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Delta Green - All Part of the Job

Nomessiah

Villager
Night Floors - Session 2b

Two of the speakers had the same names as tenants of the building, and they seemed to be talking about Ms. Wright. That was a little odd. Then RIVER realized the scene was set on the fourth floor, but the Macallistar only had three floors unless you counted the basement also. That was odd, too. It must be set in a different building. Then the last line caught her attention: “ENTER FBI AGENTS.” That sent a chill down her back.

RIVER handed the page to REINHARD after carefully removing it from the wall. The other agents all agreed that it was a bit disturbing, but given all the other things they were seeing, it wasn’t exactly out of place.

They got back to work, and a little while later, REDOX arrived with the solvent and stepladder. His first order of business was to get that damned wheelchair off the ceiling, and while he did that, ROMEO told him about the page from the play. The agents decided that no one was going anywhere in the building alone. This might have seemed like an unnecessary and paranoid decision if it weren’t for the fact that this was a Delta Green op sparked by an occult picture. This was as good a time as any to break for the day, so the agents all left the building and agreed to meet back at 9:00 the next morning.

The night passed uneventfully, and R-cell returned to the Macallistar right on time to get a fresh start. No sooner had Agent RIVER entered the building than she felt watched once more. She already disliked this place, and Agent ROMEO’s half-joking suggestion that they just torch the building and catalog the ashes was sounding more desirable every hour.

By noon, the tedium of methodical cataloging was even getting to REINHARD. Day two. It was only day two, and by the looks of it, they had at least a week left. And it was so disheartening to remove the fourth or fifth layer of newspaper articles and magazine covers only to find a laminated maple leaf, and under that another newspaper article. When REDOX finally got down to plaster, the agents decided to break for a celebratory lunch.

Agent ROMEO didn’t particularly want to go back to cataloging, so he placed a call to ARTLIFE and spoke with the building manager, Cynthia Lechance. He told her he had a few artist friends who were hoping to find an inexpensive place to live in the city, and as he was in town on business, he thought he’d look around. A chance encounter had led him to her.

Ms. Lechance was happy to tell him all about the Macallistar, and how ARTLIFE managed to keep rent so affordable. ROMEO casually steered the conversation around to the tenants of the building, and the woman didn’t even seem to notice she was giving out more information than she probably should. She told him none of the tenants had paid rent in over a month, no one returned calls, and eviction notices had been sent out. She mentioned almost to herself that she’d never had to evict an entire building before. Agent ROMEO thanked her for her time and said that he’d have his friends get in touch.

When he returned to the apartment, the other agents were examining what Agent RIVER felt might be a breakthrough. She’d found a hand-written receipt on what looked like very old pre-printed receipt paper. It indicated that Abigail Laura Wright had paid $850 for July rent on apartment 0B. According to the building’s numbering scheme, she thought that had to be in the basement. She also thought that apartments like these in New York City had no business going for any less than $1,500. It didn’t matter if the company that owned it was non-profit. Agent ROMEO mentioned that either the receipt was fake, or it was from an earlier year. None of the tenants had paid rent since May.

Everyone wanted out of the apartment, and it looked like they had a couple excuses. ROMEO and REINHARD were going to see about interviewing some of the tenants, and the others were going to check the basement apartments. ROMEO knocked on the door across the hall, and a clean-shaven man in his late 20s answered. He only opened the door enough to look out, so consequently, the agents had difficulty seeing in. What they could see seemed to be a clean apartment, and there was a plastic tree in a pot next to the door. As the man didn’t speak first, ROMEO opened the conversation.

“Mr. Manuel? My name is Phillips, Howard Phillips. My partners and I are looking into the disappearance of your neighbor Abigail Wright.”

“Ah, yes. I’m not sure what to make of it. Laura’s a good kid, but she’s such a free spirit. She must have just left because New York just couldn’t hold her.”

“Excuse me. Laura?”

“That’s right. Laura’s her middle name, but that’s what I always called her.”

“Then you knew her well?”

“Oh, yeah. Well, she just lived across the hall. We talked a lot.”

Agent REINHARD asked if Manuel would mind if they came in, but Mr. Manuel said that he didn’t think that would be a good idea. The place was something of a mess. From what they could see over the man’s shoulder, the agents felt it was clean by most standards, and especially in comparison to Ms. Wright’s apartment. ROMEO asked if he knew a Mark Roarke, but the man said it didn’t ring a bell.

“Did Ms. Wright know the other tenants? Did they get along well?”

“I don’t think she ever really talked with anyone else except Penny.”

“Penny MacLaren, you mean?”

Mr. Manuel indicated that was indeed who he meant. When the agents asked for an introduction, the man was happy to take them upstairs.
 
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Nomessiah

Villager
Night Floors - Session 2c

The rest of R-cell headed down to the dimly lit basement. The basement had the same overhead lighting as the ground floor, but only half of the lights seemed to be on. The floorplan was the same as well, though there was no plush carpet running the length of the hall; only concrete. Room 0A appeared to be the boiler room, and while it was dark and a little damp, there didn’t seem to be anything particularly sinister about it. The door to 0B was locked, but that only delayed Agent RIVER by about ten seconds.

She easily picked the lock, and the door slowly creaked open. With no windows, the room was very dark, but fortunately the light switch was functional. Apartment 0B had the same layout as Abby’s ground floor apartment, but this one had bare walls and a bare ceiling, clean tan carpeting, and a refrigerator. The apartment was empty and showed no signs of habitation.

Agent ROCHE checked the bathroom but found nothing of interest. RIVER found a carton of milk in the refrigerator that looked like it might burst. Given how odd this case was, she almost expected to see a picture of Abigail Wright on the carton. The expiration date indicated the contents hadn’t been drinkable since May, but RIVER opened the carton anyway and nearly vomited. The smell was absolutely awful, and even ROCHE could smell it from the bathroom. She quickly closed it up and put it back.
Agent REDOX said he’d found something in the bedroom. As this was an efficiency apartment, the bedroom was really just an area toward the back of the room that was intended to hold a bed. REDOX held up a sheet of paper which had just been resting on the carpet with the print-side down. He frowned as he read, and he declared the writing to be complete garbage before handing it to the others for their opinions. It appeared to be another page of a play, and it was likely written on the same typewriter as the page pulled from Abby’s wall.

SCENE: The hallway outside the Smoking Lounge. DANIEL GRAY and THE NIGHT
MANAGER stand facing each other.

Singing rises to a crescendo, then explodes into a feverish scream.

THE NIGHT MANAGER: Penny is in fine form tonight.

DANIEL: I'm going to miss her keeping me up at night.

DANIEL laughs.

THE NIGHT MANAGER: I'm going to miss you. You were one of my favorite tenants.

DANIEL: I was a pain in the ass, man, and you never did fix that leak.

THE NIGHT MANAGER: I'll get to it tonight. There's a new tenant due soon.

DANIEL: Yeah, so I hear. Well, you take care, man, okay?

DANIEL and THE NIGHT MANAGER shake hands.

THE NIGHT MANAGER: It's been good, Daniel. Take care.

DANIEL: You too.

DANIEL starts to walk down the hall.

THE NIGHT MANAGER: Daniel, it's the other way.

DANIEL laughs.

DANIEL: Sorry, man. Must have gotten turned around!

THE NIGHT MANAGER: Understandable.

DANIEL: Guess I shouldn't have clawed my eyes out, huh?

THE NIGHT MANAGER: It's a statement. The super will set you up with a new pair, I'm sure.
ROCHE and RIVER agreed with their cell leader’s critique, and RIVER added that the poor writing didn’t keep it from being creepy as hell. The agents all agreed never to see the play if it was performed, and ROCHE muttered something under his breath about starring in it anyway.

They moved on to apartment 0C, and again RIVER’s hairpin had the door open in no time. This room was just like the last one, only flipped. The bathroom was on the right as they entered rather than the left. There was no furniture in the apartment, but there were six easels covered by sheets, and painting supplies were tossed in a corner.

The agents decided to see what was under the sheets, and so they each took two easels to examine. The two paintings Agent ROCHE found were unfinished. What had been painted already was pretty, but the colors were dark. The first was a millhouse with a waterwheel in a dark stream. There was a faint hint of red in the dark blue of the water. The building itself was very detailed for such an early stage in the painting. At first glance, it seemed like a strong and well-built structure, but closer examination revealed cracks and damage, and the building seemed almost to be falling apart.

The other painting was hardly a painting at all. It was a sketch on a canvas, and only the very first brushstrokes had been made. Upon completion, it looked like it would depict the collapsing entrance to a deep mineshaft. It also seemed that a landslide was in the process of tumbling down the side of the mountain.

The first painting Agent RIVER uncovered was a partially colored and unfinished painting of a bowl of rotting fruit, and the second painting showed a fireplace and the legs of a man in brown dress pants. The rest of the man was only an outlined drawing.

