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Department 32: The Mysterium

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Lt. Peggy Jackson of the Freedom City Police Department sat in her office and peered over her glasses at a thick file folder. She had been studying it for some minutes with a pained look on her face. After a moment she shut the folder and gripped it tightly in her stubby fingers, so much so that the folder was bent out of shape. Jackson looked up at the detective sitting on the other side of her desk.

"And you are sure this is our only next step?"

Detective Tyrone Bowen didn't look any happier than Jackson at the question. His once handsome face was now sagging as much as his aging body. He was getting too old for these all-day, all-night investigations, so getting this matter solved, no matter how unpleasant the solution might be, was his only course.

"Yeah, I'm sure." he said with a sigh. "We have exhausted every lead, and we've covered every inch of those woods. That is where she went missing, but she is just nowhere to be found. And . . ." he paused as if considering his next words carefully. "And that is Lantern Hill after all. I think if we ever want to find Lucy King, alive or dead, that . . . they . . ." He pointed to the file folder Jackson was holding. " . . . are our only hope."

Jackson scowled. "Those people give me the creeps. I can't believe they even wear the same badges we do. But . . . you are right. It's worth trying. We need to keep this under wraps for as long as we can. Set up the meeting with the old man for this afternoon. Let's see if that freak show can find our missing girl."

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Some time later . . .

Ginny tried to open her eyes. Her head was throbbing. Through blurry eyes, she saw white tiles on the ceiling and bright lights, and she had the faintest memory of men in white coats.

"Where am I?" she mumbled.

"You are in the hospital. You had an accident, but you are going to be fine."

She recognized the deep, croaking voice immediately. It was Captain Soukis. He had been sitting beside Ginny's hospital bed all through the night. Ginny didn't remember any accident, but if "the old man" said she was going to be fine, that was enough for her for the moment.

"Are you feeling better?" he asked.

"I feel pretty crappy actually . . ." Ginny closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trying to stave off the dizziness and nausea.

Captain Soukis laughed. He was happy that she was doing better. He had been quite worried for the last few hours. Soukis never liked the idea of taking such a young and fragile girl into the field, but he was well aware that she had talents that no one else on the FCPD possessed. That made her very useful in his quest to protect the citizens of Freedom City. But still, he didn't like it when she was put into harms way . . . or worse . . . actually hurt.

"Tell me, Ginny, what do you remember about yesterday?"

Ginny rubbed her eyes but didn't open them. "I remember driving out to Lantern Hill. We were going to help the detectives find that missing girl, Lucy King. I remember walking with you into the woods." She stopped. "I'm not sure what happened after that. I remember feeling cold. And then . . . nothing. Did we find something? What happened?"

"We did find something, he replied. "This." Soukis held up a clear plastic evidence bag. It contained an expensive-looking shoe, battered and scuffed.

Ginny pulled herself up into a sitting position with the help of the metal hospital bed rails. The shoe didn't look familiar. Instinctively she reached out to touch to bag, but Soukis pulled it away. "No. You are not ready for that yet. The last time you touched this shoe, you ended up here. You must rest first, recover your strength, then we will see what you can see about this very mysterious shoe."

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The following day . . .

BUZZZZZZZZZZ

It was the annoying sound of the nearly antique door buzzer. Someone was buzzing Catherine Kato's apartment. She had visitors.

"Ms. Kato," came the gruff voice from the other side of the intercom. "Freedom City Police Department. We need to ask you a few questions."

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Catherine grumbled softly and rolled over, reaching for her alarm clock (which she never set) and checked the time. Then, after growing tired of trying to focus her tired eyes on those tiny little numbers. The buzzing continued, followed by pounding. With a sigh of resignation, Catherine stepped out of bed and donned her slippers and robe.

Slowly sauntering towards her door, she looked through the peephole in the door and, satisfied that it wasn't teenage pranksters or a minion of the lower planes, she cautiously opened the door.

"Police, huh? If this is about that thing at the convention, I had nothing to do with that...ah...unpleasantness. I was asked to sample a brie, and I offered my honest opinion. Then I left; I have no idea how that cheese riot broke out. Horrible business. A complete embarassment to the gourmet community..."

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Catherine opened the door and was greeted by two faces: one with a smile and one with a scowl. The scowl belonged to an older man with white hair and dark Mediterranean skin. He pulled his hands out of his dark overcoat and scratched at his scraggly white beard.

"Ms. Cato? My name is Captain Soukis. This is Cadet Warner." He gestured to the smiling face standing behind him. Cadet Warner didn't look like a cadet of any kind. She looked like a kid, barely in high school. The girl brushed her straight blond bangs out of her eyes and waved without speaking. Captain Soukis looked down his long nose at the woman. "We are with the Freedom City Police, and we need to ask you a few questions. Can we come in?"

