throat and lifted him into the air overhead. Then, in cartoon-like fashion, the killer’s maw opened impossibly wide and swallowed the police captain whole. His terrified screamed was choked off as he disappeared into its mouth.
There was a momentary pause in the firefight as the cops witnessed their captain eaten swallowed whole before their very eyes. Then the gunfire renewed with vigor.
The black-clad figure pointed. And then slowly, with intense purpose, he stalked down the alley, heedless of the attacks of the SWAT team.
“I think he just pointed at us,” said Jim-Bean.
“We could really use those guns right about now,” said Hammer.
Archive was sweating. “Almost…finished. There!” He tossed the enchanted Glocks back to Hammer and Jim-Bean.
More screams. The figure tore through a throng of SWAT team members clustered in front of one of the police cruisers. Then it shimmered and warped, stuttering towards them as if in a sped-up film, clearing the distance between them and passing right through the remaining cruiser.
All three agents opened fire, but the SoHo Killer was gone.
Hammer lowered his Glocks. “Damn.”
There was no SWAT team left. Every one of them was dead.
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Wild Hunt: Part 11 – I Want a New Drug
It was around 2 a.m. when the agents got a call about victims arriving from Club Apocalypse. The agents met them at St. Vincent’s Hospital.
“What happened?” asked Hammer.
Curtis was there to give the report. “Witnesses saw these four kids start screaming at 2:14 a.m., and then they ran out into the street.”
Two body bags were carried passed them into the ER. “A car hit this girl as she ran wildly, clawing at invisible things. The guy stabbed himself in the throat with his own knife. Both were DOA.”
“But there are survivors?” asked Jim-Bean hopefully.
“Two other males: one’s been curled up in a fetal position and the other won’t stop—“
Two more men on stretchers were wheeled in. One of them was shrieking at the top of his lungs.
“—screaming,” finished Curtis.
Archive wrinkled his nose. “What’s that smell?”
A horrible stench seems to surround each of the survivors.
Dr. Donato, the doc on call, ushered the two survivors into the ICU and started shouting commands to his staff.
“We need to talk to them, immediately,” said Hammer.
“Let me get them stabilized,” shouted Donato amidst the swarming nurses and interns. The doors to the ICU slammed shut in front of Hammer.
The victims were restrained and hooked up to IVs with morphine drips. Ten minutes later the room was silent; even the screaming stopped.
Hammer shoved the doors open. “We need to speak to them. Now.”
The only sounds were the rhythmic breathing of the men and the comforting beeps of their monitors.
Dr. Donato stood protectively in front of the two beds. “Neither of these men are in a position to talk with you, I’m afraid.”
“Wake them up,” said Hammer. “I don’t care how you have to do it, but wake them up.”
“I can’t,” said Donato. “Even if I could, they’re in critical condition…”
The monitors snapped out of their rhythm with a cacophony of warning beeps.
Donato whirled, the agents temporarily forgotten. “We’re losing them!”
Nurses rushed back in.
“What’s happening?” asked Jim-Bean.
“They’re slipping into comas!” shouted Donato. “I want you out of my ER, now!”
“Archive,” began Hammer, “can you—“
The commotion on the other side of the doors suddenly went silent. Donato came out a moment later. “We lost both of them. At the same time.”
Hammer swore. “I want access to their blood work.”
“I don’t think…” began Donato.
Hammer flashed his badge. “We’re with CIFA. I’m not asking you to think. Give me the blood work or I’ll have you indicted on obstructing a federal investigation.”
Donato snapped his mouth shut. A few minutes later the toxicological data was uploaded to their cistrons. Archive ran it through Blacknet’s analysis programs, speeding up reports that would have taken hours.
“Blood work is normal,” said Archive. “The urine toxicology screen is positive for alcohol, THC, LSD, and a ketamine.”
“What kind of ketamine?” asked Jim-Bean.
“The ketamine is a variant form of standard ketamine. It has been modified in an unknown process to have new chemical side chains.” The chemical chains appeared on their cistrons. “These side chains have a configuration that defies known scientific theories.” A three-dimensional model of a human body flashed, focusing on the brain. “According to SINNER’s simulations, it causes a coma and brain death in a very short period of time. Whatever this drug is, it’s something new.”
Jim-Bean scratched his head. “What does this have to do with the killer?”
“I’m not sure,” said Hammer, “but put on your best outfit.”
“What for?” asked Archive.
