DM’s Summary: These notes are the DM (storyteller’s) perspective of the events.
Part1: From Memphis to Peoria.
After hearing Sanya’s story, the Wardens Vinnie, Jasmine, and Miles decided to head to Memphis and take a look into the death of the warden Robert Clauson (and pick up Miles’ new car). Before heading out east, Miles made appropriate calls with the local Memphis law enforcement to “check in”. He learned that there was an FBI field office, and that Robert (as an employee of Atlanta Personal Investigations, LLC) had already done so. In fact, it turned out Robert was a friend of an FBI agent by the name of Mike Malone. Miles also arranged for Veronica to get housing, maps, and basic info on both Memphis, TN and Peoria, IL before heading out. The wardens arrived in Memphis on Feb 5th, 2010 via a never-never passageway. They first checked in with the FBI agent Malone, who gave them what little information he had on Clauson’s death, as well as some useful contacts in the Memphis P.D. and particularly the homicide division. Miles then picked up his “new” 1941 Ford, purchased from a nice elderly gentlemen (a Steve Sommers) who had named the car “Gertrude”. Clearly, the vehicle had lots of sentimental value.
At the Memphis PD, the team talked to Jerry Hatch, an aging cliché’d overweight homicide detective. He didn’t have many leads, but let the wardens look at the case files. After some quick legwork over the phone, the team was able to obtain one of the actual bullets pulled from Robert’s corpse. A quick magical ritual on the bullet revealed that whoever killed Robert new who he was, planned it ahead of time, and took a sadistic pleasure in the killing of another human being. Before leaving the police station, Vinnie and Jasmine noticed that there were a few “John/Jane Doe” murder investigations on Det. Hatch’s desk – all with “mysterious anatomy”. Vinnie quickly figured out these were likely some kind of vampire corpse. The team then talked the detective into meeting up with them later so they could learn more about the possible vampire corpses.
During the afternoon, the wardens investigated the murder scene. A thorough look around revealed several places where an ambush could be made, but even Robert would have been a fool not to at least keep an eye on them. None of the residents claimed to have seen or heard anything, which fit the police report (and one theory Det. Hatch had that the killer was using a silenced weapon). Jasmine wanted to summon a local spirit, using the crime scene evidence as bait and payment, but the group agreed to wait until night (when they would likely get better results).
That night, at the local police watering hole, the team found out a bit about the “vampire” murders. Apparantly about a week ago these strange bodies showed up –with multiple gunshot wounds. Other strangeness was that all the gunshots were to the head, and two of the bodies had been mangled as if in a struggle – except that bones and joints had been broken in ways that suggested someone with a lot of strength or skill. Vinnie, with his martial arts expertise realized that even a well trained fighter wouldn’t have the strength to cause those injuries (and certainly not against an unwilling vampire target). The attackers must have had superhuman strength as well. Additionally, the attackers must have either been well prepared, stupid, or else immune to the red vampire saliva to have even considered taking a red court vampire on in hand-hand combat.
After drinks, the team went back to the scene of warden Clauson’s murder and performed the spirit summoning ritual. Keying herself to the emotions of the murder, Jasmine summoned a particularly sadistics and creepy “murder spirit”. As payment, Jasmine offerred up the bullet used to kill the warden. The spirit eagerly accepted the payment, putting the bullet in its mouth and rolling it around like a succulent mint. Jasmine learned that the warden had been tricked into coming to the area. His killer had used a magic potion to conceal himself, then shot him from the shadows. The killer enjoyed the killing, and was sent from “somewhere else”, then left after the murder.
Trying to get the creepy words of the spirit out of their minds, the wardens then investigated the scene of the “vampire” murders. At the scene they found what looked like a military style ambush. Clearly, the attackers knew what they were doing. Vinnie and Miles soon spotted another person watching them from across the street. Portalling next to the spy, Vinnie quickly got him into a choke hold. The man then cursed “filthy vampire” and escaped the grapple, pulling a gun on Vinnie. Thinking quickly, Vinnie convinced the spy he wasn’t a vampire, and noticed the dark tattoos all over the man’s arms – indicating membership in the order of St. Giles.
The vampire-hunter, named Sean, then related his story. About 10 days ago, his organization (based out of New England) got a tip from an old source that a group of reds were operating a crime syndicate in Memphis, and where they could find them. The source had been reliable in the past, so they sent a team down quickly to deal with the upstart reds. Their team did a few days surveillance, identifying at least nine vampires. When the hit went down they killed six, and chased down and killed a seventh. Two got a way (presumably long gone, but he was hanging around to be sure). When they checked out the Reds lair, they found evidence of smuggling stuff on trains. Sean offerred to turn over what he had to the wardens the next day (at noon, in the open, at Graceland) and they parted ways.