REDOX wasn’t particularly impressed with the paintings he found. The first was of a rat-like animal jumping out of a dark pool of water and catching a rather surprised-looking fish out of the air. The second painting was nearly complete, and it really only needed some detail work. It showed a top-down view of a wooden box containing several marionettes piled and tangled together.

After the paintings had been uncovered, both ROCHE and REDOX got the feeling they were being watched. It was the same feeling RIVER had been having for some time now. They all agreed it was probably time to get back up to Abby’s apartment.

Thomas Manuel knocked lightly on the door of apartment 2C, and when the young brunette answered, he introduced her as Penny MacLaren. Penny was short and a little on the heavier side, but she was very pretty. Then again, everyone tended to seem more attractive once Agent ROMEO entered the room.

Agent ROMEO introduced himself and Agent REINHARD as Howard Phillips and “my assistant”. As part of the promised introduction process, Mr. Manuel mentioned that Phillips and his assistant were investigating Laura’s disappearance. Then to the agents, he mentioned that Penny’s singing voice was of the purest gold. Upon achieving smiles and thanks all around, Thomas Manuel took his leave and went back downstairs.

After what the fire had done to ROMEO’s face, he was very fortunate that he was as personally charming as he was. Even so, it took a few moments before Ms. MacLaren allowed them inside her apartment. The living room was clean and sparsely furnished with only a mismatched loveseat and chair, a small coffee table, and a desk. There was also a television on a short bookcase. The desk held a laptop computer which displayed a rather sophisticated-looking sound recording program. Thick cables connected the laptop to a microphone on a stand and a pair of studio headphones.

Agent REINHARD asked if they were interrupting anything, and while the young lady said they weren’t, it really did seem like they were. It served ROMEO’s purpose to believe her, and so that’s just what he did. The agents led with small talk about her career and upcoming shows, and ROMEO managed to talk her into singing a song for them. He even gave her $40 as a token fee.

She sang a song from an obscure French opera, and she sang it with such passion and talent that the agents were actually brought to tears. ROMEO was so moved in fact that he elbowed REINARD and demanded the IRS agent cough up at least a $20 of his own.

After a little more talking, it was obvious that Ms. MacLaren had no knowledge of Abigail’s whereabouts. They weren’t the closest of friends, but they were more than acquaintances. Agent ROMEO eventually steered the conversation around to the subject of an early dinner, and he was so charming that despite Penny’s protest that she never does this sort of thing, she accepted his offer. ROMEO turned to REINHARD with a subdued grin and shooed him away dismissively.

“You may be excused, Benson. I won’t be needing you any longer tonight.”

REINHARD rolled his eyes as he stood and said that he did have other work he could be doing anyway. The trio walked down the stairs together and along the plush ground floor hallway, parting ways at the door to Abigail Wright’s apartment. The rest of R-cell had already returned from the basement, and so REINHARD caught them up on what little they’d learned from Thomas Manuel and Penny MacLaren.

Agent REDOX didn’t want anyone alone in the building, and he didn’t want anyone there after dark either, so he decided it was about time for everyone to finish up for the day. Work could start again early the next day.
 
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Nomessiah

Villager
Night Floors - Session 3a

Penny MacLaren and Agent ROMEO exited the Macallistar building and crossed the street to the car ROMEO had rented to assist in his kidnapping of a member of The Review. That plan had fallen through, but it seemed the car was fated to assist in a kidnapping after all. ROMEO’s intentions weren’t completely altruistic. Sure, he wanted to get Penny out of the building for her own safety, but he wasn’t going to let her return. Again, he told her, it was for her own safety.

Penny argued that none of her fellow tenants wished her harm. If anyone had kidnapped Abby – or worse – it wasn’t anyone from the Macallistar. ROMEO dropped the subject for the time being. If he could drag out dinner, and possibly move the evening in a more romantic direction, he may not even need the tranquilizer gun. Still, better to be prepared.

He chose a classy restaurant which seemed like it might sufficiently stall the evening, and he made a point of comparing and contrasting the entirety of the wine menu. When his food arrived, he sent it back and had it remade. All the while, he talked to Penny.

After dinner, ROMEO drove all over the city, and eventually Penny asked to be taken home again. He explained that she was in danger, and he was keeping her away for her own good. She argued that whether it was for her own good or not, it still amounted to kidnapping. She was still smiling, and so it didn’t seem she felt it was as serious as she made it out to be.

All the same, ROMEO took advantage of a red light to make a move for the tranquilizer gun. As his hand moved, Penny quickly pulled back the jacket on her lap to reveal a small caliber pistol. She shook her head, still smiling.

“It’s been a fine evening, Mr. Phillips. Let’s not ruin it. Take me home now, please.”

Agent ROMEO hesitated for only a moment. He assessed the situation, and he felt he had the advantage. He drew the tranquilizer gun in a flash and fired. He hit the girl in the neck, but before she lost consciousness, she fired her own gun. The bullet hit ROMEO in the right side, below the ribs, but the armored vest under his shirt absorbed most of the impact. A nasty bruise was all he was likely to suffer.

The music was loud enough, and Ms. MacLaren’s gun was small enough that no one outside the car seemed to notice a shot had been fired. The light turned green as Penny drifted off to sleep. ROMEO called REDOX to ask about the local Green Box, and when his cell leader pressed for a reason, ROMEO told him what had happened.

“I need a quiet place to question her, preferably somewhere she can be held for her own safety.”

“Damnit, ROMEO. Kidnapping? Fine. I’ll tell you where the Green Box is, but I’m meeting you there, and I’m bringing RIVER and REINHARD.”

Agent REDOX told ROMEO where to go, and he made his calls. REINHARD said he was on his way, but RIVER’s phone seemed to be disconnected. REDOX couldn’t even leave a voicemail. There was no time to worry about that now.

The Manhattan Green Box was a large maintenance room in a deep sub-level of a parking structure. The door was heavy, and the walls were concrete at least a foot thick. A-cell had given REDOX the combination to the door, and so as soon as he arrived, the three agents carried Penny MacLaren inside and shut the door behind them. ROMEO handcuffed the sleeping woman to a pipe and blindfolded her.

Agent ROMEO went through her phone looking for contact information, and what he found gave him reason to pause: Her call log showed that she’d been in contact with every tenant of the Macallistar building at one time or another, as well as Mark Roarke and the Night Manager. All the numbers seemed normal except for Mark’s. His number was “TRafalgar-4-3314,” but that style of telephone exchange number had been discontinued over 80 years ago. Further, the various calls – both incoming and outgoing – came at all hours. It seemed Ms. MacLaren might not ever have time to sleep. As he scanned the call log, he noticed that calls to and from Mark Roarke and the Night Manager were only at night.

Then he saw it. Several times in the past week, always at night, Penny had talked to Abigail Wright, or someone using her phone. Agent ROMEO pulled the battery from the young woman’s phone before telling the others what he’d found.
 
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Nomessiah

Villager
Night Floors - Session 3b

REDOX called Agent ROCHE, and ROCHE said that he and RIVER had gone back to the Macallistar to look around and to interview some of the tenants. REDOX told the Postal Inspector he was in danger, and he needed to get out and to the Green Box immediately.

“Ummm … okay. I’ll be right there. Lemme just get RIVER. She went upst—“

The line went dead.

ROMEO produced a syringe and vial from his bag. He carefully administered what he called “compliance drugs” to Ms. MacLaren while Agent REDOX made only a weak, token argument. After a few minutes to let the chemicals take effect, ROMEO shook the woman awake and began asking her questions. Penny cooperated for the most part, but she didn’t act like a young woman being held captive and drugged. She was calm, slightly irritated, and more than a little sarcastic.

The agents were able to determine that Penny knew everyone in the building including the Night Manager, Henri Castaigne. She talked to Abby a lot. After all, Abby only moved up to the sixth floor.

REINHARD handed a page of the script to ROMEO and had him ask about it. ROMEO read the end of the second page where Daniel Gray had apparently clawed his eyes out, and the Night Manager said the super would probably replace them.

“Yeah. The super is usually good about things like that.”

She delivered the line as if it was a given; as if Daniel Gray had actually clawed out his own eyes, and the super, being the nice guy he was, would probably give him a new set. Nothing odd about that, right?

The agents, through ROMEO, asked more questions, and Penny answered each of them in a credible and believable manner. If her story was to be believed, Clarice Milner had a thing for removing body parts, draining blood, or just cutting a hole in someone and digging around. After she finished with her “patient”, the super would generally fix them back up later in the night; not always, but usually. Penny had never seen the super, and Clarice had never operated on her or Louis Post.

On a hunch, REINHARD had ROMEO ask if any new books had been floating around, and Penny rather enthusiastically said there had been. A couple months ago, Abigail had found an old book at a used book store. It was a play, and it had been making the rounds at the Macallistar; each tenant had read it at least once, and Louis had it the last Penny had heard. The play was a translation of an old French play called Le Roi en Jaune. The King in Yellow.