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Catherine yawned and unhooked the chain lock, waving the two "officers" inside.

"Sure, c'mon in. What's all this about?" she says sleepily, slowly dragging herself to the kitchen to make coffee while the officers seat themselves. She seems nonplussed by the young girl being introduced as a cadet, but it's quite likely that she hasn't entirely noticed...she's at least one cup of coffee from being officially "half awake".

"Can I get either of you something? Coffee? Biscotti? I can order some french toast from the diner down the street..."

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Cadet Warner flopped happily into a chair in the kitchen, but Soukis stood, his hands back in his pockets.

"Can I get either of you something? Coffee? Biscotti? I can order some french toast from the diner down the street..."

"Coffee would be awesome!" Miss Warner said with enthusiasm.

Soukis glared in her general direction.

"Nothing for me, thanks," she corrected, sinking down in her chair a little.

Soukis returned his attention to their hostess. "Ms. Kato, we need your help. I'm sure you have been following the news . . . about the disappearance of the King girl. All the news reports say we are out of leads, and that the investigation is going nowhere. Well, that isn't entirely true. We actually have one huge lead. We know that Miss King went missing in the area of Lantern Hill, and though the regular police have searched every inch of the woods, Cadet Warner and I went there two days ago just to have a look around. You see, Cadet Warner is sensitive. She has a way of finding things that even the best police dogs can't find. We went there looking for clues, and we found one, a shoe that I believe belongs to Miss King. But when Cadet Warner touched it, something shocked her. She was unconscious for a few hours and woke up with no memory of the event. Whatever happened to Miss King happened in those woods, and it isn't . . . normal. That's why we need your help. I am sending two of my agents and Cadet Warner back to Lantern Hill, and I'd like you to go with them. Your file indicates that you specialize in these kinds of mysteries. Will you help us?"

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Catherine blinked and straightened up; the conversation woke her more capably than any coffee.

"Lantern Hill, you say? That's a...rather odd corner of town. If there's anything I can do to help find this girl, I'll try. I have to say though, it's a bit surprising to have the police coming to me...I didn't think you guys went in for the hocus-pocus."

She left the pot brewing and walked across the room with a slow, lazy gait, sitting down across from the two officers. "Obviously I won't be coming along in my pajamas. Is there someplace you'd like me to meet you, or do you want to wait outside while I get ready?"

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Soukis grimaced. "The FCPD doesn't go in for the 'hocus-pocus' . . . until they get stumped. And then they call me. The CSIs will be there with cadaver dogs until about 3:00 today. Meet my two agents there then." He turned to Cadet Warner who was obviously daydreaming, completely zoned out. "CADET!" he barked.

She jumped out of her seat with a start, looked around, and then sat back down again quickly. "Yes captain," she said, sitting up straight.

"We're going." He nodded his head. "Ms. Kato." And then he showed himself and his cadet out. As she headed down the stairs Cadet Warner looked back at Ms. Kato and gave her a little wave and a grin.

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Catherine sat down to finish her coffee, then set the cup in the sink and walked back to her room, choosing her clothes for the day. She'd need her boots if they were going into the forest. Hopping into the shower, she turned the information she had over in her mind a few times...a wealthy girl, heir to Heironymous King, disappears near Lantern Hill...she'd assumed it was a mundane kidnapping, or some serial killer...if it was supernatural though, what could it be?

Stepping out of the shower she headed for her library, just looking for general info on supernatural abductions in the area.

Arcane Lore: http://invisiblecastle.com/roller/view/1568742/ (28 total)

Streetwise: http://invisiblecastle.com/roller/view/1568745/ (13 total)

Not wanting to take too much time on research, Catherine quickly dressed and locked up her apartment, heading by bus to the Lantern Hill district. There was an excellent bakery there, and her mind was occupied with visions of a bagel with lox and cream cheese. Finally, having researched, eaten, and arrived at her location, she headed for the crime scene, eager to begin on the case. This was exactly the kind of break she needed as a private investigator.

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Catherine didn't have a lot of time to spend in the library, but her quick search was not entirely fruitless. There were no obvious modern connections to the missing King girlâ€â€no other recent missing persons cases in the area of Lantern Hill and no other supernatural or mysterious connections to the King family. She did, however, find a few passing references to some famous "missing stories" in those woods: a few disjointed and contradictory references to a missing tribe of Native Americans, one half-preserved tale of a missing minister and his assistant associated with those woods, and more recently, a small "spooky" carnival that had been allowed to set up near Lantern Hill was found completely abandoned by the carnies back in the 70s. All of the carnival workers were declared missing and never heard from again.


