Rise and Shine
When the group wakes up the next morning, they go over their plans again, and then split up. Sean and Mark head out for their appointment with Alfonso Sabio to see what they can learn about the ring disc artifact and the signet ring they took off the murdered buyer, James Fendler. Giovanni and John start the search for the vagrant who offered to sell them another ring disc with similar designs and markings to the one they already have.
Looking for Benny
Giovanni and John only have two clues when they set out looking for the vagrant: He appeared to be homeless and his left eye was completely covered with thick cataracts.
Luck is on their side (or rather Giovanni’s status as a champion of God kicks in with the usual fringe benefit of almost outrageous coincidence helping him along). They stop for gas and while they’re filling up, a homeless woman in a dirty baseball cap is staring at John. John is still frazzled from the psychic backlash of his vision the night before and the homeless woman’s stare is seriously getting to him. He walks into the convenience store, purposefully walking near her to get a better look. She continues staring at him, even walking up to the window and staring in at him when he walks inside.
Giovanni notices the exchange and walks up to the woman. She reeks. He asks her if she needs any money and slips her some bills. She looks at him long enough to take the money and mutter thanks. She turns back to stare at John and asks Giovanni of he’s his friend. Giovanni nods.
’He’s terrified,’ the woman says, ’I’ve seen that look before.’
Giovanni describes the vagrant they’re looking for and asks if that’s who she’s talking about.
She nods. ‘Yeah, him…,’ she trails off, clearly concerned.
‘I can help,’ Giovanni tells her. She stares at him a moment.
‘Are you a priest?’
‘I can be.’
‘He needs help,’ the woman says, turning back to watch John, who has started walking towards the exit. ‘He sleeps in the storm drains.’
John walks up to Giovanni and the woman and tries to join the conversation with his usual charm, but he’s still rattled and her stare is rattling him, and he barely manages to get a half-coherent stumbling line out. Blushing, he backs off and lets Giovanni do the talking.
’You’ve been scared like Benny,’ the woman says to John. John stares at her in silence. ’I’ll take you to him. Wait.’ With that, the woman walks into the convenience store and uses the money Giovanni gave her to buy some cigarettes and Ho-Ho’s. Giovanni follows her and buys some of the same brand of cigarettes and Ho-Ho’s, too, with the plan of using it as a bribe or bargaining tool when they meet ‘Benny’ (which is apparently the name of the homeless guy they’re looking for).
After that they get in the car. The woman’s smell is overpowering in the confined space.
’I’m Lacy,’ she says. Giovanni and Mark give her their names, too. ‘You guys not from around here?’ she asks, because of Giovanni’s name.
’I’m from Ohio,’ John says. The conversation dies off.
Giovanni parks their car in a parking garage and they call a cab to drive them to the storm drain entrance Lacy gave them (Giovanni doesn’t want to leave his car there). The taxi driver is clearly less than pleased to have Lacy in his car, with her smell, and he’s surprised when they ask him to drop them on the side of the road away from anything. In the end, he shrugs, takes their money, and drives away.
They walk down into concrete canal that leads to the storm drains entrance tucked under the freeway underpass. The grating over the entrance has been cut and Lacy peels it back so they can enter. They turn on their flashlights (they had expected they’d eventually need to go into the storm drains) and step into the black tunnel.
Under the Bellagio
Meanwhile, Sean and Mark arrive at the Bellagio, where Alfonso has his office. They walk through the art museum in the Bellagio; both of them scope out the exits and security while paying little attention to the art displays, including several famous pieces on loan from the Museum of Modern Art. They find a hostess at a desk and introduce themselves.
‘You must be Alfonso’s guests,’ she said, ‘He’s expecting you. Here’s your card. Take that elevator behind the Jackson Pollock painting.’ Neither of them recognizes the name, but she’s too professional to sigh as she points it out.
There is an attendant at the elevator who is obviously more than just an attendant. A tingle of the supernatural surrounds him. The attendant asks for their cards and explains how to use the cards to control the elevator; they won’t be able to go to any floor not programmed on the cards. All of the other elevator controls (such as the emergency stop) are covered by a glass cover that would have to be broken to access the controls. They also notice that several floors are skipped by the elevator.
After they swipe their card, the elevator takes them to the 4th sub-basement. They are let out into a spacious reception area decorated in white marble. There’s no one there to greet them.
Another Day, Another Body
’I’ll show you where he stays,’ Lacy tells Giovanni and John as they pick their way through the dark tunnels. ’Don’t embarrass me around him, he’s my special friend. Don’t talk unless I say it’s okay.’ She finishes her smoke. ’I’m nervous. I hope he’s okay.’
