November 10, 2012
As Yuriko waits with crowd of people waiting for Powell’s to open for the day, Aleister touches her arm and wishes her a cheery “Good morning!”. He hands her a cup of coffee. “I see you survived your ordeal.”
Yuriko smiles, taking the proffered cup. “Yes. Everything went off without a hitch.” She looks around at a crowd. “I’ll give you the details later.”
Aleister shakes his head. “No need. That you’re fine is good enough for me. I’m out of the game and wish to remain that way. The less I know, the better, I think.”
The doors open and the crowd rushes inside, taking Yuriko and the older man with it. She waves goodbye and makes her way into the deep stacks. She has work to do. A ghoul is possibly stalking the graves in Mount Calvary and her group needs information.
She spends the morning poring over old books in the rare book room and in the various deep stacks of the bookstore, gleaning small bits of information trying to put together a more complete picture of ghouls, trying to sort fact from folklore and fiction. She doesn’t find much more than what Nick and Angelica already told her.
Ghouls can appear to be completely human, blending in with society. When not blending, they are hunch-shouldered, grey-skinned fiends covered in short, wiry hairs with the worst features of humans, hyena, and baboons, all mixed together—stunted strong legs, too long arms, and hands that have spurs of bone. They can go through 40 to 50 pounds of meat in a day—preferably human. They live in a clannish society—those that live outside the clan structure seldom make it to adulthood. Within the clans, ghouls speak ancient Sumerian. Ghoul clans are known to provide muscle for various nasty supernaturals, such as Red Court vampires. Ghouls can recover from just about anything short of decapitation or a similar mortal trauma. They’re inhumanly strong and fast and have sharp claws. They can appear human at will. They are affected by holy water. They are also unable to control their appetites for long. Most are kind of dumb.
By the time she gathers all of this information, most of the day has passed. Bleary-eyed, she makes her way to the café and orders a tea and gets a sandwich. She spots Aleister sitting alone, reading a paperback, and joins him.
“Long day?” he asks.
Yuriko merely nods and tears into her sandwich with gusto. After she finishes, she turns to the older man and asks “What do you know about ghouls?”
He raises an eyebrow. “You really don’t understand that I don’t wish to participate anymore, do you?”
Aleister sighs. He then lays out what he knows, which pretty much confirms what Yuriko found in her research. “So you’re looking for ghouls now, then?”
Yuriko nods. “Yeah, we think there’s one prowling about in Mount Calvary Cemetery. It may become a danger to others so we want to try and take it out.”
Aleister gets an odd look on his face. “Mount Calvary? Has anyone been hurt?”
“Not yet. Just some desecrated graves. But that’s how it starts, right? They’re not going to be satisfied with just dead meat for long.”
" Does the Warden know about this? "
“Sure. She’s on board.”
The old man rubs his face and closes his eyes. “She doesn’t know.”
“Doesn’t know what?”
" About Kendel. "
" Kendel is a ghoul who lives Mount Calvary Cemetery. He eats the dead and only the dead. He made an arrangement with the White Council a long time ago. A truce, of sorts. In return, he provides no-questions-asked medical care to any who ask for it. "
“He’s a doctor?”
“Of sorts, yes.”
“Why wouldn’t the Warden know about this?”
“I don’t know. Maybe he was forgotten about. I didn’t brief the Warden when I left, I left that for the Council to do. Maybe its the Council’s not-so-subtle way of revoking the truce. I don’t know. But if no one has been hurt, he has hasn’t breached it and should be left alone.”
“But what of the dead?”
“What of them? They’re dead. What of the living? Or the semi-living, for that matter…”
“Do you know Kendel personally or just of him?”
“We’ve met a few times. He’s helped me out of a couple of scrapes. He’s creepy as hell, but knows his business and keeps his mouth shut.”
Yuriko leans in closer. “So is the agreement only with the wizards or does he help anyone in the community or anyone with wounds or what?”