By mid-afternoon, the sun was beginning to descend. In just a few hours it would disappear below the tops of the trees, blanketing Lantern Hill in shadow. The final round of cops and scientists were packing their things, calling it a day with nothing to show for their labors.

When the agents and Catherine Kato finally arrived on the scene, Ginny Warner was already there. She sat with her back to a large tree at the outermost perimeter of the woods. The white cords of her IPod earbuds dangled out from beneath her shoulder-length blond hair. Ginny was reading a book, completely lost in the world of private sound and literary imaginings. The lanyard around her neck identified her as FCPD, and since the other officers had gotten word that the "freak squad" was on the case, they gave her a wide berth as they finished their work.

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As Lt Morena Colby looks for a place to park the gray Crown Vic, she automatically scans the face, clothing and demeanor of everyone nearby; sometimes a perp will loiter around the edge of a crime scene, getting their kicks by watching the furor they stirred up, like a little kid dropping a rock on an anthill. But all her trained eye catches are the hangdog, desperate faces of officers who know they don't have a thing to go on.

"Looks like the circus is finally packing it in," she casually mentions to her partner as she steps out of the car. Colby will be twenty-nine next month, awfully young to have made lieutenant, and she knows it; a lot of old-timers had grumbled about 'Affirmative Action' and her fancy degree, but most of the younger cops she's met get along fine with Colby, respecting her expertise and family legacy, and consider her to be a good cop. Her jacket and slacks are fairly sharp, showing traces of both curves and muscle just under the surface, and she lets her long brown hair blow loose about her face.

Colby sees Warner doing her usual thing, but a newcomer is also present, a young Asian woman who looks like she knows the best place to get good pie any time of day or night. The lieutenant smiles and strides purposefully over to the cadet lost in her music, drops down to an easy crouch beside her, and tugs one of her earbuds free as she greets the young sensitive with playfully exaggerated enthusiasm.

"Hiya, Ginny, what's new?" :D

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Ginny popped out the other earbud and grinned.

"Hey, Colby," she said. Clicking off her IPod and closing her book, Ginny jumped to her feet. "Let me just get my stuff."

Ginny's "stuff" consisted of a threadbare canvas book bag, propped up against the tree. It was covered with stickers, buttons, and all kinds of harmless, homemade graffitiâ€â€mostly hearts, obviously dawn with a red Sharpie. Ginny dumped her IPod and book into the back, shouldered the load, and fell in with the officers.

"So . . . do we wait for the PI or jump right in." She sounded typically enthusiastic.

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Catherine Kato slowly approached the group, walking at a glacial pace that didn't leave her huffing. Recognizing Ginny, she waved and smiled. "Hey there, um...I'm sorry, but I'm really bad with names. I'm Catherine, I think we spoke this morning about the King investigation? Care to introduce me to your friend?"

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"Hey!"

Ginny was waving frantically at Catherine long before she got close enough to be heard.

"Hey there, um...I'm sorry, but I'm really bad with names. I'm Catherine, I think we spoke this morning about the King investigation? Care to introduce me to your friend?"

Ginny bounced over the Catherine, took her by the arm, and practically dragged her over to where Lt. Colby was standing.

"This is Lt. Colby. Lt. Colby, this is Catherine Kato."

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Catherine extended her hand and smiled politely. "Pleased to meet you. I'm a private investigator and a...ah, journeyman practitioner of magic. Glad to help if I can."

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Catherine extended her hand and smiled politely. "Pleased to meet you. I'm a private investigator and a...ah, journeyman practitioner of magic. Glad to help if I can."

Lt. Colby shakes the offered hand warmly. "Very nice to meet you, Catherine; we can use any help on this we can get." She waves her hand in the general direction of the woods. "Have you done a lot of this sort of thing? Missing persons in an urban wilderness are not my favorite cases; if we don't find the victim fast, they can be fairly awful." She looks between the two young women with a sad look in her eye. "We obviously hope for the best, but it never hurts to be prepared for the worst."

She takes a few steps towards the edge of the wood, fishes a pair of sterile latex gloves out of her inside pocket, and snaps them on as she calls back over her shoulder. "Hey Warner, you get much of an ambient out here? I heard you passed out from the impressions; I've got Tylenol, aspirin and Advil back in the car, if you need anything." The whole time Colby's speaking, she's scanning the area, just trying to to get a general sense of the space.

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"Hey Warner, you get much of an ambient out here? I heard you passed out from the impressions; I've got Tylenol, aspirin and Advil back in the car, if you need anything." The whole time Colby's speaking, she's scanning the area, just trying to to get a general sense of the space.

