Chaos at the Waffle Hut
The Whole Story
To: Marc Newton, EPA Investigation Division, Boston Field Office
From: Clement Buckley, Director, Kingsport Agricultural Station
Attached is the necropsy report and copy of the USDA Investigation concerning the accidental death of 25 Holstein heifers from the McColluch Dairy on June 1, 2011. As you can see, the newspapers got it wrong and the cause of death was stray voltage from a frayed electrical cord as a group of heifers were being loaded onto an aluminum trailer. The carcasses were disposed of according to EPA and MA Dept. of Agriculture standards and I would hope that this satisfies your investigation. However, if you still wish to come up and visit, who am I to argue with how your agency wants to proceed.
Observation of scorch marks on the coronary band of each hoof consistent with electrical trauma. Necropsy findings were negative with no other sign of trauma. The standard set of blood and tissues were sampled for histopathology, toxicology, and culture, with a negative result on all samples.
Cause of death is consistent with acute electrical discharge.
The Massachusetts Area Office of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service sent out Veterinary Medical Officer Fred Smith and Animal Health Technician Justin Launer to inspect the incident of June 1, 2011 at the McColluch Dairy, Kingsport, Massachusetts. Accompanying the team were Dr. Clement Buckley from the local agricultural field station and officer Andrew Sullivan of the Kingsport Sheriff’s office.
Twenty five Holstein heifers were killed on June 1, 2011 by what appears to be electrical shock associated with the combination of wet floors, an aluminum cattle trailer, and a frayed 220 volt electrical outlet.
Based on the evidence, negative culture and toxicology reports, and discussion with the dairy owner, it is recommended that this case be closed and attributed to an accidental electrical discharge.
Marc Newton mulled over these emails and then flipped through the pictures of dead cattle, trailers, and cattle chutes. There was even a picture of the offending electrical cord. It all looked on the level, but there was still something that bugged him and he couldn’t put his finger on it. Usually the EPA is more concerned with carcass disposal, but in this case there were even pictures of the animals being incinerated at the local agricultural station for proof that things were done correctly. Perhaps there was nothing here, but his instincts rarely led him astray. There was something wrong here and he couldn’t put his finger on it.
Deciding to get a fresh perspective on the issue, he sent the pictures and reports to his friend Ron Jacobson, head pathologist at the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine in Grafton, MA. Early the next morning, Marc received the following call:
“Marc, it’s Ron. I looked at that case you sent me and it sure looks like a lightning strike to me.” Dr. Jacobson said.
“Wait a minute. The report talks about an electrical discharge from a frayed cord, or something like that. It was the newspapers that talked about a lightning strike.” Marc countered.
“Well, that could explain things, but for this one picture, where you can clearly see what looks like a scorch mark on the back of one of the heifers. That’s classic lightning strike. If it were an electrical accident, all of the pathology would be from the limbs or where the animal touched metal surfaces. This is a circular burn in the center of the back. At any rate, the diagnosis remains unchanged. The animals died of an electrical incident. It was just the wrong source of electricity. An honest mistake. That frayed cord was going to cause problems anyway, so it’s good that they caught it.”
Marc hung up the phone and pondered this information. Was there anything here? “I guess not.” He muttered to himself as he went out for lunch.
Over lunch, Marc had an idea. When he returned to his desk, Marc looked up the weather report for the Kingsport area on June 1st.
“Sunny, High of 84, Clear Skies with a stable high pressure front remaining in place”
Perhaps a trip to Kingsport isn’t out of the question after all.
The Marsters family had a long history in Kingsport until Irma Marsters only son James met a young girl by the name of Helen Molyneux and decided to relocate in Needham, an hour away from the family home, never to return but for one or two forced visits. There, James made a life for himself and started a family.
In 1995, James and Helen had a daughter and named her Annie. She was a bright girl and gifted athlete, but for some reason, her parents kept Grandma Irma at arm’s length. Her other Grandma lived with them, but Grandma Irma only visited on the odd holiday and James only brought the family up to Kingsport on two occasions that Annie can remember, both times her parents seemed to want to leave before they even got there.
Annie was told that Grandma Irma ran an Antique shop in Kingsport, but was also told that Kingsport was a dangerous place and to not ever go there. Whenever the topic of grandma came up at home, her parents would seem to quickly change the subject. Her father seemed embarrassed and her mother was just unsettled by the whole topic.
About a month ago, Annie’s father seemed a little shaken. Grandma Irma was moved to the Kingsport Assisted Living Center. He said that she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. When Annie suggested they go up to visit, her suggestion was met with silence and then a series of excuses. Annie called Grandma Irma and she sounded fine. She didn’t understand what was going on or why her parents didn’t seem to care.
Last week, while rummaging through the attic, Annie happened upon an old shoe box with pictures, notes, and trinkets. There was a newspaper clipping from 1979 about Guatemala’s Tikal National Park being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The picture in the article showed a Dr. Irma Marsters presenting the President of Guatemala with a Mayan ceremonial burial stone excavated from the site. There were other pictures of this Dr. Marsters, a tall, rugged, beautiful woman with long black hair drawn into a pony tail. Knowing how her parents reacted to anything with respect to Grandma Irma, Annie decided to hold off on those discussions until later, although a Google search of Irma Marsters is surprisingly empty. How could a box of memorabilia as storied as this not even generate one hit on Google?
The box did contain an envelope entitled ‘Annie’. Being 16, and seeing as it was addressed to her, Annie opened the envelope. Inside the envelope was a strange necklace with a copper medallion. The medalion was of an odd shaped star and some other symbols. It was accompanied by a hand-written note.
July 11, 1985
I asked your father to give this to you on your sixteenth birthday. Unless things have changed drastically over these 16 years, we haven’t had a chance to spend a lot of time together and I wanted you to know that I do love you.
Your father thinks his mother is foolish and reckless. I can’t disagree with him, but I also know that history is something you can’t turn your back on.
I’ve enclosed a necklace that you should always wear. It will help you find your way, even if your parents are afraid of the path.
The Waverly Hotel was Kingsport’s best hotel. There was no way that Chardonnay was going to stay at the fleabag south of town. It is a good thing that her skills of persuasion have been honed perfectly over the years. The hotel was full this week of academics and suckers. The academics are attending some sort of new age seminar and the kooks are attending what seems to be a convention of ghost hunters. A few of these chumps might even make good marks, if time permits.
When she heard of Muriel’s death she took it as a sign that she needed to visit the home of her teacher and pay her last respects. After all, if it wasn’t for Muriel Hogwolop, Chardonnay (at least that’s her legal name now) wouldn’t be half as rich or half as talented as she is now.
She arrived at the hotel on Sunday evening, and after an amusing exchange with the manager, settled into the President’s Suite for a luxurious evening of room service and maybe a deep tissue massage. At ten o’clock there was a knock on her door and a note was slid under.
The envelope was made of high quality parchment and contained the seal of the Kingsport Horticultural Society. It contained a hand written note on paper of similar quality, but the paper bore a strange watermark, that of three legs running in a circle.
Dear Ms. Glass,
We appreciate your condolences with respect to the passing of our dear Muriel. Monday’s ceremony is a private affair for only those close to the family. We hope that you understand and respect the family’s wishes during this difficult time. If you wish to drop by the Horticultural Society sometime after Tuesday, we would be happy to let you pay your respects.
Director, Kingsport Horticultural Society
‘What a strange note.’ Chardonnay thought as she put her overly indulgent robe over her freshly massaged and oiled body. She didn’t remember telling anyone of her plans to visit Muriel’s service.
The problem with aliens is the mind control. The reason why alien presence isn’t more pronounced is the ability of The Gray to exert mind control on all that are near them. You may encounter them, and in many cases, you probably already have. Your memory of those encounters has been wiped clean. The reason that the movie Men in Black was so popular was that it contained truths cloaked in comedy. Subconsciously, you know this to be true, but you have been conditioned to see it all as comedy or farce.
Excerpt from ‘Aliens in our Attics’ by Flint McNitty
05:30, June 12, 2011 – Chesapeake House Rest Stop, Northbound I-95
The RV rolled into the predetermined spot. Gas was purchased, exactly 15.8 gallons. Then the driver went in to purchase a Mountain Dew and bag of Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos all according to plan. When he reentered his vehicle, there was a plain brown envelope in the passenger seat. This is how the information had to be passed. He didn’t know a name but only assumed it was from a highly placed government official.
Flint McNitty pulled the RV over to survey today’s intel. The envelope contained a highly redacted report and a fuzzy copy of a fuzzy picture (isn’t that always the case). The report read:
Alien presence in Arkham, Kingsport, and Innsmouth:
The northeastern enclave containing Arkham, Kingsport and Innsmouth has an unusually high concentration of alien activity.
more redactions …….
Recent reports of UFOs outside Kingsport are attributed to low flying stealth helicopters.
Alien garrison …. Redaction …. on high alert following these reports.
The rest was blacked out. On the back of the document was a yellow ‘sticky’ note:
Security Code: 07528
Then there was the picture. It looked like a standard barn housing dairy cattle, but it looked like each cow had a tube of some sort coming out of their head, leading to a box on the ceiling. Written in marker on the corner of the picture was the word ‘mainframe’.
McNitty thought it was high time he paid a visit to this part of Massachusetts. Kingsport would be the logical starting point, even if the popular reports were bogus. It looks like the local Paranormal society is having a meeting this week. Perhaps they would hire him on as a guest speaker? That would be sufficient cover not to spook the aliens.
McNitty chuckled; ‘ghosts, spook, aliens.’ he muttered as he sipped on his Mountain Dew and entered the coordinates of Kingsport on his GPS.
The Boston Herald – July 11, 1990
Rolland Carver: South Boston native Rolland Carver, 36, died Tuesday at St. Vincent’s Hospital. Carver was struck by a bullet Saturday evening as he was leaving the Pig&Whistle pub, an apparently innocent victim of recent gang violence in the area. Police cite an ongoing investigation in which no arrests have been made. Carver is survived by his wife Eliza, sons Jacob and Daniel and daughter Bethany. Services will be held Friday at St. Mark’s Chapel.
The Boston Herald – May 4, 1996
The Eternal Life Corporation filed for bankruptcy today. The company, aimed at cryopreservation of bodies for the hope of reanimating them when the technology exists to do so, apparently leaves the remains of a significant number of clients in an unknown state. Abigail Hogwolep, CEO of Eternal Life Corp. could not be reached for comment.
2011 – Kingsport Days Inn
Bethany kept a copy of the two articles in her planner, a constant reminder of the two events which had most strongly impacted her life. Life without a father had been difficult, particularly when her mother sank every spare dime into that ridiculous scheme. Life after was worse, however. Mother never really recovered from the loss of that last hope. Daniel gave up all pretense and followed Jacob into life with the gang, both of them intent on finding revenge. Abigail Hogwolep and her company ruined Bethany’s life before it had truly begun.
Her life and that of so many others. Bethany had never been successful at tracking down the names of any of the other ‘clients’ whose tragedy mirrored her own, but she often imagined their lives. Over the years she’d made it her mission to avenge them in spirit, if not in actuality – yet. It seemed like everywhere she turned there were unfortunate, gullible souls being taken in by con artists, just like her mother had been all those years ago. What better way to set things right than to make it her life’s work to expose them all, one by one? People had the right to believe whatever they would, but no-one deserved to suffer for such silliness. Even when it was couched in technical sounding terms like Noetic Science, at heart it was still the same old scam, promising people whatever they wanted and were willing to pay for. Bethany had yet to find any such scheme she couldn’t debunk, or at least explain using basic common sense.
It was no mere coincidence that she was in Kingsport. Sure, the Noetic Science conference was a good reason to be here, it was always helpful to gain additional insight into the prevailing theories of craziness, but Kingsport was also the family home of Abagail Hogwolep, and Bethany never passed up a chance to scrape up a little more information about the notoriously reclusive family. The amazing coincidence of the death of Muriel Hogwolep this very week opened up a world of possibilities beyond anything she’d ever dreamed when she made her travel plans. A more gullible person, like her mother, would say that it was Meant To Be.