" He helps pretty much anyone in the community, wizard or otherwise, no questions asked. The truce is not only with the White Council but tacitly with other communities as well. I don’t know why the White Council would want to break it by not telling the Warden. It’s possibly an oversight, but things are seldom merely oversights with the Council. "
“How long has this treaty been in existence?”
“Probably about fifteen years now. Don’t call it a treaty. Call it a truce.”
“What would happen if somebody broke the truce?”
Aleister looks up thoughtfully. “Remember that its a truce, not a treaty or promise of protection. It’s simply a promise that due to services rendered, we promise not to kill you. So if someone else kills the ghoul, there would be no direct quid pro quo per se. However, everyone has enjoyed Kendel’s services for years. Someone may get angry and there could be some backlash. Now, if the Warden herself were to kill the ghoul…”
“Yes?” Yuriko moves forward even more.
“Then that would be breaking the truce. She would either face censure from the White Council, ignorance not being an excuse, or, if the intent is for the White Council to break the truce, then the Council would face that backlash, possibly using the Warden as a scapegoat.”
“Is the current White Council the same as it was fifteen years ago when this truce was created?”
Aleister just blinks and smiles at Yuriko. “Some things I’m not at liberty to discuss even in retirement.”
Yuriko pats the old man on the shoulder. “Thank you for telling me what you can. You’re always welcome to come over for Kraft dinner.”
She rises and collects her things. “I still owe you, Aleister. For the wards. Thanks for everything.”
She then heads out and begins dialing Dillon on her phone. They have a lot to talk about.
Angelica gets off the phone with Dillon and then gets ready to head out to Mount Calvary to walk the grounds. She hopes to see if any other disturbed spirits can offer clues to the ghoul’s whereabouts. Once she arrives at the cemetery, she opens herself up to the spirits. She receives a fair amount of activity from the spirits in the cemetery, trying to communicate with her, telling her of their various woes. Some seem to flicker missing parts, as did the spirit she encountered before. She can discern no pattern to the victims—they lay all over the cemetery, in graves and in mausoleums. None of the graves seem to be disturbed. It takes several hours to cover all the acres of cemetery, but finally Angelica finishes up and heads home to check her resources on other cemeteries.
According to some of message boards, there have been some disturbances in the graves at Lone Fir cemetery of late. They have been attributed rogue teens or vagrants, but Angelica’s sources sense a darker motive at work—perhaps work of a more occult nature. There was also a vicious attack on a graveyard custodian there recently. The attack was chalked up to a wild animal as apparently not much was left of the custodian to identify him.
She decides to give Dillon a call with her new information. He’s a bit of a night owl and is probably up.
Late that night, the ectoplasm in her vial finally dissipates, indicating that she can make the substance last a full day.
After getting some much needed sleep, Dillon wakes up and makes a call to Reverend Buxman on his safety sabbatical. The priest didn’t say where he went; he only had Dillon drop him off at the airport.
“The danger has passed?”
“Yep. We got him. The Warden took him away last night.” Dillon fills Buxman in on the plan and the encounter with the necromancer.
“Very well,” Buxman says, “I’ll be on the next plane back to Portland. I should be in either tonight or in the morning.”
“Good. Then I’ll return your key to the super-secret sanctum that everybody but me knew about. Not that I’m upset about that.”
“It’s good that you’re taking that so well. See you when I return.”
Next, he gives Nick a call and gives him some thoughts on organizing the Paranet for Portland. He offers to call people and feel them out. He also offers to use the church as a meeting place for an initial “meet and greet”. Yuriko could even bring snacks. It’s important for the players in Portland to develop some trusting relationships with free exchange of information without fear of exposure. There are too many big threats free to roam for the little guys not to team up and survive.