REDOX thought the name sounded familiar, but he couldn’t place it. The others felt sure they’d never heard of it. The cell leader excused himself silently to step outside and call A-cell. He was only a little surprised when his call was answered. It was Agent ALPHONSE, and he sounded tired.

ALPHONSE admitted he knew little of the Opera MARCUS had assigned, but he did know it was sparked by the discovery of an occult symbol. He suggested REDOX contact MARCUS with any questions and reports. MARCUS would keep A-cell apprised. Agent REDOX thanked ALPHONSE and said he had one quick question before he hung up.

“A play called The King in Yellow has been passed around between the tenants of the building recently. Ever heard of it?”

ALPHONSE was quiet for a long moment before giving his instruction.

“That is a very dangerous book. Retrieve it at all cost, and destroy it. Do not read it. Do not even open it. Do not so much as read the title. Understand, Agent?”

Agent REDOX acknowledged his instructions, and he indicated that his team could handle the execution. When he re-entered the Green Box, he saw ROMEO making a clumsy attempt at a sleeper hold. He waved ROMEO off and performed the maneuver himself. Once Penny was asleep again, he informed the other agents of what ALPHONSE had said.

REINHARD and ROMEO were now surer than ever that the best course of action would be to bomb the building and leave no survivors. They may have been innocent artists before, but now they were probably a cult of some sort, and their cult was centered on a book the leader of Delta Green had declared dangerous.

REDOX was against anything so flashy and high-profile for the moment, but he was willing to keep it on the back burner. For now, the mission parameters had changed. Find the play. Burn the play.
 
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Nomessiah

Villager
Night Floors - Session 4a

Agent REDOX returned to find the other two agents whispering to each other as Penny slept blindfolded, gagged, and handcuffed to the pipe; ROMEO had even stuck earplugs in her ears and set his phone to play white noise near her. REINHARD and ROMEO stopped whispering as their cell leader stepped back in.

Agent REDOX filled them in on their updated orders. He suggested someone should try calling the number for the night manager, and ROMEO nominated him.

“If you’re going to talk to him, you’ll need to be careful. He’s probably the one turning these artists into cultists. He might be able to control you through the phone.”

“You’re not serious.”

“Oh, deadly serious. He supposedly lives above the third floor, and Penny’s phone says she only talks to him at night. You read the page where the guy had clawed his eyes out, and this guy told him the super would probably give him new ones.”

“And how is it that the night manager is the leader of the cult if it’s the super with all the power.”

Here, Agent REINHARD offered the theory that the night manager might be the cult leader, while the super would then be like their deity. ROMEO agreed completely as it supported his argument. REDOX rolled his eyes and handed over his gun. Agent ROMEO then asked him to hand over his phone as well in case the night manager forced him to call A-cell or something else just as dangerous, and the cell leader did so with a sigh.

Agent ROMEO wasn’t quite satisfied, and so he asked REDOX to take a seat and allow himself to be handcuffed for the duration of the call. This was all getting to be a little ridiculous, but REDOX agreed to the demands. Once ROMEO was satisfied, he dialed the number and held the phone so that REDOX could talk.

There was no answer. The phone didn’t even ring. It was just like RIVER’s phone. Of course the call wouldn’t go through. Nothing above the third floor existed, at least not on this plane. They couldn’t contact RIVER or ROCHE. Why would they think they could contact the night manager? At least they tried. ROMEO could let REDOX loose now.

Only, ROMEO refused to remove the cuffs. It took REDOX a moment to realize what was going on. It was a mutiny! Agent REINHARD felt it necessary to point out that they weren’t on a ship, so that wasn’t strictly accurate. His helpful correction only drew a cold stare from the EPA scientist.

REDOX remained calm as he assessed the situation. He had no gun or phone, and he was handcuffed to a chair. He would eventually get free, and it would be a small matter to pin the kidnapping and/or murder of Penny MacLaren on Agent ROMEO. If ROMEO realized that, he’d never be able to let his cell leader live; not after this. Best to stay calm and let ROMEO think he’s in control.

“What’s this about? He didn’t answer, and I’m not mind-controlled. You can let me go and give me my phone and gun, so why won’t you?”

“REINHARD and I were talking while you were outside. We think you’ve been making some dangerous decisions. You wanted to give that Nazi book to someone outside of the group instead of destroying it, and now you want us to go back into that building and look for another book.”

“Under orders from A-cell. It’s a dangerous book, and it needs to be destroyed. It’s probably what’s causing all of this.”

“If A-cell is ordering it, I’m not getting in the way, but I can’t work with you anymore. Nothing personal. I just think you’re a menace.”

Using the phone he confiscated from his cell leader, ROMEO dialed A-cell, and the call was answered quickly. The man on the other end didn’t immediately identify himself, but when ROMEO told him who he was, the man gave his name as ADAM.

Agent ADAM wanted to know why ROMEO was calling and who gave him the number. Agent ROMEO informed him that he took the phone from REDOX who was currently unavailable. He explained all the reasons he felt REDOX wasn’t fit to lead, and all the while, REDOX gave him dirty looks.

ROMEO asked to be reassigned, and ADAM said the matter would be handled. ADAM instructed ROMEO to hold the phone up so REDOX could speak, but ROMEO said that wasn’t going to be possible. This prompted REINHARD to draw his gun and point it at ROMEO who calmly ended his call.

“I’m going to have to go now, ADAM. Agent REINHARD is pointing a gun at me. Don’t forget: You said you’d have this taken care of.”

He then hung up and put the phone away. Penny stirred a little in her sleep while the three agents discussed just what the hell was going on. Apparently, REINHARD had agreed that their cell leader was acting dangerously, but now he felt it was ROMEO who had taken leave of his senses.
 
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Nomessiah

Villager
Night Floors - Session 4b

ROMEO’s plan was to take REDOX’s phone and leave his own in exchange, leave his cell leader’s gun, and just disappear for a while until A-cell could get him a new identity and assignment. REDOX sarcastically wished him luck. With that, Agent ROMEO left the green box and drove away in the car he’d rented for the previous kidnapping.

A moment later, REINHARD’s phone rang. It was Agent ADAM. The mutiny of R-cell had become a concern for A-cell. This wasn’t how Delta Green handled a situation like this. REINHARD resisted the temptation to correct ADAM’s use of the word, and instead, he agreed.

The IRS agent asked ADAM what he should do about REDOX, and he was told that it was his call. A-cell was too busy for amateur-hour theatrics. However they wanted to handle things, the job needed to be done, and A-cell wasn’t going to hold their hands. REINHARD said he was releasing REDOX, but that they were only two agents. They needed reinforcements.

“I’ve only got one person I can send, and he’s a Friendly. It’s time to bump him to full agent. Until recently, he was a member of Secretary Clinton’s Secret Service security detail, but he’s in the process of reassignment. She didn’t like the tone in his voice when he said good morning. He should be in New York City now. I’ll email a bio and photo to REDOX. Now see that the job is done.”

After freeing REDOX, the next order of business was to figure out what to do with Penny who was still unconscious but showing signs of waking. REINHARD felt they were simply screwed. He didn’t want to kill her, but if she went free, she’d turn him over to the police.

REDOX wasn’t so sure, and he had a plan. She’d seen REINHARD’s face, and she would associate him with ROMEO, but she didn’t know his real name, and as far as she knew, ROMEO was acting alone. If they hit her with another tranquilizer to keep her out long enough to move her, REINHARD could meet up with the new agent. When Penny started to wake up, REDOX would burst in and be the heroic FBI agent coming to save her.

Agent REINHARD agreed the plan might work, and so they put it into effect. In the early-morning hours, they transported Penny to the abandoned store where only a few days earlier the accountant for a Holocaust denial group had met with a sorcerer of some sort. REDOX set to work handcuffing her to a nearby pipe while REINHARD headed back to the relative safety of the Marriot.

Agent REDOX took the earplugs out of Penny’s ears, and when she finally began to show signs of waking, he slipped quietly outside. After a ten-count, he kicked the door in and shouted some things he’d heard FBI agents on television shout in similar situations. He rushed over and took off the young woman’s blindfold and removed the gag. He held out his FBI credentials.

“Everything’s going to be okay, ma’am. I’m …”

Oh, damn. Who was he again? Norman, Nelson, Millsap? He risked a quick glance at his badge.

“… Agent Morrison of the FBI. I’m going to get you free. Are you okay?”

Penny nodded slowly and squinted as her eyes adjusted to the lighting. Agent REDOX spent a minute pretending to pick the lock on the handcuffs before using the key. He asked her some questions while he worked. Did she know who had kidnapped her? Did he have any accomplices?

She told him that it was a man who said his name was Howard Phillips. She had met him recently – she had no idea how much time had passed since she was drugged. They had gone to dinner, and he shot her with a dart gun. The next thing she knew, she was here. When she met Phillips, he was with another man he called Benson, but she didn’t know if he was in on it. As far as she knew, Phillips was working alone.

