Majestic 11

Episode L2
The Demon of Guangzhou

Li Long flies swiftly to an altitude of 1000 feet. He can see the city of Guangzhou ahead. Some of it is on fire. Some is smoking. Some is in ruins. The city center has simply disappeared, with a large smoking crater in its place.

Japanese troops ring the city, with prisoner pens and various vehicles. In the bay are a few warships, including a particularly massive battleship with a peculiar bow section.

The restaurant was fairly near the center of the city. Li Long flies quickly, hoping that…

There it is, not a block or two from the edge of the crater. It’s still standing. There are bodies on the street. A few of them are in Japanese uniforms, but most are simply Chinese citizens.

Li Long lands at the back door. He hears background urban commotion—vehicle noise, some shouts in the distance, the occasional gunshot—but the noises seem far off. It is fairly quiet here. And there are no sounds coming from inside the building.

Looking around to see if he is noticed. Li Long creeps into the house, keeping low and quiet. Thinking “Grandfather I am here!”

The back door leads into the kitchen. Stairs lead up to the living quarters, tight but cosy for a grandfather, father, mother, five boys and five girls. But the father and three of the boys are out with General Chiang now, leaving the younger girls (ages 17, 13, 10, 7 and 4) the oldest son (late 20s, but lame in one foot), pregnant (again) mother and grandfather. Stairs also lead down to the cellar, but someone has moved a tall, wide shelf full of heavy boxes and kitchen appliances in front of the doorway, obscuring the door completely. Swinging doors lead out into the dining room.

The kitchen has been totally trashed. Li Long smells gas from broken pipes. Bags of rice and cans of sauce are spilled all over the floor. Vegetables are tumbling out of broken crates. Shattered glass and pots and pans lie everywhere.

Li Long hear something moving in a pile of vegetables.

Li Long grabs some debris, a stick or something longer,  he nudges the vegetables, trying to discover what may be moving under them. He also tries to remember if there are tools in the house he could use to crimp the gas pipes. 

There’s some plumbing-type tools in the basement, if Li Long remembers correctly. Maybe one of those would work.

Li Long begins gingerly poking at the big vegetable pile.  A bunch of radishes cascades down the pile, revealing an old, gnarled, twitching hand. Presumably attached to a body.

Li Long immediately digs the person out and checks to see that they are alive. 

If the person is “with it” he will ask what happened. If not he will get a tool to stop the gas flow then tend to the person, trying to revive them. 

Following the hand down to the face, Li Long discovers the face of his grandfather buried beneath the produce.

“Li Long…come…Li Long…” he mutters. He is barely conscious. His eyes are open, but unfocused. His face is bruised, and blood is tricking down from his hair.

Li Long, while trying to stop the bleeding, says, “Yes Grandfather, of course.. but come where? Show me the path.”

“Li Long…you’re here? I can’t see…” Grandfather reaches a bruised hand to touch Li Long’s cheek. “I’m sorry…they came…they’re coming back…we couldn’t move your mother…none of your sisters would leave when the attack started…Your brother tried to stop them…I had to
do something…”

The old man coughs, and blood comes up. His eyes start to defocus and his fingers tremble. Li Long begins bandaging the scrapes and lacerations he can find.

Li Long, “Grandfather I am here. Who attacked? Is the family dead or alive? I should have been here. Why are they coming back? What did you do to stop them? What should I do?”

Grandfather struggles to focus again. “Soldiers…your oldest brother delayed them…killed him…mother too…upstairs…couldn’t let them get your sisters’ honor…I remember Nanking…hid them in basement…fed them…” His eyes glance over to a pile of boxes in the corner. Empty boxes of rat poison.

“The soldiers beat me…went away…our ancestors…I see them now…say they’ll come back.” Grandfather coughs up more blood.

“Avenge us, Li Long…Avenge your family…Avenge all China…Save all China…Ancestors say…only you…can save China…” His eyes flicker and his breath starts to wheeze.

Li Long is almost speechless, " Save China? Me?"

“Yes…but you need a weapon…a weapon powerful enough…to defeat and humiliate the entire nation of Japan…and drive them from our land.

“You will cross two oceans. You will find and save the weapon before it is destroyed. And you will do it…with this.”

Grandfather shakily pulls out a coin and gives it Li Long. It’s a strange, foreign coin.

“Take it…save China…you will not…be alone…eyes and the dark…”

He gasps. His arm flops onto the floor.

He has become one of the revered ancestors.

He bows,“ancestors give me strength and never leave me, grandfather guide me and show me the true path.”

Li Long takes a moment to mourn his family then says goodbye to his grandfather.  He keeps his calm saving his rage for those who have destroyed his family and are trying to destroy his homeland.

In a whisper “Ancestors be with me. I am Li Long Feng. Wind of the Dragon. Zephyr. Scourge to those who oppress.”

Li Long looks at the foreign coin and dreams of revenge against the Empire of the Sun and the animals which inhabit it. He does not know how a coin can make a difference but his grandfathers teachings of Tao say, "From small beginning gs come great things. " He reverently puts the coin in his pocket.

To himself, committing it to memory, “Cross 2 oceans. Find and save the weapon weapon before it is destroyed. Save China. Not be alone. Eyes and dark.”

“In time it will make sense”

Li Long looks up from his moment of mourning. Something is strange about the shadows. There seems to be a dim blue light glowing behind him.

Li Long turns.

“Don’t be sad, big brother.” It is the voice of your 12 year old sister.

In the kitchen you see your sisters. They are just as you remember them—except they are glowing, light blue, transparent outlines of themselves.

The oldest, Yun Zhi (Cloud Princess), 15, always dreamy and wistful, with her legs folded beneath her, shrouded in long, loose hair and melancholy. Qiao Shu (Gentle Sophistication), 12, the sensible one, stands alert and encouraging. Hong Dan (Red), 9, paces a bit more irritably than usual. Hun Jiao (Lovely Charity), 6, sits on a countertop, swinging her legs cheerfully. And Xiao-Xiao, just 3, (Graceful Young Lady), holds on to Qiao Shu’s leg, neither happy nor sad, angry nor excited, just staring at you.

“Being dead stinks!,” says Red, stomping across the room.

“It’s fun!” Charity yells, leaping into the air and hovering there while giggling.

“Don’t worry about us, Li Long,” says Sophie. “We have all joined the ancestors. Mother is here too, and Grandfather, and our oldest brother. The ancestors have plans for you, and we are going to keep an
eye on you.”

Princess sighs. “Your coming journey will be long and difficult. Don’t give up hope. You will recover your sanity.”

Grace watches. Her eyes are full of admiration and trust.

“Your ordeal will be over, and your mission will continue, when you cook in the kitchen once more,” says Sophie. “But for now, I think you have visitors.” She looks toward the door to the dining room.

Feng-Li Long (Wind-Power Dragon) bowing to his sisters and with an odd mixture of  feeling; both of loss and gain says,  “My dear sisters – I am grateful for your continued companionship. Please give my humble regards to mother, grandfather, brother, and all the revered ancestors.”

He straightens himself and with a smile thinks of simple times. ‘When I cook again’ eh? Ok.

Li Long turns to face the dining room door steeling himself and calling on the ancestors protection. He moves to confront the intruders confidently;  expecting murderous soldiers.

Li Long enters the dining room through the swinging kitchen doors.

As he enters from the back, the front door closes behind the invaders. Li Long faces them across the dining room. Tables and chairs seem to have been thrown around in what might have been a mighty struggle; perhaps Grandfather and your eldest brother were stronger than you used to think.

Five Japanese men turn to face you as you enter. They are wearing black fighting robes, like something out of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. They all have straight katanas and have the Chinese number 6 emblazoned on their shoulders in white for some reason. Their leader wears a white headband and his hair has a strange magenta tint.

They all freeze dramatically for an instant. Then the leader shouts in accented Chinese. “Gaijin! Surrender yourself at once! Samurai Squad Six! Seize him!”

Li Long will use Air Control to lift the far right Samurai, throw him around the room to gain momentum and slam him into the other two Samurai.