As they walk, they pass through several ‘rooms’ where homeless have set up homes. They have a surprising number of amenities, from mattresses to ‘showers’ rigged out of large water bottles to battery powered radios and alarm clocks. Lacy greets most of them by name and it’s clear they know her and are used to her passing through.
’We’re getting close to Benny’s place,’ she says. The she repeats her request that they not embarrass her in front of him. ’He’s nice, don’t get the wrong idea,’ she adds at their expressions.
They get to a small ramp that leads up to a raised ‘room’ blocked off with ‘walls’ made of draped cloth and plastic. She tells them to wait while she heads up first. Both Giovanni and John get a bad feeling, but they let her go alone (in part because of a compel of Giovanni’s naiveté aspect).
Moments later Lacy howls and runs out of the room and past them. She looks terrified and she’s sobbing. They let her run off. They figure she knows the area better than they do anyway and after all, she’s running away from the danger. They barely glance after her; instead looking at the ‘room’ Lacy just ran out of. Only later do they realize she had dropped her light and ran back into the tunnels in the dark.
They go into Benny’s room. John sees a large spider on the wall and gets the irrational feeling that it’s watching him, judging him, and that it thinks he shouldn’t be there. John squishes the spider as he walks past.
Inside the room, Giovanni finds the body almost immediately with his flashlight. It’s similar to the bodies in the warehouse last night: the same look of fear, the same vivid strangle marks around his neck from a cord. There are signs of struggle all around the ‘room’, but the body is lying with arms at its side (something about it makes them think that it didn’t struggle against the strangling itself). They also see that one of the staring eyes is filmed over with cataracts; it’s Benny.
They look for clues the old fashioned way (though John’s hands are already twitching at his side to reach out and touch the body). They find dozens of valueless trinkets in Benny’s pockets and on his jury-rigged shelves, such as a cheap plastic ring with a shiny fake jewel in his pocket, a carved bone on a string around his neck, and dozens of soda bottle lids in another pocket.
John knows he shouldn’t touch the body, especially after only the night before touching another victim of the same killers almost broke him. But… one compel later he touches the body:
John is looking down from the ceiling. The room is muted in sepia tones. Indecipherable whispering fills the room, coming from all sides. Benny is still alive, sitting on his mattress and reading a book and scribbling in the margins. Another man enters the room, dressed in quality utilitarian clothes. Benny is scared at the man’s entrance, though not terrified. The man seems in a hurry, but Benny is shaking his head ‘no’. The man is yelling at Benny (the words are lost underneath the omnipresent whispering). There’s a struggle. The man hits Benny repeatedly then pushes him back. Benny hits his head against the concrete floor. Benny’s too dazed to stop the man from reaching his jacket pocket and pulling out a filthy bundle wrapped in rags. On his finger is a ring with the same marking as James Fendler, the buyer from the warehouse last night.
Then the man looks up sharply. A grating high on the wall bursts out and one of the killers from the warehouse steps out. The man who took the bundle runs out of the room and down the ramp John and Giovanni will come up later. Benny seems transfixed, staring at the killer.
The killer splits into two identical copies of himself. One chases the man with the bundle and quickly is out of range of the vision. The other copy approaches Benny and pulls out a strangling cord. His hands seem much older than the night before with wrinkles and age spots as if he’s aged a decade. Benny doesn’t struggle as he is strangled.
John struggles against the intensity of the vision and it takes him several moments before he can shut it off (since the first session we changed his power from Psychometry to a variant of the Sight). He gets battered a bit, but nothing like the night before. He’s shaking slightly as he tells Giovanni what he saw and the handful of useful facts and insights he got out of the vision:
- The hooded killers from the warehouse are in fact a single killer with the ability to be in several places at the same time
- Benny was a spiritual guide of the storm drains and had some minor amount of power himself (in fact, John was able to draw on some of his lingering presence to help wrestle control over the vision so he could shut it off)
- The man who stole the filthy package (most likely Benny’s disc ring, though that wasn’t confirmed) had the same ring as the prospective buyer from the night before
John feels a certain connection to Benny; especially after he’s pretty sure some lingering part of Benny helped him shut down the vision. He asks Giovanni to close Benny’s eyes and they cover him with a blanket to give him as much dignity as they can. When they leave, they make sure to tell several of the people they pass what happened to Benny and where to find him.
