Excerpts from the journal of Connor Galloway, an employee of Orpheus and member of Crucible 7.
Richmond Virginia, October 14, 2013.
Early Monday morning I got back to the office. It was already quite busy when I arrived and I overheard someone talking about the ‘Death Merchants’ that had been reported on the news. Apparently these mercenary groups of projectors had cropped up in third- and second-world countries, working for drug cartels, warbands, and the like.
Entering the office I found Dahlia and Markus already at their desks. I’d brought in a bunch of books that I thought might prove interesting and plopped them down on my own desk telling the others that they should feel free to read them. There was an email waiting for me that said our DC meeting had been pushed back to Tuesday, but our reservations still applied to tonight. It was clear that the others had received the same email.
Dahlia asked me what the plan was for the DC mission and I suggested that we pack up what we needed and take our time getting up there today. Dan still hadn’t arrived and we began to wonder where he was. The others had been at Orpheus all weekend and hadn’t seen him since Saturday afternoon. I thought it would be best to give Prator a call.
He picked up and immediately probed about our Freelance activity over the weekend. I admitted that we’d taken care of some things and he simply replied, “Hey, you’re all adults. Just, you can’t help everyone.” He obviously didn’t approve but it seemed like he was powerless to stop us doing things outside of work. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s more worried about his reputation as our manager than our wellbeing. Anyway, I asked about Dan and was given the vague and only mildly reassuring answer that he was fine but we’d have to do without him for the DC mission.
I relayed the news to the others and Dahlia suggested we head off sooner rather than later. With no objections from me and Markus the three of us headed down to the garage to get the car. As we pulled away from the office I told the others about the notes I’d found on the Dies Ignes painting. While looking through some research papers I’d found some additional information about the painting we were investigating. It turns out that the part that is now the Dies Ignes was once the centre of a much larger piece but the imagery was so controversial at the time that the image of the angel was cut out of it. Historical descriptions talk about bloody corpses strewn about the landscape and a ruined city of tall spires in the background. The final interesting detail was the presence of a glowing red star which some historians called Saturn and others the Morning Star, a representation of Satan.
We had to swing by Dahlia’s place on the way out of town to pick up some things. I’d already planned for the trip and already had everything with me, including a few more books which I probably wouldn’t even get a chance to read. When we arrived at her apartment she insisted that Markus and I came inside. I think after the amount of trouble we managed to find ourselves in last week she’s probably a bit scared to be by herself. The place was immaculate, what Markus would later describe to me as surgical, but I suppose she has been spending a bit of time at Orpheus recently. She grabbed a bag and fed her cat (named Bad-Mittens), who stared warily at Markus the whole time, and we got back on the road.
Our journey out of Virginia took us past Fairfax County Penitentiary where the Sick Six were imprisoned and summarily executed. I asked the others if they felt up to doing a drive-by, just to get some eyes on the place, but the looks they gave me said they thought it would be too dangerous. “I guess you’re right,” I admitted, “from what we now know about how Spectres are formed, it’s probably the ideal breeding ground for them.”
We made it up to Washington DC without any trouble. Dahlia drove and Markus read some of ‘Dies Ignes Deconstructed’ while I watched the American countryside roll past. Before we arrived at the hotel we briefly talked about how we could get started on the investigation and since we weren’t expected until Tuesday we decided to do some pre-emptive snooping. What surprised me was that it was Dahlia who suggested we ghost in; A few days ago she was keeping us out of mischief. Then again, a lot has happened in the last week. A lot has changed.
We had individual rooms waiting for us at the hotel and in a matter of minutes we had settled in enough to project and meet back in the lobby. Interestingly enough a room was booked out for Markus, despite his incorporeal nature, but he informed me that projected sleepers still rest at night, just not as deeply as with real sleep. Probably a kind of extended meditation.
The Smithsonian was quite a sight to behold, especially for an academic such as myself. I’ll have to make a point to come back and give it some proper attention when I have some time. For today the Art museum was our focus.
A few spooks were wandering around outside and as we entered we saw the ghost of an old man gazing at the paintings. The artworks themselves were glowing brightly with resonating energy. It was much more intense than the glow I’d seen on even my oldest books back at the apartment. After we’d all had a few seconds to stare at the wonders laid around us Dahlia reminded us that there was a job to do. I laid out my ideas on how to proceed. Markus would use his fast-talking and wisp nature to try and get some information out of the resident ghosts and see if anything weird had been happening lately. Dahlia would attempt to forbode somewhere that we thought would be significant, maybe the deceased’s office, and see what clues we could find there. I even suggested we could accomplish these tasks quickly by splitting into two groups but Markus, it seemed, also didn’t want to be separated from the group. So, to the interviews we all went.