Walking into the lobby of the Days Inn that morning, her anticipation gave way to annoyance at the swarm of crazy people milling about, reminding her that the New England Paranormal Society was holding their yearly meeting here. Amateur ghost hunters were no less deserving of pity than any other group of rubes, but did they have to be so cheerful about it? She glanced at a flyer for a full set of ghost hunting equipment. It was ONLY $325 and included a ‘deluxe’ carrying case. Sighing she headed for the door. She felt bad for them, but had no desire to be distracted by their nonsense when she had other, more important issues to consider. Her GPS pointed her to a waffle house in the middle of town.
It’s a gloomy Monday morning, occasionally spitting down rain. Six strangers are in line for breakfast at the Kingsport Waffle Hut, Kingsport’s best diner. The morning newspaper is stacked on the checkout counter…
The Kingsport Herald – June 13, 2011
Kingsport Happenings – This Week:
- Miskatonic University’s Department of Noetic Science is sponsoring a 3-day workshop on # Noetic Science. Topics include:
> Children’s Memories of Previous Lives
> Absent-Minded Science, Part VII: What Is Life?
> How I Tried to Explain Away the Unexplainable—and Couldn’t
> How Do I Pray?
> The Noetic Change Model – Living a Life of Meaning
- New England Paranormal Society’s Annual Meeting and Lighthouse Fun Night
- Attend the NEPS Annual meeting and enjoy the fun of an overnight haunted lighthouse investigation. The Kingsport Lighthouse is reportedly one of the most haunted locations on the Eastern seaboard. Be prepared to be locked in with your fellow investigators overnight for a fun-filled haunted lighthouse experience. The NEPS will hold a meeting at the Kingsport Days Inn with special guests The Ghostfacers.
In other News:
>The USDA in association with the MA Dept. of Agriculture, has determined lightning strike to be the cause of death for 25 dairy cows from the McColluch Dairy herd, 10 miles north of Kingsport on the Kingsport/Dunwich road.
> A relic of World War II was found off the shore of Kingsport when a German U-boat (U 743) was found sunken in 200 feet of water. Salvage operations are underway, sponsored by the Kingsport Maritime Museum.
> The Kingsport Mental Health Clinic, a division of the Arkham Mental Health Institute has been reaccredited with a 5-star rating. The review board cites the positive recovery rate from a variety of mental illnesses plus strides in the treatment of Alzheimer’s patients as key factors in their reaccreditation.
> Kingsport society was shocked yesterday when famed socialite and reported psychic, Muriel Hogswollep, died of an apparent heart attack. A celebration of Muriel’s life will be held Thursday at the Kingsport Horticultural Society.
> Lights in the sky!!! Long time Kingsport resident, Samuel LeMonde, reported seeing strange lights over his farm in Northwest Kingsport. According to Mr. LeMonde, what sets this apart from the numerous ‘UFO’ sightings was the sheer number of objects. Sheriff Murthy stated; ‘If my blood alcohol was as high as Sam’s, I’m sure that I would have seen over 20 lights in the sky as well’.
> The Kingsport Mariners continue their storybook unbeaten season with a 4-0 win over Atlantic League rival Bridgeport Bluefish. The Mariners pitching staff seemed to mesmerize Bluefish batters with a 3-hit effort by local sensation Pete Hodge.
Marge is handling the morning rush in her usual gruff efficiency. Marge and her staff all look like they belong to the same biker gang, all sporting a variety of similar tattoos. The waiter and kitchen staff all look like they could have been sitting on top of the food chain at a variety of our more famous penal institutions. Everyone in the restaurant is enjoying their breakfast and taking their time.
Sheriff Roy Murthy seems to have set up his morning office in the first booth. He’s reviewing files with a pitcher of coffee and a rather impressive bear claw on his plate. The mood is normal and no-nonsense, just like Marge likes it. That’s good because the weather outside is miserable. The morning fog and rain have turned a summer morning into something that looks more like fall…
… and this is where our campaign begins …
The Waffle Hut was crowded, and none of the six strangers in line were in the mood to wait another half hour or so when the table finally opened up, so they were seated together, ‘family style’ as their hostess Marge mentioned.
None came from Kingsport, but two, at least, were not complete strangers. Marge Swanson recognized Annie Marsters as Irma’s grand-daughter, and insisted that she eat for free. Biff Erickson spoke briefly with Herman Joseph about his new position on the Kingsport Mariners minor league baseball team, and arranged to meet him at Mariners Park later on that day.
Once they had ordered their breakfast, Andy Sullivan, the town’s Deputy Sheriff ran into the diner to talk to Sheriff Roy Murthy about something important. A bemused Bethany Carver overheard the Sheriff and Deputy Andy discussing ‘more zombies than usual’ at the cemetary. Andy and Roy collected Herman Joseph, the town’s mortician and baseball enthusiast, and left the Waffle Hut, but not before Herman dropped his diary.
Biff was the only one of the newcomers to Kingsport who saw what happened when the book dropped. A cloud of sinister smoke come out of the book and enveloped the six strangers. Herman gathered up the book and left with the police officers, but the cloud remained. He watched in surprise as the restaurant cleared out of regulars, as Marge frowned and nodded at the patrons. The rest of his table mates sat in a stupor, only coming out of it once the locals had left.
Once the cloud had dissipated and everyone had finally come to their senses, the bus boy, Miguel, passed in front of the place where the book had fallen and slipped on what appeared to be ice cube. He lost his balance, knocking a knife off a nearby table with his tray of dirty dishes. The knife ricocheted off one of the stools at the breakfast counter and impaled the poor busboy’s left eyeball. Miguel fell to the floor, his head hitting the stool snapping his neck with an audible crack.
Marc Newton and Bethany Carver ran forward to see if there was anything they could do to assist while Marge called for emergency services. By the time Marc was quite certain he was dead, Miguel had begun to stir and moan, and shambled to his feet. The reanimated Miguel lunged at Otto, the diner’s gruff waiter. The kitchen staff dispatched Miguel with shocking quickness.
At this time it was noticed that all of those eating at the table had a strange cross-like tattoo on their right hands (something none of them had had before). Marge and her staff tried to calm the customers down. Rita and Cookie paid special attention to Annie, noting that she seemed a little freaked out by what was going on. Cookie, a large Hispanic man with kind eyes and a soft smile gave his prized Frying Pan to Annie for protection and Marge told her to visit her grandmother. Freddy Hsu, the town’s medical examiner came to collect the body. Freddy and the diner staff seemed to act as if this kind of thing happened every day. Since this strangeness all seemed to arise from Herman Joseph, the group decided to go to the police station and find out how to get this darn tattoo off of their hands. To make matters worse, the tattoo seemed to be filling in with a kind of blood red ink. That’s never a good sign.
Herman was immediately implicated, as being the town’s voodoo practitioner. He refused to speak to the police. He was a little more forthcoming when he spoke to Marc (who got access to the interrogation room by dint of his Federal Agent status). According to Herman, he had nothing to do with this curse. It must have been an attack meant for him. Miguel and the visitors just happened to get in the way. He seemed to think his brother Joseph was behind all of this, and that it must have had something to do with what had happened at the crypt the night before. He was woken up around midnight by some noise in the graveyard, but though it was just his brother Joseph doing something that didn’t concern him. He told Marc to investigate the crypt and find out what his brother was up to. As Marc was wrapping up his interrogation, he noticed a three leg mark on Herman’s arm (which he also refused to comment on).
Annie wanted nothing to do with investigating a crypt full of zombies, so Deputy Andy gave the three men an extra shovel that he had and directed them to the Funeral Home and Cemetery, where he would meet them after he drove Annie to the medical center where her grandmother was being looked after. Chardonnay Crystal Glass went with Anny as did Bethany who wanted to take her own car to this investigation of the cemetery (and to pick up her 9mm automatic out of her glove compartment). Biff, Marc and Flint McNitty went directly to the funeral home, where they saw apparent undead shambling around behind the fence that enclosed the cemetery. They waited in the parking lot for Andy to meet them. While they waited the three men searched the outside of funeral home and grabbed a Tire Iron from the shed in case they had to deal with those rotting corpses before Andy returned.
Annie and Chardonnay spoke to Irma, who explained that she had spent many years fighting against the forces of chaos and disaster that swirled around Kingsport, and that her son James (Annie’s father) had wanted nothing to do with that life for either himself or his family. She was recovering from some sort of attack herself, and was not well enough to join the fight directly, but she feared the mark of the cross was a bad omen indeed. She told Annie and Chardonnay to talk to Alice Young at the University library.
Meanwhile, Andy and Bethany met the others at the cemetery, and were soon battling zombies (who were frightening but slow). They cut a swath of re-death and destruction Flint was sure that these souls were actually alive and just corrupted by voodoo zombie powder. He was positive that he saw the marks of power and tried to remove themfrom the walls while the others bashed undead heads. They fought the corpses of those awaiting internment, and other corpses throughout the cemetery. They cleared the cemetery and made their way to the crypt in the far corner, re-killing about 20 corpses along the way. All the while Bethany filmed this macabre battle, thinking that there must be some kind of scam going on here.
When they arrived at the crypt, they found a different kind of animated corpse, ones who looked like a recently executed paramilitary force. While battling these stronger zombies, Biff broke his precious baseball bat, and ran back to the funeral home to get Roberto Alomar’s bat, which Herman had kept on display as his new weapon. Biff liked the idea of showing off his zombie killing prowess in an attempt to curry the favor of the very hot Bethany.
In the crypt itself they found (very fresh seeming) zombies dressed in robes, like they were in a kind of religious cult. There were also signs that a 4 foot by 4 foot object was removed from the crypt, judging from the signs in the dust. The scene looked like the robed cult members tried to fend off an assault from approximately 10 men in paramilitary gear. At least two of the paramilitary assailants survived to leave via helicopter. Flint said definitively that it was a Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk, rigged for stealth incursion, based on the skid marks made in the field next to the crypt.
Meanwhile, Annie and Chardonnay spoke with the young librarian, Alice, who thought the marks were signs of an ancient Mayan Talking Cross. Chardonnay noticed that Alice had an interesting cat tattoo peeking out of her left bosom. Although Alice was leery of Chardonnay (apparently sensing in her some association with the Hogwolep family) she agreed to offer information.
Annie found out that Irma used to head the university’s Archeology Department and that Marge, Cookie, and the rest of the Waffle Hut employees worked for her, ‘helping her’ find ‘things’. Grandma Irma left the university a few years ago to open her own antique shop, but she still ‘consulted’ with the university on occasion.
According to Alice’s associate Dr. Goodman Greensmith, Chairman of the Department of Noetic Science, they were doomed to die within the month unless the cross itself could be found and destroyed (he suggested the fires of Mt. Doom, or some similar combination of temperature/pressure), though he did not know where they could find the cross. Apparently it had disappeared sometime during the late 1700s, but there were also reports that the cross resurfaced sometime in 1941, during the Nazi’s insatiable hunt for antiquities with an occult association. He handed Annie his card, one with a similar cat marking as seen on Alice’s chest. He instructed her to call him if she needed anything, and that he would let her know if he found out anything as well. The front of the card just had the mark of the cat and an Egyptian symbol below it. The back of the card just had a phone number and under it were the words ‘Servants of Bast’.
Annie and Chardonnay were instructed to go back to the police station and meet up with the rest of their group.
Monday, June 13, 2011, Kingsport, MA 1:30pm
Last time we saw our intrepid crew, four were on their way back to the police station with Deputy Andy and two were walking to the police station from the Miskatonic University library. The summer sun was burning off the fog and warming up what was a miserable morning.
(OOC – Our next session will begin at the police station. This write up will chronicle the events from the end of our last session to that point.)
The morning seemed almost like a dream. Things were happening so fast that it was hard to take it all in. What were those things? Zombies didn’t exist was the mantra that Bethany, Flint, and Marc held to. They were trying to devise a natural explanation to the morning’s activities. Biff was not one to over think things. He was bummed that he broke his bat, but this new bat sure was balanced nicely. Annie was traumatIzed by the activities at the Waffle Hut, but she was also very happy to see her grandmother in good spirits. Chardonnay didn’t know what she had gotten herself into. It sounded like her old pal Muriel was a little more than that skilled grifter she encountered 10 years ago.
