USW: Tip the World Over on Its Side

Session 52

Friday, June 24, 2011

Before Shake and Tom make it back to the hotel, Shake asks Leah what she’s doing tomorrow. She indicates she’s going clubbing, and he says he can probably make it to L.A. if she doesn’t mind. She doesn’t; in fact she notes that there are a lot of cool people in L.A.

She stops herself from mentioning her boyfriend, though; she decides to leave that particular piece of information for this weekend.

She arrives back at the hotel without incident. Jones and Kevin have both been wandering in her absence — Jones went for a run while Kevin went down to the casino — but both have returned by the time she arrives. They check out of the hotel and start the long drive back to Los Angeles, again taking back roads to hopefully avoid another incident with a stranded driver.

On the way, Jones explains to them what Brian Lane told him three months ago — that the Archetypes are entities with agendas and the ability to influence events. They were also once human, and can be supplanted.

This leads into further discussion of the Oracle’s prophecy, as the capitalized Archetypes suggests parts of the prophecy refer to the Archetypes themselves in the Statosphere. They surmise that the first part refers to themselves: Jones arrested and placed on trial, Kevin and Leah nearly killed. The text implies the killer was sent to them by the Archetype of The True King itself — are they getting too close to unseating the King of Scales?

The rest is not terribly clear. Is the person doing this Sabas, a weapon wielded by time itself? Is “the father’s work and realm” a reference to Jasper Fitzroy? Is the endeavor doomed? Leah notes that a phone or other LCD screen is sometimes called a “black mirror,” so could it be a reference to that? Jones thinks “defenders of home” might suggest military or law enforcement, while Leah notes that “the skulls and the bones” might refer to Skull and Bones, the Yale secret society. Kevin is the one to wonder if these disparate elements might be connected: Jones noted that Lawrence Torres, the Homeland Security agent who visited his house, was connected to GNOMON on his phone. (Jones has seen him one additional time, and he was carrying a phone then, also.) If the arm of a sundial is called a gnomon, perhaps he is the man wielded by GNOMON?

Kevin decides these are questions answered by a sweat lodge. After considering going to the commune, he decides to hold a sweat lodge at his house instead, using a couple of personal items as foci for meditation. He figures he’ll use the map of L.A. he’s been making in his garage, and he’ll involve the magick LSD Shake gave Leah.

The trip is otherwise uneventful, except for a brief interruption: a call from Leah Dupree. She has found a site for tomorrow’s operation, the abandoned Linda Vista Community Hospital. She is bringing additional security, and notes Jones is free to do the same. They agree to meet out front at noon.

They arrive back in Los Angeles around 10 PM. Jones drops off Leah at her house so she can shower and get a change of clothes, while he and Kevin go to Kevin’s house. Since Jane called to check on things, Jones calls her back. All is well, and at her insistence, Jones eventually concedes that she should probably bring his go-bag.

Jane arrives and learns that Kevin is setting up a sweat lodge in the garage, in addition to some of the activities in Las Vegas the previous day. Jones and Kevin also inform Felicia and Otis of tomorrow’s appointment with Leah Dupree, and ask if there is anything Felicia needs. Apart from maybe some antiseptic to keep things clean, she does not.

Leah arrives closer to midnight, and by then, Kevin’s setup is nearly complete. Kevin and Leah are both going to take the magick LSD, while Jones will abstain and keep vigil in case something goes wrong. They head into Kevin’s garage and disrobe (although Jones retains his boxers). Jane deigns not to stay all night, so she takes a couple of his things and heads back home; he keeps his cell phone with him. Kevin and Leah both take their tabs of LSD; before it kicks in, while Kevin is meditating to get in the mood, Leah takes a couple of selfies for Instagram, telling her followers that she’s doing a sweat lodge.

Jones spends the next eight hours sweating, bored out of his mind, looking at his phone. In light of the new information, he visits GNOMON and looks around for additional insight, finding none. Leah has a very calming, relaxing experience, and feels better about herself by the end of it — unbeknownst to her, the tab of acid she took was merely very good, and lacked the mystical potency of the stuff she had the other night.

Kevin, on the other hand, got a full dose. Studying his map, he feels what’s going to happen — a single phone call, a series of events falling into place, and the entire city’s power grid is disabled, along with the gates and Otherspaces attached to it. When it returns, the Otherspaces do not — perhaps lacking the knowledge necessary to fix the problem, it seems as though Torres and whatever other operatives are at his disposal operatives are going to hard reset the entire mystical grid for Los Angeles, and close every extant Otherspace currently attached, causing untold complications in the interim.

While there, he can also see Jones’ and Leah’s auras, as well as the signs of their symbolic paths — a a flag snapping behind Jones, a spotlight illuminating Leah. Strangely, while Jones is on GNOMON, his phone also seems to have a presence, like an aura unto itself. It definitely represents a mystical process while he looks at the GNOMON website.

The next morning, around 8 AM, when the drugs wear off, Kevin ushers the group outside to take a cold shower. After Jones leaves to put out the coals, Kevin recounts what he saw, and the group agrees that it sounds as though whatever government agency GNOMON represents is going to try a hard reset of the entire system in lieu of trying to delicately solve the problem.

And whatever these agents plan to do, they plan on doing soon.

Kevin also asks Jones what he was doing during the sweat lodge, and after determining that Jones was looking at the GNOMON website, tells him to avoid it — it clearly represents some mystical process, and he doesn’t know what it might be trying to do.

Leah also sends a text to the American Dream, as she suspects they may need to try a little gutter magick to fully complete this thing before the looming deadline. The American Dream agree to help.

With that, Jones sends Jane a text to let her know all is well, and Jones and Leah try to catch a nap before meeting Leah Dupree at noon.

Session 51

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Jones receives a text message from Willett indicating Eli was killed at the Food 4 Less over on 6th Street. He tells Jane that he’s going to go investigate to see if there’s anything to be seen, and she decides to come along.

There’s nothing further to determine. The store is open until midnight, so it’s entirely conceivable that somebody could have used cars as cover to ambush him late at night. Likewise, late at night, it’s possible too few people were around to make a positive ID.

After contemplating enough heaviness for one day, Jane and Jones go out for ice cream.

The next day, Thursday, June 23, Jones, Kevin, and Leah meet in the late morning to go to Las Vegas. Jones drives. At Leah’s request, they take back roads so Kevin will hopefully not encounter as many threats to flow requiring them to stop. To calm her nerves, Leah has taken to smoking weed at regular intervals during the journey; Jones agrees, as long as she keeps it to a minimum and largely keeps it out of the car.

On the way, Jones has to pull over to take a call from Leah Dupree. She indicates she found a ritual she suspects will meet his needs, although she doesn’t want to go into detail over the phone. They agree that she will come to L.A. on Saturday; she says she will contact them tomorrow about a place to perform the procedure.

They also discuss what they want to do with the American Café. The general consensus seems to be to allow John Fist to keep running it for now, but perhaps get to work on training a replacement. Kevin thinks Felicia would be a good candidate, but Jones notes that she has no managerial experience of which they are aware. Although John Fist could probably train her. They all agree to keep on the lookout for whomever they might want to run the place once they complete the paperwork.

The rest of the trip is uneventful. They arrive in Las Vegas in the early evening, and meet with Tom and Shake at a coffee shop on the edge of town. Shake’s pupils are intensely dilated. Introductions are made: Kevin thanks Tom and Shake for saving them, while Leah hugs them both. Shake comments that Leah has a lovely aura, like a chrysalis ready to become a butterfly.

Tom explains that they’re going to Delphi’s to consult the Oracle, as Jones has no doubt told the others. Matthias Katsaros owns the place, and is some manner of Merchant; evidently, the prices for Oracle access tend to be steep. Tom notes he and Shake have never used the Oracle before, but by reputation, she is accurate enough to warrant the high prices. As per the tradition of the original Oracle, though, she can be a little vague or obtuse. So the stories say.