[The ceiling and floor of the family restaurant are intact and sturdy if gouged and littered respectively. A swinging door to the kitchen is in back, and the front doors are in front, and there is a large window in front looking out onto the street. Or, nowadays, the enormous crater across the street that used to be downtown Guangzhou. Above the ceiling is the family quarters, and below is storage. From what your grandfather told you, you’re none to eager to go either place. If you did, you’d probably have to blow a hole.]

The winds whip around fiercely in the restaurant, grabbing at one of the samurai. He shouts as he twirls through the air, tossed by the gale-force winds. Li Long slams him into one of the other samurai.

The samurai leader cocks an eyebrow at this turn on events. He begins to sit back in his chair and watch intently.

The samurai that was kicked over the table groans and starts to move. The one grabbed shakes his head to clear it, and the one he slammed into regains his balance. The fourth reverses the grip on his sword and attacks! Li Long avoids the slash.

Li Long smashes his captive missile against one of the samurai. The held samurai goes limp, his sword clatters away. Te other looks dizzy.

“You worthless idiots,” the leader says. The samurai are chagrined by their leader’s use of Chinese. “Quit playing around and fight!”

Segment 6: 

Two samurais facing you warily, winded but ready for more fight. The captive of the winds seems unconscious. The fourth is dizzy. Their leader is still sitting and watching with some interest.

Li drops the unconscious man, ducks behind the table and snaps his fingers causing a conclusive blast centered on a point between the two alert samurai. The samurai are swept off their feet and fall to the floor, swords clanging to the ground.

The fourth samurai, D, steadies himself on a table. He looks at Li Long, then to his commander, then back at Li Long in trepidation. He readies his sword.

“That is enough.” The samurai leader stands up from his table by the front window. He uses his thumb to loosen his katana in its sheath. “Stand down.” The last samurai squad member lowers his sword from the ready position.

“I am intrigued by your power,” the commander says. “You do well enough against menial underlings. What is your name?”

Li Long stands defiantly and states calmly,  "You may call me Zephyr. Who are you, who do you represent, and why do you attack me in my home? "

“Zehpyr is an idiotic name for an idiotic gaijin. I am Reiji, Lieutenant of Samurai Squad Six. Thank you for confirming that you live here, because we were sent to capture a surviving family member. First, however, I will show you how foolish you are to oppose the Japanese Empire! Come and attack me! Give me your best shot!”

Reiji draws his katana and stands ready.

Li wonders what this Reiji has up his sleeve and why someone would want to capture him, he has no intention of going without a fight, “You say my name is idiotic and you are a member of Samurai Squad Six?! Ha ha ha! Your name means midnight, exemplification, or curious child. I had an exemplary cat named Midnight once, curiosity killed it.”

Li places palms together, calls on the ancestors for guidance, strength, peace and protection, and releases a blast of air directly toward the smug Japanese murderer, trying to push him through the wall behind him.

A powerful, focused blast of wind channels itself toward the waiting Samurai—but he steps to the side. The blast shatters the front window.

“You should have taken an object lesson from your cat, for I am curiosity itself!”

Reiji charges across the distance and slashes, rapping Li Long hard with the flat side of his sword. Li Long feels the ki pressure behind the blow. It feels like being hit by a truck. He is knocked back into the kitchen wall, cracking the plaster and the brick behind it, but the ancestral vortices cushion the blow.

“Interesting. You’re still standing. This might be worthwhile after all.”

Li flip/stand and calls upon the air shield in addition to the ancestral protection. He will then grab and suspend the is “Samurai” upside down using air control.

“I am curious as to why a Napan monster hunts me.”

Winds rip through the restaurant, swirling around the Samurai Lieutenant. Reiji ducks below the winds and out of their grasp.

“Someone has taken interest in your family, Zephyr. As for me, I came on this mission hoping for a true challenge.”

Reiji swings again, and again hits with the flat side of his sword, with the force of a falling building.

“How disappointing,” he remarks, as Li Long wavers into unconsciousness…

…Li Long wakes. He is bound, with his arms tied behind his back, being carried by one of the samurai squad, who all seem to be awake and recovered. Reiji and his squad are walking down one of the streets of Guangzhou.

Reiji notices Li Long’s eyes fluttering. He chatters in Japanese. Then he switches to Chinese.

“Walk, gaijin. You’ll find out who’s hunting you. You might even find out why.” The squad member carrying Li Long sets him down on his feet, none to gently. Li Long is conscious but only just. Reiji gestures for Li Long to precede him down the street.

Li walks and conserves his strength, appear weaker than he is; listening to the ancestors. He hopes to learn about this enemy and not try to escape… for now.

Li goes along with the gloating samurai. They walk him around the edge of the annihilated downtown area toward the docks. 

At the largest pier in the city, a huge battleship is docked. Its sleek gray hull sweeps from the stern to a very unusual prow. Just below the tip of the bow is a round opening, gaping from just under the deck to just above the waterline, like the mouth of the most enormous cannon ever imagined. Steam rises from the muzzle, as if it has been fired recently. Approaching the ship along the pier, Li looks down the gullet of the gun and feels the focused threat of the entire Japanese Empire.

On the other side of the pier is a large ship of some kind, like a large, gray oil tanker, but with an unusual array of antennas. People are swarming around both ships, unloading and performing various maintenance tasks under the rising sun of the Japanese Navy flag. The samurai escort continues to walk Li up the pier toward the ships.

The squad continues along he pier between the cold cargo ship and the steaming naval engine of destruction. Reiji stops at the gangplank leading to the huge tanker. He motions for Li to walk up it. 

The deck of the huge tanker is wide and flat, like the great plaza that used to be at the center of downtown. At one end the crew quarters and bridge loom several stories high, with huge antennae reaching even higher. One of Reiji’s men undogs a hatch in the deck by Li Long’s feet. Reiji motions Li to enter.

Li is hesitant, not knowing if this will be an enclosed space, he starts to sweat and looks nervous. He is curious as to why they have not tried to kill him yet. He enters the hatch after trying to memorize the layout above deck.

The deck is flat, crowned just enough to shed water during a storm. There are several big cargo hatches, each nearly as wide as the ship itself, in a row from the bow to the four story conning tower at the stern. Li is descending down a ladder below a hatch into the darkness below.

Below, lit by acid yellow light, is an open hold, wide enough that Li’s claustrophobia is held in abeyance. For now. Stacked in the hold are what seem to be four levels of cement-walled prison cells with barred doors. Catwalks run along each level, patrolled by guards in uniform, providing access to the cell doors, rather like a maximum security prison (like Alcatraz), but much dimmer. The smell is faintly repulsive, as if the sanitary facilities are a bit inadequate.

“I believe this is your room, Zephyr-kun,” says Reiji. “I thank you for your cooperation.” A prison guard hold open a cell. Reiji motions Li Long into it.

Li looks at Reiji and calmly raises his eyebrow at the -kun… he does not bow, “Can you tell me the name of your Master who now holds me captive?”

“I suppose I can tell you,” Reiji says as the door clangs shut. “You are the guest of General Sato Shunji, a doctor of some renown, I believe. I suppose he will be eager to meet you. I don’t think you’ll be quite so eager though.” Reiji sighs. “Well, back to my boring life. I’d say good luck, but there isn’t any of that here on this ship. Or in China, nowadays. I can’t even get a good fight.” Reiji walks off, leaving Li Long in a damp, poorly illuminated cell to contemplate the future.

He contemplates giving him the fight he craves but he does not want to play all of his cards, he may need them to survive.

He examines his cell and sits in the corner to meditate. 

The cell is a small, featureless room with a crude cot and a bucket. The confined space raises Li Long’s hackles, but he controls himself with the idea that he could leave any time he wanted.

Time passes. Li has no idea how much. The bleak artificial light stays the same. Footsteps are occasionally audible, along with humans expressions of misery, both soft sobs and sighs in the neighboring cells and harsher cries far removed.

Li settles down to meditate and conserve his strength for the fight to come.

Blue ethereal light coalesces in the corner of the room. It resolves itself into the form of your oldest sister, Princess. She is sitting on the floor, long robes and longer hair spread around her. She sighs, and looks up with sad eyes.

