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January 30th, 2022, Sunday, 3PM

 

Harold Hitspike's panic room, Hitspike Heuristics, 27th floor of 1386 Pittsburgh Ave., Freedom City, New Jersey, USA, Earth

 

"So as you can see, Mr. Daye," bluff, red-haired young Hagar Hitspike nodded at the charred skeleton in the centre of the pentagram, surrounded by an otherwise spotless and undisturbed steel panic room, "this is a little outside of our understanding." Despite being a good foot shorter than Christopher and swathed about the middle in a long bath towel, the man looked both composed and solemn.

 

His brother and sister, standing nearby, nodded vigrously. The towering, gaunt-faced, gold-haired woman who'd introduced herself as Hildegard wiped a tear from her eye with her green silk dress's sleeve, adding in a voice trembling with dismay

 

"Yes! Father never trafficked with the hellish forces of the underworld! Me and Baby Harry knew all his business dealings. This is all some terrible frame-up job!"

 

"Yes, uh...ah...hm..."

 

White-haired, portly Harold Jr. was too stunned to say anything intelligible, and the man stumbled to his father's desk back in the rich wood-paneled office to sit down.

 

"Now I understand this has been a little disorienting," Hagar said with an apologetic look somewhere under his dripping hair and beard, "seeing as we have for some unaccountable reason all stepped into this room at the same time from different places. God knows I didn't expect to come out of the shower and see my father a charred-black skeleton. But we can pay handsomely and the police stopped taking our calls years ago. So, well..." He scratched the back of his neck awkwardly.

 

His sister stepped around the puddle forming at Hagar's feet to seize one of Christopher's hands with her own, her long nails and tough skin creating the effect of being grasped in the talons of some huge bird of prey. "I can't think of anyone else who could get to the bottom of this, Mr. Daye! Please, if you possibly can, find out what happened! What killed our father, and why?!"

Edited by Ari
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Blackstaff

 

Christopher had only open his new office, well new to Freedom office, only a week ago. It had taken a little while to connect the door in his new location with his office back in Emerald City. The phone line had been a bit trickier, integrating technology and magic always was, but he arranged for a local number to connect to the phones in his office. A few other issues had arisen, but Blackstaff Investigations was officially a Freedom City business, with all the necessary documentation.

He had been in his office looking at Freedom City’s primary newspaper when the phone rang. A small light indicating it was from his new city. He had answered with his usual professionalism but had hardly expected the case that was about to fall into his lap.

 

Some time later he was standing in the panic room of one, Harold Hitspike. His immediate family was present, two sons and a daughter. He kept a calm professional manner as he listened to Hagar. His eyes though were already looking for clues as they casually looked over the diagram that the charred remains of Mr. Hitspike rested within.

They all insisted that their father wasn’t associated with the dark arts, but it wouldn’t be the first time he uncovered dubious dealing in a well-to-do family in the know. Christopher was smart though and kept such thoughts aside. It wasn’t wise to cloud one’s judgement at the beginning of a case.

 

On 2/7/2022 at 1:15 AM, Ari said:

and the police stopped taking our calls years ago. So, well..." He scratched the back of his neck awkwardly.


“Of course.”

He nodded in understanding. But it was the sister, Hildegard, taking his hand that drew his attention away from the scene. At her plea he offered her a comforting smile and patted her hand.

“I promise to do everything in my power to find the entity, being or force responsible.”

 

It wasn’t a promise he was going to take lightly. Someone may have used magic to take a life, breaking one of the seven rules of magic he did his best to lived by. Though he was sure his mother would be disappointed in the number of times he’d found himself forced to bend or break those same rules.

Pushing that aside he turned his attention to the siblings. Reaching into his long coat he withdrew a small note pad and pencil.

“We should start with the basics, I’ll need each of you to tell me what you were doing prior to finding the victim.”

He asked solemnly. Christopher attempted to be careful with his words, not wanting to agitate the potential witnesses. The more at ease with him they were, the more information and details he might be able to gather.

“And, please, don’t be afraid to tell me anything that may have seemed out of the ordinary, and anything you may have disturbed in the room. Once I have everyone’s statements, I’ll have to ask you to withdraw from the room so I can investigate the scene.”

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GM

 

The siblings' stories were standard for their sphere.

 

Hildegard had been at an underwater charity gala in London, raising funds to buy land back from the Grant Conglomerate (the Tuvaluan island of Nanumea, to be exact, a sale wreathed in mystery and unresolved deaths). She had been swimming to the cheese bubble when one of the emergency trap doors had opened beneath her, sucking her through and into her father's office. A blast of heat on the way through had, luckily, left her perfectly dry.

