Monday, June 20, 2011
Jones is returning back to his hotel room to pack and catch a flight when he finds a man standing outside his door. He is a middle aged Caucasian man with brown hair and a mustache, and he is wearing a suit. He has a portfolio under his arm. He flashes an FBI badge and introduces himself as Special Agent Joseph Weaver. He indicates his associate Detective Patricia Willett recommended he speak with Mr. Jones, and that Jones should have an understanding as to what that means. He needs to speak privately with Mr. Jones, and would his hotel room work? Jones cautiously invites him inside.
He notes that what is to come will seem intensely suspicious: a federal agent, with no lawyers present, interrogating someone about a potential crime. But he assures Jones that there is no crime of which to accuse him, and that he is merely here to gather information.
He shows Jones a picture, apparently some institutional picture like a driver’s license photograph, of a balding man in middle age. It matches the face of the killer he saw that night in the desert. He asks if Jones knows this man. When Jones seems reluctant to answer, Special Agent Weaver elaborates.
It is clear Jones committed another crime on the night he was arrested, but there was not enough evidence for a grand jury, and there were too many anomalies to count. Cell phone records place him in Chicago, and then in Las Vegas after only a two hour gap. But, assuming we accept this evidence as true rather than anomalous, the blood spatter on Jones’ clothes suggests that he fired at someone at point-blank range, probably angled downward suggesting an execution. Weaver suspected it was once in the back of the head, execution-style, but a scar on the victim’s head suggests Jones was looking the victim in the eye when he did it. Blood spatter also suggests he was wearing a jacket at the time.
The blood on his clothes links to three other crime scenes via hits in CODIS. The first (01-JAN-2003) is the murders of Kendrick and Natasha Fitzgerald, both elderly, both of Perryville, MO. Slain by blunt force trauma in an apparent home invasion, trace DNA was found under Natasha’s fingernails indicating a male suspect. The second (04-DEC-2006) is Nancy Crawford of Bancroft, NE. She was stabbed to death, although blood, hair, and skin was recovered from her skillet, indicating she defended herself. The DNA evidence matches the suspect in the Perryville slaying, and the blood type is A+. The third (24-APR-2010) is Charles Thompson of Atlanta, GA, notably the only African-American (the previous three victims were Caucasian). He was camping at Fort Running Bear RV Camping Resort in Idaho, having been attacked with a hatchet and found in nearby Anderson Ranch Reservoir. DNA from hair and fiber linked the potential suspect with the suspect in the previous two slayings.
The Astro van described by Kevin and Leah was found abandoned near Shasta Dam in the vicinity of Redding, CA; the owner was apparently one John Coleman, Native American, of Fruitland, UT, deceased. He was murdered with a kitchen knife in his own home. The van was never reported missing because jurisdictional disputes in the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation prevented proper followup. This suggests that the killer stayed in the region, as he would later kill another: a former New York City police officer named Raul Chase, slain in the early morning hours of 30-MAY-2011. Weaver shows Jones a crime scene photograph of Mr. Chase; he is badly mutilated, with several horrific rents across his torso. He notes, however, that the culprit himself died, showing another crime scene photograph of the perpetrator, shot twice in the chest and then nearly decapitated by some blade, apparently a chainsaw. Agent Weaver only recently learned of this, as it was bouncing around in limbo in Modoc county for several weeks before it hit federal databases. Apparently the killer, one Mark Thomas Bishop, attacked a house party in Modoc County. He was killed by one of the partygoers when he tried to attack them.
With all this, he wants to know if Jones can elaborate on his encounter with the man in the desert. Jones asks how receptive Weaver is to strangeness, and he merely replies that Detective Willett recommended he speak with Mr. Jones. Jones then elaborates that he managed to track the man down. The man freely admitted the crime, and said it was something he was driven to do. Jones then shot him in the head, and as far as he could tell, the man was dead. He drove away when he arrived at the crime scene in the desert.
Special Agent Weaver notes that if Jones had let the proper authorities take care of it, Raul Chase might still be alive. Jones asks if Weaver can confirm Mark Thomas Bishop is dead; Weaver says he has been autopsied and given a funeral, he is quite certain. He asks if Jones can tell him where this encounter in the desert took place, and Jones does so. They exchange contact information, Special Agent Weaver thanks Jones for his cooperation, and the agent takes his leave. Jones boards his plane.
That morning, Kevin receives a knock on his door, and answers to find Detective Willett. She indicates she has something important to discuss with Kevin, and asks if she can enter and they can sit. She then proceeds to explain the purpose of her visit.
