Peoria Part 2: The Plot Thickens….
Leaving the scene of the ruined cargo container, Jasmine, Miles, and Vinnie took what they could of the radio system as a potential sympathetic link to use later. They dumped the planted weapons into the never-never and headed back out on the freeway. A quick detection ritual indicated that whoever had planted the weapons (or whoever the hair belonged to) was heading to the north side of the town.
As if on cue, in downtown Peoria the wizards were quickly pulled over by the local police, who clearly were suspecting someone armed and dangerous. Jasmine veiled herself and rolled into the ditch, while half a dozen cops secured Miles and Vinnie (and the car). Quick thinking and calm actions on the part of both Miles and Vinnie diffused the situation. The cops had a tip that had come from homicide that some heavy “hitters” were in town, driving a vehicle matching their description. Once everything was sorted out, the police apoligized and let the wizards go. Miles made it a point to call in to check with a laison officer (Dan Gahan) the next day.
Resetting the tracking spell, the target had definitely stopped somewhere in the north side of town. Entering the area, it was clear that the place had seen better days. Most of the homes were older, in decent repair, but many of the local businesses looked down. It had the look of an old neighborhood that was down on its luck. No signs of serious crime, but no signs of any real economic potential. The tracking spell led to an abandoned storefront. There was no activity in front of the building, but tracks around the back and the faint noise of gunfire and explosions inside (the muffled sound of an XBOX). A simple Ford taurus parked along the road was still warm – likely the vehicle of the target. In the back of the store, the main door had a heavy lock. There were also indications that many people and vehicles had been there recently (in the last week).
A quick magical scan revealed nothing unusual, and mundane lockpicks enabled entry. Once inside, the wizards did a quick search. The upstairs and rear break area was being used as a sort of Club house or get together (signs of poker tables, dart boards, etc.). The place was well kept, probably used by some of the older locals as a lodge or get together. Noise and light could be detected from the basement. A quick run downstairs and the wizards easily restrained a young man playing XBOX on a small TV.
The young man was named Jeff, and appeared to be a runaway. He was also clearly in charge of maintainig the place for whatever it was used for. The place was relatively clean, and he clearly had enough money to keep himself clothed, fed, and entertained (and his car moving). In the back of the basement was another room, this one was clearly “creepy”. A search revealed blood stains on the ground, around an obvious magical circle.
Vinnie decided to open his Sight to scan the area. What he saw sickened him – the room was used for some form of powerful black magic ritual, likely human sacrifice of some sort. The whole room was drenched in the blood of innocence. The purpose of the room was some form of “baptism in blood”. When Vinnie turned his sight to Jeff, he got an even wierder impression. The young man had clearly started out life on the wrong track. He’d found purpose early in life, as well as loyalty. He looked like a medieval vassal or squire, but in some ways reminded Vinnie of images of a Hitler Youth. Most interesting was a thin silver cord trailing out from the man’s heart. As the cord faded into the distance, it turned from silver to a murky, oily black.
Interrogation of the kid didn’t go very well. He clearly thought that he had nothing to fear, either from law enforcement, the locals, or any nearby gangs. He said he was “protected” and that he was following “the plan”. Looking through his wallet, Miles found a few pre-paid cards and a decent amount of cash. A number of paystubs and other financial items were confiscated to send to Veronica for some financial forensic work.
Miles and Jasmine did their best to threaten and intimidate the kid. They trapped him in a circle, thinking that might cut off whatever the silver/black cord was. However, before they could decide on an actual form of physical intimidation to do – the kid became suddenly possessed. He said in a deep, throaty voice “YOU HAVE MEDDLED ENOUGH. I HAVE TRIED TO BE REASONABLE. LEAVE THIS CITY OR YOUR FATE WILL BE HIS”. Then the kid simply fell over and died.
Surprised at that, the wizards decided they must be onto something big. Miles tried to divine what had happened in the room, using his thaumaturgy skills. He learned that the room was used in a ritual. During the ritual, a young black man was tied up in the center and other men in the room participated in a ritual killing. The emotion of the killing was one of hate and bigotry. All the men present were white. Miles did notice that the victim was wearing something with “LSU” on it (Louisiana State University). Then he rememberd the Warden Clauson had been investigating a bunch of missing persons cases all throughout the south (dozens of missing persons, both white and black). At the end of the ritual, the energy of the procedure mostly was put into an object, what appeared to be a clump of old barbed wire (the kind used for large cattle). The barbed wire clump was then removed.
Concerned that the ritural might happen again, Jasmine put together a special divining rod tuned to the harmonics of the circle. The device would resonate if the ritual was performed again (at that location) or if it got close to the barbed wire piece that had been removed. Miles contacted Veronica with the details of the location and the kid, hoping to find out more in the morning. Vinnie put a simple ward on the place so he’d know if someone entered after they left.