As for payment, Jones asks if Katsaros deals in money or more abstract bargains. Tom notes that he might deal in both, but he’s known for dealing in abstractions and knowledge. Anything that can be traded, he’ll trade.

With the possible preparation out of the way, the assembled quintet caravans to Delphi’s. Delphi’s appears to be just preparing for the night’s operation when they arrive. Tom bypasses the bouncers and security — they appear to recognize Tom and Shake — and they arrive at the back room. The bouncers outside ask what he wants, and he says he wants to die. They let the quintet inside.

The group navigates the tangle of passageways. As they arrive closer, they can hear the distant bass beat of another club (probably the one in D.C., based on the time zones), and they find people milling about in the backrooms. They arrive at a waiting room, Tom announces them to a receptionist, and it’s another fifteen or so minutes before the receptionist calls for “Tom O’Balor,” and the quintet is ushered into Matthias Katsaros’ office.

Matthias Katsaros is a well-dressed, portly, older Greek man. Tom makes introductions — Katsaros apparently recognizes Jones, Kevin, and Leah from their recent legal entanglements — and then turns things over to Jones. Jones wants to see the Oracle, and has brought money to pay. Katsaros notes that he’s unlikely to need money unless they happened to bring a lot of it, but he’s willing to trade in other things. Jones notes that he used to be an Air Force pilot, which could come in handy for Katsaros’ private jets; Katsaros notes that he usually has people to fly them, although he sees the utility if the pilot has a heart attack. He’ll accept the equivalent of a few years’ training and five years of life from everyone present, so twenty-five years total.

Tom takes this opportunity to call the group over in a huddle to discuss these matters. He asks if it’s true that John Fist in L.A. sells a year of life for $100 a pop — they say they don’t know. In either case, they’re wary about selling off years of their lives, particularly since you don’t know which is your last. Jones thinks he has something further to offer, and returns to say he can give some of his experiences in the war, familiarity with violence and things of that nature. Katsaros says he’s not in the business of buying trauma, as taking people’s trauma away is usually a service people pay him to perform.

Finally, Jones offers his service as an air traffic controller, saying that it helps with alertness and stress management. Combined with his Air Force service, his experience is measured in decades. After some negotiation, Katsaros says he wants half. Jones agrees, figuring he doesn’t specifically need the specialized knowledge if he’s out of a job. A contract is drafted and signed, and Jones feels some of his knowledge slip away, along with the occurrence of several small but strange gaps in his memory. Katsaros bids them to return to the waiting room, and says someone will be along once the Oracle is ready.

It’s roughly a half-hour before an attendant summons the quintet (they take the opportunity to finalize their question and determine how they’re going to record the answer), and ushers them into a room. Several armed guards are in this room. At the far end of the room, a pale woman rests in a chair; she is evidently the Oracle. She appears strung out, heavily drugged — uncomfortably so, like maybe-she-should-be-at-a-hospital levels of intoxication. In the middle of the room, there is a stool. Upon it sits a strange device, resembling an old-fashioned radio. Stamped across the middle, it is labeled “DACTYL HEX-O-TRON.” Jones speaks, asking what threatens Los Angeles and what they can do to stop it. After a pause, the Oracle begins speaking, mumbling incoherently but occasionally shouting only vaguely-understood fragments of words. As she does, the Dactyl Hex-O-Tron starts to whir, eventually revealing the following prophecy in a mechanized but pleasant voice:

Lo, did the Solid Citizen come to the brink of ruin, Explorer and Star nearly lost to the realm of the Cruel Ones, but the gods granted him and his trusted companions their lives. Countermove and move in the grand chess match of distant heavens, a blow turned aside from the Dark Stalker sent by the True King. The city suffered while they were away, trapped beneath shadows, the shadow of the arm of a sundial and the man it wields. Black mirror in hand, he is the trusted gatekeeper of kings, empowered by the skulls and the bones of defenders of home. The arm is mighty and its reach is long and it will discharge the lightning that holds the matrix of the father’s work and realm. The arm and the bound gatekeeper it wields have seen the future and hope the work they do ought to prevent the future they saw, but the doom they fear has already been wrought upon the kingdom. Theirs is the action of damming streams that already flood their banks and perhaps all this destruction is too little and too late.

After the translation finishes, they are ushered from the room to return to the Back Corridor. With their task complete, they leave Delphi’s.

Over drinks, they discuss the potential implications of the prophecy, and Shake and Tom are interested to learn that some force is apparently threatening Los Angeles. They will attempt to investigate it with any resources at their disposal.

During the conversation, Leah gives Shake her number. They commence flirting in earnest. Once it’s clear that everyone is hanging around for a bit, they start casino-crawling, although it’s really just Leah and Shake — Jones and Kevin keep watch, while Tom stops drinking as soon as he realizes she’s attracting paparazzi. (Shake, for the record, wasn’t drinking anyway, so it’s quickly just Leah.)

Eventually, it’s clear that the group is not returning to Los Angeles tonight. Tom arranges for them to stay in one of the suites at a slightly off-Strip hotel. Jones asks Tom a bit about himself; he’s apparently from South Boston originally, and he and Shake have known each other a while. They act as general troubleshooters, trying to help occult underground types wherever they can. For the record, Tom thinks Leah’s attentions are probably good for Shake, as he tends to be inside himself a fair amount.

With the group staying another day, Leah and Shake slip away. Jones, Kevin, and Tom hang out a bit longer until they all decide it’s time for bed. Jones and Kevin make their way to their suite, and Jones goes to sleep while Kevin stays up watching television and waiting for Leah to return.

Shake takes Leah back to what is apparently his house — moderately large, clean, not terribly well-lived-in, and located in a more quiet suburb. He gives her a cocktail of LSD and Ecstasy, but it’s quickly clear that it’s some strange mixture, as it’s a lot cleaner and purer than usual. The drug mixture has a few strange side effects, as well: Leah and Shake’s conversation is intensely engaging, and she can see Shake’s aura. He has a fiery third eye upon his brow, and the drugs resonate like they have some symbolic meaning. In the mirror, she appears much as she did in the ritual mirror, illuminated by a spotlight, her aura blazing.

They make love that night. Shake is gentle, and very communicative — it’s different different than Leah’s typical fare, and maybe it’s largely the drugs, but it’s all quite lovely. Shake is very introspective and philosophical, and they end up talking a lot as well, about things largely forgotten by morning.

Jones is concerned enough to send her a text message around 10 AM, which awakens her prompting a grumpy message back. Satisfied, he tells her to return to sleep.

When she actually awakens, Shake makes breakfast — he doesn’t have many of the components to which she is accustomed for some sort of vegetable smoothie, but they make do. Tom has returned by the time they come downstairs, and he seems very amused by the whole affair. Once breakfast is finished and she is fully dressed, they pile into a car to take her back to the suite with Jones and Kevin.

Session 50

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Leah decides to contact Alejandro del Rio in the hopes that he can provide some manner of closure regarding the whole Mark Thomas Bishop thing. He says he should be able to Skype this evening: 7 PM his time, 4 PM, Leah’s time.

Kevin calls Willett again to see if he can make some manner of contact with the kids who visited Angeliy. She says she’ll call him back; when she does, she indicates that Delilah Bishop will be available at Angel City Derby HQ this afternoon, maybe around 4 PM or so. Kevin calls Jones and Leah to see if they want to accompany — Jones should be free, but Leah can’t make it. However, all agree to go to the American Café tonight, perhaps around 7 PM or so. Kevin will meet Jones about a block away from his house (so as to avoid any lurking press), and they make the arrangements to meet Willett at Angel City Derby HQ.