Flint was pulled aside by Deputy andy before they left the cemetery. ‘You might need this. I found it on one of the corpses by the crypt.’ Deputy Andy said as he handed Flint a very nice military grade crossbow with scope. He went on. ’I’ve heard about you Mr. McDitty. You’re more right than you know about alien issues, but you are like a stubborn child only fixated on one thing, failing to see the bigger picture.’ With that Deputy Andy left Flint to ponder that on his Vespa ride back to the Police Station.
By the time that they got back to Biff’s car, Marc’s cell phone had 4 messages from Dr. Buckley. The first message was to confirm their meeting for 11:00 am. The second and third messages were to see if he had gotten the previous message. The fourth message was more interesting. ‘Marc, I just spoke with Sheriff Murthy. I guess you’ve had an exciting morning. He wanted to make sure that Andy came along when we meet. I would like to get this investigation behind us, but I understand if you can’t make it today. I am available for some time this afternoon or tomorrow morning. If you want to visit the McColluch dairy, let me know so we can set that up with Ian. Talk to you soon.’
Marc texted a reply to Dr. Buckley; “Doctor, I should be able to make the appointment, I would like to visit the farm so your assistance in arranging that is greatly appreciated. I’ll make sure that Andy comes along. Again thank you very much for your time in this matter. I’ll call you within the hour to finalize our plans.”
As Biff got in his car he was thinking that this new bat might be lucky for him. The blood stains were sure bad ass. Blood trumps pine tar any day. The young ball player settled himself in behind the driver’s seat and glanced at his phone that he left on the dash earlier this morning. There was a message from Lou Estivez, the Mariner’s manager. ‘Biff! I don’t have time to see you today. All hell has broken loose. Hodge has come down with some illness and now I have to find a pitcher for tomorrow night’s game. Stop by tomorrow and we can take a look at you. I should be available between ten and eleven.’
As Annie and Chardonnay were making their way back to the police station, they were stopped by a shabbily dressed old woman of Eastern European dissent, with bad teeth and a hazy yellow right eye. ‘Oh would you two be a couple of dears and help an old lady out?’ she said in a raspy accented voice. Chardonnay wanted to ignore her and move on, but Annie stopped and asked ’What’s the matter? How can we help?’ The old lady looked Annie over and her gaze stopped on her pendant. ‘Where did you get that?’ She said in a startled tone. ‘My grandmother gave it to me.’ Annie replied. A spark of realization came over the old woman’s face. ‘Never mind.’ she said in a hurried tone as she scurried away.
‘What a strange woman.’ Chardonnay mentioned as they continued on. Annie then realized that her phone was set to vibrate. She looked at the screen and noticed that she had a 3 voice mails, two from her parents and one (the most recent) from her grandmother. Avoiding her parents, she decided to listen to her grandmother’s message.
‘Annie, I just got off the phone with your father. Your parents were worried sick about you, but I assured him that you were fine and enjoying some quality time with your grandmother. I bought you a couple of days my dear, but you need to call them. He’s not coming up just yet. I threatened to have Marge around. Nothing like the threat of an old flame to keep someone at bay.’ Irma chuckled as she signed off.
The police station was in sight. It looked like the rest of the gang were arriving all at the same time. ‘Now what do we do?’ Annie asked Chardonnay. ‘How are we going to get these marks off of our hands? My parents can NEVER find out about this. They would kill me.’ Annie rambled on as they entered the building.
By the time that everyone arrived back at the police station, they realized that one person from their group was missing. Flint never showed up. Flint was lagging a little behind, but was following the caravan as they left the cemetery. He couldn’t have gotten lost. Kingsport wasn’t that big. Needless to say, the group was concerned. Sheriff Murthy sent Andy out to retrace their path and look for Flint.
Marc was sure that Herman knew what was going on at the cemetery and decided to question him again. Either Herman was a truly skilled lire or truly oblivious, but according to him, he was so upset with the outcome of the Mariner’s game the night before that he took a sleeping pill and went to bed. He awoke around midnight, hearing a scuffle in the graveyard, but in his drug-induced state, thought it was only kids messing around. If there was mischief of the type that Marc described happening, then it must be the fault of his brother Joseph.
By the time that Marc was finished questioning Herman, Andy radioed back to the Sheriff with some disturbing news. He found Flint’s Vespa on the side of the road, not far from the cemetery. Flint was nowhere to be found. He would continue to look around, but feared that something might have happened to Flint.
The gang wanted to find out what the source of these marks on their hands was and how to get rid of them. Annie and Chardonnay shared the information that they learned from Alice Young and Goodman Greensmith about the Mayan Talking Cross and how they think that’s the source of the curse. The best course of action was to follow the path of the cross. Therefore, Herman’s brother Joseph needed to be questioned.
Since real life was creeping into this investigation, Marc called Dr. Buckley to push off his investigation of those cow deaths to tomorrow. Biff didn’t have to be at the ballpark until tomorrow morning as well. Annie reluctantly called her father and bought herself some time to continue investigating this curse as well. The loss of Flint was disturbing, but Andy seemed to be on the trail as best as anyone could be.
With few other leads the group made their way to the Kingsport Horticultural Society, by way of the lunch counter at Woolworths. The Kingsport Woolworths is a throwback to the 1950s, with an authentic lunch counter/soda fountain. The hot dogs and Root Beer Floats were strangely comforting, giving Annie, Biff and Chardonnay a feeling of vitality and serenity.
The Kingsport Horticultural Society was in a non-descript building in the middle of town. There were no plants, just gray masonry to meet our investigators. The sign on the door said; ‘Closed for Private Memorial’. Feeling that they needed answers, Chardonnay knocked on the door. A tall muscular, bald, African American gentleman in a suit opened the door. Recognizing him as Joseph Joseph, Herman’s brother, Chardonnay talked her way into the building.
Joseph Joseph was polite, and listened to the group’s tale. ‘Perhaps we can both help each other.’ He said and led them to the Society’s lounge. The interior of the Horticultural Society was strange. Robed individuals with ceremonial daggers in their belts were milling about. Just as the group entered the lounge, an elderly robed individual emerged from a doorway, looked over the group and said; ‘We don’t need their help. Just kill them.’
Four robed individuals seemed to appear out of nowhere and tried to subdue the group. Biff was the only one who avoided being manhandled, and that made him mad. He was primed for a fight. Daggers were drawn. The situation was tense, when Joseph moved to calm the situation. ‘Look, they are already dead. We should just let them go.’ He said in an assertive voice. With that the robed individuals moved to manhandle Marc and Chardonnay out the door. Bethany and Annie tried to calm Biff down, each grabbing one of his arms and leading him out. Biff was mad, but having two hotties clutched on to him did reduce his urge to fight.
As they were being pushed out of the Horticultural Society, Chardonnay found a piece of paper with some interesting information on it, including the address of the Hogwolep estate. Marc on the other hand, saw something so disturbing that he fainted. He came to outside of the building, the horrifying vision still fresh in his head.
The burly robed man pushed Marc into the hall. Disoriented, he stumbled to the left and paused, taking in the sight through the opened doorway in front of him. The room was crescent shaped, opening to a large greenhouse, overgrown with menacing vines. In the middle of the room was a stone alter. Lying on the alter was a female corpse wrapped in white bandages. Her skin was leathery and gray, drawn taught over her bones. Three daggers were sticking out of her chest, converging on where her heart would have been. Three robed individuals extracted the daggers from her chest and proceeded to each slice their right arm, letting the blood from that wound flow onto the chest of the corpse. With that, the corpse began to moan and move. It arose from the alter and looked directly at Marc. After that, his world went blank and all he remembers is waking up outside of the Horticultural Society with a smoldering headache.
Following that ordeal, perhaps it might be best to call the number on the card that Goodman Greensmith gave Annie. Bethany dialed the number. A smooth male voice answered. ‘Yes Miss Carver, how can I help you? I’m Dr. Phips. Goodman has briefed me on your situation.’ Bethany relayed the events of the past hour to Dr. Phips and asked to meet with either him or Dr. Greensmith as soon as possible. ‘Things are rather busy today at the Institute, but we do want to help. Dr. Mary Parsons will meet you at the Kingsport Maritime Museum in two hours. Now I need to speak with young Miss Marsters.’ Bethany handed the phone to Annie. ‘Annie, make sure you stop by and talk to your grandmother before you meet with Mary.’ Dr. Phips said and then hung up.
Irma Marsters was in her room painting when Annie and the rest of the group stopped by. ‘Annie, Rita would like it if you stayed with her while you are in town. She’s watching my place. Just don’t mess around in the shop without supervision.’ Annie was grateful. She liked Rita and was glad that she was connecting with grandma.
The painting that grandma was working on was disturbing. It was a hideous winged creature. ‘I keep seeing this in my dreams.’ Irma said about the painting. ‘For the past week, things have been affecting me and I don’t understand why.’ Annie and Chardonnay went on to tell Irma about meeting with Alice and Goodman, and then to tell her about the zombies and their harrowing experience at the Horticultural Society.
‘I was on the path of the Mayan cross in the 80s.’ Irma began. ‘Based on my research, the cross was like a radio to other dimensions. Additionally, it amplified the magic of groups who tried to harness its energy. This is all starting to make sense. If the Cult has gotten ahold of the cross, then it would make sense that voodoo magic was prevalent. It also explains why I am being targeted by its effects. While I was in the Yucatan, I probably was somehow tuned into the energies of the cross.’
‘I would venture to guess that the Cult doesn’t have the cross anymore, since Joseph seemed to want you to help them find it. I’m sure that they let you live to act as bait and to expose who in the Servants you might be working with. You need to find out who has the cross. It seems that you are being directed to the Maritime Museum. That’s a good start. Find out where the cross has been. It might be trying to get back there. Mary is a good person. Just remember that the Maritime Museum focuses on pirates for a reason.’
With that, it was getting late and the group needed to get their cars and drive over to the museum. On the walk to the parking garage, a strange character approached the group from a dark alleyway. ‘I couldn’t help noticing that yous guys might be in the market for some exotic merchandise. I’m honest Vinnie, purveyor of Kingsport’s most exclusive van-based merchandise. If you would like to peruse my showroom, even you Mr. Federal Officer, I’m sure that we can come to some kind of mutually beneficial understanding.’ With that, Marc and Bethany were game to walk down the alley and see what this ‘honest’ Vinnie was offering.
Deep in the alley was parked a white panel van. At the back of the van were two very large gentlemen standing behind a table. On the table was a three ring binder that said ‘catalogue’ on the cover. The notebook had a variety of weaponry available, even a Browning Automatic Rifle and a flamethrower. There were even C4 explosives and all types of ammunition. Bethany chuckled and ordered a couple of boxes of 38 caliber ammo for her gun. Marc ordered 4 boxes of 9mm shells and asked if they could be delivered to his hotel. Vinnie assured him that would not be a problem, given a small handling fee.
After the amusing diversion with Vinnie and a short walk to their vehicles, the group made their way to the Maritime Museum to meet up with Mary Parsons and the curator of the museum, Stewart Ross. The Maritime Museum, also known as the pirate museum, was dedicated to the privateering past of Kingsport. The museum was less Disney and more Smithsonian in its depiction of pirates. It seems that Kingsport served as the hub of pirate activity during the 1700s and even today has ties to nefarious underground activity.
Mary introduced herself to the group and indicated that it might be valuable to discuss the disposition of the talking cross with Stewart. It was reported that none other than Cortes first reported the cross during his conquest of the Yucatan in 1517. Being an aficionado of large golden artifacts, Cortes appropriated the cross and had it sent back to Spain. The cross never made it. Here the story is murky. Some say that the cross cursed the ship and it sunk with all hands lost. Others tell the story of how pirates out of Tobago plundered Cortes’ galleon and took the cross. (Here’s some information on the cross if one was to google it: http://www.rightreading.com/mayan/talking-cross.htm )
Two hundred years later, the pirate ship Desire was said to be carrying the cross to Kingsport while on a slave run to Hispaniola. There has been no word about the cross since then. The only report was one of Hitler’s Germany sending a team to Kingsport in search of the cross. That report is sketchy however. During World War II, Kingsport would be the natural place for German U boats to resupply. Kingsport has always turned a blind eye to these types of things. Hitler was obsessed with so called occult antiquities, so I doubt that there is a connection.’ Mr. Ross concluded as if he was finishing a lesson.