Once the cuffs were off, REDOX helped the young woman to her feet and put his jacket over her shoulders. He told her not to worry. He’d make sure she got taken into protective custody. This was apparently exactly the wrong thing to have said. She stopped short, dropped his jacket to the ground, and took a step away.

“That … That’s exactly what Mr. Phillips said. Just like that.”

Judging from her tone and the look in her eyes, REDOX was sure she was just in shock. He offered to call another FBI agent to give her a ride home, and she accepted. REDOX called Agent MARCUS and asked him to send Agent Udagawa whom he had worked with recently. Agent Udagawa took Penny back to the Macallistar building, and REDOX caught a cab back to the Marriot.

After a brief nap, REDOX looked over the file Agent ADAM had sent on the new agent. His name was Dimitri Benedict Salazar, and he was with the Secret Service. He was a decorated agent with specialized training as a driver and a sniper. A skilled driver who could handle pressure would be a real asset. He hoped the agent’s skill with a rifle would never be a factor in the outcome of an Opera, but he knew better.

REXDOX called REINHARD and Agent Salazar to set up a meeting in the hotel bar. Both remaining agents of R-cell found the new recruit acceptable if a little stiff and formal. His tendency to call them sir particularly got to REDOX, but he let it go for the time being. The agents brought Agent Salazar up to speed and welcomed him to the group. REDOX mentioned that the choosing of a codename was a sort of symbolic rite of passage, and so Salazar selected the name RON.

In the space of two weeks, R-cell’s membership had gone from one to two to four to five to three to two, and back to three. Even a fast food restaurant didn’t have that kind of turnover. Did that say anything about REDOX as a leader? He decided it didn’t.
 
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Nomessiah

Villager
Night Floors - Session 4c

R-cell spent a couple hours discussing possible plans of action, and the one they finally settled on was to simply interview Louis Post and examine his apartment for the play. If that failed to turn up anything, Plan B was to carry in large evidence boxes filled with propane tanks and gasoline canisters, place them in strategic places like empty apartments and janitor’s closets, set them to detonate with the press of a remote trigger, and then wait for nightfall before torching the Macallistar.

As Penny had seen his face, Agent REINHARD opted to wait in the car with a walkie-talkie while the other two agents conducted the interview. Before talking to Mr. Post, REDOX wanted to test a couple theories. He and RON went up to the third floor and looked around for doors to the outside which the map showed labelled as ‘The Parlor’ and ‘Mr. Castaigne.’ As he suspected, there were walls rather than doors.

To test the other theory, the agents took the stairs to the roof, but the door seemed to be locked. They decided to leave the roof until later, and they went to interview Mr. Post instead. Louis Post was below average height and above average weight. His hair was a messy brown mop, and the circles under his eyes implied he hadn’t slept well recently. Still, when REDOX asked to speak with him, he was happy to let the agents in. He asked only that they excuse the mess.

If it weren’t for the fact that none of the furniture was broken or overturned, the apartment might look as if a tornado had blown through. There were papers, drawings, soda cans, pizza boxes, and graphic novels all over, but no sign of an old play. Agent RON stayed silent and observant while REDOX asked about the King in Yellow. Mr. Post said he had never heard of it, and both agents felt he was telling the truth.

REDOX then asked about the door to the roof, and Mr. Post said there was a trick to opening it. He’d be glad to show them if they liked. Agent REDOX said they would, and so Louis led them up to the door. He jiggled the knob with his left hand and seemed to be aligning it, and then he smacked it sharply with his other hand. There was a soft click, and the door opened onto the roof. The agents thanked Mr. Post and stepped out onto the roof while Louis returned to his apartment.

The roof of the Macallistar was nothing special. Small gravel covered the ground, and a large air conditioning unit hummed loudly. The perimeter of the roof was lined with a low wall designed to look like a castle rampart, and a concrete gargoyle stood watch over each corner of the building.

The agents decided there was nothing more to see, and so they returned to the car and began to put Plan B into effect. It took a couple hours of work to place the fuel containers in the right places and wire them to blow, but in all that time, none of the tenants left their apartments, and so there was no one to question their activities. With the groundwork laid, REDOX and REINHARD left to find food and wait until nightfall. As this was Agent RON’s first official assignment, he wanted everything to go smoothly, so he watched the Macallistar from an alley across the street.

Once sufficient darkness had fallen, R-cell regrouped. Each agent took up a different position to watch the building, and they remained in contact with their walkie-talkies. REDOX gave the word, and RON hit the button. There was a long second of silence followed by a series of soft explosions only REINHARD was in position to hear. All three agents could see the flashes of orange in windows on all three floors, and REDOX told them to remain in position for a few minutes to make sure the job was done.

The flickers of orange in the windows gained intensity, but no one left the building. Windows shattered from the heat, and yet no emergency vehicles came. Cars passed by, and no one seemed to notice. In fact, REDOX decided, it was as if only the agents themselves knew the building was burning. He uttered a few choice epithets and gave the order to meet at the rendezvous point and return to the hotel. In the morning, they’d decide whether or not to come up with Plan C.
 
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Nomessiah

Villager
Night Floors - Session 4d

Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away in Lexington, Kentucky, Agent ROMEO returned to his third floor motel room with a bag of snacks from the convenience store down the street. His first clue that something wasn’t right was the figure lying back against the headboard of his bed. In the dark, he couldn’t see clearly, but before he flipped the light switch the figure spoke. Her voice was soft and emotionless, and it dripped with authority.

“Let’s not spoil the mood, Terrance.”

Terrance. That was his real name. Whoever this was knew him. In his line of work, that was never good. Agent ROMEO set his bag on the table and pulled the curtain aside. He didn’t see anyone, but he got the strong impression he wouldn’t get far if he ran out the front.

“Now, Terrance. You and I both know how this is going to play out. I have dinner plans, so shall we make this quick?”

“You have me at a disadvantage, ma’am.”

Agent ROMEO was stalling for time while he scanned the room for other exits. There was a window overlooking the alley behind the motel, but it was a thirty foot drop, and he’d have to cross the room. He began inching along the perimeter making sure to keep his eyes on the dark figure on the bed.

“I have everyone at a disadvantage. It’s my job.”

The woman didn’t move. She simply remained still in the cover of darkness as ROMEO moved. Half-way there. If she wanted to kill him, she could have done it by now. So what was this about? He decided his best bet was to just keep stalling until he made it to the window.

“Is this about the Nazi book? You’re a little late for that.”

“I’m not really a bookish sort of woman, but keep guessing. I’m sure you’ll get it.”

She was obviously toying with him, but her demeanor never slipped from the professional. Agent ROMEO was an interrogator with Homeland Security, and he was used to getting information out of people, but that required a position of strength. Right now, this woman was in control, and she knew it.

One slip up is all it would take, and he might be able to turn this around, but she was so cold and calculating that he felt sure she wasn’t going to slip. Best to just make a break for it. ROMEO bolted the rest of the way across the dark room and dove shoulder-first into the window.

The next few moments seemed to take forever. His eyes were closed, but he could hear. He heard the breaking of glass, and then the sounds of the city got louder. He heard the wind as he fell. He thought he heard the woman’s voice say something like “take him.”

He didn’t hear the shots, but he felt the three bullets hit his armored vest. They hurt, but they only foreshadowed the impact. A second later, Agent ROMEO heard a sickening crunch and felt his legs break. Opening his eyes, he saw a man in black tactical gear standing over him with a pistol pointed at his face. The man had a square jaw and a black, knit cap covering his hair.

A moment later, he sensed the woman from the room coming up behind him. He couldn’t see, but she knelt down and cradled his head in her arms. Her voice was still professional.

“Now, Terrance. Was this really necessary?”

Agent ROMEO coughed and fought for enough breath to speak.

“Who … who are you?”

The woman made a soft, soothing sound as she held him.

“Oh, sweetie. You can call me ANDREA.”

Then with a quick and well-practiced motion, the woman snapped ROMEO’s neck.
 
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Nomessiah

Villager
Night Floors - Session 5a

The agents of R-cell met up at the designated rendezvous point a few blocks from the Macallistar building. The plan was to return to the hotel, and come back in the morning, but the whole situation had been nagging at REDOX. After talking it over for a few minutes, the agents decided to go back. It was Agent RIENHARD’s question which made the decision for them.

“We carried the gas inside in FBI evidence trunks. Did we bring those back out before lighting the place up?”

Back at the Macallistar building, the agents could still see flames clearly through all visible windows. Agent RON slipped into the alley across the street from the Macallistar and climbed to the roof of a convenience store where he set up his rifle and scope with a clear view of the face of the Macallistar building.

REDOX wondered why none of the windows had broken yet. In such an old building, they really should have by now. He and REINHARD casually walked up to the front doors of the building. Agent RON’s voice came over the walkie talkie.