Leah’s conversation with Alejandro doesn’t reveal much that wasn’t already covered by official reports. He and some friends went to his uncle’s cabin in the woods of Modoc County over the long Memorial Day weekend. They met a biker who warned them of danger, and Alejandro brought him along. They were partying Sunday night (really Monday morning) of their long weekend when they heard gunshots and the sound of a chainsaw. His friend Walgreens went out to check, Alejandro ran out to stop him, their friend Jason locked them out, Walgreens got attacked and managed to scramble back inside. Alejandro doesn’t quite remember what happened, but he managed to knock the chainsaw out of the man’s hands, pick it up, and hit him with it. Alejandro doesn’t admit it to Leah, but she can tell by the quaver in his voice: he was scared, and was probably lucky to take out Bishop the way he did. She asks if he’s sure Bishop was killed, and Alejandro says he’s pretty damn sure — the cops came and everything. She thanks him for his time before they end the conversation.

Kevin and Jones head over to the warehouse — with Jones careful to dodge the few remaining press lingering outside his house — where the Angel City Derby players train. As planned, Willett is waiting outside; she is not wearing a badge or gun. They exchange pleasantries, and Jones asks about Special Agent Weaver — why was he so interested in Mark Thomas Bishop when it sounds so much like bad television, and why did she refer him to Jones? She notes that Weaver came to her asking if she knew anything about Jones, and she recommended the meeting. Weaver is also Blue Line, fairly trustworthy, and was apparently tracking this unknown Midwestern serial killer for quite some time. Kevin also asks if he can call Willett, “Patricia,” and she says she guesses that’s fine, although it’s not like they’ve ever had a beer together. Kevin says she should come over some time, and she notes that most of her friends call her Patty.

Only a few people are inside Angel City Derby HQ, waiting for the rest of the team to get off work. Willett waves to one of them, and before long, a young Caucasian woman with pink hair approaches. Introductions are made — Willett indicates Jones and Kevin are researchers with some knowledge of this kind of thing — and she introduces herself as Delilah Bishop. Jones and Kevin ask about her recollections from the incident in February, and she indicates that her sister’s friends have a hangout spot on the beach. She hangs out with them sometimes because they’re pretty cool, for the most part. After staying away from their hangout spot since before Christmas, she wandered back and found a cave where none existed before. She let people know that there was something weird, and then went inside. What she found was this weird Soviet Los Angeles with velociraptors and weird ape-men. (Her sister’s friends refer to it as “the Flipside.”) She spent the day looking around at the weird versions of some old hangouts, then ended up hiding from the police after an apparent curfew. To her surprise, her sister and her sister’s friends pulled up alongside her hiding spot with five people she had never met before. They seemed weird, one was injured, they had guns, and they threatened to kill the group or abandon them here if they didn’t take them to “their” Los Angeles. The strangers wandered into Los Angeles when they returned to “our” side, but her sister called the police, although it’s not like anything came of it.

She notes that none of them have seen the beast allegedly attacking Mike, but it’s clear that something is happening to him. Of note: her sister’s friends all perceived the rotting meat smell that evidently accompanies the monster.

Also of note, they didn’t tell anyone of their experience. Who could they have told?

After Willett reminds Delilah that she is under no obligation to give any personal information to private citizens outside police jurisdiction, and Willett’s assistance ends where the strangers’ begins, Kevin exchanges contact information with her and indicates he would be interested in talking to Delilah’s sister’s friends. She thinks she can arrange that at some near-future time. Kevin also warns her against messing with any future incursions she might encounter; for her part, Delilah is fascinated (and a little horrified) that there is a hidden world out there, and that the gate on the beach might not be the only one.

Kevin, Jones, and Willett part company once outside, but give the usual promise to stay in touch. Jones then chides Kevin for letting someone know that there are more of these gates out there, although he argues that now she knows, and knows to avoid them.

The group — including Felicia, Jane, Jones, Kevin, and Leah (Otis decided to stay home) — reconvenes at the American Café at around 7 PM. Upon entering, Simon plays the familiar strains of “Magical Mystery Tour” on piano before melding back into whatever song he was playing. The place seems relatively empty; apart from the band, the bartender, and John Fist, the only patrons present are the guy in the banana costume (sans banana) and the loser at the end of the bar. People order drinks, although Jones adulterates his usual with a shot of Jägermeister. Kevin’s signature drink, strangely, appears to have changed; he now receives a California lemonade. Leah sends another of whatever John Fist is drinking over to his table.

The group wanders over to John Fist’s table and asks if they can join. Leah notes that she was instructed to speak with him. He pulls an envelope out of his jacket and hands it to Leah — it is, fittingly enough, labeled “Leah” in Clark’s neat handwriting. She opens it and read’s Clark’s letter while John Fist informs the others that he’ll explain the rest when she’s done. She doesn’t show the letter to anyone else, but by the time she finishes, she’s fighting back tears. She asks what John Fist was supposed to tell her; he explains that the bar is theirs if they want it, a payment from Clark for their assistance. Jones is about to consider it when Leah blurts out that they’ll take it, for Clark’s sake.

John Fist begins to explain the details. The lease is owned by a holding company, and they would gain control of that company. Terry Kozlowski has all the details and paperwork. They are free to change the bar, although the only stipulation is that they keep all current employees salaried for one year, whether or not they keep them on staff. And to give adequate warning if they are going to be released from employment. Clark has set aside money for this purpose. But they can change anything else. John Fist is current acting night manager; Clark’s brother, who doesn’t know about all this weirdness, is the day manager.

Leah excuses herself to the bathroom for a moment, where she vomits from the stress. She returns feeling a little better. As for Clark himself, he’s away on business. Indefinitely; he’s unlikely to return. He’s fine, as far as John Fist understands, though. John Fist is also willing to continue managing the establishment if Jones, Kevin, and Leah wish to continue their own activities but still own the bar. For a nominal fee, of course.

When they ask about the place being largely empty, John Fist notes that there’s supposed to be some big, heavy shit coming down. Every augury in the city suggests a big, bad disaster is going to befall Los Angeles, so many of the local occultists have skipped town until it works itself out. Radio Free Pineal has even talked about it, although all prophecies regarding any potential horrific future have been frustratingly vague.

The group thanks John Fist for his assistance, and then decides to leave the American Café to discuss matters. Piling into one car, they discuss the possibility that whatever doom is about to befall Los Angeles is their fault. They decide that closing the breach on the beach should be a priority. Leah contacts Brandon Frazier and gathers that he can be in Los Angeles on Sunday so they can make a ritual exchange. Jones calls Leah Dupree and she says she hasn’t found a ritual that suits their needs yet, although she’s still looking. Hopefully by the end of the week?

With those things in motion, they head to the tar pits so Kevin can attempt to ascertain more information. Concentrating, he senses that the city is reacting to a nonspecific danger, trying to bolster its defenses against an unknown invader. Whatever it is feels cold and clinical, like ozone. He also tries to scry to find the monster that’s attacking Delilah’s sister’s friend, but he cannot find it; perhaps it is out of range?

Finally, since this regards a major disaster to Los Angeles, Jones calls Willett, and they agree to meet at a coffee shop. (Although she’s not trying to actively dodge Detective Daniels, she’s still worried that he’s going to be suspicious, so she wants to meet somewhere that isn’t a private residence.) When all parties arrive, Willett seems slightly perturbed at Jane’s new appearance — she seems confused and vaguely agitated at the presence of this strange woman in their midst, and she has difficulty connecting that the woman with Jones is Jane. Once that’s out of the way, the group presents what they know. Willett indicates she’s not aware of anything big on the horizon; in fact, things have been pretty quiet for the past month or so. The only weird thing she can recall within the past couple of weeks is the death of Elaphalet Browning, better known to Jane and Jones as “Eli.” He was apparently gunned down in a grocery store parking lot. Forensically, he must have realized something was wrong right before it happened, because he was reaching for his gun. One shot to the back of the head; there were no witnesses to see anything, but nearby witnesses heard a loud noise, like something falling or maybe a car backfiring, with the noise possibly suggesting a suppressed shot. Jones asks if she remembers the grocery store, but Willett does not. She can look it up and get back to him. They’ll both try to find more information and reconvene.

As they head back to the American Café, Jones calls Tom to ask how to access the Oracle at Delphi’s. He says it’s in the Back Corridor, and he can show him how to access it; Jones asks if it would be possible to do that tomorrow and Tom agrees.