Caviar and Demons
Back in the white marble room below the Bellagio, Sean and Mark look around and try to figure out what to do first. There is a large reception desk with a door behind it. There’s also a hallway on the other side of the room. They look at the desk and see that it’s never really been used (though everything has been kept dusted and clean). There are no clear voices or other signs of occupancy behind either the door or down the hallway. They decide to try the door first so Mark knocks.
A man’s voice with a thick accent yells: ‘One moment! Danielle, we have guests.’ An older, matronly, ‘pleasantly plump’ woman (Danielle) opens the door wide enough to slip out.
’You’re the appointment,’ Danielle says. Then she hurries down the hallway across the room and comes back pushing a cart loaded with refreshments.
‘Help yourselves,’ Danielle says, gesturing to the cart, ‘Mr. Sabio will be right with you. We don’t get many visitors down here. Here’s very excited to see you; you must be very important.’ Then Danielle slips back through the door, closing it behind her.
The cart has expensive refreshments on the top (high-quality wine, teas, even caviar) as well as more ‘low brow’ snacks in the bottom compartment (soda, chips, Oreos, etc.).
Mark and Sean wait in awkward silence for about 15 minutes before Danielle comes out again.
‘Mr. Sabio will see you now,’ she says as she leads them in. As they pass by her, Mark can sense that she’s supernatural in some way, perhaps a practitioner.
Alfonso Sabio is a pleasant-seeming older gentleman in a sweater vest, pink button-up shirt and wireless glasses, with graying curly hair around the sides around his balding scalp. The room is warm (in contrast to the cold formality of the marble entrance room), with lots of comfortable old-world furniture and rich colors. After some initial formalities (on the part of Sean; Mark is uncomfortable and starting to feel mildly paranoid) they get down to the artifact and the ring.
They start with the ring. Alfonso tells them that it’s the symbol of the Venatori Umbrorum, a society of seekers and caretakers of knowledge. He doesn’t know much about them, but does know that they’ve been in town before and that they showed up again a few weeks ago. He adds that Mark and Sean must either be members or have been in interesting company lately, since the rings are not generally available to outsiders. Sean smoothly says that they came across it and were just curious.
Next, they get to the artifact (still imbedded in the back of the cursed bible). Alfonso mentions that the bible recently was stolen just before going up on auction a few weeks ago right there in Las Vegas. Sean lies smoothly, but Mark (never a good liar and too edgy at the moment to even try thanks to his PTSD) botches it up and all but admits they stole it. Alfonso and Danielle don’t seem surprised or bothered. Danielle is watching Mark in a motherly, faintly bemused way, and mark is getting more and more agitated.
’I’d like to buy the disc,’ Alfonso says. Mark looks at Sean, trying to decide if he should mention that it’s cursed and probably can’t simply be bought.
‘Can we?’ Alfonso asks Danielle, seemingly in answer to Mark’s unasked question. Danielle hesitates a moment, looking at the bible, then nods confidently.
’I’m sorry, it’s not ours to sell,’ Sean answers.
‘I don’t know if he’d mind, though…’ Mark adds, thinking about the trouble the bible has caused them and threatens to cause in the future, but Sean shakes his head.
‘What can you tell me about it?’ Sean asks Alfonso.
‘Many people are going to desperately want it,’ Alfonso says, looking directly in Sean’s eyes.
‘How many of them are there?’ Sean asks instead of responding directly.
‘Most accounts say that there are 2 or three discs like this one. They’re connected in some way with the outer plains. They aren’t really part of our reality. I really couldn’t say more within the chance to research it and I feel that my employer, Mr. Wynn, would really want me to either purchase the artifact or charge a professional research fee before continuing.’
Sean starts to say something, but Mark (acting on a compel of his high concept as a spirit hunter) bursts in, accusingly asking what Alfonso or Mr. Wynn would want with an abject that dealt with spirits and bringing them into our world. (Mark’s experiences with spirits and entities from the Nevernever or Outside have all been very negative and he believes that all spiritual entities that come into our world are intrinsically harmful if not outright evil). And if Alfonso is interested in buying the disc, knowing what it deals with, then he’s no better.
Mark begins yelling, while Sean, Alfonso, and Danielle all try to keep things calm and reasonable.
’We’re done here!’ Mark says, shaking with anger. Alfonso is angry, though still much calmer and more professional than Mark, and politely throws them out.
They leave on their own, though Mark has probably burned any bridges to working with Alfonso in the future.
After they leave, Mark apologizes. He says he knows they should have tried to get more information or something. Sean thanks him for giving them a good reason to leave without more pressure about selling. Mark only half believes that Sean means it, but he’s still grateful.