‘But then there is this business of a German U-Boat being found off the coast of Kingsport, and all this stuff starts happening after it’s found. Don’t you think there’s a link between the two?’ Marc asked. ‘Well, Maitland found evidence of that wreck and asked us if we would help with the salvage.’ Ross said matter of factly. ‘We thought it might make a good exhibit and document how Kingsport really hasn’t lost their pirate roots. You need to talk to Maitland Russell over at Kingsport Salvage about what he found. We just told him that we’d help fund his salvage if he shared his find with the museum.’
Marc used one of the tourist binocular stations to look across the bay at the Kingsport Salvage building. Things looked quiet, but it was getting late. He thinks that they should start their investigations there after he finishes up the investigation of the cows. After all, he has a month to live; spending a morning actually doing his job is probably a good thing. While he was looking across the bay, his phone rang. ‘Agent Newton, this is Deputy Andy. We found your friend Flint. He’s fast asleep in his Winnebago out her at Mariner’s Park. We impounded his Vespa, so I have no Idea how he got from where I found his scooter to here. He seems awful tired, so you might want to check back with him in the morning.’ ‘Thanks Andy.’ Marc said as he hung up his cell phone. ‘At least we found him.’ Marc thought as he went to the parking lot to rejoin his group.
After they left the museum, the group asked Mary; ‘What good was that? We need to know where this cross is, not where it’s been.’ Mary replied. ‘The important point here is that someone held the cross for over 200 years without any detection or report. They have deep and powerful Kingsport roots. We believe that this same group has taken the cross from the Cult. Therefore, if we find out where the cross has been, we might find out where it is going back to.’
With that, the group made their way back to the Waverly hotel, where Rita met them for dinner. Rita entertained everyone (except Annie, who was a little shocked) with a story of James and Annie’s mother, Helen. James Marsters was the bookish son of Irma, rugged field archeologist, purveyor of rare antiquities. James was smart and Irma wanted to keep James at arm’s length from the dangers that some of these antiquities held.
During High School, James befriended and eventually dated a young firebrand, Marge Swanson. Irma loved Marge, seeing a lot of her in the young girl. The relationship went strong for two years through their senior year in High School, until James decided to break it off with Marge the summer after they graduated.
James wanted to move on and go to college away from Kingsport. Over the summer, he caught the eye of Helen Whitehouse, a beautiful young socialite from a prestigious Kingsport family. Irma accepted James’ decision to break it off with Marge, but thought of Marge as a daughter. Knowing that James was going away to school, she hired Marge to help run her shop and helped Marge gain admission to the local university.
One day, James brought Helen back to the shop to show off some of the junk that his mom collected. While in a back room, the two youngsters shared a kiss. That kiss turned rather amorous and James found himself making out with Helen in the back of his mom’s shop.
Unfortunately, Marge came back from lunch early that day and found the amorous couple in the back of the shop. Apparently, she still had feelings for James, but expressed those feelings with less than desirable actions. The story goes that Marge grabbed a cylindrical object off of a shelf, and by turning the lid, a bright light jumped out and Helen disappeared.
Only later it was found that a half-naked Helen Whitehouse was found on the top floor of the Hog Island lighthouse. She was terrified and claimed to have been in a deep conversation with her dead great grandmother Jessica about Kingsport pirates and something named Bast. James never forgave Marge or his mother for this. The Whitehouse family moved to Newton, only Helen’s older sister, Cornelia, moved back to Kingsport.
With that, the group parted ways for the evening. Bethany and Chardonnay walked Annie back to her grandmother’s shop where she would spend the night in Rita’s charge. Everyone went back to their respective hotels, vowing to meet again for waffles early tomorrow morning.
Flint was troubled by his discussion with Andy. He’ll have to work that out later. He was the last one to leave the parking lot of the cemetery. He looked at his map memorizing his intended route. Turn right, then take the fourth left. Turn right at the Waffle Hut and take that around to the civic center. Okay, stow the crossbow in his backpack and set out.
The weather was improving. This should be a pleasant ride back. At the third cross street, Flint saw a pale boy in a baseball cap waving at him. Wait, that wasn’t a boy. His pale gray skin and oval dark eyes were a dead giveaway. It was a Gray. He slowed and pulled over. The voice said; ‘Hiya Flint. Long time buddy. Sorry about this.
With that, Flint felt faint. The rest was just a haze. Oh no, not again.
Flint rolled over and opened his eyes. The clock said 5:36 am. Ouch. That’s not a good combination of feelings. His right hand hurt. His head hurt. His rear felt .. different.
What was that on his head? A tin foil hat? A note in his right hand?
Sorry about all that. Um, we thought you’d appreciate this, but there might be a string coming out of your ass. Pull it carefully to retrieve the capsule.
Where to start? Might as well begin with the uncomfortable task. Flint tugged gingerly on the string. Yep, it was attached to something he could only estimate of ping pong ball diameter.
That little adventure required a little wash up.
What? There’s a note under the door. It’s from Andy.
Glad you made it home okay. We have your Vespa in impound. Don’t worry, we won’t charge you anything. The gang was going to get back together for breakfast at the Waffle Hut tomorrow morning at 8am.
Flint looked at the clock by his bed. Two hours. Okay, what does that little capsule hold and why the hat? Once cleaned, the ball opened with a twist. A crystal fell out of the ball and started to pulse blue. The crystal pulsed rapidly, filling the RV with a dense light. Flint fell into a stupor.
Visions raced through Flint’s head.
Aliens, as you call them, are a collection of ancient races that view the earth as a kind of petri dish. The Grays as you call them are foot soldiers of the MiGo.
More information flooded Flint’s mind; the nature of the ‘old ones’ as they are called and that they use rifts and gates to enter our world, not space ships. They took Flint to study the curse. They sampled his tattoo and took a wide variety of fluids. Unfortunately, they couldn’t counteract the curse, but they will keep their eyes on him to see if he dies.
Supposedly this message was programmed by a gray named Bob. He said that he thought that Flint would appreciate the dramatic nature of the information transfer process. Plus, after all the crap that Flint wrote about the Grays, Bob just had to shove something up his ass.
(Flint gains +5 in Cthulhu Mythos, +1 INT, +5 POW, and -10 SAN loss)
“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy My brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay My vengeance upon you.”
Annie slept well and made her way to the diner with Rita around 7am. Marge had reserved a table for six and proceeded to give Annie anything she wanted while she waited for the rest of the group to show up. This empty table caused a bit of a stir from the customers waiting in line, but by the time that Marge ejected the second complainer, people were okay to just let it go. The rest of the staff at the Waffle Hut was doting on Annie as well. Cookie made her whatever she wanted. The trauma of yesterday was somewhat behind her and a sunny warm Tuesday, combined with the genuine affection of the Waffle Hut staff made her feel a lot better.
Flint had the aromas of Irish Spring, Listerine, baby powder and Vodka wafting around him as he made his way to the Waffle Hut to meet with the rest of the ‘gang’. He was running on little to no sleep and the revelation of a smart assed alien named Bob rumbling around in his head. He found his newly found Tin Foil Hat comforting and wasn’t about to take it off, even though the image of him in that hat portrayed him as even more of a crackpot than he really was.
The gang assembled a little after 8 am. The evening was uneventful for all except Flint, and Flint wasn’t about to volunteer the specifics of his day. When pressed, he talked about aliens, great old ones, some perverted alien named Bob, and a message inside of an anal bead. All too much information for the breakfast crowd and confirmation to the group that it’s best not to solicit information from Flint, unless you are prepared for something bizarre.
The plan of action for the day was to split up into 3 groups and take care of some real life issues in the morning and then meet up for lunch at the Woolworths. After lunch, the whole group was going to investigate the Kingsport Maritime Salvage company as a way to track the cross back to its original owner. However, this morning was occupied with Biff’s appointment to meet the management of the Kingsport Mariners and Marc’s appointment with Dr. Buckley at the agricultural research station. Bethany and Chardonnay decided to go to the library and research the cross.
Alice Young anticipated that some of the cursed group would come back to the library sometime today. By the time Bethany and Chardonnay arrived, she had a cubby already prepared with articles on the pirate past of Kingsport, the Mayan Talking Cross, and even a folder from her personal file on the Hogwolep family. Much of this was nothing new to Bethany. Bethany had done similar on-line research last night, but at least this confirmed what she found. She also found the information on the Hogwolep family particularly interesting and while there were no new revelations, it did strengthen her resolve to find out more about these people who caused so much harm to her family.
Marc and Flint made their way to the Kingsport Agricultural Station with ease. Flint was unusually quiet, occasionally sipping from his brown bag of sustenance. The first thing that Marc noticed was that this facility was unlike any other agricultural research station he’s ever seen. The security was sneakily over the top. The facility was double fenced, with video surveillance along every fence line. The entrance funneled you into a guard booth that passed your vehicle over sensors in such a way that trapped those in the vehicle until they can be evaluated by the guard. This didn’t seem right for a simple agricultural research facility.
Marc and Flint were showed to Dr. Buckley’s office where Dr. Buckley proceeded to go over the sequence of events from the electrical accident that happened at the McColluch Dairy the week before. After listening to Dr. Buckley, it all seemed to make sense and he just needed to inspect the dairy to put this all to rest. Flint, on the other hand, thought that the whole explanation sounded like a big hunk of BS, but he was in no mood to interject at this point. The effects of last night, combined with half a bottle of vodka put him in a quieter than normal mood. Perhaps he was imagining things, but his presence anywhere usually provokes at least some reaction, and considering that he’s now sporting a shiny new tin foil hat, one would think that people would stop and take notice. Quite the opposite; people at the agricultural station were treating Flint as they would anyone else. That realization only made Flint more apprehensive.
The McColluch Dairy is a small modern dairy facility. The area where the animals died is an enclosed space off of the milking parlor where a series of metal partitions can be used to funnel cattle onto a waiting truck. There were still scorch marks on the floor from where the electricity grounded from each cow. Ian McColluch was a traditional gruff Yankee farmer. He matter of factly recounted what happened that day and blamed everything on that clumsy technician from the Ag. Station, Bob. According to Ian, Bob jumped out of the cattle truck and tripped over the frayed cord, causing the arcing electrical discharge that killed the calves.
Upon hearing the name ‘Bob’, Flint reacted as one might expect of the inebriated conspiracy theorist, he clinched his ass and moaned. Marc, on the other hand, decided that this investigation was more of an exercise in futility, and while he still feels that something went wrong, he can’t attribute it to anything that the EPA would worry about.
To be complete, Marc collected water, milk, and other environmental samples and decided to go back to the agricultural station to interview this ‘Bob’ individual so that he can officially put an end to this investigation. Flint went along, shaking his head and reaching for another slug of liquid courage. He didn’t think that meeting ‘Bob’ would be a great idea.
Marc saw a short young Caucasian male wearing coveralls enter the conference room at the agricultural station. As far as Marc was concerned, Bob answered his questions competently and put any question that he had to rest. The cattle death event was an accident and there were no environmental concerns as a result. Marc was finished with this investigation and now he could focus on more pressing issues; that being this blasted curse.
Flint saw an entirely different scene. He and Marc were brought into a small conference room toward the rear of the agricultural station’s first floor. After a few minutes, in walked a Grey (alien) wearing a set of blue coveralls, with the name ‘Bob’ on the left breast. Bob looked at Flint, winked, and shot him a pose with his two index fingers that conveyed; ‘Hey, how you doin’?’ This was a lot for Flint to process. Flint fell out of his chair, got up, and walked into the wall moaning ‘no, not again’.