“Brother, do not give in to despair about the times to come. We will be with you and help you bear it until you reach your new home.” Tears begin to sparkle on her cheeks. “I would live the coming time for you if I could. But the Ancestors demand it. Stay strong.”

Princess fades out.

After another apparently long period of time, Li Long hears footsteps coming to his door. A guard appears, who bangs on the bars of the door. Behind him comes a small, wrinkled Japanese man, in a small, wrinkled uniform, stooped and wearing very thick glasses. He gazes in at you with what seems to be excited interest.

Behind the wrinkled man is a tall man in strange, regal clothing. He is wearing what looks like large shoulder pads, elongated and pointed out to either side, made of stiff, black enameled leather. A scarlet cape suspended from the shoulder pads almost covers his military uniform completely. His hair has a subtle purplish tint and he carries a staff, topped by a large metal ring that has four smaller rings dangling from it. His eyes remain closed at all times, yet he moves as if he knows exactly where he is and what is around him.

The winkled man grips the bars excitedly.

“Well! How are you do? Do room fit you? Are you well? I can not wait to look at you!” The wrinkled man’s voice wheezes and his Chinese isn’t so good.

Li ponders the words from her sister, “New home”… and …pain…

From the sounds of the moans and screams he can put two and two together. This man is evil, he is Japanese of course, but eviler …

He asks the ancestors to make him stronger and to help him not despair. He take some solace knowing he will have opportunities to extract revenge in the future. If this is his path to that end he welcomes it.

Li replies, “No. I am not well, I am a prisoner against my wishes, as are my people. It is obvious you will soon solidify my low esteem of the Japanese race as you violate me further.”

Li will remain as calm as possible for now.

“Yes, good, okay, you healthy. But now we ready you. Come to lab now. Then eat, rest. Tomorrow fun begin!” He giggles and unlocks the cell door. He motions you outside. The tall caped man stands aside, moving confidently though he apparently can’t see.

Li steps out of the cage. Steps toward the sleep-walking man and waves his hand in front of his face saying, “Are you awake? How do you see? Do you sense color too or just shapes? What’s your name? Do you talk? Can I touch the rings?” Li reaches to touch the rings.

“You eager. Good! You talk plenty soon enough. It exciting!” The tall man doesn’t speak but smirks in a condescending manner. When Li reaches for the rings one of the nearby guards shoves you further down the catwalk leading past the cell doors.

“You show respect Mr. Zero. He bad enemy,” the wrinkled man chuckles. “And I sorry, I too excited, no introduce me. Doctor General Sato Shunji. Please, this way.”

Li is led down the catwalk to metal stairs and down two stories to the floor of the ship. He is guided into a white corridor. A door is opened showing something like a doctor’s examination room, but instead of a bed there is a large chair with restraint straps.

“Go ahead. You no hurt today. Just easy to talk.” Dr Sato gestures you in to the chair.

Li follows,  looking around. He is resigned at this time to see what they have planned. He knows it will not be pleasant. He whispers a quick prayer to his ancestors for strength and guidance.

The wrinkled man sits Li in the large chair but doesn’t fasten the straps. He sits down on a wooden chair facing Li, with the tall man standing behind him. He snaps his fingers at a lab-coated assistant in the room.

The assistant brings a syringe and stabs it into Li’s shoulder. Li’s brain begins to buzz, like the head rush of standing up too quickly. It passes after a few minutes.

Dr Sato begins to talk. Li is pretty sure it’s Japanese, but can’t figure out what he’s saying. He begins to scowl, repeating the same words over and over. He then shouts at his assistant, who brings the syringe over. Dr Sato looks at it, slams it down against the floor, and shouts at the assistant in a high-pitched voice. Li catches the words “nihongo” and “English”.

The lab assistant, terrified, rushes back to a cabinet and brings back another syringe. He administers it the same way, and Li feels another head rush. Then it passes.

“Well, perhaps now we can get on with our conversations without incompetent technicians interfering.” Dr Sato gestures to the lab assistant, who shuffles out of the lab with head held low. “Do you understand me?”

“Do I understand you? No. You and your people’s actions are incomprehensible.”

“Good, good.” Li notices that he himself is speaking more haltingly than usual, and that Dr Sato is much more fluent. Then he realizes they are both now speaking Japanese, and that he understands perfectly.

“You are a very interesting person, Zephyr. Tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from? Who is your family? What is your occupation?”

Li switches back to Chinese, “Why and how am I speaking in your foul tongue?”

Dr Sato continues speaking in Japanese. "Perfect! The serum is my own invention. You are one of the first test subjects, and from your reaction I can tell you understand Japanese perfectly, and can speak it to some extent. You are experiencing Japanese science at work. This is why we are destined to rule the lesser races. 

“You knowing the tongue of your superiors will make our work much easier. Now tell me where you are from, and who your family is, and how you came to have your occult powers over the wind.”

Li continues in Chinese, “You know where I am from. You destroyed my home. You know my family – you killed them all. Why should I be cooperative?”

Episode M6
The Milkman's Gambit

Outside the dingy second-floor window of the Maxwell Special Investigations office, Bayside City drags itself through another sweltering summer day. The street is quiet. As quiet, at least, as the ubiquitous municipal dynamism allows it to be.

Mark leans back at his desk and stretches. The rattling fan half-heartedly stirs the sluggish air. It’s not a day for people to be out stirring up mischief. Too bad, what with the rent coming due.

It’s July, 1940.

His spine hardly aches anymore. Mark had been mildly surprised to wake up at all, much less in a clean white bed in St Lucy’s Hospital. He had wondered if it had all been a terrible dream. But then Stacey had noticed he was awake, and began gushing about panicking when he didn’t show in the morning and hearing about the earthquake and searching everywhere and how dare he scare her like that and the doctors didn’t know if you’d ever wake up and who was that mysterious Greek lady she saw sitting by his bed? She’d saved all the newspapers during the time you’d been in the coma. Eventually she gave you enough peace to read about the freak earthquake downtown that demolished a couple city blocks and left the rest of the city untouched.

But the casts are now finally off and it’s time to get back to work.

If only there was anything happening to investigate.

Stacey bursts in, nervously fanning herself, bringing in lunch. She’d insisted, saying Mark should be resting that leg. She’d taken to looking in on him frequently during the day, as if he were going to suddenly disappear or something.

“I brought Chinese, I hope that’s okay. Everything okay here? Any calls? Well I’m right outside if you need anything.” She turns to go.

“Oh wait. I just saw the weirdest thing. Some guy out there was carrying a trenchcoat. That wasn’t the weird thing, though. It just reminded me. Last night I was out with Jake and there was this guy walking down the street. I mean, it was like the hottest night all year, but this one guy was in this big black trenchcoat and hat, and was wearing these weird red glasses—you know, the lenses were tinted red—and like a necklace with a pendant with a bunch of circly things on it. It was red, too. The pendant. And I thought, who would be out at night like that at night in this heat wearing that kind of weird getup? Weird. He was kind of looking around, too, like he was nervous about being caught or something. Anyway. look at me, rattling on like an idiot. Are you okay? Anything else I can get you?”

Mark thinks to himself: _Black coat?  Red glasses?  Red pendant?  Is this an imposter, or am I sleepwalking with a slightly different get-up?

Well, makes no difference to me.

Nope; doesn’t matter at all.  I can take it, or leave it.

I can …_

“Stacy, where were you and … Jake … when you saw this guy?”

“Oh, we were downtown, on our way to the Ruby Lounge. You know it? It’s on 14th Avenue, across from the Murray building. Say, you don’t think he was up to something dastardly, do you?”

“Could be.  Someone sneaking around is probably up to something.”  I know I am when I’m sneaking around.  “Dunno about ‘dastardly’, though.  Notice anything in the papers about him?”

“Nope. Can’t say I read anything about him in the papers. 

“No, wait. I thought he looked familiar. There was a picture of a guy like that on the Tower Times a couple days ago. You know, that tabloid rag? Trenchcoat, dark glasses, necklace thingamajig. Huh. Didn’t read it, just saw it on the newsstand.