On the morning of the 6th, the team wrapped things up in Memphis. They learned from Veronica and Mason that Robert’s calls indicated very little – he’d been following a series of missing persons cases throughout the south (Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, all in medium sized cities), and most of his calls were to such organizations. He had two calls at his hotel room from a phone booth near where he was murdered. Further investigation indicated that calls were made from that phone booth in that time frame to another pay phone in Peoria, IL. At Graceland, the team picked up the evidence from Sean – the documents indicated that the reds were smuggling something from various locations in the south. Their single biggest customer was someone in Peoria (easily three times the size of everyone else). About three weeks ago they got their last “shipment”. Paperwork indicated it should have gone to “the Peoria customer”, except that he had stopped payment. The wardens then drove the rest of the night into Peoria and spent the night there, resuming their investigation in the morning.
The next day, the wardens began their search at the train station where Sanya reputedly met with Warden Clauson (while he was four weeks dead and cremated). Looking at the surveillance tapes, it appeared as though Sanya was talking to absolutely nothing. The team went to the food court where they had their conversation and opened up their Wizard Sight and looked into the never-never. The never-never revealed very little (what would be expected of a major cross roads). Wizard sight revealed the fading echo of a silver archway.
Not sure what to make of that (although Miles and Vinnie were willing to believe an act of divine intervention), the team headed out to the cornfields outside of town to enter the never-never and get some information from the local faeries. Finding a local centaur, who addressed Vinnie as “he who rides with Chuck D”, Vinnie offerred to “hunt and scout” for them in three moons time in return for information. The centaur agreed and indicated that the local fey “do not go to that place (Peoria) as it is forbidden by the queen – though it was not always that way”. A serious look at the city from the never-never side revealed an absolute fortress, akin to Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings.
Miles used his contacts to determine the criminal history of Peoria. A thorough look revealed that the city has a normal amount of crime for it’s size. It has absolutely ZERO supernatural incidents. None in over 50 years, even researching articles in the “Midwest Arcane”. Even more interesting, in the days prior to Sanya’s arrival, the day he was there, and one day after, there was virtually no crime of any kind reported.
In order to find out more about what was going on, the wardens decided to talk to the local water spirits – specifically that in Lake Peoria (a man-made lake that’s part of the Illinois river that runs alongside the city). When they looked into the never-never what they saw was horrifying. It looked as though the spirit had been bound in giant barbed chains reaching out from the shore (no easy task given how running water can ground any magic out). Regardless, viewing the spirit caught it’s attention, and like a rabid dog it lashed out at them in the real world. Vinnie quickly threw up a wall of magic to protect the three, and Jasmine used evocation to suck all the heat out of the water, freezing the spirit instantly and banishing it back to the never-never to recuperate.
Not sure what to do next, Miles conducted an Entropy ritual hoping that it would lead him to some important information. It did, or at least, everyone thought it did. The team of wardens drove around and stumbled upon a protest rally in front of the Caterpillar corporate H.R. building in downtown Peoria. They saw several groups consisting of a few UAW, and about 70% “America First” and 30% “Union Now”. Talking with the three groups, they learned a bit about the labor and job situation in Peoria, with respect to Caterpillar, Inc.: • Union Now is a southern organization that fights to get rid of the “right to work” legislation that hurts unions. It has a very strong diversity element and campaigns heavily amongst minorities. • America First is a white organization that is basically a front for white-power. They oppose most anti-union setups as non-union shops typically hire african americans, hispanics, and other “non-whites” to break / defeat union control over blue collar jobs. • Both groups have been heavily campaigning amongst the Caterpillar workers (current, former, and retired). • There have been lots of lay-offs recently (due to the recession) and even though there are several major highways in the area, zero stimulus money has been given to Peoria for infrastructure work and job creation. Tensions amongst the “blue collar” demographic are high, as there are rumors Caterpillar may hire again, and there will be lots of people wanting those jobs.
Following the investigation into the protests, the team decided to head to the freight train yards to see if they could find the location of the “goods” shipped up from Memphis. A thorough search revealed an old cargo container that just didn’t seem right. Vinnie noticed a magical circle around it, Miles noted the circle was designed to stop the passage of sound. Vinnie also noticed several electronic devices around the entrance (probably alarms) and a subtle antenna along the side of the container. Jasmine opened up her wizard sight – seeing the images of dozens of young people screaming without making noise, trying to get out. Vinnie transmuted a doorway along the rear of the container to gain entry. Looking inside they found what appeared to be a holding cell, but no one inside. The container was clearly used to keep people chained up for a time, and had a surveillance camera inside. A few seconds after peering inside, Vinnie noticed the camera start to move, then a subtle “click”. Diving to the ground he barely avoided the detonation of high temperature material that destroyed all evidence of what was in the container.
Heading back to their car, Miles and Vinnie noticed someone had tampered with the vehicle. A thorough inspection revealed that someone had planted illegal weapons (sawed off shotgun, automatic weapons) under the floor of the trunk. More importantly, the person doing it wasn’t entirely careful, and had left a strand of hair behind…. To be continue in Part 2.