Bob calmed Flint down and projected to him a series of events around the cow death event that differed slightly from the story that Marc now truly believed. Flint saw Bob exit the cab of the cattle van and as he was exiting, Bob’s foot got entangled with what Flint believes to be an alien lightning gun. The gun fell to the ground and discharged causing a chain reaction that killed those cows. ‘You see Flint.’ Bob went on. ‘Lighting guns and cows don’t mix. Damn cows are unique in that the electric charge gets absorbed, kills ‘em, then jumps out to the next available cow. Talk about embarrassing. Well, you have a good day there buddy, and try to stay off the sauce.’ Bob threw Flint another wink and turned to leave. As he was leaving, Bob went to grab his lightning gun and fumbled it a little. He looked back at Flint. ‘Oops! That would have been a problem. Don’t be a stranger now.’
Flint decided that it would be better not to convey what just transpired to Marc. Marc seemed quite content with the resolution to this case and who was he to harsh that feeling, so Flint decided to sit quietly in the passenger seat, commenting only that he was glad that this was out of the way. Marc agreed as he went to answer his phone. It was Biff. They were probably confirming our lunch plans. It looks like Tuesday was moving according to plan after all.
Biff, Annie and Rita made their way to the south side of Kingsport and to Mariner’s Park and Driving Range. Mariners Park was an all-purpose sporting facility, with a go kart track that surrounds the facility, a putt putt golf course over the right field wall and a golf driving range that faced the left field wall. In fact, the danger for most left fielders in the league was turned ankles as the result of tripping over golf balls that tend to gather around the warning track.
Annie and Rita sat along the first base line, enjoying the fine summer morning and watching Biff show off. The girls were quite amused. Biff met with Mariners Manager Lou Estivez and was instructed to start with a little batting practice. Not wanting to use his newly acquired Roberto Alomar bat, Biff looked around the dugout for a bat. Sitting in the corner of the dugout was an odd bat that looked homemade. On the side was a lightning bolt and the words ‘Wonder Bat’ burned into the wood. ‘What the heck.’ Biff thought as he hefted Wonder Bat to home plate where he proceeded to put on a show, hitting home runs to every part of the park on demand.
‘Alright, let’s see what you can do without Wonder Bat.’ Lou said to Biff with a smile. ‘We obviously don’t use that bat in league games. Try again.’ Biff went and retrieved another bat from the dugout and proceeded to put on a respectable demonstration for the Mariners Manager. Lou pulled Biff aside. ‘Good job. I think that we’ll start you off as a DH and then start rotating you through third base depending on the pitching that we face. Thursday will be your first game and until then, I’m going to need you to run a few errands for me.’ Biff looked puzzled. ‘Errands?’ ‘Yeah, this ain’t the Show noobie. In this Podunk league, you have other duties as assigned, and today your duty is to go out to Pete Hodge’s house and find out how he’s doing. He came down with some strange illness following Sunday’s game. Go talk to his mother, Cornelia, and report back to me.’
‘Can I drive?’ Annie pleaded as they approached Biff’s car. ‘Let the girl drive.’ Rita said as she put her tattooed arm around the dumbfounded Biff. ‘Sure, whatever, just don’t get into an accident.’ Biff said, enjoying the attention from two hot girls. Biff got in the back seat as Annie and Rita got in front. They made their way to Hodge’s house.
Pete Hodge, son of Cornelia Whitehouse-Hodge lived in the Whitehouse family home, a strikingly beautiful New England setting overlooking the southernmost point of Kingsport harbor. As they drove up, the sight of 8 zombies beating on the front door indicated that things weren’t quite right at the Hodge-Whitehouse residence this fine Tuesday morning.
Biff grabbed his Roberto Alomar bat. Annie grabbed her frying pan, and Rita pulled out a 9mm. They all joined the fray. Biff wondered where Rita kept her piece. His mind was probably distracted with that bit of concealment when he proceeded to shatter his bat on the first zombie he came across. ‘Shit. That’s two sweet bats in two days.’ Biff thought as he continued to battle the zombies with his broken bat.
The battle was soon over and only Annie suffered a slight wound that Rita quickly took care of. It seems that waitressing wasn’t Rita’s only training. She seemed to know what to do with a hand gun and also seemed to be trained as a medic. As the dust settled from the zombie battle, Cornelia Hodge exited her house to assess these new visitors. ‘Annie?’ She said as she looked over to the young girl sitting on the ground, holding a frying pan with a new bandage on her left arm. ‘Aunt Cornelia?’ Annie said. ‘I didn’t know you lived here.’
‘Yes dear. As you know, your mother and I aren’t that close…’ With that, Cornelia went into an explanation of how her younger sister, Helen, came to leave Kingsport. This is a story that Annie heard from Rita the night before. When Marge pranked Helen by using some sort of artifact to teleport her to the Hog Island Lighthouse, Helen’s parents decided to leave Kingsport with Helen, leaving Helen’s older sister Cornelia to carry on the Whitehouse family presence in a town where a Whitehouse has lived for over 200 years. Jessica Whitehouse was the founder of the Servants of Bast in 1751. Her ghost was the same Jessica Whitehouse who had a lengthy conversation with a terrified Helen 18 years ago.
After Annie and Rita brought Cornelia up on current events, Cornelia wondered if her son Pete’s condition was related to all of this. Knowing what a fanatic Herman Joseph was, she wouldn’t put it past him to have cursed Pete following Sunday’s sub-par performance (they still won, but he was knocked around a bit). Rita looked at Pete and couldn’t find anything out of the ordinary, save for the fact that he wasn’t conscious. Cornelia thought it might be good to look around the cemetery or funeral home for a cursed object. Knowing that Marc and Flint were on that side of town, Rita had Biff call Marc and instruct him to swing by the funeral home and look for anything strange, other than the walking dead of course.
Marc knew that the day would get strange at some point. He told Flint about the detour and made their way back to the Kingsport Funeral Home. As they drove around the back of the funeral home, Marc noticed something odd nailed to a tree near the back gate. Marc and Flint investigated the tree and found a pair of baseball cleats nailed to the tree, along with a small straw doll in a small Kingsport Mariners uniform, sporting the number 9 and the name ‘Hodge’ on the back. ‘This must be what they were talking about’ Flint said. ‘Based on my knowledge of voodoo, removing the doll and burning it should break the curse.’
Not believing in voodoo curses himself, Marc didn’t really have an opinion on the mater, so he promptly detached the shoes and doll from the tree and burned the doll in a bucket he found in the nearby storage shed. As soon as he burned the doll, Marc got a call from Biff informing him that Pete Hodge had just gotten up and seemed perfectly alright.
‘Yes, teamwork!’ Biff said, making a fist pumping motion, as he hung up the phone. ‘I guess it’s time for lunch then?’ He said looking at Annie and Rita. Cornelia looked at Biff, shook her head, and said. ‘Hold on a minute son. I have something for you.’ Cornelia went into the front coat closet and retrieved what looked like a pretty fierce harpoon gun. ‘Here you go Biff. This gun should help you protect my niece. Try not to break it.’ ‘Sweet!’ is all Biff said as they left the house. Annie didn’t even need to plead to drive. Biff got into the back seat to inspect his new toy.
The group met up at the Woolworths lunch counter at 12:30 pm. They relayed the events of the morning to each other as they shared an enjoyable lunch. Having ordered a root beer float (with added vodka), Flint found that consumption of the frothy beverage caused all manner of inebriation to subside (he didn’t even have a hangover). ‘Oh well, at least I’m done with Bob for a while’ he thought in stone cold sobriety.
After lunch the group made their way to Kingsport Salvage. Upon first look, the building looked closed, even though the hours of operation were from 10 am to 5 pm. The front door was locked and there were no lights on. As they went around back to check those doors, Deputy Andy showed up. ‘Hi guys! I was just checking on this place too. Sheriff Murthy thought it would be a good idea, especially since you reported that nobody had heard from them all weekend, both of their boats are docked here, and all calls to the shop and Maitland’s private number say that voicemail is full.’
The back door was open and ajar. That is never a good sign. Subsequent search of the building left little doubt as to the fate of Maitland Russell, Sharon Fisher, and the rest of the employees of Kingsport Salvage. When the team reached Maitland’s office, they were faced with a grizzly scene. The corpse of Maitland Russell was tied to an office chair. He died from what can only be seen as a combination of stab wounds and a variety of tortures. He was pointed in the direction of the east wall of the office where the corpse of Sharon Fisher, the company’s receptionist (and reported love interest of Mr. Russell) was suspended from the celling by her wrists. It appeared that every bone in her body was shattered. Chardonnay saw this as a ritualistic voodoo interrogation session, where Ms. Fisher was used to try and gain information from Mr. Russell, and when that failed, Mr. Russell was flayed in a variety of ways. Based on the smell, and other forensic clues, Marc and Andy agree that this all happened sometime last Sunday. Chardonnay also noticed the empty space where a 4’ x 4’ object once inhabited.
Bethany checked Maitland’s desk and computer. The computer had some information on the Mayan Talking Cross and other related research. None of this was new to Bethany. In the middle of the desk was a leather bound journal with the eagle of the Third Reich on the cover and the numbers 743 among the German words. It looked like the U-Boat’s log book. Since nobody spoke German, translation of that document would have to wait. Also on the desk was a Big Chief legal pad that Maitland apparently used to doodle on. Written over and over were the words; voices, we all die, kill them all.
Rita noticed the chart on the wall opposite Maitland’s desk. At a point approximately 30 miles off the coast was a pin with a set of precise coordinates and the tag; ‘U-743’. ‘I’m pretty sure this is where your submarine is.’ Rita told the group. ‘I can get us out there if one of those boats is in working order.’ Rita was full of surprises. Not only a field medic, but also able to operate an ocean going vessel.
Bethany indicated that based on her search of the desk and computer, that there were probably video cameras and documentation of the salvage operation on one of the boats. She showed the group a downloaded video of the initial find of the talking cross. From the video, there were about four other employees of Kingsport Salvage that were unaccounted for. In the hold of what appears to be a vintage WWII submarine, a 4’ x 4’ crate was opened. The contents of the crate glowed a dull golden glow and looked remarkably like the cursed tattoo marks on each member of our group’s left hand. According to the video, the top of the crate was probably still on the boat and it looked like it had writing that might document the artifact’s origin.
Rita was first out to assess the two boats and found that they both were able to make it to the map coordinates and back. The near boat, ‘Rum Runner 1’, looked like the boat used for the U-boat salvage. There was video equipment and scuba equipment that was recently used. The rest of the party joined Rita aboard the Rum Runner to study the video of the salvage. Deputy Andy called in the crime scene to Sheriff Murthay and called Freddy Hsu to come over and pick up the bodies.
Andy had just boarded the Rum Runner when he noticed a Black SUV drive up. Two people wearing black, carrying assault rifles exited the back. ‘Um, guys, I think that we better leave now.’ Andy said, pointing to the SUV.
Rita fired up the engines and Bethany and Marc untied the moorings. The ruckus brought the attention of the two mercenaries searching the building. They came out of the building in a hurry and trained their weapons on the Rum Runner. They shot wide, hitting the zodiac that was tied to the stern of the ship. Marc, on the other hand struck hard and true, pumping three shots into one of the mercs while Flint’s crossbow took out the other one with a well-placed bolt through the eye. Thinking that they had defeated their foes, Marc yelled up to the cockpit for Rita to slow down, but then when he saw the third mercenary appear carrying a RPG, he changed his mind. ‘No, faster, floor it!’ Marc thought that he probably should have bought some higher power ordinance from Honest Vinnie yesterday.
Biff was tired of being outdone by the suit and the crazy guy. He had a mother-effin’ harpoon gun. ‘DIE MOTHER FUCKER!’ he yelled as he stood up and took aim on the RPG toting mercenary. Biff lined up and took his shot, sending a harpoon into the aft wall of the Rum Runner.
The sheer spectacle of Biff’s move must have affected the mercenary. He shot his RPG wide and over the Rum Runner. Marc, Flint, and Andy took aim on the mercenary and dropped him as well. Marc told Rita that he thought they got them all and that she should turn around and go back to the salvage yard’s dock.
Having heard the exchange on his headset and the subsequent silence, the driver of the SUV exited the vehicle and went to assess the situation. This situation caught them all by surprise. He rushed out to collect the radios from each body and then quickly made his way back to the SUV, via the salvage yard’s office, where he took a picture of the map on the wall. The driver managed to lose any potential tail and effectively escape.