“Anyway, anything I can get you, you let me know, okay?”

Mark does some digging after hours. Turns out they keep back copies of that particular rag at the Public Library for some reason. Your tax dollars at work.

It doesn’t take long to find. “Mystery Man Abduction/Sabotage Plot Foiled.” The article goes on to explain how this mysterious figure disrupted power to the Murray building and set the building on fire, threatening hundreds of innocent citizens, while attempting to kidnap a millionaire child heiress in a plot by the Italian Fascist Mafia funded by Mussolini and the Masonic Templars of Rome. The picture doesn’t look much like Mark in his other form: the man in it is wearing dark glasses (presumably red in the black-and-white picture) and is much broader of build than Mark. The pendant doesn’t look much like the Spirit Sign except for having circle patterns in it.

That night Mark heads down to the Ruby Lounge. People come and go, looking for a good time and generally finding it. The man isn’t immediately apparent.

Mark goes into ‘stake out’ mode. He finds an all-night cafe on the corner where he can see the Ruby Lounge and one of the entrances to the Murray building. The night wears on, people come and go, the waitress gets progressively annoyed as Mark only gets coffee refills.

Around eleven o’clock, Mark notices a man in a black trenchcoat and black fedora walk past the cafe toward the Murray building. The man looks like he’s trying to be inconspicuous and not doing a very good job of it.

Time to go to work.  Mark heads out, leaving his usual tip, and nonchalantly tails the fellow, suspecting a clumsy frame-up, or a trap. He begins to follow the black-coated person, who keeps looking around, hesitates when turning a corner, proceeds cautiously past doorways and phone booths, relaxes a little under the street lights, hurries past the darkest places. After about the third time around the block Mark begins to wonder if the man is actually headed anywhere.

Whenever the mysterious man notices a pedestrian, he glances at them, stares a bit, then continues his walk.

Mark continues to follow until he gets to a well-lit corner. He pats down his coat, hoping for a smoke, but unfortunately his earlier tobacco purge had been quite thorough. No smoke shops in the area. Maybe he should invest in some chewing gum…

Mark waits at the corner. The night is cool, at least compared with the days. Something about the dark sky, and the street lights, and the hushed, disconnected noises of the city…it fits like an old glove.

The man comes back into sight, continuing his nocturnal circuit. Near as Mark can tell, behind the rose-colored glasses, he notices Mark and immediately ignores him.

Mark calls out, “Hey, bud.  What’s with the get-up?”

The man just about jumps out of his shoes.

“What?!” he spins toward Mark, flinching away just a bit. Then he takes a deep breath.

“Buzz off,” he mutters, and resumes his walk.

Mark walks up to him and puts his hand on the man’s shoulder.  “I said, what’s with the get-up?”

“What’s it to you, anyway?” he snarls. The man feels rather beefy under his coat. “Beat it before…Mark?” 

The man slides his red sunglasses down his nose and peers over them.

“Hey, Mark Maxwell. How you been? Feels like a month!” Mark recognizes one of the toughs from the Rusty Nail. “I ain’t doin’ nothin’ illegal, Mark. Just so’s you know. Just walkin’.” He keeps glancing up from the conversation, looking into the night shadows.

“I know; just walkin’.  But, really, what’s with that get-up?  Is that the new style these days, or something?”

“Aw man, would you button it about the costume? It’s embarrassing. I ain’t doin’ nothin’ illegal or anything, just got to meet a guy.” He looks around nervously. “An’ word to the wise, you don’t want to be around if he shows up. I know I don’t. But a job’s a job, you know? I’m hoping he finds one of the others before he finds me, you know what I mean? You’d better amscray if you know what’s good for you. And that’s just friendly advice.”

“A job?  Talking to someone is that dangerous?  They must have offered you a lot o’ dough for this.  Who’d offer a job like that?”

“Well, y’know, Tibia Jones” (a bookie known for a trail of broken legs) "don’t wait forever. I really thought the stupid Hawks would actually win that last doubleheader. They’re due, y’know? But no, still got their crazy losing streak goin’.

“But this job’ll pay him off, and leave some for rent. And maybe I won’t be the guy he finds, and I still get paid. There’s like six guys out there. And you know the job’s for real when it comes from…oh no. I ain’t talking about him. I flap too much about my clientele, I end up with all the chump jobs. Forget it, Mark. No hard feelin’s, but it ain’t worth my skin. The guy I’m lookin’ for is plenty creepy, but sometimes it’s better the devil you don’t know, if you get my drift.”

“Rats.  Business has been slow, and this sounded like a cushy gig.  Oh, well.  Hope you don’t find the guy you’re looking for.”

“If business is that slow, I feel sorry for ya. Hey, maybe I’ll…nah, if he wanted your help he’d ask. Still, if I hear about anybody needin’ a detective, I’ll give you a plug.”

The man wanders off down the dark street, nervously scanning the shadows.

Mark looks for a potential hiding place…there’s an alley nearby. From there, Mark could make his way up the fire escape and along a ledge to the main entrance overhang. People don’t look up all that often, and whoever’s out walking that night should walk right past it.

The next day is fairly uneventful. Stacey leaves early to meet with that Jake guy at the park. Mark hears Mrs McGillicuddy, the landlady, loudly chew out the custodian two floors away. Night falls. It’s time to head out.

Perched over the entrance to the Murray building, Mark looks for the decoy. It doesn’t take long. Here he comes.

The Sigil circles spin and align into the Sign of Thought. The muscle’s mind smells like old motor oil and peanut butter. It squirms in panic until Mark gets a good grip on it.

“Holy catfish!” the thug mutters, eyes wide, trembling. “What’s going on? I feel…I feel…it’s him! He’s…he’s haunting my dreams!” He falls to his knees, covering his head with his arms. “Get away! Get away! Stay out of my dreams!”

Mark picks though the confusion of thoughts. He finds that the job came through an intermediary, but is ultimately funded by the Milkman, a mysterious, feared gang boss. The message is for something nicknamed the Dream Haunter, a terrifying man in black with red eyes and a strange medallion. The message is: “If you ever want to see the elevator girl alive again, be in the skylight study at the Lakes estate at 7:30 tomorrow night.”

Mark thinks: Huh.  I never expected to see the elevator girl again, anyway.

Mark looks through this guy’s thoughts for anything he can find on the Milkman. In the thug’s mind, the Milkman is a shadowy crime boss about whom you don’t ask questions. People who cross him have a habit of disappearing. Nobody knows his real name, and he contacts people through intermediaries.

Mark leaves the thug huddled against the building, terrified but trying to comfort himself with the thought of a finder’s bonus.

He then goes and does what research he can on who this “Milkman” is.

The police stations are still open. After the typical stonewalling and verbal antipathy toward the P.I. trade, Mark works the Conversation with one of the loudmouths on the force around to the subject, and gets an earful of how there is no record of anyone named “Milkman”, just that the word makes the gangsters clam up.

At the Rusty Nail, Mark learns that hinting at speculations about the Milkman is a great way to end a conversation and get a table all to yourself.

The Lakes estate is home to a local self-made millionaire industrialist, a leading citizen of Bayside City. Mark walks past the gated grounds in the night, noticing a night watchman on his rounds. There are no lights on this late at night, but there is a greenhouse-like structure on top of the three-story mansion. 

Floor plans might be available from the county offices, but it might take Mark some really fast talking to get his hands on them. He seems to remember one of those photo magazines doing a shoot on the estate. Maybe the library has back issues. Too bad it’s closed at this hour of the morning.

Well, tomorrow night is tomorrow night.  Or maybe it’s tonight, if it’s morning. Whatever it is, it’s late. Mark heads off to bed.

The next day, Stacey demands to know what’s going on and why Mark is dragging himself in at noon and where is he going off to again anyway. She decides with exasperation that it’s one of those cases, and seriously attacks her nail polishing as Mark walks out to do more investigation.

Ezra Lakes was a entrepreneur during the American Revolution. He made his fortune selling guns to the rebels and supplies to pioneers, and married a young noblewoman fleeing the French Revolution. His family expanded their holdings until they owned a piece of nearly every industry on the eastern seaboard, and then lost just about all of it in the Depression. His descendant Landeau is the family patriarch nowadays, and has gone a long way to restore the family fortune, through a myriad of deals and speculation in every imaginable sector.