Nick takes all of this in stride and seems to have a few ideas of his own. He wants to get with a few of the community leaders—people like Kendria, for instance, that people already know and trust and kind of form a brain trust. Perhaps a unified front with people the community already knows will help. He seems a little dubious of meeting at the church—he’s not sure some of the community will go for it. The church is not exactly neutral ground and some of the community members are not exactly true believers. But it’s something to keep in mind. But he seems to be warming to the idea of organizing the Paranet.
That afternoon, Dillon gets a phone call from Tom Casing—he has the evidence box from the Ronald Feeney case from 1987. He’s willing to meet at his apartment if he likes. Dillon is willing. Dillon gets an address and heads over.
Late that afternoon, at Tom’s meticulously neat apartment, Dillon is presented with a series of files, numerous photographs, and a VHS tape. The files contain all of the police reports filed by the detectives involved in the case. The photographs are of the various victims and of the final scene of Ronald Feeney’s showdown with police and Edgar Abel’s rescue. The VHS tape is also of the final showdown. It is grainy and not well shot. It shows a makeshift shack erected near the Old Pioneer Jail on Government Island, the hideout where Feeney was finally found and 5 year old Edgar Abel was rescued. The photographs show victims carved in an almost identical fashion as the current New Moon killer—though without the new Native American symbols.
As Tom and Dillon study the evidence, Dillon receives phone calls from Yuriko and from Angelica.
Angelica and Dillon
After sharing what she found out about the flickering ghosts in Mount Calvary, Angelica tells Dillon that she plans to walk through Lone Fir Cemetery. If there is a ghoul at work, she expects to find the same sort of pattern. She’ll attempt it in the morning, however. There’s already been one casualty and Angelica has no desire to run into a ghoul by herself in the middle of the night. She’ll let Dillon know what she discovers.
Dillon asks “Where is Lone Fir in relation to Mount Calvary? Are we liking the same ghoul for both places? Do you have someone to go with you on this walk-through Lone Fir cemetery?”
" Lone Fir Cemetery is about 5 miles from Mount Calvary, on the east side of the river. I don’t know how far ghouls normally travel to find food, but it’s only a 15 minute drive from one location to another. Lau Hu should be able to accompany me in case there’s trouble. "
Yuriko and Dillon
When Yuriko calls Dillon, she doesn’t get into details on the phone. “Something fishy is going on,” she tells him, “We need to meet tonight. Can you meet me at my apartment later? I’ll call Nick and have him come over as well. How long will you be at Tom’s apartment?" It is apparent that Yuriko is jealous that she hasn’t been invited over for a visit.
“I guess when I am done at Tom’s, I’ll head to your place to get the news,” Dillon says.
“Great! I’ll prepare coffee and light snacks for everyone.”
Dillon and Tom
After examining all of the items in the box, Dillon is disappointed to find that none of the items belong to Edgar Abel. Tom explains that with Feeney’s death, the police did not need to build a case for Abel’s kidnapping and returned all of his belongings to his family. Abel’s whereabouts are unknown. However, he is being sought by police as a person of interest in this case. There isn’t enough evidence to list him as a suspect. Abel’s last known whereabouts was a mental health care center in Oklahoma City. It was a voluntary care center and he hasn’t been seen since September. The car that the gang had followed previously was stolen in Oklahoma. The supposition is that it was Abel.
Dillon asks if anyone has checked out the old Feeney hideout on Government Island. Tom says that he and some uniformed cops are going to check it out tomorrow. He offers to let Dillon accompany them as a consultant. Dillon says he would like to come and look around.
At Yuriko’s Apartment
Perched on the edge of her sofa, Yuriko relates her conversation with Aleister. “ So, what do you think? Is someone on the White Council trying to set up Capstone? Is someone trying to get us in trouble with the Community? ” She waves her hand in the air. “This whole thing seems suspicious to me. If we. . .or the Warden killed this ghoul, a lot of trouble would come down on our heads!”