Once the group realized that the SUV got away, they decided to drop Andy off at the Salvage company to help Freddy and Sheriff Murthay and proceed to the salvage site indicated on the ship’s GPS system. Rita deftly piloted the Rum Runner to an off-shore salvage platform. Tied to one side of the platform was a German U-Boat with the numbers 743 on the conning tower. The boat was in remarkably good condition, except for two oddities. One, was the large whaling harpoon tangled in the main screw of the U-Boat and secondly was a large blast hole on the aft quarter of the boat. Rita mentioned that it looked like the result of a small shape charge placed on the exterior hull of the ship. Again, the Waffle Hut waitress impresses the group with her knowledge.
The salvage platform was empty, save for three or four bloody smears where it looks like bodies might have been dragged and thrown overboard. It was quiet. The group went to search the sub, while Rita prepped the Rum Runner for the trip back to Kingsport. She topped off the fuel tank and maneuvered to make a hasty exit if need be.
The interior of U-743 was remarkably well preserved. Apparently the hole in the hull was only enough to destroy the engines, ballast tanks and to scuttle the ship. The mid and fore sections seemed water tight. The sight aboard the crew sections was downright creepy. In what appears to be blood, the German words for ‘die’, ‘voices’, and ‘dead’ were written on the walls and instruments. In the cargo hold the gang found the top to the 4’ x 4’ crate, and indeed it did catalog where the crate came from. Marc took a picture of the lid for later translation, while Bethany used her smartphone to translate some of the words. The words HMS Desire and Cumani seemed to indicate an origin. The gang also searched the captain’s cabin where they found a very nice Luger that was issued to most U-Boat captains during WWII. They also collected any information that might help determine where on the eastern coast the U-Boat might have landed.
Back aboard the Rum Runner, Rita made way back to Kingsport. The sun was hanging low in the sky and Chardonnay was appreciating the view as they pulled further away from the salvage platform. ‘What is that?’ She said, pointing to the northeastern sky. The group followed her gaze to see a white contrail arise somewhere off the northeastern Kingsport coastline and something level off an move faster and faster toward the salvage platform.
Rita immediately recognized the Harpoon over the horizon, anti-ship missile and pushed the ship’s throttle to the stops, lurching forward with a blast of power. The missile hit the submarine and salvage platform, sinking U-743 for a second time. Whoever shot that missile must have used the coordinates retrieved from the salvage company’s map. That means that the black SUV, the missile, the assault on the crypt where the cross was held for a time, the HMS Desire, and the name Cumani must all be related. Wednesday will prove most interesting.
As per the leaflet from the Kingsport Pirate Museum:
REGINALD CUMANI. Red Beard Cumani was an Albanian aristocrat who funded a small fleet of frigates between 1695 and 1724. His most famous ship was the Desire, and its captain Thomas Cavendish. Cumani was a slave runner who turned his slave fleet into a privateering fleet when the slave trade dried up in New England. His family adopted legitimate merchant interests that continue today.
Helen Marsters finished her morning Pilates class and saw that there was a message from Annie on her phone. James said that she was in Kingsport visiting Irma and that she’d be home soon. While unsettling, the thought of a short visit to see her grandmother wasn’t an awful idea. This doesn’t mean that everything that Jessica told her will come true…
The full moon fell on the still water making their approach much brighter than it should have been. They couldn’t wait for the right conditions. Tonight was the only night that The Desire was docked in Kingsport. They approached from the aft port quarter. Young Jessica held the dark lantern that Dr. Sturrage gave her before they left. Its odd green light was barely noticed by the rest of the team.
‘Let Francis, Thomas, and Jeremiah battle any creature that you see.’ Dr. Sturrage told the 17 year old Jessica. ‘All you have to do is shine the lantern directly at the cross and that should close any portal that was opened. That should be enough to prevent the appearance of Daoloth.’
Their approach was unseen and the reason became quickly apparent. When the three men and Jessica climbed aboard, they saw what served as crew aboard the Desire, the reanimated corpses of the slaves that once perished aboard the ship. They almost managed to get to the hold before they were spotted. Luckily, the zombies were rather easy to put out of their misery.
The hold glowed with a shimmering golden light. The pirate, Reginald Cumani, stood at an alter where he held a chalice. He was collecting blood from a fresh female corpse that lied naked on the stone tablet. Across from the alter was the source of the light, an ornate 4’ x 4’ cross of gold. That was their target.
This was not going to be easy. Aside from the insane pirate and a hand full of zombie crew, were two creatures that the team knew to be MiGo, servants of the Old One, Daoloth. Jessica’s task was clear. Let the men fight the creatures while she was to go to the cross and shine the lantern at it for no less than 2 minutes. The light from the lamp should seal any portal that was opened. Then, if they survive, they should bury the cross in the cold of the Atlantic.
The battle was fierce. Jeremiah Glass was the first to fall, a victim of Cumani’s poisoned cutlass. He was a brave soldier. He singlehandedly took out 6 zombie crew and seriously wounded the Pirate. Thomas Carver was the next to fall, but he took one of the MiGo with him. Frances Marsters fought on, giving Jessica the time that she needed to seal the cross.
‘Go! Now!’ Frances yelled to Jessica. ‘I’ll hold them off. At least you can make it to safety.’ Frances pushed Jessica toward the door as he grabbed an oil lantern and threw it to the floor by the cross. The floor erupted in flames. Jessica ran to the deck, clutching the lamp. Frances was fighting the last MiGo and backing his way down the hallway, following Jessica.
Jessica almost made it off the ship unscathed. When she emerged onto the deck of the Desire, a member of the zombie crew plunged a sword into her side. She screamed in pain. Frances spun around and sliced the zombie’s arm off. Jessica ran to the side of the ship and jumped into Kingsport Bay. The last thing she saw was Frances killing the last MiGo, just as the MiGo killed him.
Jessica washed up at the Hog Island Lighthouse, almost dead, still clutching the lamp given to her by Dr. Sturrage only a few hours before. It was Dr. Loew who found her on the shore. He brought her into the lighthouse where the two other members of the Servants of Bast were waiting. She looked at Dr. Sturrage and said. ‘The lamp worked. I closed the portal, but we couldn’t take the cross. Hopefully the fire scuttled the ship.’ Jessica coughed and glanced at her hand. ‘Look, the curse, it’s gone.’ With that, she died.
When she first heard the story, from the shimmering apparition of Jessica Whitehouse, she was terrified, but the truly frightening thing was what the ghost then told her. ‘Helen, my grandniece, it will be your daughter’s burden to see this task through. Don’t forget to tell her about the lamp. Have her make our family proud.’
After that day atop the Hog Island Lighthouse, the day she learned her fate, the day that bitch Marge teleported her there, Helen vowed that she wouldn’t expose her daughter to that kind of terror. She convinced her parents to move out of Kingsport. Her older sister, Cornelia, insisted on staying behind. She said that she would continue the fight and protect her younger sister.
As Helen listened to Annie’s voicemail, her world crumbled around her. She realized that fate could not be side stepped…
‘Hi mom.’ Annie said in an overly chipper voice. ‘I’m having a wonderful time here in Kingsport. I just saw Aunt Cornelia and Cousin Pete. Rita’s taking good care of me and she even let me drive to Aunt Cornelia’s house. I’ll tell you all about it when I get home. Love you!’
‘Shit, if Rita’s guarding Annie, she must be really in trouble.’ Helen thought as she got ready to help her daughter meet her fate head on.
‘Irma, I know it’s happened.’ Helen said into her phone. ‘I’ll talk to James, but I think that we need to tell Annie everything.’ Helen was near tears at this point. ‘You have my description of the meeting that I had with Jessica, you know, the one that described her death. Annie needs to see it. She also needs to go to the lighthouse to talk with Jessica’s ghost in order to find the lamp.’ She listened a while. ‘I see. I know that you trust Rita, and, er, the rest of them. Who else is with her?’ Helen listened some more. ‘Glass? Carver? Are they? Really. I guess that fate really can’t be avoided. I know there’s nothing more I can do. I’m glad that these people seem competent, even the crazy one.’
‘Annie. I just got your voicemail.’ Helen said calmly. ‘I’m glad that you are having a good time. Tell me all about it when you get home. Tell Rita that I remember what it was like to babysit her, so stay out of trouble. You need to call grandma Irma as soon as possible. It’s very important.’
With that, Helen put her phone in her purse and she made her way home. James would not be happy, but he’ll understand. He knows the family history.
Annie called Irma and told her that she’d catch up with her tomorrow morning. She held a stack of Robert Pattonson DVDs and went to the couch to hunker down for a ‘girls’ night with Rita and a big bowl of popcorn. The knock on the door interrupted the opening credits. It was Biff, coming over to see how the girls were doing. Rita wasn’t having any of it, but let Biff in just to be nice. ‘You’re out of here by ten buster.’ She told him as they walked up the stairs.
Having survived the sparkly vampire story, Biff got up to leave. Annie told Rita that she’d walk him down and lock up. When they got to the bottom of the stairs, they decided to investigate the curio shop. They looked around at the junk on the shelves. The first item that they came across was a small leather bound book, entitled ‘The Map of the Mind’. Annie opened the tome and quickly put in her pocket, feeling the need to always have it by her side, deflecting any questions from Biff about what the book was.
Next they saw an old fashioned formal blue velvet magician’s cloak. Biff tried it on and Annie said; ‘Woah, just like Harry Potter.’ Biff said; ‘What?’ ‘When you put the cloak on you just faded into the shadows. Here, let me try.’ Annie took the cloak and put it on to show Biff and she proceeded to meld into the shadows. ‘Wicked.’ Biff said. ‘We need to keep this.’ He added, folding the cloak and putting it in his pack.
The third item that they found was an old time radio. ‘I wonder if this works?’ Biff said as he turned on the knob.
Flint had the desire to go have a discussion with his friend Bob this evening. Not wanting to traverse Kingsport in his Vespa, he called a taxi and asked to be taken to the Kingsport Agricultural Station. It was almost 9 pm when he was dropped at the front gate. Flint asked the driver to come back in an hour. He tipped the driver well and sent the cab on his way.
‘I’m sorry sir, but the facility is closed for the evening.’ The guard told Flint. ‘Look, I’m here to see Bob. He should be expecting me. Please call down and find out.’ The inebriated Flint replied to the guard. After a couple of minutes and a few transfers, the surprised guard handed Flint a visitor’s pass and directed him into the building.
Flint was brought to a security door that said ‘BL 4 Facility’. His escort entered the code; 07528 and told Flint to meet Bob in the first room on the right. That code seemed familiar to Flint. It was the code given to him on a post-it note in that batch of ‘intel’ that he got prior to coming to Kingsport. He wondered if ‘Bob’ was just playing with him at this point.
Flint descended the stairs to this ‘laboratory’, noting the sign at the bottom of the stairs that indicated cows to the right and plants to the left. Under the sign was a typical ‘NO’ traffic sign (red circle with a diagonal slash through it) that had a picture of a cow, a lightning gun and a lightning bolt within the circle. Well, that does make a lot of sense, given current events here in Kingsport.
Flint took a right and then the next left into what seemed a normal stanchion style cattle barn. Two lines of ten cows were held by the head in the stanchions. Out of each cow’s head ran a glowing fiber cable that attached to a box on the ceiling. A larger glowing cable ran from that box to a big console at the front of the barn. Seated at the terminal, watching 3 Stooges DVDs on a portable TV, was Bob.
‘How they hanging big guy?’ Bob asked Flint. Bob’s speech forming in Flint’s head. ‘Would you mind explaining this setup?’ Flint asked. ‘It’s our mainframe. Cows hooked together in series and then in parallel give a powerful and unique processing capability. Sorry about the ‘Mad Cow Disease’ by the way. It’s more hype than anything else really. Do you want to see the bottling facility next door?’
‘Sure, show me the bottling facility’. Flint replied. He thought that his next book was essentially writing itself.
Bob took Flint down the hall to the ‘plant’ side of the building. The room he walked into was unique to say the least. The middle of the room contained ten huge, mutated carnivorous plants. Above the plants were pipes that dropped human body parts into the gaping maws of the plants. Inserted into the trunks of the plants were tubes used to collect the sap. From the plants, the tubes led to a large machine that Bob called the distillation unit. From the distillation unit another pipe led to a machine that Bob called the bottling unit.