With that, everybody returns to their cars and heads home. Once she gets home, Leah immediately sets about watching a copy of Casablanca, and receives a shock around minute seven: a couple walks into Rick’s bar, and the man has greying hair. The figure looks back at the camera before he enters Rick’s Café Américain, and he is clearly Clark.

Session 49

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.

Session 48

Monday, March 21, 2011

Jones has a long car ride to consider things.

He doesn’t have a problem with killing that man and leaving him in the desert, and he accepts that horrible things happen all the time, but he still thinks there’s a chance he can change it. Maybe it’s not too late for Kevin and Leah.

When the car gets close to the crime scene, Jones asks if Shake and Tom can take his bug-out bag, along with his jacket and gun. He wants to go investigate the dump site. They agree, and say they’ll stick around for a bit.

Jones walks from the road out into the desert, in the direction of the flashing lights. It appears that all manner of emergency vehicles are present. Jones first tries to sneak through an area where there aren’t many police officers, but manages to startle one wandering near the edges of the crime scene. He pulls his gun, but Jones manages to keep him calm, explaining that he’s just trying to help. The officer sends him on his way.

Jones then takes another jaunt through the desert, coming closer to the ambulances. He sneaks into the back of one, finding gurneys with sheet-covered bodies atop them. He peers under to find Kevin and Leah, badly wounded by various axe wounds. When he checks, they both have weak, thready pulses. Leah coughs, spurting up blood. Jones immediately runs out of the ambulance to get the attention of nearby emergency personnel.

Although EMTs take his advice and move to check on the presumed “corpses,” Jones is recognized, questioned, and placed under arrest.

The next several weeks are a blur for everyone involved. Kevin and Leah awaken, days later, in the hospital, apparently having been in comas for almost a week. Their lives are a blur of doctors appointments, visiting family members, and agents of the press who apparently heard of their miraculous recovery. Leah also gets a visit from Clark, both to check on her and to let her know he has something to discuss, but it can wait until she’s better. Webcrawler also makes contact with Kevin and learns of his predicament; he decides to just charge Kevin money for his services (he requests payment in something called “Bitcoin”), and says they’ll perhaps revisit this whole affair at some future time.

Their recovery, a combination of rest and physical therapy, takes months. During that time, Leah is certain to maintain contact with Jimmy lessthanthree Brenda. For his part, Jasper seems willing to allow her to use this strange accountant, although he is going to throttle back her access to the family money until he has proven that he isn’t going to just run away with it. She considers this arrangement fair, and doesn’t press the issue.

Meanwhile, Jones is processed and calls his lawyer, Terry Kozlowski. (Fortunately for all involved, Terry is also licensed in Nevada.) When Terry arrives the following day, he explains what happened in complete detail, and gives Terry instructions on what to do — tell Jane to stay away, check on what happened to Kevin and Leah, check on what happened to the axe-murderer’s Astro van, and give Jasper Fitzroy an abbreviated (and mundane) version of events.

Jones also receives a visit from Tom, of all people, asking what he wants to do with his things. Jones tells him to hang onto them for now.

A few days pass in county lockup while events proceed. Terry successfully argues that Jones does not pose a flight risk, and so bail is set, and Jones spends the days preparing for trial at his home in Los Angeles. Jasper Fitzroy sends his attorneys from Gibson Dunn to see if Jones needs anything; he does not, although Fitzroy apparently retains criminal attorneys from Eisner Gorin to assist with Jones’ legal defense.

Discussions with the legal team note that Jones should keep and fight for his job, even though he is likely to be fired in the interim; they can sort all of that out after the trial.

The media gets involved when they realize this is the same Obediah Jones from the shooting at the American Café on January 11, and at the altercation at the Far Bar on February 1. At that point, it becomes a topic of media conversation: some find the circumstances of Jones’ presence at the crime scene suspicious, and advocate further investigation, while others note that the inconsistencies are distracting everyone from the fact that he’s a hero.

The involvement of the media rankles Jones’ sensibilities, but he understands that his lawyers operate well under these conditions.

Jones’ trial on the charge of evidence tampering officially begins on May 10, 2011. (Unofficially, there is a lot of evidence to suggest he committed another crime, possibly even murder, although investigation doesn’t yield enough evidence to bring before a grand jury.)

Although pretrial motions look unfavorably upon Jones — after all, there are many forensic anomalies suggesting his involvement in this or another crime — his defense shines when it comes time to testimony. Both Kevin and Leah take the stand, and both paint a picture of a steadfast friend who saved their lives. This, both in the courtroom and in the media, is the turning point of the trial. (Kevin also notes his encounter on the road before meeting the unnamed killer, assisting one Julissa Livingston. The mention gets her a brief news interview, and her glowing description of Kevin and Leah further helps their case.)

After a weekend of deliberation, Obediah Jones is found “Not Guilty” on the morning of June 20. His presence at the scene of the crime is indisputable, but the prosecution is unable to prove criminal intent in any possible evidence tampering case.

Session 47

Monday, March 21, 2011

About a half-hour outside Vegas, Kevin and Leah stop so Kevin can assista middle-aged, matronly, African-American woman with California plates whose car has broken down in the desert heat. She’s overjoyed at the prospect of good Samaritans, and is keen to continue on her way after a long weekend in Vegas. It’s about another half-hour or so when they find another stopped car, an old Astro van with blinds and Utah plates. A skinny, balding guy in a suit is trying to fight with a toolbox while his arm is in a sling. Kevin stops and goes to help him; the passenger front tire is flat. While Kevin is investigating, the guy goes to the back of the van, opens the doors, and pulls out a fire axe as his arm slips out of the sling.

Leah screams to get Kevin’s attention, shouting that the man has an axe. Kevin moves to the far side of the vehicle, keeping the van between him and the axe-wielding man. While the man moves to catch up, Leah grabs a lighter and hairspray, and Kevin casts a spell to make attacks tend to flow around him. It’s hardly immortality, but any barrier between him and violence is worthwhile at this point.

As the suited man catches up to Kevin, Leah exits the car. Kevin manages to send him sprawling back with something, a blast of force akin to being hit by a wave or the crushing pressure of the deep ocean. Both Leah and the suited man freak out at this display of magickal power, but their reactions are totally different. Leah freezes, unsure of what she just saw and too afraid to approach. The man loses it, charging at Kevin with the axe. The fight is swift and brutal as the man’s axe bounces off Kevin’s clavicle. This prompts Kevin to freak out and charge the man, although he is eventually able to overpower Kevin and fell him with the axe.

When the man knocks Kevin backwards and then disappears around the front of the van, the urgency prompts Leah to rush forward. Kevin is on the ground — unconscious? dead? — bleeding from numerous axe wounds. The man is poised to deliver one more blow, but Leah tackles him. Although she fights valiantly, the man in the suit is surprisingly strong for his size. She takes several defensive wounds in the struggle before he manages to completely overpower her. She finally pleads for her life, saying that she won’t tell anyone if they let her go. If he wants anything, she’ll give it to him; her father is very wealthy. He replies, “This is what I want,” before her hits her with the flat of the axe and she loses consciousness.

Jones continues to sit in Smitty’s awaiting a phone call. Felicia calls first, and he explains that there’s a woman who can possibly assist with their Otherspace problem, but she’s paralyzed and would need someone to treat her. Jones is sure that Felicia knows that she doesn’t have to do it — they have other leads and might be able to renegotiate — but she agrees, although he notes she does seem hesitant. She finally says that if he finds another option that he’s comfortable with doing, feel free to do it, but she’s willing to do this. He notes that she might have to travel to Chicago, but he would cover it.

A bit later, Brian calls. He managed to get ahold of his contact and she’s willing to meet tonight at 7 PM in one of the private dining rooms at The Peninsula Chicago. Jones agrees and Brian says he’ll let her know.

As the afternoon continues, Jones eventually gets a call from Otis asking if he knows where Kevin is. He notes that Kevin went to Las Vegas, but left hours ago. Jones says that’s odd, but not to worry. They probably just got stopped somewhere. He’ll make some inquiries.