Dillon says, " I don’t think someone is trying to set us up, we just stumbled onto the ghoul. Unless you think Capstone is trying to use us? If we assume she really didn’t know about the ghoul, then it sounds like bad communication within the wizard’s council. If there is a set up it may be against her, but again, we just happened upon the ghoul, no one sent us on a hunt for it. Regardless of how much the community likes this ghoul, I need to check with Buxman about allowing grave desecrations to continue. I may have to stop this ghoul, even if the community chooses to ignore him. "
Yuriko lifts a shoulder in a half-shrug. “It’s true that we didn’t know there was a ghoul in Mount Calvary when we started checking it out. But I can’t believe that Capstone didn’t tell the White Council that the entire ‘Capturing the Shrouded One’ mission was going down in the cemetery. That seems like information she should have been told.” The kitsune leans forward slightly. “I know that Capstone’s methods sometimes differ from ours. And I know that she’s fairly. . .straight-laced. But I don’t think she’d purposefully try to use us or get us into a bad situation.”
“Also, what if this ghoul is truly trying not to be ‘a monster?’ Trying to control his baser urges without hurting anyone?” Yuriko makes eye contact with Dillon, “Would we really try to destroy him if that was the case?”
Turning back to her cup of coffee, Yuriko continues, “Anyway, I think we need more information. I want to call Capstone and see if we can meet face to face. We can ask her if she knows about the ghoul and see what she says.”
Dillon frowns. "I never said that I thought Capstone was trying to set us up. I think the Wizards are busy and old business is being overlooked. It’s quite probable that this ghoul has been forgotten while everyone is preoccupied by vampires.
“As far as monsters being monsters, he is eating the dead, that’s not controlling his base urges, that’s indulging them. As to whether or not anyone is being hurt, I suppose the ‘flickering’ spirits might disagree with you. And if your ‘look’ was to suggest that this ghoul and I have anything in common, then you must think pretty low of me. Our situations are not in the slightest bit similar.
“Capstone, give her call and let her know what you found out, but I see no reason to pull her away from her duties for a face to face. It seems to me a phone call should suffice. I’m surprised Aleister hasn’t called her already after your discussion. Seems like the kind of thing he should do, warden to warden, professionalism and all.”
Yuriko gives Dillon a hurt look. “I have the utmost respect for you. You’ve had an immense burden thrust upon you, yet you never let it get the better of you. You instead use it to bring good into this world.” She sighs and plays with the empty mug in her hands. “All I’m really saying is that this situation may be more complex than we originally thought.” Yuriko stands and begins putting dirty dishes in the sink. “I’ll call Capstone and talk to her. I’m very curious as to what she’s going to say.”
Dillon gives Yuriko a hug, “Sorry, I guess I’m a little sensitive.”
Yuriko goes to call Capstone as Dillon goes to call Reverend Buxman.
Yuriko relates what she found out about Kendel to Capstone. After the taciturn Warden takes it all in she says, “Obviously I need to get some more information and guidance from the Council in the matter. I would ask you to refrain from moving forward until I do so. For your own safety. I may not be able to help you in this matter and I would hate to see you come to harm as a result of that.” Then she hangs up.
Dillon relates what he has learned to Reverend Buxman and asks for his opinion of this truce. Reverend Buxman says, "I cannot sit idly by and allow some beast to disinter those under the care of church. Mount Calvary is a Catholic cemetery and under the control of the Diocese. It is disrespectful to those under our care and to their families. No, this must be stopped, truce of convenience with the supernatural community or not. It is unacceptable.” Dillon says that he feels the same way.
The group reconvenes and Dillon relates what Reverend Buxman said. "“That’s what I thought he’d say. It’s how I feel too. I’m willing to give Capstone some time to investigate any particulars so we can avoid creating a problem for her, but I have to do something about this ghoul. If he’s as peaceful as Alesteir says, perhaps we can encourage him to find a new food source or give him the option to leave town, but I can’t allow the grave desecrations to continue.”