The mansion was built back in the 90s outside Ezra’s favorite city. Some say it was on sacred Indian land, some say on a slave market’s boneyard. The layout is fairly conventional, three stories, lots of rooms, with the rooftop greenhouse (which the owners like to call their “skylight”) as the only apparent remarkable feature. It was revamped for modern plumbing and electricity not long ago.

As to the girl, Mark never got her name and has little idea who she might be. Her picture doesn’t seem to appear in any magazine or newspaper articles about the Lakes family from the last few years. Before that, she’d be too young.

The rest of the afternoon, Mark digs into crime patterns. It takes some research, but Mark discovers that compared to other Atlantic cities, Bayside City has noticeably less record of kidnapping and prostitution and more of gambling and gang-on-gang violence, much of which goes unresolved by the police.

It’s getting pretty late in the afternoon—or early in the evening.

Well, here goes nothin’, Mark thinks to himself. Time to set the plan in motion.

Episode I2
Mr Schmidt goes to Washington

Episode I1
The Demon of Bavaria

Things are looking up!

Germany under Hitler is finally taking the dominant place it deserves, and the other countries in Europe know it. The German people in various lands are united. The economy is booming. Germany’s armed forces are unmatched. The people are united, jubilant and ready for anything. The new year will bring victory and prosperity.

It is January, 1940.

Heinrich Wolfgang Lothar Schmidt was studying at University when the letter came; an invitation from the Fuhrer himself to join the Nazi Superweapon program, to help create the new and exciting instruments of war that will make Germany’s greatness unassailable for all time. The other students, and even the professors, were envious of this honor, to be chosen to work at the most exclusive, secluded laboratory complex in all the Fatherland. Yet no one could say Heinrich didn’t deserve it; his ability to grasp obscure scientific principles and turn them to practical use was unequaled.

The day finally arrived. The special train carrying fresh minds entered the walled, wintry compound somewhere in the Bavarian alps. Buildings were scattered within; barracks, labs, power plants, workshops—but looming over them all was a mysterious tower, a thick truncated cone festooned with pipes and pumps and antennas and transformers. No one on the train knew what was going on in there, and none of the officers at orientation could—or would—say.

Heinrich just had to get into that building and see for himself.

But the tower was highly restricted and constantly guarded. The mystery burned as Heinrich learned the procedures and rules and began tinkering on some tedious optics research. But he explored at night, peeking into the other buildings, looking for marvels and finding only obvious improvements of long-known technology—radio detection, encryption, rocketry, radioactive materials, armor and ordnance. Boring.

One night Heinrich found an old, abandoned building from before the Superweapon program was created. His flashlight happened to fall on a curious spot on the floor. Moving some old filing cabinets, Heinrich discovered a trap door. The door led to a tunnel beneath the complex. Heinrich began to tremble with excitement. The tunnel ran in the direction of the mysterious tower.

Heinrich followed it, suppressing the urge to run ahead.

He came to a ladder leading up to a trap door, at a spot that was probably beneath the tower itself. Heinrich climbed the ladder. He pushed up the trap door.

The door lifted up like a manhole. Heinrich slid it to the side and hoisted himself into room above.

He found himself in an old, stone-paneled room with flagstones on the floor. The trap door was shaped to fit tightly with the adjacent stones, so that when it is closed it would be difficult to notice. The wide room had neat rows of lab tables, with many chemical and electrical experiments in progress.

In one corner of the room was a strange, white, capsule-shaped object about half a meter tall and 20 centimeters wide. Thin grey spidery symbols zigzagged around the surface of the capsule. It was hovering in the midst of instruments even Heinrich couldn’t identify.

Heinrich spent nearly an hour studying the capsule and the instruments without making much progress, which was frustrating for him. Then he noticed a pulsing red light leaking under the lab door. The rhythm was very strange, almost otherworldly.

Intrigued, Heinrich quietly opened the door.

Beyond the was a yet larger room, wide, round, and very tall, as it if occupied the whole hollow core of the cylindrical tower. A dozen or so doors led off in all directions, probably to labs or offices or something. The floor was etched in a network of bizarre symbols, lines, and geometric patterns, some of which made Heinrich’s eyes hurt to try to look at.

In the center of the room, the core of the core, a tall metal shell rose. It rose like an elongated bell, maybe 15 meters high and 5 across. There was a one meter gap at the bottom, as if the structure simply hovered in the air. The irregular red light was coming from that gap, as if the interior contained flames. But there was no heat; if anything, it was colder here in the core than in the other lab.

The need to see what was in that bell is irresistible…

Heinrich can’t resist. He peeks under the edge of the bell. The view is dim, and foggy. He steps inside.

The horizon in every direction seems to burn. A wasted black landscape of hills and ancient ruins extends in every direction. The sky overhead is filled with stars of red and green that slip and ooze through the firmament.

It is as if Heinrich had stepped under the bell into a damned world. But a ring, like a round fence, about 15 feet across and 3 feet tall, circumscribes the area he is in. The ring fence is translucent, like blue light filtering in from far-off windows, like the shadow of earthlight in the realm of nightmare.

Sharing the ring with Heinrich, and dominating it, is a massive throne, made of brobdignagian ebon bones. The creature on the throne is man-shaped, skinless, rippling raw muscle over semi-exposed pale bone. Black vapors steam from its body, and its horned, flame-eyed skull head regards Heinrich with malevolent interest.

“I have never seen you, Eye of the Dark Wind.” His voice echoes from the land itself, and from within Heinrich’s marrow. His mind screams to run, but his body is locked in place.

“What shall I do with you?” His hands and feet have not moved. On closer observation, his arms and legs seem to be shackled to the throne with thick black iron bands. Some kind of pipes or hoses seem to emerge from the throne and snake along the ground.

“I have enough pawns. There are many who crave power, and it is a simple matter to bend their wills. Give them someone to blame for their miseries. Give them power to make men afraid—it takes so little. Make them terrify, and kill. And the suffering of mankind fuels my link to your world. My link is now strong, growing stronger each day.

“Do you know that your Fuhrer thinks he controls me? That he thinks he exploits my power to his own evil ends? But I get much more from his evil depredations than he gains from channeling my power. His capacity for causing suffering, for encouraging his followers to spread despair and fear, rivals my own. He opened the gate to me. And he feeds me on human terror. The battlefields of France and Poland are feasts to me, yet leave me hungrier. The banquet will spread through Russia and Great Britain, Africa and the Mediterranean. The torment of his own people, fellow citizens with only the least significant difference in heredity, whets my appetite. Astonishing that one of your own should own such terror. Fortunate that I have been drawn in to exploit it.”

“Yet, you. Only the sane terror of one facing extinction, not the petty, fearful hunger for power. How can I exploit you?

“I shall open your two inner eyes, the Eye of Flow and the Eye of Connection. You shall see, and be unable to show. You shall know, and be unable to persuade. What you see as obvious will defy all language.

“I give you hidden knowledge you cannot share. It will all make no difference. That will be your torment.

“I look with interest to your future, Eye of the Dark Wind. How will you cope with your helplessness? How will you reconcile to your utterly corrupt masters, to whom you are now useless? You are my experiment.

“Your captors approach. Access to me is restricted. I wonder what you will do? How long you will last? This will be quite interesting.”

The hellish world wavers and collapses. Heinrich finds himself on the floor of the core lab outside the bell, dizzy and disoriented. He blinks, and looks around. The lights, the wiring, the light switches—the pipes, the valves, the condensers—the metal, the plastic, the wood—he is aware of everything in the room, the shape it is in, the shapes it could be—the flow, the connections, the possibilities—he is stunned, overwhelmed by the potential links and interrelationships.

It is morning. A door opens. A lead scientist enters, followed by two armed guards. They stop in surprise.

“What are you doing here?”

Heinrich rolls on his side facing the guards and scientist. He says in a groggy voice and looks around blinking, “How did…how did I get here…sir, I was working and…”. He looks around…“what is this place…so strange and…sir, what….I don’t understand…” He “faints”.