“I’ve got you in my sights, sir. Blinds are drawn, but there’s movement on the third floor. Fire everywhere inside; no smoke outside.”

That was an interesting observation. If the building was on fire, the occupants should have come out the front doors, the windows, or on to the roof, but none of that had happened. And even if the windows refused to break, there should be smoke.

Agent REDOX could see through the front doors and the entry way that the entire hall was in flames. He cautiously reached his hand out to touch the door. It was cool to the touch. REINHARD suggested that there might be some sort of hallucination going on. That would explain why only the agents seemed to notice the building was burning.

REDOX ran his hand down the intercom making sure to hit each button. Someone was kind enough to buzz them in, and as they opened the door, a gust of air rushed inside, and the flames disappeared. REINHARD propped the door open with a chunk of cement which had broken free of the curb. The smells of gasoline and propane were very strong, but there was no fire, and no sign of smoke. Agent RON confirmed he no longer saw flames in the first floor hall, but they could still be seen elsewhere in the building.

On a hunch, REDOX had RON fire a shot through Abigail Wright’s window. It was covered in layers of glued paper and other objects, but light could be seen through it. Agent RON fired a single round from his rifle. While it did have a silencer on the barrel, the crack of the shot could still be heard over the sounds of the city night. The shot shattered Abby’s window, and glass and paper fell away. As REDOX had suspected, the fire disappeared, and a strong odor of gasoline and propane came blowing out.

The agents decided they’d need gas masks to enter the building. Agent RON watched the building while the other two went to get masks from the FBI equipment room. Shortly after REDOX and REINHARD had gone, there was movement in Abby Wright’s apartment. Agent RON used his rifle scope to get a closer look. A man wearing khaki pants and a plain dress shirt seemed to be setting up a microphone in the center to the apartment. A thick cable ran out the door, across the hall, and into the apartment opposite Abby’s.

RON relayed this information to his cell leader along with a description, and REINHARD confirmed it was Thomas Manuel. Why he was setting up a microphone, none of the agents knew.

Ms. Wright’s apartment was technically a federal crime scene, and while Manuel hadn’t noticed the propane tanks and gas cans yet, RON was sure he’d spot them soon. REDOX gave the order to fire, and RON shot without hesitation. One shot, and Thomas Manuel was dead. He’d never even known what hit him. Then RON fired again, taking out the microphone.

REDOX and REINHARD returned a short time later, and RON confirmed he had eyes on them. Their first action was to enter Abby’s apartment and dump Mr. Manuel’s body out the broken window into the recessed area below which held the building’s garbage cans.

Next, they followed the cable across the hall to Thomas Manuel’s apartment. It was clean and rather Spartan. Manuel was a painter, but as REINHARD pointed out, there was a distinct lack of artwork on the walls. A plastic tree stood in a corner near the door, and there was little else in the way of decoration.

The cable led to a computer with three monitors displaying the same sort of software Penny MacLaren’s computer had. One window displayed a sound file titled My_Great_Work_15.wav, and it was still recording. There looked to be some activity early on, and then a spike as if something very loud had happened, and then there was simply a flat line.

Agent REINHARD stopped the recording and scanned the contents of the hard drive. There was nothing particularly interesting aside from the folder where the recording was stored. There were 15 files all titled My_Great_Work and numbered sequentially. It appeared Thomas Manuel had made a recording each night for the past two weeks. Agent REINHARD shut down the computer and removed the hard drive. He planned to listen to the recordings later.

Before they left, Agent REINHARD checked the closet near the door. It was quite a bit darker on the inside than he expected, but before he could get his flashlight, the clanging of a large bell of the sort one might expect atop a church tower came ringing out from deep in the darkness. REINHARD slammed the closet door, and both agents made a retreat to the hallway.
 
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Nomessiah

Villager
Night Floors - Session 5b

The agents then went upstairs to Louis Post’s apartment. He was reportedly the last tenant to have the play, so that was a good place to start. As they reached the second floor, they spotted a very large, greyish-brown dog walking up the stairs to the third floor. The dog looked to be nearly three feet tall at the shoulders and probably outweighed both agents together. The mastiff stopped halfway up and turned to look at them with slobber dripping from its sagging features.

REDOX took a step backwards and down, but the dog simply turned away and continued up the creaking stairs. Once it was out of sight, the agents hurried to Mr. Post’s apartment and knocked on the door. When there was no answer, Agent REINHARD bypassed the old lock by sliding a credit card between the door and the frame.

The door creaked open to reveal the same disaster of an apartment they’d seen before, only this time it was bigger. There was more space between the furniture, and the apartment itself was wider than the building should have allowed. Even still, nearly every square foot was covered by pizza boxes, soda bottles, and discarded drawings. One other thing was different; there was a three-foot-high ornate mirror on the coffee table, and Mr. Post’s desk chair had been pulled up to face it. REDOX opened the blinds on the side facing the street, and Agent RON radioed to let him know he had eyes on the apartment.

While Agent REINHARD fished through the mess looking for the play, REDOX examined the mirror, and he almost immediately regretted it. He noticed that the reflection was a bit darker, like the lights were dimmed, and the closet door opened into darkness. He turned to look, and his suspicion was confirmed; the door was closed, but the reflection showed it open.

As REDOX looked back to the mirror, the reflection showed a man with a briefcase and white shoes entering the closet, but when he turned, he saw the door was still closed. He pointed this out to REINHARD, and both agents agreed the mirror should be smashed. REDOX did the honors, and REINHARD examined the closet.

The map they’d found had this closet labelled “Slaughterhouse.” He slowly turned the knob and pulled the closet door open. No sooner had he done so than the sounds of automatic gunfire could be heard, and bullets started to pepper the opposite wall. Agent REINHARD stepped out of the way, and REDOX drew his gun and began firing into the darkness. Agent RON also fired a couple shots from his rifle.

The automatic gunfire stopped abruptly, and the agents could hear a blood-curdling scream from deep in the closet. REDOX shined his flashlight inside, and while the first several feet were carpeted and lined by hanging coats, the closet eventually opened up into a much larger room. The floor was hardwood, and the ceiling was high. It looked like a ballroom.

That was enough for REDOX. He gave the evacuation order, and the agents climbed out the broken street-facing window and down to the sidewalk below. No sign of the play, but maybe they’d done some good in there anyway. There was no longer any doubt in either agent’s mind that this building and its occupants were a threat.

REDOX radioed RON, but the sniper heard only static. He radioed back, and REDOX heard only static. REDOX tried the phone, and that seemed to work just fine. He told RON to meet them at the rendezvous point, and they’d carpool to the hotel. If the tenants of the Macallistar building didn’t retaliate somehow, maybe they could go back in the morning. Once in the relative safety of the Marriott, the agents split up and headed to their respective rooms.

REINHARD had one thing to do before bed: listen to Manuel’s recordings. He plugged the hard drive into his laptop and listened from the beginning. Each recording began with an introduction by Thomas Manuel stating the name and number of the recording, and at first they seemed to be followed only by white noise, but soon there seemed to be something faint and musical in the background. Agent REINHARD listened to a few of the earlier recordings multiple times, and eventually he could hear the voices clearly.

It seemed rehearsed like dialogue from a movie or play. One voice, a young woman named Cassilda, sang a haunting song about a city named Carcosa near a lake called Hali. Some of the dialogue mentioned a masquerade ball thrown in the court of the king. The king was sometimes mentioned as wearing tattered yellow robes. One other person who seemed prominent was a visitor who was unknown to the other guests and was referred to simply as the Phantom.

Agent REINHARD listened closely to each recording several times, and at some point the dialogue began to be spoken in French. In every incarnation, Cassilda’s song chilled him, but he couldn’t keep himself from replaying it. He had the distinct feeling the song would never leave him; when a song would get stuck in his head as songs tend to do, that song would always be this one.
 

Nomessiah

Villager
Night Floors - Session 6a

After six hours of restless sleep, Agent REDOX called R-cell to group up. They met over breakfast to discuss their options going forward. The Macallistar building and its tenants seemed normal during the day and different – almost sinister – at night. They agreed daylight would be their best friend when dealing with the building. The only trouble was that daylight made it harder for their actions to go undetected.

REDOX was disappointed with the fact that the building wouldn’t burn, but REINHARD offered the suggestion that the building might be somehow more resilient at night. Maybe burning it during the day might work better. REDOX nodded and looked to Agent RON for his input. The secret service agent only offered a few words:

“You make the call, sir, and I’ll follow.”

Agent REDOX narrowed his eyes. He’d dealt with many agents who refused to listen, or who decided to take matters into their own hands; ROSE, ROCHE, REAPER, RAJEEV, RIVER … All he wanted was a cell that would follow orders, and now there was RON. His obedience to the supposed chain of command was annoying bordering on the infuriating. REDOX sighed and sipped at his coffee.