Jones, however, is immediately on alert.

He calls Kevin and Leah, and each of their phones ring a few times before going to voicemail.

Next he calls Brandon Frazier. Brandon says Kevin and Leah left hours ago, ostensibly to head straight back to L.A. He met them in the lobby of the MGM Grand, for what it’s worth.

Jones calls Willett, asking if she has any contacts with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department she can call. Has anyone come through a hospital? Any highway patrol reports of abandoned cars or anything? Willett says she’ll look into it.

Jones calls Clark with the news, asking if he can do whatever weird summoning thing he does. He hangs up. He calls back a few minutes later. No response. At Jones’ request, he tries again. No response.

Jones calls Frazier again, asking if he knows anybody who could find his friends. Frazier recommends a group, and says they’re easy; they’ll probably just be interested in money. He gives Jones a number, strangely with a Chicago area code.

Jones calls. A man with a New England accent answers the phone. Jones asks if he’s in Chicago. He is. They make arrangements to meet.

Meeting with his contact, he finds two men. One is an intensely Irish man with a flaming red goatee wearing a trenchcoat and driving cap. The other is an African-American man with a scraggly goatee, Afro, and a puffy coat. Jones recognizes the latter man; he delivered Jones’ bag on Sage Price’s behalf at the D.C. airport. They introduce themselves as Tom and Shake. They ask for a few more details regarding the missing people, and say if they have everything, they can head out immediately. Jones asks if they’re driving; they give each other knowing looks and say they are not. They explain that there is a Back Corridor between Chicago and Vegas, and they will be there in a matter of minutes. He wants to go with them, and they agree.

Jones uses the phone again before leaving. He calls Brian, asking to let the contact know that an emergency has arisen, and he won’t be able to make the meeting. Brian says he’ll pass it along, but also tells Jones to call the hotel and let them know he cannot attend the meeting with the Dupree party. He does so.

There’s also another call from Willett in there somewhere. Nobody has heard anything regarding anyone matching the descriptions of Kevin or Leah. No highway patrol reports of an abandoned car matching the description of Leah’s vehicle.

Jones returns to Tom and Shake, and they head out. The trio arrives at Delphi’s, apparently part of the same chain as found in Las Vegas. The club is not yet open for the night, but a line is forming, but Tom and Shake manage to squeak through, as the bouncers know them. Jones brought his go-bag with him, and Tom informs the people manning the metal detectors that he has a gun, so not to worry when the detector beeps. The dance floors are empty, but Tom and Shake head toward some manner of back office. Tom exchanges a few words with the guards outside, and they open the door, leading into a hallway. A tangle of passages and backrooms — featuring a few occupants here and there — eventually leads back out into another dance floor, also empty. The trio emerges in the early evening air — the sun is still up and the air is warm. They’re standing outside Delphi’s in Las Vegas.

A phone call later, some nameless valet brings another car around, and Jones, Shake, and Tom enter. Tom starts driving, heading west toward the desert. Whenever there’s a choice to be made, he just drives on autopilot, or picks the exit by flipping a coin or flipping through the radio.

Tom, as Shake tells Jones, is lucky. He’s also good with a gun. Shake is emphatically not. If this turns to combat, Shake is going to stay behind; he just makes drugs. If Jones wants PCP that’ll let you kick out a police car door, there might be some in the trunk. When asked, Tom just instructs Jones to stay just behind him; let Tom go first. Jones agrees.

They drive out into the desert for an hour or so before Tom turns off onto a dirt road. Far off the road, they find Leah’s car, hidden behind a hill and some desert scrub. A patch of disturbed earth sits nearby. Jones gets out of the car as it rolls to a stop and investigates. He recognizes that there’s a lot of evidence here, so he doesn’t want to get close and contaminate the crime scene: it’s clear Leah’s car pulled up, somebody buried something — maybe about six feet long and a foot or two across — and then left on foot.

Jones doesn’t bother with it, he just records the GPS coordinates and sends them to Willett, telling her he won’t be there when the police arrive. He tells Tom to drive, and he does.

Another couple of hours pass before the car finds itself behind an old Astro van. Tom indicates that whatever he’s been following has led him here. Jones asks if Tom is ready to cut the van off; he is. Everyone makes certain their seat belts are buckled. Tom rushes around the van and slams into it. It manages to stay on the road, but he pulls ahead and blocks the road. Tom and Jones both step out and draw their guns. (Jones was initially thinking Tom had a shotgun given his, “Stay behind me,” comment, but now he sees Tom carries an eight-shot .38 snub nose.) Jones shouts for the driver to get out. Shake worms his way to the driver’s seat.

The driver steps out, a thin, balding man in a grey suit. He’s disheveled and dusty, with evidence of both hard work and a quick attempt at cleanup. He kneels in the dirt, his hands above his head. He seems far too calm for a man with two guns pointed at him.

While Tom keeps him under the sights of his revolver, Jones investigates the van. He finds a bedroll, a lot of radio equipment, a shovel, a fireaxe — is that rust? blood? — and other assorted items that don’t seem terribly relevant right now. He asks the man why he did it, why he killed them. The man replies because it’s what he does, because they just happened to pass on the road. Did he do it for the charges? The man chuckles and says Jones must be, “one of those.” Visions led him to where he needed to go.

Jones acts. He pulls the trigger, a loud gunshot cracking the desert night. Tom and Shake both jump, maybe not quite expecting the bullet right then. Jones steadies his breathing. He retrieves the shell casing when it’s cool enough to touch, and Jones and Tom step back into the car. Shake turns the car around on this small desert road, and they start making the drive back to Las Vegas.

Session 46

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday afternoon, after work, Jones meets Kevin and Leah at Chakras to discuss plans. Having two leads on a ritual to finally close the Otherspace gate to Khalifastan, they ultimately decide to divide the labor and approach both targets. Kevin and Leah will drive to Las Vegas to meet with Brandon Frazier, while Jones will fly to Chicago to meet with Brian Lane. They make the necessary arrangements, and both parties are going to leave in the morning.

Leah also calls Bex to ask if she knows Dave Blankenship. She does, although not well; she’s never heard anything bad about him, but he gives her the creeps. They’ve met at one or two gallery showings, but she can’t say she knows much about him.

When Leah notes that she’s hanging out with Jones and Kevin, she invites Bex to come hang out. After spending time at Chakras, the quartet is joined by Jane to head to a jazz club for the evening, as something of a double-date, albeit with Leah in tow. It’s a lovely time.

The next day, Jones awakens early to head to Chicago by plane. He meets with Brian Lane at a South Side bar called Smitty’s around mid-day.

Brian is old, bearded, and tired. He claims he shouldn’t be drinking beer on account of his diabetes, but what are you going to do? One probably won’t hurt. They talk a little about Mabel — Brian claims she would steal away that girlfriend of his, were she a younger woman — before conversation turns to the Otherspace problem in Los Angeles. Brian notes that if Jones’ cabal is looking for some kind of ritual, he knows exactly the person who can provide it, but he can also guess what the price will be. His ritualist contact, a rare-book dealer in Chicago, took a bullet in the spine in a robbery-gone-bad about three years ago, and although she survived, she’s been unable to walk since. She’s been searching for someone to cure her paralysis; she’s apparently been seeking out the legendary Dr. Frakes — the old rumor is that he’ll cure any ailment for $1,000,000 cash, although Brian suspects “Dr. Frakes” is just another name for the Freak — with little luck. If Jones knows a fleshworker, or someone else capable of healing such ailments, that’s likely to be the price. Jones says he’ll have to make some phone calls, but he might know just such a person.

Before Brian leaves to try to make contact with this book dealer, conversation turns to the occult underground in general, and Brian decides to drop some cosmology on Jones. He notes that Mabel doesn’t believe this stuff — she doesn’t like the idea that we are not totally the architects of our own destinies, although Brian doesn’t think the views are incompatible — and Jones might not, either. But here’s the skinny.

