“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.