 

Harold Hitspike Jr. had been visiting a Heuristics client, one Alistair Reynolds, to assure him that their versions of a safety helmet he'd designed did not talk to their wearers, and were in fact incapable of doing so. On the way back a man, who Christopher was unable to get a clear description of thanks to Harold's extremely unhelpful arm gestures and reliance on "you know"s to get across almost any physical trait, had grabbed him, thrown a bag over his head and thrust him through an alleyway door with help of some unidentified associates. He had fallen into his father's office.

 

Hagar had been running from the family's long-feral pack of dogs on the family estate in Virginia, and after losing them thanks to a plunge into a tar pit had taken a shower in the manor. Hearing a noise and seeing a shadow moving outside the stall, he'd opened the shower door and stepped out into his father's office. He at least had caught a glimpse of who it was before the door opened fully, a masked woman in black studded with weapons who was reaching into a bag to take something out. The only identifying feature he could give were her eyes, which he described as "paralyzing" and "of terrible intensity". They were also dark, possibly brown.

 

Teleportation was nothing new in the world of criminal investigation, but three wildly-separated events all coinciding to the same time and place certainly was.

 

In the meanwhile the circle and its charréd occupant had stood silent and still. Even the dying wisps of smoke were now dead.

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Blackstaff

 

Christopher listened intently as each of them spoke, making notes as they did. Each story was unremarkable in and of itself, but when put together there was something strange. They were all taken and thrust here by an unknown party, but to what extent? To send a message? A threat or a warning?

He kept a neutral expression as nodded in acknowledgment to Hagar as he finished his tale.

 

“A man of your father’s standing, I assume, made his share of…”

He searched for the right word for a moment.

“…opposition. To the best of your knowledge, do you think any of them would capable of something like this?”

He asked, the tip of his pencil hovering above the paper’s surface as he watched the trio.

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  • 1 month later...
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GM

 

All three replied at once.

"None whatsoever!" barked Harold Jr., looking paler than his shirt, "His work-!"

"Oh, so many!" cried Hildegard, "He knew-!".

"None living!" protested Hagar.

 

The three children looked at each other. After a moment's silent negotiation, Harold Jr. shuffled forward to be the spokesman.

 

"Well, er, Mr. Daye, naturally we, ah, beg you to keep this in the strictest, um...confidence and will be only too happy to arrange a-a mutually-beneficial silence on the matter." Taking a deeper breath than before, the man whose namesake was a pile of carbonized calcium in the other room pressed on.

 

It turned out that Harold Sr. had been having difficulties in the highly-competitive field of reverse-engineering the technology of supervillains into usable commercial products, and had grown convinced that his competitors were agents of Satan. He had only gotten worse after falling in with a mysterious cult called "the Light" a few tears ago, which preceded a trickle of strange and deadly accidents on the heads of rivals and mysterious disappearances by their father at the same time. 

 

In the process, apparently, he had discovered proof that some of his victims (Harold Jr. didn't call them that, but it was obvious) were in league with the forces of darkness. The evidence was all of his targets owning an ornate, unique dagger made of a strange, dark, perpetually-warm metal.

 

"That's a new one there," Hildegard pointed into the panic room, "the one stuck in father's ribs."

 

The round pommel contained a flawed red jewel that was cut to look uncomfortably like a staring eye.

 

Harold Jr, counted off on his fingers "The only ones left would be Petrov Volkvoi, of KeySurge Ltd, Arthur Motes of Songbird Inc., and of course Steve of Special Sharks Inc. They're all in the same business as father, and he was exchanging threats with Mr. Motes by courier before his death. Songbird's just up the street, you see."

 

"They were friends with some of the people our dad killed," Hagar added, "and have access to powerful technology. Which isn't much, but frankly it's all we have to go by. Unless the crime scene offers up any clues."

Edited by Ari
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  • 3 weeks later...

Blackstaff
 

Christopher eyed the three as they answered differently, albeit in unison. 

 

“Naturally.”

He told the man.

“Client confidentiality is a given in my line of work.”

 

He listened as Harold Jr filled him in on their father’s decent into the occult. The mention of a cult peaked his curiosity. Cults should never be taken lightly, especially if what his client was insinuating was true. He thought the name sounded familiar as he nodded solemnly, noting the names of the remaining rivals on his notepad. He’d have to look deeper into ‘the Light’ when he had a chance.