Jones and his cabal are aware of avatars channeling the Archetypes, but one has to ask, what is the source of the Archetypes? How does the collective unconscious determine which concepts are important enough to merit inclusion? What is the process by which well-worn paths turn to magick?

Archetypes are created when a concept reaches a certain level of conceptual gravity in the collective unconscious. The Mother is a good example, because it’s so resonant: everybody understands what The Mother represents. Well, when the concept of “motherhood” became understood enough to merit inclusion, the Archetype of The Mother took shape in some place called the Statosphere, a place where statistics gain objective reality. But to embody this concept, the person most representing this concept goes up with it. The Archetype of The Mother, then, was once an actual person who embodied motherhood so much that she literally became a god.

The gods are the ones we make.

When any concept is important and universal enough in the collective unconscious to merit inclusion in this body of gods called the Invisible Clergy, the person best representing the concept at the time gets drawn into the Statosphere to become an Archetype. The cosmos, then, is a republican democracy writ large.

Incidentally, it is possible to stack the deck in someone’s favor if you have a particular candidate. If you provide enough symbolism around a given concept and a given person, you can ensure your chosen Archetype and your chosen representative go up into the Statosphere. Brian himself attempted this back in the 1960s. He tried to ascend as The Hippie, to bring a positive Archetype into the Statosphere. However, his symbolic attempts were trashed: first, Easy Rider deconstructed the hippie concept, and then the Tate-LaBianca murders turned the concept of the hippie murderous in the minds of the public. (Brian has always suspected the Manson Family usurpation of the concept was intentional.) His symbolism undone, Brian gave up the crusade.

Brian notes that someone else tried to do this back in 1999. An occultist named Simon Diulio, actually from the Chicago area, tried to hijack a plane in a bid to ascend as The Terrorist. He didn’t get very far before he was disarmed and jailed, however. (Jones remembers that event. The hostage situation on the flight lasted less than an hour, and led to some tighter regulations surrounding airline security and guns aboard flights. Turned it into some TV movie called Flight of Madness. Sadly it still wasn’t enough to prevent 9/11, though.)

There is another way to ascend into the Clergy, and that’s by challenging a sitting Archetype. Called an assumption, only the godwalker of an Archetype can attempt this. Assumption requires that the godwalker continue to embody the Archetype — otherwise they cease being godwalker — but that they redefine the Archetype as they do so. If you think The True King is outdated, and should more accurately represent a CEO or a political leader, then you starting pushing your symbolism in that direction. If your symbolic push moves the collective unconscious in a certain direction, then the old Archetype is cast out of the Invisible Clergy, and you and your shiny new interpretation ascend in its place.

Archetypes cast out of the Invisible Clergy pass through the House of Renunciation on their way back to the world, inverting their previous agenda. (Such former Clergy members are now just regular people again, albeit ones likely to have at least a little bit of magick and crucial insight into the workings of the world.) This appears to be the primary purpose of the House, in addition to taking people and inverting their agendas in the hopes of keeping humanity dynamic.

However, doing that declares war on the Archetype, which fights back with everything is has. The Invisible Clergy can manipulate probabilities, so they can ensure you have a heart attack, or get hit by a car, or audited by the IRS. The saving grace is that making an enemy of one Archetype usually means a rival Archetype is ready to render aid, and the two cancel each other out. (Although that usually creates wildly shifting probabilities around the focus of all this attention.) This sort of attention is typically only reserved for powerful people, such as godwalkers, who outright declare war on an Archetype; most of us are below the vast notice of the Invisible Clergy.

Incidentally, this manipulation of probabilities means that the Invisible Clergy can influence the world. Humans are still in charge of their destinies, and free will is inviolable, but the Invisible Clergy can make your neurons fire to have a particular thought (although you’re free to ignore it), or make you coincidentally bump into someone. Obviously, the world tends to be better if more Archetypes are positive ones.

Notably, the universe also reincarnates. When 333 members join the Invisible Clergy, the First and Last Man ascends to join them, and the universe is rewritten. (It’s possible that the First and Last Man ascends after the 332nd member joins, but that’s largely just semantics.) The 333 members of the Invisible Clergy determine the starting state of the next cosmos. It’s unclear what happens, whether the universe resets to the Big Bang, or if it continues to be 2011 but things are just different now and nobody knows. But if we’ve “elected” more positive Archetypes, then the next world is a better place. If we’ve “elected” more negative Archetypes, then the next world will probably be shittier.

Humanity is all there is. If there are space aliens, it’s because the previous iteration of the cosmos thought it was important for them to be there. Jones asks how this impacts evolution, but Brian doesn’t know if it matters. Maybe we start at the Big Bang and nothing mystical happens until life emerges and evolves into humans, or maybe the cosmos starts with the first humans and evolution is just a justification in the background. It’s not terribly important in the grand scheme of things.

Jones also notes that Kevin had a vision of the Invisible Clergy, and he saw some clawed, harpy-like figures. Brian suspects those are the cruel ones, possibly angels or creatures like the Furies of Greek mythology. They’re called the cruel ones because anyone has only ever heard about them from demons, and they police demons, grabbing them and hauling them back across the Veil. Demons, incidentally, are the opposite of the Invisible Clergy. Rather than the ascended form of the thoughts and aspirations of the sum total of humanity, demons are the descended forms of a single person. Most of the dead go beyond the Veil, and what happens next is unknown, but demons managed to return. They’re devoid of the standard limitations and impulses of humanity, having died in the throes of obsession. All demons are obsessed with something, and no matter how minor it is — it could be anything from psychosexual murder to spicy food — they are willing to lie or kill to get it. Demons lie habitually to get what they want. That’s part of what makes them so dangerous.

After dropping all of that on Jones, Brian notes that he’ll set about trying to establish contact with this book dealer. He’ll let Jones know one way or another, and he leaves.

Jones tries to call Felicia, and when he only gets her voicemail, he leaves a message. Then he sits at the bar waiting for a call from either Brian or Felicia.

Meanwhile, the drive to Las Vegas is uneventful. Kevin picks up Leah early in the morning, and the five-hour drive stretches to something like six-and-a-half hours because Kevin keeps stopping to help stranded motorists as part of his idiom. They otherwise arrive at the MGM Grand without incident.

They find their contact, Brandon, a bald Caucasian man wearing a Rammstein T-shirt. He has the intensity and vague pomposity one might expect of a ritual occultist. After Kevin and Leah reveal their problem, he notes he might have a ritual that works — it did nothing for him, but he assumed it worked on literal doors, not metaphorical ones like Otherspace crossroads. He notes that he cannot guarantee it will work, although he can guarantee that it isn’t a trap ritual that will open them for demon possession or anything like that. He would be willing to part with a copy of this ritual in exchange for a ritual he doesn’t have; Kevin and Leah know Jones has access to at least one ritual, which they note to Brandon. Not knowing whether he can part with it, they ask if they can call, and Brandon allows them to call their “ritualist.”

Jones is waiting at Smitty’s when he gets the call. He notes he has two rituals, one to make the mirror Willett used, and another that potentially identifies long-term spells on someone. Discussion with Brandon indicates he would be interested in these rituals, and so they all agree to contact each other again soon.

With that, Kevin and Leah begin the long drive back to Los Angeles. Strangely, Leah notes that Kevin has driven continuously without eating or using the bathroom this entire trip.

Session 45

Monday, March 14, 2011

The week is relatively quiet. Jones calls Willett on Monday to inform her about Rodney Sims’ potential class-action suit against [[Bonhams & Butterfields | Bonhams]] and the LAPD. Willett isn’t terribly surprised, and makes reference to the police officers involved being suspended or possibly fired pending an IA investigation, but thanks Jones for the information. (She notes that the officers who stood down in front of the people who caused the chaos at Leah’s auction all claimed that they felt the authority of the crooks outweighed that of their oath, that it came from a higher authority. They have been unable to explain such matters further.)