“We’re going to visit Club Apocalypse.”
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Wild Hunt: Part 12 – Apocalypse Now
Located at 128 E. 98th Street and Lexington Avenue beneath the huge 55-story Teese Tissue Building, Club Apocalypse’s entrance was not marked in any way. Thirty-one steps wound down in a sharp curve leading to two large blue-steel doors, which were not visible from the top of the stairs. The Club usually opened at around ten o’clock, but the agents got there a little early.
Bouncers stood in their way.
Hammer snapped his badge. “Federal agents.”
The bouncer took a look at it. “Don’t care who you are. You’d better have a warrant if you want to get in here.”
Jim-Bean leaned forward. “I think you should let us in.”
The bouncer scratched his head, as if he had just remembered something. “Okay.”
As they passed in with their weapons intact, Hammer turned to Jim-Bean. “You’re scary sometimes, you know that?”
The foyer was a small, dim red-velvet cubicle that contained a few stools for the bouncers, and a small counter through which coats and other items were checked with a clerk.
Past the foyer was the main bar. This large room was classically styled in red velvet and dark earth tones. Lighting was from the ground up, and portions of the floor were actually recessed lamps. Fifteen booths occupied the wall opposite the foyer entrance and wrapped around to almost meet its door. On the open wall across from the foyer entrance was a wall of stars, a bizarre group of more than forty finely-framed photographs of dead media celebrities.
Archive waved his companions over to the wall. “Take a look at this.”
There were rock stars, movie stars, each pictured shaking hands with who he presumed was the owner of the club. In each photo he appeared identical: same suit, same unreadable expression on his face. In his collection were such famous dead stars as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Steve McQueen, Sid Vicious, Harry Nillson, Elvis, John Lennon and more recent additions such as River Phoenix, Tupac Shakur and Kurt Cobain. Each photograph was personally inscribed by the star in question, along with a date marked in the lower right-hand corner in tiny, machine-like hand. The dates were often weeks or even days before the death of the subject in the photograph.
On the opposite wall from the booths was the main bar. It was a sinuous mahogany affair with more than forty stools following its graceful curve. The back of the bar was a huge silver mirror etched with a fascinating filigreed design of questionable origin. Four bartenders staffed the bar. The hat check clerk came and went from a small door at the back of the bar.
At the end of the fifty feet of mahogany bar, directly opposite the foyer door, was a thick, curtained double door leading to the main dance floor. A bouncer stood there. On the other side of the main bar was a large set of double doors leading to the more private areas of the Club.
Music boomed. The songs include morbid lyrics from such bands as God's Lost Children, In Morto Veritas, Skinny Puppy, Bauhaus, the Rising, Charnel Dreams, and others.
The people inhabiting the labyrinth of darkness wore black flowing clothes. Their faces were white as death, and their eyes shined out from dark pits of black eye makeup. Some seemed to have fangs. Many were drinking, dancing, and doing drugs while leaning against statues. Up close, most of them seemed to be adolescents. Some anorexic females cavorted by, dressed in nothing but thin leather strips and thigh-high boots. One winked and smiled at Jim-Bean, showing a fanged mouth.
The agents spread out, mixing in amongst the crowd. Dressed in their usual work getup, they stood out like sore thumbs.
They convened at the bar. Jim-Bean had to tear himself away from a particularly sultry, undulating brunette with long hair and a nose ring.
“Well?” shouted Hammer over the noise of the club, which was now getting louder as more people arrived.
“Gregor was here,” said Jim-Bean. “Most of the Goths know of Gregor and they don’t like him much. He works in a tattoo parlor called Jesus Wept. Seems he was looking for the ‘vampire’ to make a deal with it.”
“And they think that Gregor was responsible for the drug overdoses?”
Jim-Bean nodded. “Yeah.” He took a swig of a drink the woman had given him. “I could learn to like this place!”
Hammer frowned. “Don’t get too comfortable. What did you find Archive?”
“There’s numerous rave posters about,” said Archive. “The next big rave advertised is called ‘Ghost Walk to the Lake.’ It occurs on Halloween, starting at 10 p.m. People are to gather at Columbus Circle. A route shows a path leading down Central Park West Street, up to 72nd Street, then a turn into Central Park towards the lake.” Archive had taken a picture of the poster with his cistron. He flashed the image to the other agents.
“Good,” said Hammer. “Then it’s time to visit the tattoo parlor.”
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