Vinnie got a signal on his ward sometime around 4:00am. When the team woke up they received an alert from Veronica that the local news was talking about a fire at that location. Police were tentatively blaming it on a local meth lab. Details on the kid were limited. He was an orphan, taken care of by local charities growing up. His pay (or his source of income) came from a temp agency (likely a dummy corporation). Veronica would look into it more, but it would take some time. The only obvious thing was that the kid didn’t have a real source of income. He had mentioned during questioning that he’d worked “construction” a few times, but it was clear that he hadn’t done it recently (or often) – judging by his lack of equipment and working clothes.
Not sure where to proceed next, Vinnie reminded the team of the radio parts from the railway car. They decided to track down the source of the explosion. This time, it led them into the ghetto (or what passes for a ghetto in Peoria). They found themselves in front of what was probably a gang/drug house –with a hispanic gangbanger watching out front on the porch.
Pulling over and getting out of the car, the situation quickly turned violent. The gangbanger out front shouted something inappropriate to Jasmine. Miles hexed his gun so it went off in his pants (possibly making it a gender-altering experience). The gunshot was enough to send most of the inhabitants running outside with a “shoot first ask questions never” attitude. About a dozen gang members with everything from handguns to an SAW opened fire. One of them had some form of supernatural bit to him, as he dove out wielding two handguns that cackled with magical energy.
Jasmine and Miles activated defensive auras, while Vinnie used his evocation to yank some of the shooters off of the front porch. Between the SAW and multiple gunshots, Vinnie was seriously injured (as was Miles’ car parked in the street) but so was the gang leader “Ricardo”. Miles ducked behind a car in the driveway, then flipped it over onto several gangbangers with a nasty evocation. Jasmine did a quick portal up to the second floor of the house and dispatched two riflemen with her crysknife, while Vinnie jumped through the first story window and beat the gangbanger with the SAW into unconsciousness. In the confusion, Ricardo managed to run away before anyone could see where he went.
A search of the house and interrogation of the gangbangers revealed a lot. A search of the house revealed that there was a “tech” room for spying on several locasions: two were blacked out (possibly the cargo container, and the ritual room), another contined a second ritual room, one the headquarters of the “America First” in Peoria, and two more showed the front and back of the house. A search of the basement revealed equipment for measuring and packaging drugs, but hadn’t been used recently. Vinnie quickly repaired Miles’ car with a simple transmutation (to hide the bullet holes), and they rode off with two prisoners for “quiet” interrogation outside the city.
It took a while to get useful information out of the two gangbangers. A mixture of unnecessary bravado and blunt stupidity took a while to deal with. During the conversation, Vinnie picked up on a subtle fear of the Cortez drug cartel. Jasmine and Vinnie used this to trick to the two into telling what they knew – thinking they were some kind of deadly hit squad from south america. It turns out that the Eduardo gang in Peoria had been “moonlighting” in ways that could get them in big trouble with the Cortez Cartel. The Cartel had put them in charge of drug trafficking through most of the midwest (mostly by re packaging and re-routing drugs via the freight train yards). The gang was “allowed” to sell some of the drugs, get involved in prostitution, gambling and extortion (typical gang activity that would not draw undue attention). However, getting involved in human trafficking was on the “no-no” list, since it is high profile activity. If the Cortez cartel found out what the gang was up to, there’d be a very vicous and thorough “house cleaning”.
The wizards further learned that the gang was led by two white guys, Billy Thompson and Eric Lang. They took over about 10 years ago (violently) with some outside help. But things ran smoothly so the Cortez leadership didn’t care. Since then, they’ve been involved in some newer, unusual activities. But the result has been minimal police interference, a lot more money, and very happy gang bangers. One of the unusual tasks was the human trafficking. They knew the kids were taken somewhere else, but not where (someone else would take them from the cargo container – but only Billy, Ricardo, and “Abdul” (who they later found out as recently in Memphis for a job) handled that. The gang bangers also watched the video feeds. None of it was recorded (for security). The two “basements” for rituals they only watched when they were empty (the cameras were shut off during normal use). Their job was to watch it for anyone snooping around and contact a phone number if they noticed something. Similarly, if anyone poked into the cargo container, they were to call another phone number. As for the America First location – that was put in recently, and they were just supposed to contact a number if anything violent happened in there. In addition to all this information, there was a bunch of equipment from a Stevenson Construction and Harrison and Sons contractors. The gang banger indicated they’d worked some sites for those companies in the past (partly as “security”), and kept some supplies as payment (but they weren’t supposed to). The wizards then scared the two gang bangers off, threatening various mutiliations and torture if they ever saw them again (thus keeping up the charade they were with the Cortez Cartel). It’s now mid-afternoon on Monday, February 8th.
To Be Continued…..