Tuesday, Webcrawler contacts Kevin to let him know Armenia4Lyfe420’s information: he is Gurgen Khachaturyan at 5600 Fernwood Ave, Unit 111, Los Angeles, CA 90028. He also provides Khachaturyan’s credit card information.

Kevin spends the rest of the week working, and also volunteering with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition — part of his eventual plan to clean up city streets as part of his Flowing-Tree philosophy. As such, he is busy enough that he does not get to spend time with Bex, but maybe next week.

Leah spends her week going stir-crazy as she’s still supposed to keep a low profile. Jones works the 7 AM to 3 PM shift this week.

Friday, Jones, Kevin, Leah, and Felicia meet to discuss plans to meet Kelly Kapoor tomorrow. Leah has decided she’s going to accompany them, and it’s decided that Felicia, Jones, and Kevin will arrive as representatives, both to case the place and to keep Kelly at ease. Once that’s established, they’ll bring Leah inside.

To fully understand what they’re about to encounter, Jones calls Eli. Meeting at a sports bar, Jones inquires with Eli regarding the strange cabal at the heart of McDonald’s. Eli explains that he found a message board several years ago dedicated to some group called Mak Attax, and assumed the group involved was dosing McDonald’s food with LSD. Deeper investigation indicated that they were actually enchanting the food with magickal charges. Apparently, this is all with the very lofty goal of bringing about some sort of magickal renaissance by mystically awakening America using the existing fast food infrastructure — many fast food restaurants are along major highways, after all. Lurking on the boards actually got him a job at a warehouse for the time. He further explains that this cabal has infiltrated McDonald’s at multiple levels: some enchant food in the distribution chain, while most enchant food at actual McDonald’s restaurants. Oh, and they rarely refer to the restaurant by its proper name due to the inherent power in true names, instead preferring to use a euphemism like Mickey D’s or the Golden Arches. Eli also notes that it used to just be McDonald’s, but in the aftermath of the Whisper War, Mak Attax has spread its influence to other chains, but Eli doesn’t quite know which ones.

When Jones inquires about the Whisper War, Eli explains that several of the major cabals went to war with each other in the late 2000s. He doesn’t know much of the details, but the Sleepers, TNI, the Sect of the Naked Goddess, and Mak Attax all fell to in-fighting. They all apparently survived, but it severely altered their power structures. He doesn’t necessarily know why, and there are all sorts of rumors as to why it started.

After Jones manages to extricate himself from that encounter with Eli, he reports his findings to the others.

Saturday, March 19, Jones goes to work as normal, while the others prepare their days accordingly. Jones leaves straight from work, and is the first to arrive at the McDonald’s at 1575 E Highland Ave, San Bernardino, CA 92404. He waits for the others to arrive, sitting in his car in the parking lot. As 5 PM approaches, he notices an employee behind one of the cash registers, a young woman with blue-green hair, speak to her manager, disappear into the back, and return to the front of the restaurant in street clothes. She sits in the meeting place determined by Leah and the others. Otherwise, nothing is out of place.

Felicia, Kevin, and Leah arrive a little late, and Jones texts them to let them know that the woman they’re meeting is an employee. He meets them in the parking lot, and Leah stays in the car while the other three enter the McDonald’s.

Felicia and Kevin order while Jones introduces himself as a representative of the party to whom “Kelly” spoke. He seems to put her at ease as Felicia and Kevin approach, although he notes that her manager is lurking behind the counter and watching the proceedings. After everyone is settled, Jones signals Leah, and she enters, wearing a PETA shirt and a baseball cap drawn low over her face.

When “Kelly” recognizes the person who just entered, she squeals and runs over to hug Leah. Jones steps in to play the part of the concerned bodyguard, while Leah waves him away. When the manager realizes that his employee seems to actually know this person, he seems far less concerned than before.

“Kelly” asks if she can take a picture of Leah — perhaps strangely for someone her age, not a picture with Leah — and Kelly asks to exchange contact information so they can hang out. Leah, probably wisely, gives Kelly the burner phone information. Having forgotten to properly introduce herself in the interim, “Kelly” finally introduces herself as Shannon Brown. They finally manage to get Shannon marginally calmed and back to the table so they can discuss business.

Shannon indicates that she’s a member of Mak Attax, going by “Starlette” on the forums. Throughout her description, Shannon seems to casually assume that Leah and her cabal are well aware of these matters, and while Leah indicates she’s not on the Mak Attax boards, she does little to disabuse Shannon of this notion. (She also probably reveals a lot more personal information than she should feel comfortable sharing with total strangers in the occult underground, but again, she assumes she knows Leah well enough.) Leah repeats her request about a ritual to close a door, a gate to an Otherspace. Shannon personally doesn’t know many rituals apart from those needed for the Great Work — the dissemination of charges, what she calls Special Orders — but she knows someone who does, a Brandon Frazier out in Las Vegas. (He goes by “Augoeides” on the Mak Attax boards.) He’d probably know what they need or where to find it. She gives Frazier’s contact information.

During the course of conversation, Shannon also notes that this store has been having a bit of a problem. Some creepy photographer by the name of Lensman has been coming around, and apparently he must have gotten hold of a Special Order, because he’s now aware of the charge dissemination and has been extorting charges out of them. He’s taken pictures of the staff and threatened to damage those pictures like a voodoo doll; coupled with some other weird, creepy things he’s done, they have no reason to doubt he has the capability.

While the group discusses these matters, Kevin has quietly drifted into his own reverie, trying to scry on Lensman. Although he is too far away to use the holes, his own spells allow him to view the Lensman — a young, caucasian guy with dyed hair and stretched ears, treating images in a darkroom. Many of the images are just landscapes, but a few seem to be professional portraits, and at least a couple are creepshots, like people weeping by a car accident, or a woman recoiling in horror from a camera over the top of the changing room door.

Using that, he scries again, determining that Lensman lives in a little house at 156 W Olive St, Apartment A, San Bernardino, CA 92410. Breaking his reverie, he conveys this to Shannon and the others. Jones says they’ll look into it, and Shannon thanks them all profusely. Jones and Shannon’s manager exchange nods as the group leaves the McDonald’s.

Before they leave town, the group drives past Lensman’s house, finding the little stucco rambler with shuttered windows Kevin described. It’s otherwise in a relatively normal residential neighborhood. Satisfied, the group decides to leave to do more research.

Back in Los Angeles, Jones and Kevin both try to do research on the matter, eventually determining that Lensman is Dave Blankenship. They manage to find his photography website, and start contemplating a plan to gain access to him and his photographs. (Although Jones is concerned that destroying the photographs will have effects on the people depicted in them. Likely another matter requiring more research.)

Session 44

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Jones has an uneventful afternoon at work. Kevin gets ready for his gathering he plans on having later in the evening. Leah logs onto an alternate Facebook account unconnected to her own and begins posting on her own fan page, trying to determine if any of her fans might have access to the kinds of rituals her cabal seeks. Operating under the pretense of a Leah fan looking for some sort of r/nosleep style occult game, she gets a few responses before being messaged by someone with the username Kelly Kapoor. This person’s account is totally locked down, with the only thing visible being their profile picture, depicting a neutral nature scene with minimal identifying features. (It’s highly likely it’s an image culled from the internet, rather than a photograph this person took on their own.) Back-and-forth conversation ensues, but this person eventually claims to have channeled Marilyn Monroe and learned the dark secret of “Mickey D’s.” (When asked, they evade what the ghost of Marilyn Monroe taught them.) “Kelly” asks where Leah is located, but she only reveals the West Coast. Eventually, “Kelly” reveals a willingness to discuss these matters in-person, and indicates if it’s possible, to meet at the Golden Arches at 1575 E Highland Ave, San Bernardino, CA 92404. Leah says she’ll be unable to do it within a day or two, but maybe next weekend? She asks about 5 PM on Saturday, which “Kelly” initially rejects, although when Leah pushes “Kelly” eventually agrees, but notes an inability to stay for terribly long. “Kelly” ends by saying it’s great to meet another Leah fan.