According to A-cell, the primary goal was to find the book; destruction of the building and removal of what R-cell saw as a cult were secondary objectives. The agents determined all three objectives would be easier if the tenants were evacuated from the building first. With the tenants out of the building, it could be searched without the need for the FBI act which REINHARD and REDOX agreed was getting tiring. Then the building could be torched, and assuming it burned, no bodies would be found. Finally, with the cult at an undisclosed location, they could be executed and disposed of.

The plan the agents decided on called for REDOX to rent a storage unit outside the city under an assumed name while REINHARD procured a moving truck and six large trunks. While they did that, RON would keep eyes on the building.

It was nearly 11:00 AM by the time the agents reassembled in front of the Macallistar. Agent REINHARD parked the truck right outside. As Penny MacLaren could identify him, Agent REINHARD decided he should stay in the truck.

RON and REDOX carried the trunks inside to Abby’s apartment. The first thing they noticed when they entered was that the smell of gas was still strong. The propane tanks were sealed, and the gas cans were open just as the agents had set them. The blasting caps hadn’t detonated, and the fuel had never ignited.

The next thing they noticed was that the front window which had been shot out the night before was once again in place and buried beneath layers of papers and glue. REDOX speculated that maybe the Macallistar building regenerated every morning.

RON knocked on Mr. Manuel’s door, and he was relieved when no one answered. Maybe the super hadn’t yet brought him back to life. Not that they had evidence that he could, but both agents felt there was truth to the odd pages they’d found in the building. One page had implied that the super might give Daniel Gray his eyes back.
 

Nomessiah

Villager
Night Floors - Session 6b

Next on the list was the last remaining tenant on the first floor: Roger Carun. Mr. Carun was a little on the shoter side with thinning brown hair. Other than the hair, he seemed to be in his early 30s. When he opened the door to his apartment, Agent REDOX flashed his FBI credentials and introduced himself as Special Agent Morrison. He introduced RON as Special Agent Densmore. Mr. Carun invited them in.

The apartment was very clean, but the walls were covered in posters for science fiction movies. It was the bedroom of a rich, geeky teenager, or it was the home of a geeky adult science fiction writer who was doing just well enough to get by.

REDOX informed Mr. Carun that he was their main suspect in the disappearance of Abigail Wright, and that meant they were going to have to take him in. The man’s eyes widened, and he protested that he had nothing to do with the disappearance; he’d only really even spoken to Ms. Wright once when he asked her to keep her New Year’s Eve party to a dull roar.
REDOX countered that new evidence had come to light implicating the science fiction writer, but he refused to say what evidence when pressed. Mr. Carun demanded that they show him a warrant, and while the agents were pretty sure the FBI had authority to arrest or detain without a warrant, they weren’t as sure as Mr. Carun seemed to be.

RON made a motion with his hand indicating the REDOX should shoot the man with his tranquilizer gun at the first opportunity, and then he cleared his throat.

“We don’t have a warrant, but we don’t need one either. We’re sorry, Mr. Carun.”

“Not as sorry as you’re going to be when I talk to my lawyer.”

When the man turned to address RON, Agent REDOX shot him in the neck with the tranquilizer. He caught the man as he fell, and both agents placed him in a trunk. Next up, second floor; Louis Post, Michelle Vanfitz, Penny MacLaren, and Daniel Gray. REDOX only had three doses of tranquilizer left, and there was still Clarice Milner on the third floor. They decided Ms. MacLaren might be difficult given what she’d recently been through, and so they left her for last.

The encounter with Mr. Post went about the same. Post swore he had nothing to do with the disappearance, and he asked for a warrant. RON got his attention while REDOX tranquilized him, and the agents dumped him in a trunk. Neither agent seemed particularly bothered by how routine this was becoming.

There was no answer at Mr. Gray’s door, so they picked the lock and entered. The apartment was empty. The carpet showed evidence of furniture, but it had apparently been removed in the past few days. Oh well. That was one less kidnapping/murder on their conscience. It also meant they were only short one dose.

Michelle Vanfitz was a tall woman with dark hair barely long enough to be tied back the way she had it. This had the effect of tightening her already severe features into an inscrutable mask of mild surprise and disdain. REDOX flashed his FBI credentials and made the introductions. This time, he elected not to inform her that she was their main suspect. Ms. Vanfitz invited them in, and while RON looked around at the many shelves of books on feminist literature and poetry, REDOX opened the conversation with a question. He wasn’t quite prepared for her answer.

“Ms. Vanfitz, have you ever heard of a play called the King in Yellow?”

“Heard of it? Of course I’ve heard of it. Abby found a copy at the little bookstore down the street, and we’ve all read it at least once. You know, it is one of the first feminist plays! It portrays a patriarchal society shifting to a matriarchal one. It’s really remarkable.”

Just then, RON found an old, thin book tucked between Women’s Studies textbooks. He slid the book out, and examined the cover. There was an odd yellow symbol sort of like an abstract of a creature with three spiraling tentacles. Something about the symbol filled him with dread, but he opened the cover anyway. The title page confirmed his suspicions: The King in Yellow, translated from the French.
 

Nomessiah

Villager
Night Floors - Session 6c

With Ms. Vanfitz’s back to him, RON held the book up for REDOX to see and made a show of concealing it beneath his jacket. He then got her attention by asking about one of the books on her shelves. As she turned, REDOX shot her in the neck like he had the others.

Once she was in a trunk of her own, the agents headed quickly up to the third floor and knocked on Clarice Milner’s door. The young woman answered, but she had little time even to smile. REDOX was in a hurry.

“Clarice Milner?”

“That’s me.”

“Good.”

He shot her in the neck with his last dose of tranquilizer, and the agents dragged her down to Abby’s apartment to dump her in a trunk.

That left only Penny MacLaren. REDOX knocked on her door. She answered the door with a blanket around her shoulders. He may have recently rescued her from her captor, but she didn’t seem happy to see him. She did invite the agents in, however.

Ms. MacLaren wasn’t in the mood for talking, and the agents were all out of tranquilizers, so RON improvised. He got her attention and then sprayed mace in her eyes. She screamed and tried to run for her door, but she was disoriented. She ended up tripping over her coffee table instead, and REDOX used the opportunity to jump on her and try his sleeper hold again.

Once she was out, the agents dumped her in the last trunk. They loaded the trunks into the moving truck, and REINHARD and REDOX drove away. RON had one last task to complete. This all started in Abigail Wright’s apartment, so it was only fitting it should end there.

Ron dropped the King in Yellow in the middle of her floor and poured gasoline over it. He then dropped a match and watched until the book had turned to ash. Once he felt certain the book was gone, he fled the building and took watch from the alley across the street. This time, there were real flames and smoke. This time, windows shattered. This time, the building burned.

By the time emergency responders had put the fire out, all that remained of the Macallistar was a crumbling, three-walled stone ruin. That was good enough for him.

After dropping REDOX at the storage area and unloading the trunks, REINHARD caught a cab to the airport. He was about done with this job. He’d be happy to ride a desk and keep Delta Green informed, but he was done with field work. No more Agent REINHARD; only Michael Pollander, the Friendly.

REDOX fired three rounds from his silenced pistol into each trunk before opening them. He placed each body in turn on a table covered in thick plastic, and he calmly sawed them into easily manageable chunks. The blood drained down the plastic and into buckets. He worked all day, and as night fell, he loaded two plastic-lined trunks filled with the remains of the tenants and some iron scrap for weight, and he drove out of town until he found a reasonably secluded pier on a dark section of beach.

Two months ago, it was Agent ROSE into the Pacific. Now, he dumped the Macallistar tenants into the Atlantic. Yeah. He could handle the job of cell leader.
 

Nomessiah

Villager
Okay, soooo ... I could have sworn I had posted that last session nearly two years ago. My apologies to anyone following this Story Hour. On the bright side, we've picked the game back up. We'll now be playing every other Sunday to accommodate a player with an odd work schedule.

I would much rather take an extra week between sessions than force a player into a minor support/recurring role. This way, I'll have an extra week to prepare plot lines and handouts, and none of the players will miss out.

We had the first session in nearly two years last week, and the next session is set for this coming Sunday.
 

Nomessiah

Villager
Interlude

After two brutal Operas in New York over the span of a week, R-Cell evidently merited some time off. During that time, R-Cell was approached by a woman claiming Delta Green clearance who knew them by their real names. She informed them that several years ago, Delta Green had regained its legitimacy within the U.S. government, and since then the Program, as she referred to it, had been working to track down members of the cells to “bring them in from the cold.” She offered official government sanction and black budget funding in exchange for official oversight and stacks of paperwork.

The offer sounded good to REDOX, but the others were unconvinced. Why now? Because R-Cell had finally been tracked down. Why hadn’t they heard about this supposed legitimization of the Delta Green conspiracy? Well, “conspiracy.” How could they be sure this wasn’t an elaborate trap set by Delta Green’s numerous enemies? She knew their names, and they were still alive. That was good enough for REDOX, or Dr. Michael Pepper, as it were. In the Program, codenames weren’t necessary.