The scientist sighs and approaches, flanked by the guards. “Vat a shame. He vas so promising. Take him to the cooler.” The guards pick him up by the upper arms.

Heinrich realizes that things did not go as he planned…he needs some of those supplies and gizmos he saw around the room.

Heinrich tries to wiggle out of the guards’ grasp. The guards lose their grip and knock heads in the struggle. One guard’s legs get tangled in Heinrich’s. He falls down, bumping into the other guard.

“Seize him, you fools!” shouts the scientist. “He’s a Jewish spy!” (He’s always wanted to say that.)

Heinrich scrambles over behind a turbine/generator structure on the cold metallic floor. Cables snake from it over to the Bell. He can see the electrical current patterns running in and through it, and if he yanked a cable here and cross-wired that there…

Wunderbar! Heinrich now holds two highly charged electrodes.

Heinrich jams the electrodes into the floor. Lightning arcs through the floor over to the guards and the scientist. The guard Heinrich tripped drops unconscious to the floor. The other guard and the scientist stumble around in their smouldering clothing, regathering their wits. The guard is furious, the scientist alarmed.

Heinrich gives them another dose of electrical punishment. The scientist and guard join the other guard, collapsed and twitching on the floor. Their slight groans tell Heinrich they’re still alive, but out of commission for awhile.

Still, someone probably noticed all the commotion. What with the lights dimming and shouting and loud zapping noises and all.

Wait. There’s a strange piece of paper here of the floor by the generator. Heinrich is almost certain it wasn’t there a second ago.

Heinrich smiles to himself and scoops up the paper.

Though no alarm bell is ringing, someone might have noticed the flickering lights, or the noise of the fight. Maybe. Certainly if they were in the building. But it could still be pretty early, maybe these three were the only ones here? The clock on the wall says 6:01. Though the only entrance is guarded twenty-four hours. Maybe the guards outside heard something.

Heinrich throws together an X-ray scanner from the generator parts and components from a couple nearby tables.

Nope. Nobody in the building. Two guards outside the front door.

Heinrich finds a map of the tower on the wall; a round floor plan with a circular center room surrounded by various other rooms. The only entrance seems to be from the doors the scientist came from, which lead to a small lobby, which leads directly outside to the compound.


Heinrich visualizes the compound: a group of unconnected buildings surrounded by a fence with barbed wire and a watch tower. Rather like a prison camp, now that Heinrich thinks of it, though with good food, heat, and hot and cold water. None of the doors operate by remote control or anything (though he spontaneously comes up with a couple different ways to wire all the doors to be controlled from a central location. He’d have to install modules at all the doors though).

The downed men don’t seem to have anything interesting on them. The scientist has pens and a slide rule. Heinrich could do something about the soldiers’ weapons, but the unlocked doors are making him a little nervous. He settles for just taking their rifles for now.

Heinrich swiftly jams a couple bullets from one of the guards’ rifles between the outer doors and wires the handles together, then jams the door from the foyer to the central core room similarly. That ought to hold them for awhile.

His thoughts are on escaping, but he first he begins pulling critical components out of the various devices that regulate and monitor the Bell. Some he stashes for future use in a satchel found lying under a table. Others he fuses using his electrodes—now released from the bulky floor-mounted generator but working perfectly fine—tdoing subtle acts of sabotage that will require the maximum repair effort. He also sets up a few short circuits that just might take down the entire base’s power grid if the sabotaged devices are turned on.

Oh, wait. There’s that paper he found again. Huh. That oval design kind of reminds Heinrich of that white capsule in the other lab with the trap door. Wonder what it means.


Heinrich finds a helmet he can mount his X-ray projector to, and as an afterthought fits it with lenses and a spectrometer so he can see at a distance, and tiny objects, and in ultraviolet, infrared, and at night. Can’t be too prepared. Heinrich sees a couple ways he condense it down to goggles rather than a helmet, and maybe add sonar and/or radar, but that will take time he doesn’t have right now.

Someone’s banging on the front door. Heinrich smirks as he looks using the X-ray device in the direction of the banging to see about half a dozen scientists and as many soldiers puzzling about the door, trying various keys. More than a few tempers seem to be flaring.

After taking a few more modules from the core lab and setting a couple more power overload traps, Heinrich makes his way back to the lab at which he entered. If people aren’t careful in the core when they finally get in, there won’t be much but scrap metal after the fireworks. Except maybe the Bell. Heinrich has no idea what kind of metal it’s made of, which is disturbing all by itself.

Back in the side lab, Heinrich approaches the white capsule. It is about the size of a tall thermos, and hovers in what is probably an electromagnetic field. Various needle-like probes point at it, attached to fluoroscopes and needle chart machines. However, there are no records of any data nearby. Though there is a pretty heavy (and locked) combination safe under the counter.

Heinrich studies the machinery for a couple seconds, then switches off the main power to the electromagnetic field. The capsule thumps to the tabletop and rolls a few centimeters. Nothing else in the lab or the building (or outside the building) seems to be affected.

It bumps against what looks like a normal telephone handset. The handset isn’t connected to a telephone, though, and has a short, collapsible antenna sticking out from the listening end.

JACKPOT!!! Heinrich thinks to himself.

The capsule seems oddly light. Heinrich can’t tell what it’s made of, or what it’s supposed to do or be. He stows it in his bag. It does kind of remind him of the picture on the note.

The telephone handset looks like the part of a telephone you hold to listen and speak into, like one attached to a normal dial telephone. Except there’s no cord and no dial anywhere. Plus it has an extendible antenna. Heinrich stows that too.

There are lots and lots of interesting things in the lab—that on closer inspection, look kind of boring now that Heinrich thinks about it. He could probably duplicate any of them in a few seconds with the right common household components.

About the only way out Heinrich is aware of is the trap door he entered through. A quick X-ray scan doesn’t show any other ways out. At the front door, some soldiers are starting to pound the door with a fencepost while others are opening up a toolbox. There seem to be two squads standing ready to enter when they get the doors open.

Heinrich takes a couple seconds to open the safe with an improvised electric cutting torch. Inside are several files. A quick flip shows some data plots and reports. They seem to be utter nonsense, but maybe with further study…

Out of time. Heinrich drops down the trap door and shuts it behind him.  The passage goes back to the point Heinrich entered from within the compound, and proceeds ahead to who knows where.

Heinrich takes his new found treasures and returns down the tunnel to the abandoned building he found the entrance of the tunnel in, intent on finding a road vehicle or airplane to escape with.

He casually exits the building. He finds himself in a corner of the research compound as the sun rises over the mountains. The tower is away toward the center, and most of the camp’s garrison is posted around the front doors. The doors have been broken in.

The motor pool is a couple buildings over, though the front gates are closed and guarded and there aren’t any other gates. The building where scientists were working on jetpacks is next door, and right over there is an experimental autogyro hanger. There was a place somewhere around here where they were working on rockets.

Heinrich casually walks over to the rocket development center. There are a few rockets ready for fueling, each about a man-and-a-half tall. They’re pretty light, when empty, so Heinrich carries one over to the autogyro hanger. He goes back for a second one. The compound is starting to get kind of agitated, with scientists and lab assistants milling around the central tower, wondering what is going on in there. Heinrich carries over some rocket fuel tanks, along with four smaller solid-fuel rockets about two feet long.

With all the components in place, Heinrich goes to work. He bolts the two large rockets to the fuselage for extra thrust, then fixes one small rocket to each of the autogyro blades. He has just finished installing the remote electric igniters when someone raises the wide hanger door leading to the camp airstrip.

“Doktor Schmidt!” shouts the surprised autogyro technician as he enters. “Was in Himmel are you doing in there?”

He looks straight at him and squints then nods in recognition (as if he recognizes him).
“I am working on a new proto-type. It should be operational soon.” Heinrich pauses as he adjusts some things. I wonder what the commotion is over at the main doors? Go find out and let me know, maybe I can help over there."