That evening, Kevin has his party. Among the standard beach crowd, Bex and Leah attend, as do Jane and Mabel. When she’s not taking pictures, Bex spends a fair amount of time talking to Kevin, and they end up making plans to perhaps catch a show later in the week. After Jane gets settled and fends off a couple of would-be suitors, Leah spends most of the night talking to Jane. She explains her encounter with Kelly Kapoor, and Jane notes — with some embarrassment — that when she first arrived in Los Angeles, she went on a date with Eli before determining he was nuts. But he made reference to a conspiracy in McDonald’s, and might know more about some of the some of the things she referenced. Otherwise, they talk and drink, and Bex likes the way they’re framed on the couch so she takes their pictures.

Jane leaves around 10 PM, sending a text to Jones to let him know she’s heading home. When he gets out of work, he sends one back saying that he’ll probably head to Kevin’s for a bit before coming home himself. He talks to people, largely taking the opportunity to talk to Otis since he rarely gets to do so. As Felicia and Leah started talking once Jane left, Otis notes to Jones that he thinks it’s good that Felicia has people to whom she feels comfortable talking. He asks if she has trouble making friends; Otis replies that she’s actually fairly gregarious, but she’s been through a lot, and finds it hard to trust people. Jones also hears about Leah’s encounter with a fan online before heading home himself.

Before she leaves, Bex and Kevin disappear for a walk on the beach. Bex and Leah leave when Bex returns to the party.

The next day, before work, Jane, Jones, Kevin, and Leah meet to discuss Kelly Kapoor. Felicia also enters the conversation; as the group decides it’s perhaps unwise for Leah to go herself, Jones says he can go in her stead, and Felicia agrees to go with him as the fan Kelly reached on the internet. Kevin says he might also be able to go, depending on the timing. Leah sends Kelly another message, asking if it’s all right if she brings people, and Kelly agrees.

Kevin also asks the assembled group about the prospect of calling his hacker contact to mess with the guy who shot him (and possibly get further information, enough to lead police to him). They advise him to be careful, but otherwise don’t have a problem with it. Although Jones notes that he’d probably need a lot of information to result in an actual arrest.

Monday, Jones gets Brian’s number from Mabel, and contacts him about the prospect of coming to Chicago in a couple of weeks. Brian says that would be fine; there’s an Irish bar that usually has acceptable beer and some sports game playing where they could meet. Brian tells Jones to let him know when his plans are more solid.

Kevin also contacts Webcrawler via Skype in the afternoon, finding out that he’s a young Hispanic man with a tattoo of a spider on his face and a strange patois, somewhere between Cockney and a Jamaican accent. He indicates that he can find the man Kevin seeks from his Xbox gamertag, but in return, does Kevin have any storage space? A shed or something like that? Kevin indicates he does, so Webcrawler says he’ll make plans to hit L.A. in the next few weeks and install some servers in Kevin’s shed, and possibly look for other real estate. “Nothing illegal,” he says. For this, he’ll be willing to do more for Kevin in the future. Kevin agrees, and Webcrawler says he’ll probably have the information Kevin wants within 24 hours.

Session 43

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Before calling Willett, however, Jones, Kevin, and Leah finalize plans regarding the rogue Otherspaces that have appeared in Los Angeles, both the one in Kevin’s bedroom and Khalifastan in the grotto in Long Beach. They all decide to focus on Khalifastan first, and they consider the possibility of searching for a ritual to close the gate. Surely one exists somewhere, right? Leah plans on canvassing her social media followers for possible rituals, while Jones tries to call Mabel, although he gets no response. They also discuss the possibility of dealing with local Merchants to find what they want; even though things ended poorly with Edna, they think she might be the best option, as she’s not terribly powerful yet, even if she is predisposed to dislike them. With this decided, the trio parts company.

While driving to work, Jones gets a phone call from an unknown number. When he answers, it’s Mabel, sounding significantly older than normal, like perhaps she’s playing up her age. She seems strange and curt in her responses, which Jones quickly surmises to be the result of an intruder listening to the conversation, which she obliquely confirms. He says he’ll be over as soon as he can.

He lets Kevin and Leah know that Mabel’s in trouble, and they both decide to head in her direction. Jones also calls Willett to let her know that a friend is possibly in trouble, and could she arrange a welfare check? She agrees, and he tells her to wait twenty or thirty minutes, just in case they’re not needed.

Kevin gets there first by cutting through yards and pedaling like a madman, and he finds a secluded place to observe the house. Everything seems normal, but after a few minutes of watching, a very disheveled old woman wearing an old house dress and carrying a sledge hammer walks out the front door. There are no signs of violence on her, and she just walks down the sidewalk until reaching the beach, when she turns and starts heading up the beach.

Meanwhile, Mabel calls Jones to let him know she’s fine, and the intruder is gone. He indicates he and his friends are still coming over, and he calls the others to let them know the danger is passed. Kevin conveys what he saw, and Jones explains that he’s still coming over. Jones also calls Willett to cancel the welfare check.

As such, Kevin decides to go to Mabel’s house, and she is surprised to see him so quickly. She invites him inside, and says she’s fine, but she’ll explain further once everyone arrives.

When Jones arrives, he manages to sight between two houses and sees an old woman with a sledgehammer watching Mabel’s house. He stares her down for a bit before knocking on Mabel’s door. They wait for Leah to arrive, and once she does, Mabel explains that was Red Claire. She hadn’t heard anything of her in over three decades, so she assumed Claire was dead, but apparently she’s not. Based on what Claire was saying, she came from the Otherspace on Long Beach, and came to ask if Mabel knew who opened it. (When asked how Claire knew how to find her, Mabel said this is the same house she would have owned back then.) Jones notes she’s still around if they want to inquire further. Mabel warns them that she’s potentially dangerous — some manner of Communist sorceress, Claire was always grubbing for valuable objects, ostensibly to destroy. Notably, Mabel once saw her take a gunshot and heal it by “giving” it to her attacker; Leah remarks that she redistributed the wound. With that in mind, the four of them head up the beach to meet her, although Jones and Mabel both have their pistols close at hand. They find her walking away, but they catch her attention and invite her back to Mabel’s house to discuss these matters. She agrees.

It takes some digging, but she admits she made the Otherspace as her personal utopia, a masterwork of magickal skill, although she refuses to admit how she did it. She notes that a group of five kids came through a couple of weeks ago, looking for a friend of theirs, and based on their conversation, they came from the “real” Los Angeles rather than Angeliy. It took her some time to find the source of the gate, but she wants to know why it opened and how to close it. Kevin apologizes, and says he thinks it’s his fault, but he’s trying to figure out how to close it. Claire seems displeased, but satisfied with the explanation, and she admonishes them to close it. She leaves, and everybody breathes a collective sigh of relief.

Mabel notes that the power necessary to permanently craft an Otherspace is enormous, probably requiring a major charge. She does not know what Claire needed to destroy to gain such a charge. She also notes that Claire has apparently inhabited Khalifastan for thirty years or so, so she was unaware of cell phones and other such developments — that’s why Mabel called Jones on her house phone, by the way.

Jones also brings up the prospect of closing the Otherspace gate with a ritual, and Mabel notes a couple of sources she knows. The Merchants in town could probably help, as could the New Alexandria Library out near Chicago. That library trades functioning rituals for rituals, and you have to prove the provenance of a ritual by enacting it, although plenty of disreputable types have defrauded the New Alexandria Library by enacting some phony ritual and then using some adept spell or avatar channel to perform an uncanny effect. (Some well-known rituals that are difficult to enact, like the Unspeakable Servant ritual that requires you to sacrifice an eye, are just accepted on word alone.) During the course of this conversation, Mabel also learns that Kevin is an adept, apparently to her chagrin.

With a few more avenues to explore, and Mabel apparently safe for now, Jones leaves to go to work. Kevin and Leah both leave shortly thereafter, although Kevin notes he might have some people over tonight if Mabel wants to join.


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