The old art appreciator was typically grumpy and didn’t tell us much. He even suggested that the only weird thing that had happened recently was that we had come and annoyed him. It seemed like a dead end conversation so we cut our losses, thanked him, and began searching for the staff offices.
It took a while but we eventually found ourselves somewhere up on the third floor, passing through unopened exhibits. The atmosphere was quite unsettling, a sliver of midday light coming through the windows illuminated the artworks which were all draped in white cloth. Behind one such exhibit we spotted a hallway with several doors down each side. There were a couple of people walking about and we moved in for a closer look. Sure enough the doors appeared to lead into offices and at the end of the hallway was a door marked ‘Dr. Herbert Carey’. Directly across from him was the office of ‘Lee Anne Crowley’.
The door to Herbert Carey’s office was closed so we stepped straight through the wall and into the mess. The office itself was nice, with a big desk and plenty of bookshelves and cabinets, but every surface was littered with papers. Markus half manifested and picked up a dossier. Opening it up we saw that the first page was a photograph of a painting and the pages that followed were analysis of that artwork. Dahlia pointed to the computer that sat, almost camouflaged, on the desk and asked if anyone was good with computers. I offered to take a look.
As I sat down Markus shuffled through a few more files and found the one detailing the Dies Ignes. He skimmed through and read out some of the more interesting points which I’ll try to remember.
- The piece was very expensive for something so unknown.
- Similar religious pieces didn’t receive the kind of attention or foot traffic as other subjects which were available for purchase
- Knowledge of the piece was very niche and therefore its colourful background was not a real draw card for visitors.
All in all it came across as a very rational and convincing argument as to why the museum shouldn’t have bought the painting. Markus even went so far as to say, “I can’t imagine why anyone would have bought the painting after reading this.”
I manifested, booted up the computer and began skimming through the emails. There were a lot of unread messages of condolence which were both sad in content and frustrating because they didn’t provide any real information. Dahlia suggested I search the calendars and emails together to see if there were any doctors appointments. Someone he may have acquired the sleeping pills from. Sure enough there was a record of a visit to a Dr. A. Viera along with the contact details for a clinic.
At Markus’ recommendation I also searched the emails for anything from Lee Anne Crowley and found one email that stood out. It was marked as high priority and dated about the time of his death. It simply read, “Don’t forget. I didn’t.”
It seemed like our next step would be to find Carey’s doctor and do some more digging. I was a little worried we wouldn’t be able to get information due to patient confidentiality and asked Dahlia if that still applied to the deceased. Again she surprised us by casually saying, “Can’t we just walk in and read the files?” Markus and I had to admit that that would be much easier.
Before we left I asked Dahlia if she could forbode but she said she needed a question to focus on. “How about, what was the last conversation that Carey and Crowley had here?” She nodded and took my place in the chair. Just like before she closed her eyes and looked like she was falling asleep. This time however she was interrupted.
The door to the office swung open and a woman poked her head in saying, “Is someone in…” before spotting Markus and myself. Markus was half manifested and looked like a smoky figure with a glowing red heart so I can’t blame her for screaming and running outside. We both stopped manifesting and stared at the door as it automatically closed itself. After a few seconds the doorknob turned and a security guard peered in. From the hallway behind him we could hear the woman speaking hysterically about seeing a man and a demon appear in the office. Another female voice was trying to calm her down saying, “Sarah, it’s okay. It’s nothing.”
The security guard scratched his chin and panned his flashlight around the room before giving a little shrug and moving back into the hallway. “Let’s follow them,” I said as I unthinkingly reached a silver cord out to open the door. We stepped out into the hallway and saw three scared people staring back. Opening the door was probably a mistake as now the security guard, Sarah and the new woman were all standing there, frozen. A few other heads had poked out of offices to see what the commotion was.
Markus tilted his head towards us and said, “Dahlia, whisper to them.”
I understood what he meant, “The email.”
We had all come to the same conclusion, that this new woman was Lee Anne and she had something to do with the events surrounding Herbert’s death. In an attempt to flush her out we’d do a bit of haunting.
When Dahlia opened her mouth again she whispered the words, “Don’t forget. I didn’t.” and Markus and I watched as the sound rippled out through the spirit world to bounce off the walls. The whisper echoed down the hall and sprang back at the onlookers from all directions. Sarah lost it and bolted down the hallway towards the nearest exit and after half a second the security guard and many of the people watching joined her. The woman we thought was Lee Anne froze and the blood drained from her face. It was definitely her. She dropped her eyes to the floor and walked away slowly.