She only heard this story herself within the last couple of weeks, but didn’t want to burden anyone during the trial. Particularly since she’s not certain how much time is a factor anymore. Several months ago, there was a case that pinged on Child Protective Services’ radar. A good kid, good in school, extracurricular activities, started showing signs of trouble, and finally, abuse. (His gym teacher evidently noticed scratches.) Coupled with slipping grades and increased fatigue, people apparently suspected abuse, and CPS became involved. They weren’t able to get much out of him, other than he was adamant his parents were not abusing him.
Fast forward several weeks. The kid gets a wound bad enough to require hospital attention, and although he (and his parents) claim it was a skateboarding accident, it is consistent with previous wounds he has sustained. CPS and police question him to no avail. However, when coming out of anesthesia, he rambles about some bizarre encounter — enough for the police liaison to contact Detective Willett as a potential subject matter expert.
It takes her some doing to convince him that she’s not going to call him crazy, get him in trouble, or have him committed. No matter how strange the story, it’s his job to give her the facts as he understands them, and her job to interpret those facts to the best of her ability.
The kid proceeds to explain that he and his friends encountered a thing, something ripping apart a homeless person. One of his friends didn’t go into the building, and the other three couldn’t see the thing, just the massacre in its wake, but he clearly perceived the thing. It was vaguely humanoid, with a leering face and claws like knives as it tore apart this person. It oozed some grotesque sweat, like tallow or gravy, and smelled like rotting meat. (Apparently, everyone could perceive the smell, even if they couldn’t see the creature.) This creature has apparently been stalking him ever since, trying to ambush him — he’s largely adept at not being caught because he has learned to recognize the smell. It scratches him, then flees.
Detective Willett asked for more information regarding the homeless slaying, because it might match something in their database, but that’s when the kid offered more information. It wasn’t here. They apparently had a gathering spot on the beach, and hadn’t been in a while, since winter break. When they arrived, they found a cave where none existed before, and indications their friend had gone inside. So, they followed.
What they found on the other side was a bizarre version of Los Angeles they called “the Flipside.” It was some weird Soviet Los Angeles, featuring raptors and weird ape-people. (They called the one they met Danny, and it attacked them.) They described a shootout between police and some weirdos with funky powers, one of whom grew to twice normal size. More worryingly, they apparently revealed enough information for these weirdos to determine the kids were from a different Los Angeles, and so they offered to help find their friend with the condition that they be shown how to access our Los Angeles.
As such, the kids all managed to return to Los Angeles, but with five of these strange people coming back through the gate with them. And apparently, this strange monster followed them, and has been harassing the one.
Also, this happened back in mid-February. That brings the total number of known and currently free interlopers from the beach Otherspace to seven: the one who initially made contact with Kevin, the five who came back with the children, and the monster. Detective Willett doesn’t know precisely what to do about it, as it’s somewhat above her pay grade, but Kevin says he’ll help. He would be interested in interviewing the people involved, and while the one is underage, one of the people involved is of the age of majority. Detective Willett can set up an interview. She’ll be in touch.
Leah similarly receives a knock on her door, but refuses to answer when she notes it’s The Dealer with a couple of his goons. She refuses to answer, but he looks into the camera for her intercom system and says he knows she’s inside. He has a business proposition to discuss. She balks, but he notes that she’s a shrewder businessman than he; after all, she sold out her father for a television show. That’s cold even for a capitalist such as himself. She opens the door (after donning her veil, of course), and he agrees to leave his security outside if she’ll talk to him. She agrees. He hands off his cigar to one of his bodyguards as he enters.
Inside, he indicates he’s willing to buy Leah’s scars — she’s still wearing the veil to cover the scars on her face — if she’ll allow him to invest in her business ventures. Again, he doesn’t want controlling interest, he just wants to invest on the winning side, as he again reiterates that the King of Scales’ reign can’t last forever. She asks if this is a one-time only deal, or if she can think about it. He tells her she can think about it, as she knows how to reach him. He then takes his leave.
When Jones arrives at LAX, a chauffeur with a sign is awaiting him. However, when he inquires to make certain this is Jasper Fitzroy’s car, the man indicates he’s here on behalf of Leah Dupree — ostensibly the same Dupree with whom he was supposed to meet three months ago regarding the ritual to close the Otherspace on the beach. The chauffeur leads him to a limousine; this one is a trifle strange, as one of the passenger rear door is larger and more elaborate than normal, which Jones surmises would allow wheelchair access. He enters the limo and meets a bespectacled dark-haired Caucasian woman smartly dressed in a suit and sitting in a wheelchair. A couple of armed guards are at hand.
She introduces herself as Leah Dupree, and indicates she was supposed to meet with Mr. Jones three months ago. He sought some ritual, and in exchange, he thought he had the means to heal her current affliction. He excuses himself so he can contact Jasper and let him know he made other travel arrangements before proceeding. He then notes that, when last he heard — admittedly some time ago — that offer still stood on his end. He specifically needs a ritual to close Otherspace gates; Leah Dupree says she will have to return to Chicago to investigate, but she may have something that meets his qualifications. They exchange contact information, and she says she will contact him when she has further information.