‘Before you ask, it’s all legal. These parts are obtained from the morgue and funeral home. We have all the proper paperwork.’ Bob said. Flint wanted to try a bottle, but Bob told him that it wouldn’t sit well in a human. The MiGo use it to enhance their fertility rituals, or as Bob would say; ‘It helps get the yang up for our folk.’
With that, Bob showed Flint out of the lab. On his way out, he handed Flint his lightning gun. ‘Here. You might need this. It only has ten shots, and please be careful. Keep it away from cows.’
Chardonnay spent the evening in luxury. She treated herself to a spa treatment and massage. Following some delightful deep tissue work by her masseuse, Brian, Chardonnay returned to her room to find a note had been slipped under her door. The note had the same envelope and paper as the note that she received when she first arrived.
We need to talk. Bring your ‘group’ back to the Horticultural Society and I’m sure that we can come to an arrangement.
Marge was worried. It was 7:45 am and Rita hadn’t showed up for work and she isn’t answering her phone. Something must be wrong. ‘Otto, you’re in charge. I’m going to find Rita and Annie.’ She said as she left the Waffle Hut. ‘Sure thing boss.’ Otto said as he took off his apron and moved to the front register.
It was a quick one and a half block sprint over to Kingsport Curios. When Marge walked in, she knew right away what the problem was. ‘Damn Radio’ She muttered to herself.
Biff and Annie sat transfixed in front of a 30’s era radio. Rita stood motionless 3 feet away from them as if she was stopped in mid stride moving toward them. Marge figured out that that must be the radius of the radio’s effect, approximately ten feet. She skirted the wall of the shop and moved behind the cash register on the right side of the building. Under the counter was a jar of earplugs. She put in the earplugs, and then made her way to the radio, turned it off, and moved it back to its shelf.
‘Serves you right for playing around in the shop. Rita, you should have known better.’ Marge said. ‘I know. It was dark, and I didn’t see until it was too late.’ Rita replied. ‘Come on. Rita has work to do, and you two need to start your day. Let this be a lesson to you. Just be glad you didn’t get into something more lethal.’ Marge lectured, shooing everyone out of the store, not giving anyone time question much.
‘It’s after 8 in the morning, and the gang is waiting at the Waffle Hut for you.’ Marge said, anticipating Annie’s question. Annie and Biff shrugged it off and just went with it. The last thing that they remembered was listening to an old time radio show when Biff turned on that odd radio. What a strange start to the day. Biff’s counting it as a win. He got to spend the night with a hot chick.
When the group finally convened at the Waffle Hut, most were in mid-waffle. Flint was soaking up a large stack of hang-over curing waffles (at least that’s what Cookie told him) and the rest were feasting on a good breakfast. Rita started to work her morning shift and told Annie that she’d meet them around 10 am when she was done. Annie and Biff told them about the funky radio and Biff’s new cloak. Chardonnay showed everyone her cryptic note. Bethany and Marc had uneventful evenings.
Rita pulled Otto over and asked him to translate the log book from U-734. Based on the translation and the coordinates that were provided within the book, it looked like the submarine met the Cumani family somewhere along the coast north of Kingsport.
The plan of the day was to pay a visit to Irma, and then stop by the police station to see if they could persuade Sheriff Murthy to let them borrow one of the boats from Kingsport Salvage so they could scout the northern shore of Massachusetts.
Sheriff Murthy looked at the map where Bethany and Rita were plotting the course of the German U-boat. It looks like it’s somewhere near the Ashton estate. He was hesitant to ‘loan’ out the boat from the salvage company, but seeing as Rita was going to skipper it and knowing that the group’s work would help in his investigation of the deaths at the salvage company, he finally consented. ‘Just bring it back in one piece.’ He said as the gang left his office.
Flint noticed the painting of the MiGo right off. ‘Why do you have this?’ he said. ‘It’s a vision I’ve been having. I see the MiGo coming out of the cross.’ Irma replied. She then looked over at Annie. ‘I spoke with your mother yesterday and she thinks it is time that you see this. She gave me this envelope the day after she had her encounter with the ghost of Jessica Whitehouse. In light of current events, I think it’s high time we find out what happened that day.’
The letter contained the story of how a young Jessica Whitehouse found the cross over 250 years ago. ‘Well, the path looks clear to me. You need to go to the top of the Hog Island Lighthouse and try to communicate with Jessica. You need to find the lamp.’ Irma told the group.
The group met up with Rita at the Woolworths for lunch. Chardonnay, feeling the need for something to defend herself with bought a new tire iron and an aluminum baseball bat. Lunch was uneventful. The gang filled Rita in on the plan to get the boat from the salvage company, go check out the lighthouse, and then travel along the coast in order to find the coordinates of the cove that the U-boat came from.
The lighthouse was only accessible via the bridge from the northern shore of Kingsport harbor. Rita parked the boat across from the Pirate Museum and they walked the couple of blocks to the lighthouse bridge. When they got there, they saw a chain that said; ‘lighthouse closed for private NEPS event’. Walking over the chain, the group went to the front door of the lighthouse and knocked.
Mary Warren answered the lighthouse door. ‘I’m sorry, but the lighthouse is closed for our event this evening. We have a lot of equipment that has been setup here and aren’t letting anyone in.’ Marc flashed his badge, but Mary continued. ‘I don’t think that you have jurisdiction here, but at any rate you need to talk to Giles Corey at the New England Paranormal Society, just up the road about two blocks.’
When the group arrived at the NEPS building there was an argument happening between a tall elderly man in clergyman’s garb and a gentle man in his mid-30s. The reverend continued to berate the younger man. ‘Giles, what you are doing is an abomination. You’ve turned our organization into a cheap whore, selling it out to the public as a kind of side show act. We’re better than that. You know how serious things can get and you’re selling tickets to this ‘ghost hunt’ as a kind of amusement park ride.’ With that, the elderly man pushed by the group and left the building in a huff.
‘I’m sorry that you had to see that.’ Giles Corey told the group. ‘Reverend Burroughs is a good man and an important member of NEPS. So, I hope that you’re here about our exciting ghost hunt tonight at the lighthouse?’
The gang decided that it would be best to just buy 6 ‘discounted’ tickets to tonight’s ghost hunt than to try and talk their way into the lighthouse. They only had to wait around a few hours and in the meantime they could go over to the pirate museum and find out if Stewart Ross had any information on the Cumani family.
Stewart Ross was a cagey sort of fellow. He was the type of person who seemed to be connected to everything, but only enough to have plausible deniability about such an association. It was a little after 2 in the afternoon and things were quiet at the museum. Ross said that there was little history about the Cumani’s after the mid-1700s. Rumors and innuendo abound about their family still being active today in the Kingsport underground, but there is no proof.
Flint reached for his wallet and pulled out $200. ‘Would this help locate some information on this issue?’ Flint asked Ross. ‘Hmm, let me see.’ Ross said as he palmed the $200. ‘I’ll be right back. Let me check some files.’ A few minutes passed. He returned with a triumphant smile on his face. ‘I was able to locate one bit of information. It seems that in the early 1800s, the Ashton family name became synonymous with Cumani.
Armed with that knowledge and a visit to the local ice cream establishment, the group made their way to the lighthouse for the evening’s ‘ghost hunt’. Hopefully, they can be left alone enough to make their way up to the top of the lighthouse, find the lamp, and get on with things.
The evening started off slowly. In addition to the six member s investigating the curse of the talking cross, there was Mary Warren from the NEPS, the three GhostFacers, and four additional individuals who purchased this ghost hunting excursion. There was much ‘eye rolling’ (especially by Bethany) as the visiting ghost hunters from California, the GhostFacers, were demonstrating the equipment. Ed Zedmore and Harry Spangler were egotistical and overbearing. Ed’s sister Maggie seemed competent as she quietly demonstrated the equipment.
About midway into the GhostFacers’ presentation, the Reverend George Burroughs burst into the main floor of the lighthouse’s residence where the presentations were being made. ‘You all have no idea what dangers you will face in this line of work. The only way you will learn is if I show you!’ With that Reverend Burroughs exited the lighthouse, slamming the door behind him.
Soon after the dramatic exit, the doo began to glow blue and strange things started to happen. Ghosts started to appear, spectral images of humans, dressed in old fashioned garb, seemingly oblivious to the people around them. Then in the room leading from the main hall to the lighthouse, 3 more apparitions took shape. These apparitions were different from the ghostly ones. These were only unformed spectral mass that glowed dark blue. To make matters worse, 5 skeletons walked out of a nearby closet and started attacking those close to them.
Flint tried the main door. It was not budging. He took out his lightning gun and fired it at the door. The bolt of lightning ricocheted off the door, striking Maggie Zedmore in the forehead, killing her instantly. At the same time, the other GhostFacers were attacked by the three spectral wraiths, causing them to slump to the ground (each of their intelligence stats being reduced to zero for those who are following along in game land). Undeterred, Flint went into the room with the wraiths and tried the door there only to find it barred as well. This time, his lightning gun only sent a bolt through his tin foil hat when it rebounded off the door.
Eventually the skeletons were killed and the blue glow faded from the doors and windows, to be replaced by the sound of bickering. Giles Cory broke into the lighthouse’s main room and yelled. ‘Is everyone alright?’ A quick survey of the situation demonstrated that not to be the case. While the NEPS was cleaning up this mess and calling the police, the gang thought this a good time to make their way to the top of the lighthouse and try to find Jessica and her lantern.
‘Granddaughter, I see that you bear the curse.’ The ghost of Jessica Whitehouse said to Annie. The ghost of Jessica roamed the top of the lighthouse and told them the story of how she died. Then she directed their attention to an old miner’s lantern sitting near the base of the rotating light. ‘Take the lamp. Seal the Cross and then dump it in the Atlantic where it won’t be found again.’
As they left the lighthouse, Sheriff Murthy and Deputy Andy arrived to take the Reverend Burroughs into custody. Freddy Hsu was also there to deal with the remains of poor Maggie Zedmore. The group decided that since it was still early, they would sail up the coast and scout the coordinates that they got from the U-boat.
‘I hope that someone didn’t plant a bomb on the boat.’ Chardonnay said casually. Rita and Marc stopped and looked at each other. ‘You guys wait here while Rita and I check it out.’ Marc said to the group.
Marc and Rita boarded The Rum Runner and checked out the cockpit. Indeed, the ignition was tampered with. They inspected the boat and found a sizeable bomb located in the engine room. This will be tricky, but both Marc and Rita had experience with explosives. They should defuse the ignition first.
From the dock, the group saw Marc and Rita emerge from the engine room. ‘Stay back until we say it’s safe.’ Marc said as they walked back to the cockpit.
‘Okay, red wire, blue wire…. Oops!’
The Rum Runner exploded, throwing shrapnel everywhere. Bethany, Biff, and Flint were hit and blown back. Chardonnay and Annie managed to escape harm. Marc and Rita were thrown from the boat, seemingly lifeless. Annie jumped into the water and deftly brought both bodies to shore. They are both just clinging to life.
The hospital staff wasn’t expecting such an influx of new patients on a quiet Wednesday evening in Kingsport. The survivors from the lighthouse debacle and the boat explosion filled the emergency room. Rita and Marc were the most seriously injured and were rushed directly to surgery. Annie’s quick response prevented the two of them from drowning when they were thrown from the boat, but their injuries were severe. Even with the expertise that the doctors of Kingsport had at their disposal, it would take several days for them to recover.
Biff, Bethany and Flint fared better. They had minor wounds, burns, and lacerations. They were treated and released that same evening. ‘Don’t worry.’ Marge told the bruised and battered group when they emerged from Kingsport General, early Thursday morning. ‘I’ve stationed Otto and Cookie to look after Rita and Marc. Nothing should happen to them. The rest of you are coming with me. Annie, I’ve called your parents to tell them what’s going on. They know that they aren’t prepared for this task, and have left things up to me and Irma.’