“That is Doktor Vogel’s prototype! What are you doing to it? You don’t have clearance to be in here without an escort!” The mechanic steps into the hangar near a box full of large hand tools. His eyes get wider as he examined the modified autogyro. “What are you doing to it?”

“Herr Doktor Vogel has asked me to make some modifications and am sure he will be pleased, don’t you think?” Heinrich says with a big grin. He gets back to work and is trying to finish as fast as he can.

The mechanic scratches his head. “It’s…rocket powered rotors? You could never…the stresses…the lift to weight ratio…stress concentrators…I can’t believe Dr Vogel would authorize this. There’s no way it’ll get off the ground before self-destructing. Look, Dr Schmidt, we’ve spent months on this prototype. It’ll take weeks to repair what you’ve done. Just…just back away from the prototype, I’ll get Dr Vogel, and we’ll talk it over.” The mechanic picks up a large wrench from a nearby workbench. “Just step back, and we’ll figure this all out.”

The ruckus in the Bell tower increases. Heinrich thinks they probably found the scientist and two guards by now and will be reviving them soon. He ignites the rotor rockets (setting much of the hanger on fire and sending the mechanic running), mounts the autogyro and blasts out the hanger door, over the motor pool and off to the mountains. Behind him, alarms, explosions, and the angry buzz of overloaded transformers erupt from the Bell tower.

The rocket autogyro quickly leaves the camp behind. Heinrich steers it toward Switzerland.

Episode M5
The Demon's Mount

A sharp bang causes Mark to almost lose his footing. The elevator abruptly stops as the emergency brakes kick in. The elevator fell a total of perhaps 2 feet.

The crowd of laughing gremlins above suddenly gasps. After a silent second they scurry in a panic into whatever dark crevices and holes they came from.

Mark is standing on top of the elevator in an elevator shaft somewhere between the 68th and 69th floor of a 70 story building. The door to 68 is blocked by the elevator. The door to 69 is about level with the elevator’s roof; Mark could walk through it if it were open. The door to 70 is one floor above. There are levers and gears and pneumatics on the doors that are activated when the elevator stops at a floor.

There are two sets of maintenance ladders. The counterweight cable for the elevator runs down one side of the shaft; it still seems to be intact, and there’s probably an emergency brake keeping the counterweight from dropping to the bottom. Rails for the car to travel on run on either side of the shaft.

The floors are numbered on the walls. The walls are cinderblock, though the mortar between blocks has a reddish tint to it. There’s some electrical wiring running along the walls, but otherwise the shaft is pretty empty. Where the gremlins came from, or went, is something of a mystery.

Mark finds the locking mechanism and opens the doors to floor 69.

The hallway is dim. It is an normal office building corridor, except that floors and walls are better quality than usual and the doorknobs, hinges, and other fixturings are fairly high ornate—and seem to shed a slight, purplish, otherworldly glow in the low light. Faint moaning and distant shrieks seem to be coming from everywhere and nowhere, almost as if it’s coming from inside one’s own mind. As Mark listens, he begins to make out details of the specific kinds of woe and torment necessary to elicit each type and flavor of painful outcry…better not to dwell on it.

There’s a door next to the elevator labeled “Stairs”.

The building has a fairly state of the art automatic sprinkler system. The sprinkler heads have the same faint purple glow as the doorknobs and hinges. There is a fire hose on the other end of hallway.

Up the stairs Mark goes.

Mark reaches the 70th floor. There’s a door here. The stairs continue to the roof. A pale purple light comes from above. The fire hose on the 70th floor is about halfway down the hallway.

Mark keeps going up.

The top of the stairway brings Mark to the roof access door. The door is shut, but purple-tinted light leaks in around the edges. As Mark reaches for the door handle, tiny sparks like lightning jump from it to his hand. The sparks tingle in a decidedly unpleasant manner.

Mark finds the door unlocked and opens it.

The roof is lit in glaring, flashing white-purple arclight. A capricious wind swirls Mark’s trenchcoat. The stars are bright in a cloudless sky, bright with unnatural color. Gargoyle silhouettes crouch on the verges of the roof. Purple electric arcs scatter across the open roof, clinging and ricocheting from all the pipes and vents. The buzzing drone of a poorly tuned transformer station echoes through the night.

An umbrella rolls by, buffeted by the wind. For some reason, it brings Rabbi Lehr to mind.

Mark’s door faces a wide skylight at the center of the broad roof. To the left of the skylight is the spidery truss of a local radio affiliate’s broadcast tower. To the right the Weaver building’s water tower, a high roofed barrel on thick wooden stilts.

In the center, a man is suspended six feet above the skylight. Flashing, rippling ropes of white-purple lightning curl and loop from the man to the towers to the skylight and back, spilling across the roof and breeding twisting, dancing purple tendrils. Even with the Spirit Sign inactive, the ambient evil causes it to heat and faintly glow.

The man is stripped to the waist, covered with what seem to be burn scars. His hair is wild, his eyes red and wilder. Bloodshot veins have covered his entire face.

“Welcome, Darkness in the Wind’s Eye,” he shouts, over the din of the occult electricity. “I’ve been expecting you. Is your America ready to experience the chaos which is devouring the rest of the world? You’ll have a front row seat!”

He seems to have a lot to say, and only one person to say it to.

I bet I will, Mark thinks.  Sounds like my luck.

Mark stalls a bit, while looking around the roof.  “Somehow, I doubt the rest of the world is covered in random bolts of pastel lightning.  What is it you’re trying to do here, anyway?”  Mark looks for loose pieces of metal, wood, etc. that might be lying about, conductive or non-conductive, though the difference may or may not be important. He looks for something that might do for a giant spear or crowbar, or for rope.

There are a few metal vent pipes sticking up here and there from the roof that are about man-high and a few inches in diameter. No loose pieces of wood; maybe Mark could tear some boards from the little hut thing at the top of the stairs that had the roof access door in it. There is some cabling around; wires attached to a few auxiliary radio antennas. Pieces from the radio tower would make good giant crowbars if you could break some off.

“Surely even you have heard, American, of the upheavals in the world? The wars and massacres raging in what you call Europe and the Far East? Well, your days of peace and security are over. It will be the same here as in Warsaw. Nanking will be repeated in cities across your United States. City dweller versus country bumpkins. Irish versus Italians. Africans vs Caucasians. North versus South. Rich versus poor. There are so many fault lines in your nation. Just the right pressure and one of them will crack, shattering your society into tiny fractious pieces.

“And it starts with the Military Base in your municipality, American. I destroy that, and out of fear the social order unravels until a strong, ruthless dictator seizes control. It is as inevitable as an avalanche.

“Besides, I made a deal. This man agreed to give me his body, and in return I take revenge on the soldier boy who stole his girl. I’ll just take thousands more with him, and mission accomplished. You can watch from this very roof.”

Crumbs.  Options, options … don’t want to grab a guy wrapped in lightning.  Need to stop him from building up power, I think.  What to do …

Mark activates the Sign of Light. The arcs of the Spirit Sign spin and align. Red and grey tendrils
reach out toward the hovering man. The tendrils tunnel into his eyes, turning them red and gray.

“Really. Temporarily depriving this body of sight. Is that the best you can do? I don’t even use sight to perceive your world. Mortal magic is so disappointing.

“Let me show you what real power can do.”

The building shakes, with a muffled cracking sound from far below. Mark feels the roof lift underneath him, maybe about ten feet. Some of the gargoyles crack and tumble from their perch.

Mark’s footing on the roof seems kind of unstable, almost as if he were on a ship at sea, or standing on a moving railroad car.

“Go look, over the south side of the building. This is definitely worth seeing. You can come right back and try more of your human magic on me if you wish. I’m not going anywhere. At least, I’m not leaving the roof. He he. Hehehehehehehehe.”

Don’t, Mark says to himself.  Don’t play his game.  You don’t need to … ah, nuts.  Mark’s curiosity pulls him to the South side of the roof.