 

Taking a moment he closes his eyes, exhales silently and opens his eyes again to regard each of them. In turn he uses the moment to open his awareness to the magic around him. He looks at each of the siblings in turn in search of any magic on, or in, them.

“Are any of you members of ‘the Light’?”

He asked flatly, it wouldn’t effect the case much he thought, but it might be good to know. He only nods in response to their answers, writing in his notes.

 

“Well, I think I should check the scene. You may go about your business, I’d like to look around on my own. If I have any questions I’m sure I can find one of you.”

He gives the trio a practiced, professional smile.

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GM

 

When seen through the light fantastic patches, shreds and stains of old magic flickered into being all over the office. The panic room seethed like a dying furnace, and only the knife shone with the gleam of a spell that was not fading away. A particular sort, withering and shriveling rapidly to nothing, was around Hagar, Harold and Hildegard...and around Christopher himself. A kind of thin, spectral green feelers and tendrils bleeding out into so much Phoros fire.

 

All three of Harold Hitspike's children shook their heads vigorously at the question, and were only too happy to take their leave. Harold Jr. lent his brother his long coat and vanished quickly into the dark hallways outside, and Hildegard wished Christopher a fervent "Good luck, Mr. Daye!" before she too hurried off with clacking steps, the door closing silent and automatically after her.

 

On closer attention, the circle around the scorched skeleton was all too easily deciphered:

 

"FOR SERVICES RENDERED, PAYMENT GIVEN. HAROLD HITSPIKE THE ELDER FORFEITED HIS SOUL ON THIS SPOT TO HIS BENEFACTOR MILLION-MASKS MAVAT, IN PENALTY OF BREAKING AGREED TERMS AND CONDITIONS CONVEYED BY UNDER-SECRETARY SVILLSKIT. PURSUIT OF SOULS FORFEITED VOLUNTARILY WILL BE PUNISHED WITH THE FULL PENALTY OF THE GREATER LAW. FOR MORE INFORMATION, SHED YOUR BLOOD UPON THE CIRCLE AND RECITE SVILLSKIT BACKWARDS. NO GUARANTEE IS MADE THAT THIS WILL WORK, AND IS NOT MERELY A JOKE AT THE EXPENSE OF MORTAL CREDULITY. IT'S BORING DOWN HERE. THIS NEEDS MORE FILLER BLAH BLAH BLAH BLEEPITY BLAH UNDERSCRIBE QSHKR WROTE THIS."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Blackstaff

 

Christopher had given Miss Hildegard a friendly smile and thanked her before the door closed. He smile vanished as he turned his attention to the crime scene again. He noted the green tendrils that seemed to cling to himself and the others with some curiosity, but it didn’t seem harmful yet. He disregarded the fading threads of other old magic around the room and approached the circle. He studied the knife for a moment then turned his attention to the circle itself.

As he read the inscription he slowly nodded to himself. Pulling a piece of chalk from his pocket he moved slowly around the circle tracing a second circle around the first. At set intervals he marked down runes to create the base for a containment spell if he needed it.

As far as he could recall the Light had gone silent after several deaths overseas last year. Some cases baring similar M.O.’s had cropped up, but many thought them mere copycat crimes. Christopher wasn’t sure himself but if they were as zealous as the rumors hinted at he hoped it was just copycats.

 

As he stood, he surveyed the room again and went over what the trio had told him. His initial impression was another copycat. Perhaps one of the surviving rivals attempting to dissuade others. The circle possibly triggered on Mr. Hitspike’s death as part of a standing deal with a demon. If it was legitimate, it would account for the language of the circle and the only lingering smell of brimstone. Hellfire was troublesome to control if not born to it, he knew this first hand.

As he thought on it, if Mr. Hitspike had in fact been a part of the Light it didn’t seem within their motives to target only rivals. Maybe someone within the ‘cult’ took exception to his choice of targets. Seeing it as using them for personal gain.

 

Of course this was all theory and speculation at this point. He had no eye witnesses on hand, a hasty circle of seeming demonic origin, a possible murder cult, and a dagger still holding a strong magical aura. 

 

Crouching again, he pulled out a handkerchief and carefully reached out to the knife. Watching it with his awareness he first tentatively tapped the hilt with the cloth, then taking a deep breath he carefully gripped the hilt and withdraw the blade. Holding it in the stained white fabric he took a closer look at it. If he wanted to know exactly what enchantment the weapon held he’d have to take it back to his workshop for a precise divination. But on the fly here he’d have to accept less accuracy and details. His other hand found the chalk in his pocket again and he weighted the idea of trying a quick spell.

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