Ginny rubbed at her forehead unconsciously. "No, I'm fine right now. I just feel a little . . . crazy in the head." Ginny waggled her fingers at the side of her head and laughed. "I'll be fine, I think. I just need to stay away from any shoes." She giggled again.


Colby didn't see anything out of the ordinary. The long shadows falling across the woods gave the hole scene a dark and foreboding look . . . a look that the citizens of Freedom City were used to associating with Lantern Hill and the surrounding environs.

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Catherine scratched her head and considered the scene for a few moments. She circled around, looking but not really seeing anything.

"Where should we start, Lieutenant? I'm not so arrogant as to think my eyes alone are going to pick up something you and the forensic teams missed, but I can't really think of anything else unless....wait! I've got it. The Eye of Aquarius! I think I might be able to look in a...somewhat different way. Give me a few minutes." she says, walking to an open area of the sidewalk and etching a few symbols with a piece of chalk.

"Don't worry, it's nothing serious. And it shouldn't be dangerous at all...just a scan..."

http://invisiblecastle.com/roller/view/1583456/

Arcane Knowledge roll: 29 to figure out the ritual.

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Ginny followed Catherine over to the sidewalk, sat in the grass, and watched as PI worked. Her attention was riveted on the ritual Catherine was constructing . . . for the first few minutes. Very quickly, however, Ginny completely spaced out, her attention seemingly focused on the grass right in front of her. She gently bobbed her head up and down as if her IPod was still on and she could hear the music.

Catherine Kato completed her make-shift ritual and began probing the ether, looking for a mind out there in the woods, but she found something altogether unexpected. It started out as nothing more than a whisper, barely discernible from the wind, and like a cool breeze it was inviting, seductive. Catherine couldn't make out any words, but it was calling her into the woods. It wasn't a mind exactly, at least no mind Catherine had ever encountered, and Catherine couldn't precisely located it or muster the will to try to speak with it. The whispering voice was too distant, somewhere out there in the woods.

When Catherine finally snapped out of the spell of the whispers, she noticed that Ginny had risen and begun walking toward the woods. She was near the trees when she turned and looked back at Kato, a puzzled look on her face.

"That was weird, she said in low voice.

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When Catherine starts her ritual, Colby comes over to watch, fascinated by the preparations involved; long after Ginny has seemingly lost interest, the lieutenant is still intensely focused on the PI's magic, almost to the exclusion of all else.

"That was weird, she said in low voice.

Colby blinks and shakes her head. "Wait, what happened? Did you get anything?" She stands and turns to Ginny. "Did either of you get anything?"

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"Yeah . . . I was over there . . . and then there was this whispering in my head . . . and now I'm over . . ."

Ginny clearly didn't remember getting up and walking towards the woods.

"The voicesâ€â€or was it just one voiceâ€â€was like . . . yeah . . . and my head is . . . man. Weird. I need to sit down." Ginny sat down in the grass right where she stood. She was rubbing her eyes and making even less sense than usual. Whatever details were to be gleaned from the experience, they would have to come from Catherine Kato.

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Catherine took a moment to clear her head, then sat down on one of the park benches.

"I couldn't find her...but there's something in those woods. Like Ginny said, it was calling us, but not with words. Whatever it is, I don't think it's human. I couldn't make contact with it, the distance was too great...but it's definitely somewhere in there." she said, looking perplexed.

"I don't like the way Ginny reacted to it though...this thing could be really dangerous if it can exert that kind of control on people. On one hand, the safest thing would be to get some officers together to search the woods, but on the other hand, I don't want to risk losing more people to this...."thing" than we already have."

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I don't like the way Ginny reacted to it though...this thing could be really dangerous if it can exert that kind of control on people.

Ginny laid back in the grass, but waved her arms up in the air at Catherine's comment.

"I'm fine. Really. Fine." She paused and put her finger to her chin. "And I'm pretty sure the Captain said the police had been through the woods several times." Ginny let her arms flop to her sides in the grass. "I'll be up in just a minute. My head is . . . stopping with the thing . . . that it's doing."

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Lt Colby appears to be quite troubled by what the others have said, and silently looks off into the deeper woods for some time. "This sounds like old magic; I don't like it." She walks back to Ginny and lies down on the ground beside her, latex-gloved hands folded on her chest, staring up into the sky. "We're gonna have to go in, with something of the girl's for a sympathetic connection; I also think some sort of binding ritual might be a good idea."

She tilts her head back and peers back into the woods, which look upside down from her new perspective. "If you wander off the path in the woods, you have to stick together."

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