She drops him off where he asks, some blocks away from his home, and he lets Jasper know about the change of venue. Fitzroy’s car delivers him home.
He is surprised when he enters his home and finds Jane, as she appears different. She is objectively the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen, so much so that her details are hard to hold in the mind — it’s only because he knows her so well that he’s able to do it at all. He is shocked, and more than a little perturbed, but he manages to roll with it. She just says it’s something that happened while he was gone. Despite his distaste, they manage to have a lovely reunion.
Leah also receives a call from Terry Kozlowski regarding the American Café. Although Clark hasn’t been seen in several months, the American Café reopened in April. Clark had some instructions for Leah, and she should see John Fist about them, as he’s currently running the American Café while Clark is laying low.
The next day, June 21, Jones and Jasper Fitzroy have a telephone conversation regarding his defense. They’re still plugging along at work, and there are likely some things that will require resolution in Las Vegas, but there’s time. Jones should just take a couple of weeks to himself before having a meeting with Jasper. Jasper notes he recalls Jones saying something about a girlfriend, and recommends he take her on vacation somewhere, anywhere, just to get away from things for a couple of weeks; after all, family is the most important thing. Jasper will cover the cost. Jones thanks him, even though he knows he has too much to do to leave Los Angeles right now.
That evening, Felicia, Kevin, Jane, Jones, Leah, and Otis meet at Mabel’s house. They largely spend the time catching up and sharing the information they’ve compiled over the intervening months since they last met. Kevin shares the tale about the kids who apparently accessed Khalifastan, while Jones notes that the killer who attacked Kevin and Leah is apparently dead, having been killed in Modoc County, CA about a month ago. (Leah, for her part, already heard about this, although she didn’t know it was the same man who attacked her: Alejandro del Rio, a modeling contact of Lorenzo, is apparently the man who killed him. Mark Thomas Bishop attacked their house party in Modoc County.) Mabel seems to recognize the description of the killer as a potential avatar of the Faceless Man or Dark Stalker, something foul like that. Whatever the case, channeling the avatar yields benefits similar to the now-codified slasher antagonist of various horror movies. Jones also notes the back corridor at Delphi’s — Mabel is apparently familiar — and the two men who showed it to him, Shake and Tom. Shortly thereafter, he gets a call from Tom, noting that he has Jones’ stuff. Jones says he’ll meet Tom tomorrow to retrieve it.
Leah is also sure to comment on Jane’s new look, noting that she looks fabulous, and asking if there’s anything she can do to duplicate it. (Being that it’s a side effect of channeling the Naked Goddess, probably not.) While they’re talking, Mabel notes to Jones that he’s going to steal Jane away from him. Somewhat despondent, he notes that he’s not sure why she did it, if she was going to take on the path of The Flying Woman. Both Kevin and Mabel admonish him to ask her about it.
That night, a somewhat tipsy Jones broaches the subject with Jane. She explains that this was something she’s been wanting to do for a while. There’s a church in Boyle Heights that is sacred to the Naked Goddess, and Jane arrived in Los Angeles trying to make a pilgrimage to the spot. In fact, it’s why she initially approached Jones: he looked like he had a bit of money, and the sisters are always taking cash donations. Of course, when he turned out to be more charming and gentlemanly than she expected, she wasn’t inclined to go through with it…
Regardless, she and Rosie pooled their money and went while he was away, just about a week ago. It was a transcendent experience. When Jones balks, Jane assures him that this path isn’t going to separate them; she’s not going to ascend into the sky. In fact, she argues that this path is what led her to Jones in the first place. She still has the plan of riding it as long as she can until she falters, and then she’ll do something else. This seems to allay his fears.
The next morning, Jones meets with Shake and Tom at a local coffee shop. Tom has Jones’ duffel bag with him. After small talk, Jones asks why Tom kept the bag, and what Jones owes him. Tom says he doesn’t owe him anything; risk makes the world go round, and holding onto incriminating evidence is certainly a risk. (Shake argues that it’s chemical change, and they seem to briefly rehash some old, relatively frequent debate.) He mostly just wishes they had been more helpful, although he’s glad Jones managed to rescue his friends. Jones also asks for a few details about Delphi’s, largely regarding the owner, a Merchant avatar by the name of Matthias Katsaros, and Tom indicates he’s happy to show Jones around some time. Finally, Tom notes that Jones’ firearm is probably a perfect candidate for the Murderer’s Crows ritual. He doesn’t know much about it, and doesn’t have access to this ritual himself, but based on what he’s heard, that gun is probably appropriate to enact it.
With that, Shake and Tom their leave. Jones takes his duffel bag and heads back home.