Deposit Boxes and Flashing Lights
After Alfonso said that many would desperately want the Sean has experience, Sean is eager to get the bible somewhere safe. There have already been four murders seemingly tied to the disc (Sean and Mark don’t know about Benny’s murder yet). Sean has experience dealing with ‘hot’ goods and he goes to several banks with safe deposit boxes, taking pains to obfuscate where he actually leaves the box with the bible and disc inside. And before depositing it, Mark added some sigils to the box to block any supernatural attempts to find the box.
It takes several hours, but eventually they deposit the box and are satisfied that even if they are being followed or someone tries to investigate the box later, they’ll have a hard time figuring out where it is.
As they’re leaving the last bank, they are pulled over by a LVPD officer. It’s Officer Plitt, a corrupt cop Sean has dealt with before.
‘Well, well, well, look who it is,’ Officer Plitt says when he looks in and sees Sean. ‘You didn’t signal before your last turn. License and registration, please.’ While Sean is getting them, Officer Plitt asks Mark his name.
Sean starts talking to Officer Plitt, keeping him distracted. A few minutes later, Plitt’s partner calls him on his hand radio and tells him who Mark is and a little of his past.
’Isn’t that interesting,’ Officer Plitt says, ‘You two in business together now?’
Sean intentionally misunderstands him, stating that he’s an honest businessman now. Officer Plitt snorts, but shortly after that he sends them on his way. Only as they’re driving off does he look at his ticket pad and realize that Sean distracted him from ever writing the ticket.
Giovanni and John had gotten back to their parked car and pulled out nearby in time to see Sean and Mark talking to the cops. They waved at them to make sure they saw them, then waited and met up with them after they pulled away. The two cars met up at Billy’s Diner and the two teams fill each other in on what they’ve seen and learned.
After some waffles, they head back to Sean’s apartment. Both cars pull into the alleyway behind Sean’s shop and park. They get out and start walking towards the door that leads up to the apartment above the shop. None of them notice the gunmen.
Gunfire opens up from both sides. Mark and John get behind cover safely, and Sean is only grazed. Giovanni is hit squarely and blood is suddenly everywhere (a moderate consequence with the aspect: ‘So much blood!’).
It takes a moment for the group to get their bearings and locate the four gunmen (one behind them at the entrance and three in front of them down the alleyway). None of them are far away in the small alleyway (the alleyway covers two zones and anyone can be reached with a supplemental action move).
Mark throws a sigil-covered knife and it sticks into the leg of one of the thugs (a minor consequence).
John has a pistol and lays down cover fire to give Giovanni a chance to get out of the middle of the alleyway (a Block action).
Sean tries to shake them by yelling out that the police are right behind them (a Deceit attack) and gets a brief hesitation but no more (1 stress attack).
Giovanni sprints into his car; pulling down the back seat to get at his assault rifles in the trunk (he owns a gun shop). He pulls out two rifles and tosses one to John.
The gunmen hit in the leg with Mark’s knife runs (well, limps) away.
The other three open keep firing. None of them hit, though the one shooting at Giovanni should have hit (Giovanni was protected by divine providence).
Mark, using one of his sigils he drew earlier (effectively a ‘potion’) pulls the knife out of the leg of the first gunman with a magic and sends it flying at a second gunmen, who he also hits solidly.
John catches the assault rifle Giovanni threw and opens fire at another gunman and takes him out.
Giovanni picks the other one off with his rifle.
They catch the two gunmen injured by Mark’s knife (they Conceded) and interrogate them. They learn that Jacky Moreno hired them. It was supposed to be easy. They sure as hell weren’t expecting them to pull out friggin’ assault rifles or have floating knives!
John touches one of the corpses (the one he shot) and gets a flash of layers and layers of puppet strings, including a recent powerful and shadowed force, an ancient evil, that the gunmen isn’t aware of. The thugs don’t know who or what is pulling their strings in this.
Mark and Sean grab the two injured but living gunmen and throw them in the back of Mark’s jeep. Sean keeps the cowed thugs covered while Mark drives off. It’s clearly self-defense, but Mark and Sean both have bad history with the cops and would make things messier. And the two living thugs are their best lead and wouldn’t make things easier talking to the cops about flying knives.
Back in the alleyway, Giovanni calls 9-1-1 and tells them that they were fired out by two gunmen and shot them in self-defense. John supports the heavily bleeding Giovanni and they wait for the police and the ambulance to arrive.