And there it was. Codenames weren’t necessary? The things Delta Green agents had been doing for decades could be classified as domestic terrorism, albeit with an eye toward the security of the nation. Codenames were often the only real protection they had. REINHARD and RON took that opportunity to thank the woman for her time, walk away, and go as dark as they possibly could.

Dr. Pepper, on the other hand, accepted the offer. With this new, legitimate Delta Green, he’d obviously be getting a raise, an office, an invitation to the Delta Green Christmas party … No, not exactly. Well, he’d get a badge and Delta Green credentials … Again, no. Could he sew a green triangle onto his shirt? He could if he wanted to, but it wasn’t advisable. Delta Green wasn’t an agency. It was a security clearance, and it was above Top Secret. The first rule of Delta Green was still “Don’t talk about Delta Green.”

Then what, exactly, was the difference between the cell-structure conspiracy and the Program? It sounded like all he got was a lack of codename. The woman reminded him that his Delta Green ops would be officially sanctioned by the U.S. government, and he’d have the support of every agency and military branch from which Delta Green pulled its members.

So, he could call in an air strike on Peoria? No. But he could have a wiretap placed in his neighbor’s house to get proof that the jackass was pirating his Wi-Fi and using his Amazon Prime account, right? Not without a warrant. Spy satellite photography? Nope.

So, he lost his codename, and he gained government oversight and increased paperwork. There was an upside to all this, but he was missing it. The woman reminded him that he was currently classified as a domestic terrorist, but if he played ball, he could do all the things he used to for all the same reasons, and he’d be a patriot instead. Fair enough.
 

Nomessiah

Villager
Convergence - Session 1a

It wasn’t until about ten months later, in May of 2013, that Dr. Pepper got his first call for a legitimate Delta Green op. The Program was assembling a task force at the FBI headquarters in Knoxville, Tennessee. His supervisor had already been notified of his impending absence, so that was nice. No more burning his sick leave and pretending he was home in bed. The EPA had also already arranged his flight to Nashville and reserved a rental car. This legitimate status just might work out after all.

The drive from Nashville took about two hours, and on arrival at the FBI office, he was directed to a conference room down the hall and to the left. There were two men already in the room. The one in the black suit was standing, and he directed the doctor to close the door and take a seat.

The other man was obviously not FBI. He introduced himself as Thomas Lakefield, a park ranger for the National Park Service. After the pleasantries, the man in the suit jumped straight to the briefing. He was Special-Agent-in-Charge James Derringer, a Vietnam veteran and career lawman.

SAC Derringer tapped a few keys on the wireless keyboard, and the 55” widescreen monitor mounted to the wall flickered to life. It displayed a grainy, black-and-white picture in the center with a wide strip of black to either side. Another keystroke and the video began to play. It was security camera footage showing the counter and register of a convenience store.

A young man, probably in his late teens or early twenties, wearing a t-shirt and jeans entered the store and approached the counter. There was no audio, but it was apparent the man was agitated. He shouted some things at the clerk who merely stared at him with a blank expression. The man threw a punch at the clerk, striking him in the temple and caving in the side of his head before the follow-through tore the head clean off the shoulders. The dented skull bounced and skidded along the counter and off onto the floor. The headless body stood and trembled for a long five or six seconds as blood spurted from the neck like an erupting volcano. Eventually, it lurched forward and collapsed on the counter.

The man disappeared off-camera briefly before returning with an armful of pill bottles. He pressed some buttons on the register before getting frustrated and bringing his fist down on it a few times, smashing it and causing the cash drawer to pop open. The man grabbed a handful of cash and fled the store.


As the video ended, SAC Derringer hit another key on the keyboard to stop the playback. He turned to the two agents.

“This was four days ago at a Quik Mart in Florence, Alabama. The kid in the video is William Raymond Spivey. Billy Ray. He held up six gas stations and drug stores in the last two weeks – first in Tennessee, then Alabama, and finally in Georgia. He was stopped at a roadblock in Georgia just after his last robbery. An FBI agent and a state trooper put four bullets in him before he went down. He lived, and he is being held under sedation in an interrogation room down the hall.”

Ranger Lakefield pointed out that the sort of mauling displayed in the film would be a tough feat for a grizzly, much less a bare-handed kid. Derringer simply nodded and continued.

“That’s why you’re here, agents. Eight days ago, Billy Ray vanished from his home in Waynesboro, Tennessee. He returned six days ago, dazed and with no knowledge of what had happened in the meantime. He felt sick, and he was in a lot of pain. After his parents put him to bed, they called the local doctor to examine him. The doctor was unable to find any explanation for the boy’s pain. What’s more, Billy Ray had a hell of an appetite. He ate anything put in front of him whether it was something he liked or not, and despite the increased eating, he had no bowel movements and didn’t urinate.”

Both agents were taking notes, but they evidently found different things to be of interest.

“Four days ago, he went into some sort of a fit. His father tried to hold him down and quiet him, but Spivey punched clean through his father’s chest, killing him almost instantly. Billy Ray fled the house and ran off toward town. He robbed Murray’s Gas, taking $65 and several bottles of aspirin. He also took the cashier’s car and sped off down State Road 13.”
 

Nomessiah

Villager
Convergence - Session 1b

SAC Derringer then detailed the results of the medical examination performed on Spivey after his arrival in Knoxville. Analysis showed muscle tissue in his arms and legs had been entirely replaced with a strange tissue that mimicked human muscle tissue, but which was decidedly non-human. The boy has tremendous strength, but only his muscle tissue had been replaced; his skeletal structure remained the same. This meant that while the kid was strong enough to lift and throw a small car, his bones would still snap under stress. Further examination revealed extensive surgery evidenced by many tiny scars over his arms and legs. The incisions had been closed with the same non-human tissue as the replaced muscle tissue. The replaced tissue of his arms and legs was hairless, and he no longer had fingerprints, handprints, or footprints. His hands and feet were smooth yet possessed an increased friction.

Lakefield seemed a little bothered by this revelation – understandable since this was his first official Delta Green op – but Pepper took it all in stride. Not even a year had passed since he’d seen a Nazi necromancer shoot a cab driver and switch places with the corpse to effect a getaway. Never mind the indestructible building with the extra floors at night or the gasoline that could make a person’s truck run him over in his hotel room. Compared to what he’d seen quite recently, a quadruple amputee with replacement limbs and an addiction to painkillers was a mild episode of Dr. Phil.

Their assignment, Derringer said, was to head to Waynesboro and find out what happened to Spivey during his missing days, and to handle the situation under standard Delta Green protocol. To Derringer and Lakefield, Delta Green protocol meant elimination and cover-up of supernatural threats. To Dr. Pepper, “Delta Green protocol” probably meant scorched earth. He didn’t want to destroy an entire town, but if it came to it, he knew Lakefield wouldn’t light the fuse.

The briefing essentially over, Derringer directed them to the interrogation room where Spivey was heavily sedated and cuffed to a chair under armed guard. The agents asked the kid several questions, but his answers were slow and not always clear. They were able to learn that Billy Ray had a girlfriend named Jane Allen who lived a few miles away from his place, and he had been to see her the night he apparently disappeared. He remembered leaving the Allen farmhouse and returning home. The walk typically took an hour or so, but his parents said it took two days. In Spivey’s drugged condition, he couldn’t possibly be considered of sound mind, and yet Dr. Pepper ignored that detail when he gained Spivey’s permission to take a tissue sample. While Lakefield prepared a vehicle for the trip to Waynesboro, Pepper prepared a slide with the tissue sample for examination by the doctor Derringer said was being sent from Washington.

The two agents decided to stop in Nashville and get a hotel room. Waynesboro was a town of about 2,000 people, and there was only one small motel in the area. Until they were sure it was safe to stay in town, a two-hour commute was fine with them.

It was just about lunchtime when they arrived in the small town. The agents stopped at Murray’s Gas and grabbed sodas, chips, and fresh-made deli sandwiches before checking in with the local sheriff. Lakefield pointed out that this Murray person must either own the town or be a local legend after whom the entire town chose to name everything. Murray’s Gas was next to Murray’s Auto Body. Murray’s Diner was down the street to the north. A block or so to the west were Murray’s Chinese and Murray’s Laundry and Dry Cleaning.

Waynesboro was a modern, small southern town, but the Wayne County Sheriff’s office was straight out of the Andy Griffith show. There were three cells with comfortable-looking furnishings and a set of iron keys hanging within reach of two of those cells. The sheriff was sitting back and reading a magazine with his feet up on his desk. They didn’t look like FBI, but Pepper and Lakefield had FBI consultants badges displayed; Lakefield’s on a lanyard around his neck, and Pepper’s in a leather wallet clipped to his belt.