We took the opportunity to check her office. Inside we found everything was neatly put away in its place. It was the polar opposite of Herbert’s office. I spotted a copy of ‘Dies Ignes Deconstructed’ on her book shelf along with several other tomes on religious and occult history. I took note of the names of the books I hadn’t read and made a mental note to try and track down copies for my own collection. Clearly she held a similar interest in the occult as I did.
Markus again searched the files and found some notes on the painting that matched what I’d told them on the drive over. That it was once part of a larger piece that was deemed inappropriate. Lee Anne was obviously very keen to acquire the painting for the museum.
“What in the hell is going on here?” came a furious voice from the hallway. Stepping back through the wall we saw an older man dressed in a brown suit and thick glasses clenching his jaw and pacing. “Just WHAT in the hell is going on here?!”
We decided we’d seen enough; it was time to leave.
On the way out Markus suggested that our next stop be the doctor’s but Dahlia made the good point that we should probably check out the painting while we were there. So we made our way back down to the ground floor and quickly found the installation.
The Dies Ignes had been placed centre-stage in a room full of religious artwork. While the room itself was dimly lit the Dies Ignes was illuminated by a bright spotlight. Staring up at the angel depicted there I could make out the red light of the star reflected in her armour. The piece was bigger than I’d expect and seemed to loom over us as the room slowly took on a menacing atmosphere. It felt like we were being watched.
We’d spent quite a bit of time projecting and thought it would be best to head back to the hotel to recuperate somewhat before checking out the doctor’s. After a bit of down time we had planned to meet back in my room. Markus, toying with his projected form as always, put his arm through one of my walls and knocked on it before stepping through fully. I suppose when you’re projected 24/7 you have time to practice these things. It must also get rather boring…
On the way to the doctor’s we stopped for a late lunch as the traffic was absolutely terrible. The conversation took an interesting turn when I commented on how Markus wasn’t spending any of his pay while projected, he had no need to eat or sleep and Orpheus provided him with any entertainment he needed. We started talking about what we wanted to do on our first ‘Beach’. Which is what we’d heard the other projectors refer to their vacation time as. Markus had a plan to buy a bunch of televisions to set up somewhere so he could watch movies while not working. I told them I intended to head over to Thailand to get some more protective tattoos. They’d served me well so far and I guess Markus had noticed because he seemed interested in joining me on the trip. I extended the invitation to Dahlia as well but she declined. Tattoos are probably not her thing.
It was about 5 when the three of us arrived at the Doctor’s. We’d had to drive through Chinatown to get there and had spotted a Church of the Sacred Mother there, complete with a pair of old Asian ghosts talking outside the front door. Once we’d parked up Dahlia and I projected from in the car and we walked around the clinic to find a side entrance. We stepped through the locked door and saw that the place was mostly deserted. A cleaner was still vacuuming some of the back rooms while a receptionist near the front tapped away at her keyboard. I asked Dahlia what kind of computer we were looking for and she replied that any would do. Having worked in the field herself she was familiar with the kinds of programs they would be running and was our best bet to tracking down the information we wanted.
Markus manifested and the receptionist turned sharply to see what was going on. But before she could react her face went blank as Markus raised his glowing hand up to hypnotize her. While she stared at the pulsing red light Dahlia checked the computer. It was a different system to the one she’d used but it didn’t take long for her to find Herbert Carey’s records. As we had suspected he had no prescription for sleeping pills and was in fact in very good shape at the time of his death. Dahlia quickly did a search for Herbert’s wife but didn’t find anything.
I think we were all feeling a bit worn out. Having spent most of the day projected, manifesting multiple times and moving through so many walls our energy levels were getting low. Markus stepped back out through the wall of the building first but as Dahlia approached she held up her hand and it contacted the wall. She leaned against the wall for a second, obviously lacking the energy to push through, but with an angry grunt managed to force her way outside. As we walked back to the car her face looked very gaunt.
On the drive back we discussed our plan for tomorrow. Interviewing the people at the museum would be our first stop. Hopefully they would be quite cooperative after our little haunting today. Second we would stick around the museum until nightfall where we might encounter Herbert himself. Finally, if we still hadn’t resolved the mission, we thought it might be worth checking Lee Anne’s house for signs of the sleeping pills.
But for now, I’m going to get some sleep. It’s been a long day and I wouldn’t be surprised if tomorrow is the same again. At least we haven’t run into any spectres this time.