‘I’ve also collected your belongings and checked you out of your respective hotels.’ Marge went on. ‘We are all going to stay at my place just outside of town until this blows over. I’ve made some inquiries and have left every impression that the attack on the boat has thwarted your investigation. Tomorrow, I’ll have Marc and Rita moved to my compound and we’ll regroup. They should be fine, however, I wanted it to appear that all of you were much more injured than you were.’
It was a large fenced ranch, with out-buildings and a large farmhouse. By the time that Marge and the group arrived, it was 5 am on Thursday morning. Everyone’s car, including Flint’s RV, was parked in the main lot. Everyone was tired and disoriented from the drive. Nobody had a good feel for where this place was, but a hot shower and warm bed beckoned to them all.
The compound was buzzing with activity. The five members of the group that were brought there early this morning were still asleep when the truck carrying a sedated Marc and Rita delivered them to the medical building within the compound. Given the proper therapy, their wounds should heal in no time.
‘Crow’s nest to Marge.’ A voice said through Marge’s walkie-talkie. ‘Go for Marge’ was the reply. ‘I have some disturbing news.’ The voice continued. ‘It seems that Irma has been kidnaped, and there was a note on her bedside from the Horticultural Society saying the following; ‘Give us all you have on the cross, or she will die’ signed JJ. We think that they got to her early this morning while we all were distracted. ’
‘Marge, just calm down.’ Otto said unsuccessfully. ‘We will get Irma back. We need to heal up a bit and then attack smartly.’ His words were going on deaf ears. Marge sat on her couch fuming mad. She had a variety of ordinance on her coffee table that she was prepping for an assault on the Horticultural Society. ‘I don’t give a flying fuck about what you think. We’re getting Irma back today.’ Marge muttered as she checked over her weapons. ‘Get them what they need and make sure everything is good to go.’ She said, motioning to Biff, Flint, Bethany, Chardonnay, and Annie. ‘We don’t want anyone’s guns to jam during the operation. Marge was determined and there was nothing stopping her when she was in this mood.
Marc and Rita fared better than expected. Their wounds were mostly superficial and they should be up and about sooner rather than later. Both were opting for sooner, having woken up in a strange facility with IVs in their arms and nurses hovering around. ‘Look, I feel fine.’ Marc said as he got up and paced around his room. ‘Get the doc in here, unhook me from these tubes and let me out of here. I have work to do.’ Rita felt the same in the room next door, but expressed herself with much more colorful metaphors than Marc. At any rate, there was nothing more that the doctors could do for them. They were far from 100 percent, but they didn’t need to be restrained, so the doctor showed them where their clothes were and told them to meet up with Marge in the farm house when they were ready.
Flint was dumbfounded. How could they have broken through his security and drove his RV back here? He spent the next hour checking everything and nothing was out of the ordinary, except for a brand new ‘Area 51’ air freshener hanging from his rear view mirror. On the back it said; ‘This RV smelled like ass.
Bob.’ Flint instinctively flinched and sat in his driver’s seat shaking his head.’ At least this explains the package sitting on his nightstand, an energy pack for a Lightning Gun wrapped with a bow and a card saying ‘be more careful next time’.
It was mid-afternoon when everyone met in Marge’s living room. ‘We are going to attack in two groups.’ Marge started. ‘Alpha group, you are the diversion. Chardonnay, Bethany, Marc, and Flint will go in through the front door, using Chardonnay’s note as a pretense for meeting with Joseph. Your job is to keep them occupied while Chaparral group consisting of me, Rita, Biff, and Annie breach the building through the kitchen entrance, using the radio artifact to suppress the response. Otto, will remain in the van and cover our escape.’ Marge outlined the plan in detail and then passed out communication devices and ear plugs so that they could function around the radio’s effects.
The gang armed themselves. Chardonnay took a blackjack and a can of pepper spray and put them in her purse. Flint got out his leather trench coat and worked a way to hide his lightning gun under it. Biff was given three new baseball bats and he decided to also take a sling shot to balance out his weapons. The rest of the group checked their weapons and got in a plain white van that Otto pulled in front of the house. They stopped by the Curio Shop on their way to the Horticultural society to pick up the old time radio artifact. While they were there, Marge took a cylindrical object off of one of the shelves and put it in her pack. ‘Just in case.’ She muttered to herself.
They parked across from the Horticultural Society, out of range from any video surveillance. The two teams exited the van. Chardonnay, Bethany, Flint, and Marc went to the front door, while the other team made their way down the alley to the kitchen entrance.
‘Chardonnay Glass here to see Mr. Joseph.’ Chardonnay spoke confidently to the person who answered the door. ‘He should be expecting me.’ The door opened and the four were led to the bar, where Joseph Joseph was sitting. ‘I see that you’ve come to your senses and decided to work with us.’ Joseph began. ‘Ultimately it is in your best interest to tell us everything you know about the cross.’
Joseph went on and the group did their best to continue the conversation. Since they really didn’t know a whole lot, it was easy just to tell him what they know, making it seem like they were holding something back. ‘We know you have Irma.’ Bethany said. ‘Before we say anything else, we need to know that she’s alive.’
Joseph went to the television and punched in a code on his remote to reveal the feed from a closed circuit camera. Tied to a chair and seemingly unconscious was Irma Marsters. Behind Irma was a menacing plant that moved on three root-like legs. The plant had a long tentacle with a nasty barb on the end which moved to and fro, ever searching for things around it. ‘You see that she’s alive now, but she won’t be unless you talk.’ Joseph said. Chardonnay and Bethany did their best to confirm and repeat the scene that they were looking at for the benefit of the other group, listening through their comm system.
At that point, the silence was shattered by gun fire. ‘Hold them.’ Joseph said to his four henchmen in the bar room, motioning to Flint, Marc, Bethany, and Chardonnay. ‘I’m going to check this out. If I’m not back in 5 minutes, kill them.’
Chaparral group made their way down the alley, stopping just out of range from the video camera trained on the kitchen entrance. Biff got out his newly acquired sling shot and took aim at the camera. His shot kind of did the job. It knocked the camera down so all it saw was the ground in front of it. Rita quickly went to disconnect it. Now they just had to hope that someone wasn’t constantly monitoring it. Marge went to work on the door’s lock, deftly picking it. The team assured that their ears were protected and entered the kitchen. They turned on the radio and it had its desired effect. The chef was frozen in time. Rita quickly tied up the chef and gagged him with an ample swath of duct tape. They then made their way into the dining room, repeating the process.
This was going well. They were as yet undetected and it seemed that the Alpha team was getting some intelligence from Joseph. Irma was more than likely held here in their greenhouse. Next was the society’s ceremonial chamber. Hopefully Marc was mistaken in seeing a mummy lying on their altar. That would make things difficult.
No, Marc was pretty much right on in is account of what was in the ceremonial chamber. Three cultists stood watch over the mummified remains of Muriel Hogwolep, who was lying on the altar in the middle of the room. The large chamber connected to the greenhouse and three other rooms within the building. The radio had the effect of freezing the cultists in time, but the mummy got up and started to attack the group. At this point, the element of surprise was lost and events called for the ample use of gunfire.
The mummy was dealt with fairly easily, although, Rita jammed her Glock in the process. The gunfire brought 7 additional henchmen and Joseph into the ceremonial chamber. The good news was that, the radio did its job for most of them. The bad news was that three henchmen and Joseph were unphased by it.
Joseph motioned to his men and pointed at the radio. At the same time, Joseph pulled out a Desert Eagle and took aim on Marge. Having jammed up her automatic, Rita readied her assault rifle and pumped a burst of three rounds into Joseph’s chest, dropping him to the floor, dead. Biff was able to tag the goon diving for the radio with his bat, but he couldn’t prevent him from falling on and breaking the artifact.
Bethany was able to avoid the grasp of her assailant and make it for her gun, but she was not fast enough to avoid getting sliced by the cultist’s ceremonial dagger. Bethany’s distraction was enough for the others to break free of the grasp of their capture. They disposed of the four thugs and made their way to the ceremonial chamber to help their comrades.
Marc and Flint led the charge, followed by Bethany and Chardonnay. When they broke into the chamber, they saw Joseph lying on the ground in a pool of blood with three other dead cultists and what looked like a mummified corpse scattered on the ground. There were also eight rather upset cultists regaining their senses, brandishing knives at the group.
‘You don’t bring a knife to a gun fight.’ Marc said as he pumped three rounds into the nearest cultist. The fight went on, and even though Marge and Bethany both had weapons malfunctions, and Flint managed to ‘jam’ his lightning gun, the team disposed of the remaining cultists with few injuries.
During the battle, Annie took the cloak that they found a couple of nights ago and stealthily made her way into the greenhouse to look for her grandmother. Remaining under the cloak and trying to be as quiet as possible, Annie made her way to Irma. A large plant was moving quickly behind her grandmother, aware of the commotion in the building, but still unaware of the teenager. Slowly, Annie made it to her grandmother and started to untie her bindings.
Having dispatched the last of the goons, Marge said; ‘Where’s Annie?’ ‘I think that she went into the greenhouse.’ Marc said as he moved toward the glass door.
Marc, Marge and Biff made their way into the greenhouse, a large, overgrown structure, with little rhyme or reason to its existence. It looked like something out of a bad episode of the Adams Family. In the back was a large plant, about ten feet tall, that walked around on three root-like legs. The top of the plant has a large vine with a sharp barb on the end. The plant sensed the three enter the room and lunged for Marge, striking her with its poisonous barb.
Marge was lucky. The Trifid’s poison usually blinds its victim. She managed to ward off that nasty effect. Marge and Marc both shot at the plant to little effect. Biff had had enough. He had a Harpoon Gun and pulled it out and leveled aim at the plant.
‘Die motherfucker!’ Biff yelled as he shot the gun. The harpoon ran straight and true, imbedding itself in the glass wall of the greenhouse above where the Trifid was writhing.
Marc’s gun jammed as he fired at the plant. This was not going well.
Annie managed to remove the restraints holding her grandmother to the chair. Carefully, she lowered Irma down and under the cloak. She was unconscious but still alive. Quietly, Annie carried her grandmother toward the ceremonial hall, where her other friends were tending to their wounds.
Flint aborted his search of the ceremonial hall when he heard the commotion in the greenhouse. He had found an interesting box that he would investigate later on, but now he had to go help his friends. He looked at his broken Lightning Gun and found that the energy pack wasn’t seated properly, so he was back in business.
Flint ran into the greenhouse and saw Marge was injured, Marc was cursing at a jammed pistol, and Biff was running toward the menacing plant with his bat. Flint said; ‘Stand back!’ and fired at the plant, frying it with one shot.
Rita stayed back to tend to Bethany’s wounds while Flint and Chardonnay thought it best to search the ceremonial chamber for clues. Chardonnay found a tiny onyx cat statue under the altar where Muriel Hogwolep was resting. The cat was cold to the touch and gave her a very depressing feeling when she held it. ‘I don’t want this.’ She said as she put the statue back under the altar.
The dust began to settle from the afternoon’s battle. Flint called Deputy Andy and told him what happened. Andy said he’d be right there. Flint thought that with all these dead bodies, Slurm production would increase at the Alien Depot. Bob should be happy.
Bethany was bandaged up and Irma was revived. It would seem that Irma suffered permanent blindness from the attack of the Trifid. Otherwise, she should be okay. Flint was sitting in the corner, working on a puzzle box that he found. He seemed dazed, a bit more crazy than normal. As people have learned around Flint, it’s best that you don’t disturb him, especially when he has a crazy look on his face.
‘Alright, let’s get back to the compound and plan our next move.’ Marge said. ‘We need to heal up and put the pieces together.’
‘Hey, what’s this cat doing here?’ Chardonnay said, looking into her purse. She took the cat and put it on the altar with a distinct thud.
Flint looked up with a crazy smile on his face. ‘I know what we have to do. The puzzle box showed it all to me.’ He said, dropping the box on the floor. ‘I’ll tell you all about it on the ride back.’
Chardonnay was happy to be back in the van. A hot bath and a warm meal would be welcome after this afternoon’s adventure. She looked in her purse. What was that cat doing in there again? ‘This can’t be good.’ She muttered to herself.