The agents introduced themselves, and Sheriff Dan Oakley said he’d been expecting them. The sheriff was friendly yet businesslike, and he offered the assistance of his office if the agents needed it. He was happy to direct them toward the Spivey and Allen residences. Angel Spivey had a sister and brother-in-law in town to keep her company, and Nancy Allen could generally be found at home except for Sunday mornings and Wednesday afternoons when she’d be at church. Her husband, Joseph Allen was one of the town’s aldermen, and as it was the county’s tax time, he’d be spending almost every available hour at City Hall.
 

Nomessiah

Villager
Convergence - Session 1c

The agents thanked Sheriff Oakley for his time and headed to City Hall. Most of the buildings in town were relatively modern, or they had at least been modernized. City Hall stuck out as a relic of the earliest days of the county. It was a two-story wooden building, and the inside was dusty and poorly lit.

A kid of about 16 was listening to music behind the counter. When the agents entered, he removed his earbuds and asked if there was anything he could do to help. Dr. Pepper showed his FBI consultant’s badge.

“We’re with the FBI. We have a few questions for Joseph Allen.”

“Oh, yeah. Okay. If you want to give me your name, I’ll see about getting you an appointment for tomorrow.”

Tomorrow wasn’t good enough for Dr. Pepper, but the clerk insisted that since it was the county’s tax time, the mayor and aldermen were only available by appointment the following day, even for the FBI. Well, he’d just have to see about that.

“He’s upstairs?”

“Yes, sir, but the mayor and the aldermen are too busy to be disturbed. If you’ll just leave your name …”

Dr. Pepper started up the stairs with a determined stomp, but the clerk shouted after him.

“I’m supposed to call the sheriff if anyone disturbs the aldermen without an appointment.”

The doctor stopped on the third step and hung his head with a sigh. Fine. There were other Allens he could talk to. He came back down the stairs, told the clerk and Lakefield he was heading to the Allen residence to speak with Nancy and Jane and left the building.

Ranger Lakefield shrugged and set up an appointment to speak with Joseph Allen as early as possible in the morning. The clerk informed him City Hall would open at 8:00, but the mayor and the aldermen would be there much earlier. He could stop by anytime after 6:00, and Joseph Allen should be available. The ranger thanked the clerk and said he’d be back in the morning, definitely no later than 8:00. He then had the clerk direct him to the local library; he had a few ideas he wanted to check out.

The Allen residence was a two-story farmhouse about six miles down an old dirt road from the Spivey residence. Dr. Pepper knocked gently on the door, and it was only a moment before Nancy Allen answered. She was middle-aged and looked every inch the typical southern housewife. He showed his badge and introduced himself, and Mrs. Allen invited him in with a smile.
The interior was immaculately kept. The furniture was dusted and polished, the hardwood floors were swept and polished, and there wasn’t a single picture out of place or skewed. Mrs. Allen motioned toward the couch and asked if he’d like some sweet tea. The doctor gladly accepted the hospitality.

Mrs. Allen retrieved a tray with two glasses and a pitcher of sweet tea from the kitchen and set it gently on the coffee table. She poured a glass of tea for the doctor and one for herself before taking a seat in a chair across from him. Dr. Pepper mentioned he was investigating a potentially drug-related incident involving Billy Ray Spivey. Oh, Mrs. Allen assured him in the sweetest of tones that Billy Ray was a good kid. If he’d ever touched drugs or alcohol, the Allens would never have let him near their daughter. It simply would not do for the daughter of an alderman to be involved with a criminal element. Why, whatever would the other families at church say?

Yes. Of course. And speaking of Jane, was she home? Dr. Pepper had a few questions he’d like to ask her. Mrs. Allen shook her head with a smile. Jane was probably out with some friends. She’d be home eventually.

Dr. Pepper finished his sweet tea and thanked her for her time. He gave her his cell number and asked for Joseph or Jane to give him a call when they had the chance. Mrs. Allen said she’d be happy to pass along the message, and if he felt like having a proper southern meal, he and his partner were welcome to come back for dinner. The doctor thanked her and said they would be happy to accept. After all, a free, home-cooked meal sounded wonderful, and it would be the perfect opportunity to speak with both the alderman and Billy Ray’s girlfriend.
 

Nomessiah

Villager
Convergence - Session 1d

At the library, Lakefield went over past issues of the local newspaper, The Wayne County News. The most recent issues had very little actual news. They were mostly advertisements for various local businesses and crackpot UFO conspiracy stories. Lights had been reported over the hills to the northwest by many different residents. There were mutilations of cattle and other livestock. Several times over the past few months, Elvis had been seen in town. Just last week, the King of Rock and Roll had even been overheard arguing with Jim Morrison over whether Murray’s Diner or Murray’s Chinese had the best food in Waynesboro; Elvis preferred the diner.

There was no mention of how Billy Ray had disappeared for two days, how he had accidentally killed his father, or even how he’d robbed Murray’s Gas and stolen the clerk’s car. In fact, Ranger Lakefield had to go back about four months to find anything resembling real news. The local Christmas festival had gone over very well. It drew hundreds of folks from all over Wayne County, and even some from as far away as Memphis and Nashville. Before the first issue of February, The Wayne County News was a legitimate small-town paper, but somewhere around that time, it degenerated into its current format.

Lakefield made a few photocopies and asked to use one of the library’s computer terminals. He logged into Facebook and watched a couple cat videos before tracking down Jane Allen’s page. There were several Jane Allens in Tennessee, but there was only one in Waynesboro.

He poked around her page a bit, and it didn’t take long for him to become a little bothered. Her status was updated recently to “Complicated,” and Jane had only posted a few selfies at irregular intervals over the past four months. Just like the newspaper, before early February, she seemed to be a regular teenager who made regular updates to her Facebook page, “Liked” just about everything, and posted an endless stream of selfies. Then, she slowed down and eventually ended up only adding a picture or two every few days.

He checked Billy Ray’s page. Same thing. He checked their friends’ pages. For those friends in Waynesboro, it was the same; things slowed down and became subdued beginning around February. For those friends outside of Waynesboro, it was business as usual, except that about the time the Waynesboro teens stopped posting, and the newspaper began running only garbage stories, the people from out of town started asking about all the UFO and dead singer sightings. Waynesboro had become a local laughingstock in a short time.

Dr. Pepper was on his way to the Spivey residence when Lakefield sent him a text. He’d found something interesting at the library, and he wanted to get Pepper’s opinion. The doctor pulled over and responded that he was on his way. Also, the Allens had invited them to dinner tonight.
 

Nomessiah

Villager
Convergence - Session 1e

Once at the library, Dr. Pepper confirmed Lakefield’s observation. Something odd had apparently happened in the vicinity of Waynesboro this past winter. For a scientist, Pepper was very willing to accept the UFO conspiracy theory. It was all there in black and white, literally. It made sense, too, when you considered Billy Ray’s lost time. That sort of thing was commonly reported in alien abduction stories. Cattle mutilations, weird lights in the skies … He apparently considered The Wayne County News to be an unimpeachable source. Ranger Lakefield wasn’t nearly so convinced. He’d seen some strange things in his time – in fact, it had been a skin-walker that acted as a catalyst for his induction into Delta Green – but aliens? Really?

One other thing the Facebook pages showed: the local teen hangouts were Murray’s Diner and the reservoir northwest of town. Northwest of the town was where the lights had been reported. The agents decided to split up again. Dr. Pepper was going to interview Angel Spivey, Billy Ray’s mother, and Ranger Lakefield was going to check out the reservoir. They’d meet back up at the Allen residence for dinner and conversation.

Like the Allens and all the other families who lived south of town, Angel Spivey lived in a farmhouse. It was clean enough, but Nancy Allen’s housekeeping would put it to shame. Mrs. Spivey was also friendly enough, but she wasn’t quite as cheerful or accommodating as her neighbor had been – understandable, given how her family had been destroyed so recently.

She gave a story similar to Nancy’s. Billy Ray was a good kid who would never touch drugs or alcohol. He was too small and weak for most sports, but he did have a gift for music. Billy Ray and Jane had been childhood sweethearts, but it wasn’t until a couple years ago that Billy Ray had mustered the courage to ask her out. Dr. Pepper thanked her for her time, offered condolences on her loss, and promised to do everything in his power to return Billy Ray to her safely. Then, it was off down the old dusty trail toward the Allen place and what he was sure would be the best fried chicken of his life.

Ranger Lakefield looked around the reservoir and surrounding woods without much luck. It was no Olympic National Park or Mount Rainier, but the scenery would be pretty to an unspoiled eye. The pump house which supplied water to the entire area was sealed with a heavy chain and a Master Lock. He found the tracks of several types of animals in the woods; everything from foxes and rabbits to black bears and boars. That was a good sign. The animals weren’t afraid of the area. At least, they weren’t scared enough to go somewhere else in search of water.

He also found teenager tracks. Several clearings and sites around the reservoir showed signs of teen hangouts; mostly soda cans and empty chip bags. No lights in the sky though, but then, those were always reported at night. He might have to come back, but first, dinner with the Allens and Dr. Pepper.
 

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