Mark takes note of the rooftop. It is large and flat, about 50 yards to a side. The skylight, 10 by 10 yards, is centered, and the man is hovering about 20 feet over it. The roof access is about 10 yards from the south side of the skylight. There are a couple other roof access doors at random points on the roof. The radio tower is 10 yards from the west side of the skylight, 10 yards wide a the base, and its top is lost in the gloom. The water tower is 10 yards to from the east side. Its wooden stilts raise the tank 30 feet, and the tank itself is another 30 feet tall and 30 feet around.

Mark cautiously moves across the unstable rooftop to the south side. There is a waist-high lip around the edge. Every ten feet, a stone gargoyle is perched, each one different and more hideous than the last. They seem completely lifeless; clawed, snouted, snarling art-deco statues cantilevering precariously over the foggy void below. A few have cracked off, falling into space when the roof began to shake. Mark finds a spot where two adjacent gargoyles are missing, leaving gaps of 15 feet between him and the nearest gargoyles.

Mark looks out over the edge. The street level is buried in fog. All seems normal otherwise, except—

At first glance, the southeast and southwest sub-towers seem to be planted in the middle of the street. At second glance, the towers seem to have torn away from the building, and remain connected only by a twisted lattice of I-beams, concrete pillars, pipes, electrical cables and other misplaced architecture.

As Mark watches, the southeast sub-tower begins to move, and the roof pitches slightly in that direction. The sub-tower ponderously lifts. Then it moves southward, gradually stretching its webbed connection to the main building, cutting a wake through the mist below. The tower bulldozes into a four-story building across the street, scattering glass and brick and raising a billowing cloud of dust. The noise is muffled and dampened by distance. The tower settles into the ruins. Mark feels the roof begin to shift southward.

“Well? You can’t say that that isn’t awe-inspiring. Surely you can see that humanity is no match for my kind of power. Now, I will simply ride my mount to the military base and crush it, leaving behind a trail of destruction the width of a city block. Can you imagine the fear, that something like this could even happen? And how people will react when I effortlessly pulverize their strongest military facility? Their blasted optimism will melt like unbaked brick in the rain, replaced by a rising tide of terror. I will drink the panic like a fine ale, and use its power to root myself permanently in America, like my brothers did in Europe and Asia. Though what took them a decade of secret maneuvering, I will accomplish in a single night!

“And you get to watch it all happen! Your despair and helplessness is my appetizer for the feast to come. Come now. Give it to me. I’m hungry.”

The spirit’s getting restless.  Mark lets it run for a bit.

Mark runs to the roof access and leaps to the top of the roof access hut. He broad jumps toward the water tower and lands on the roof. He runs to the water tower and leaps to one of the support crossbeams and from there to the catwalk circling the bottom of tank of the water tower.

The floating man watches with a minor air of incredulity.

Mark, inspired by his mystic spirit, shouts “Cease your deviltry at once!  Your foul plans must come to an end!”

Mark shifts the Spirit Sign to the Sign of Motion. Spectral hands reach out to grab the floating man. They pull him, slowly, in the direction of the water tower.

“I see the impending doom of your culture has broken your mind, and now you think you’re an ape. It’s a little disappointing, to tell the truth. I hoped to see raw, rational terror. And now you tug at this body with such insignificant magic power. Do you think it makes the slightest difference whether I am at the center of the roof, or off to one side, or in the lunch room on the 47th floor, or hovering a thousand feet above? It makes no difference. Aside from style, of course. Sometimes style is everything.”

“What happened to Merlin?” he laments, seemingly off on a self-pity jag as he floats slowly toward the water tower. The Sign strains to move the floating man, at the limits of its limited power, able to work at all only because the man is floating in the first place. “Or Coyote Claw? Or Dee? Or Elphaba? Or Yaga? There used to be power on this doomed rock. Perhaps I’ll have to make it more interesting all by myself. Falling asleep during the apocalypse is very bad form.”

The puplish glow seems to flicker for a bit, and seems now to curl more and jet less. Streams still arc from him to the various features of the roof, but the floating man seems kind of distracted and self-absorbed.

Mark stands on the catwalk circling the base of the water tower tank, 30 feet above the roof, 30 feet below the top of the tank, facing the skylight in the center of the skyscraper’s rooftop. The floating man is drifting slowly across the skylight toward the water tower, refusing to allow his minor, inconsequential momentum to distract him from whatever deviltry he seems to be thinking up. He crosses the frame of the skylight, which puts him about 30’ from the base of the water tower, 45 feet diagonally down from where Mark is standing.

Mark glances at the top of the water tank. It’s dark and there is a glare coming from the floating man, so it’s kind of hard to see. There’s some kind of roof overhanging the tank to keep the weather and birds out. If it’s like other rooftop water towers Mark has seen, it’s a short, conical roof that could either be tin or wood. It’s probably bolted or nailed on, and probably about as strong as a house roof.
Mark waits as the Sign draws the floating man closer and almost down to the rooftop. He still seems distracted, the loops of power are cascading around him in ever more intricate patterns.

Mark leaps over the railing and falls hard on the floating man. The floating man looks up just as Mark is about to hit. His expression turns mildly exasperated. 

Mark impacts the swirling energy and feels the blinding pain of raw arcane power tear through each nerve He stumbles and falls to the roof. The floating man hasn’t even moved.

“Worthless power and criminal ignorance,” says the floating man, audible dimly through the dizziness. His voice is growling with cold anger. "You have completely spoiled my triumphant entrance. Faust would have known better than to do that. Erik Weisz would have known better. Even Utnapishtim would have— 

“Oh, now look what you made me do! You made me remember Utnapishtim! I hate Utnapishtim! I told Abaddon it was a bad idea, but would he listen? We had nearly your whole world, and then…

“Stand up when I’m talking to you!” The floating man reaches down and picks up Mark’s limp body by the shirt. He slams it against one of the water tower supports. In his other hand appears a ten foot long spear seemingly made of lightning. With a casual thrust, he impales Mark with it, pinning him to the support post. It hurts, but not like a knife wound, and doesn’t seem to do any actual damage. Mark is stuck to the pole though.

Mark fights his way out of the grogginess, barely gaining full consciousness.

The floating man leans in to Marks face. “You stay here! You pay attention! You slowly go mad with terror!” The rotting smell is nauseating. 

Now_! comes the companion spirit’s quiet voice. _He’s right where we want him!

Mark unsteadily looks up at this foul being in human form.  “I guess cough my plan worked hack wheeze imperfectly.”  He struggles to look him … it … in the eye.  “For your information, thunder demon, I’m no magician.”

The floating man gets that annoyed look again during Mark’s speech. He opens his mouth to retort.

Mark reaches up over his head to grab the tank support. He plants a foot on the support below him. And he heaves with the last of his strength.

The post snaps behind Mark’s back. Fire burns through Mark’s gut as the lightning spear slides through. The floating man looks up. “What? Breaking things is no…” Then his eyes widen.

The water tower begins to twist and topple, directly down over its broken support. The walls of the tank buckle, and the bottom splits. Tens of thousands of gallons of water thunder down through the broken seams.

“How can it be,” marvels the floating man, between instants, “that water covers most of your world, that you yourselves are mostly water, that water continually falls out of the sky, a_nd yet you still keep giant barrels of MORE WATER on the top of tall buildings for no reason whatever?!_”

The water crashes down onto the two of you.

The floating man’s screams, echoing from the sky itself, can be heard over the cascading water and the furious thunder. The spear has vanished. The rooftop lurches, beginning to tilt.

Mark is swept by the flow of water across the rooftop, downhill, at an alarming speed.
Mark grabs out at a passing pipe and snags it. He looks up in time to see a very large chunk of wood from the water tower hurtling toward him. It hits, hard. Mark loses his grip and all but the last shred of consciousness.

Lightning explodes where the floating man was. Meteors of crackling energy burst in every direction. 

The debris and the water wash Mark down the swiftly tilting rooftop and through a gap between gargoyles into empty space. He blacks out.

Meanwhile, on the ground:

“I don’t get it,” says Arthur. “That man, whoever he is, needs our help! We can’t leave him alone with a class 5 demon!” Arthur’s armor is scratched up, and he’s bleeding from a few minor cuts.

“We are helping,” Cassie replies without concern. She continues to walk down the street and tucks a curl back into place.

“We are a block away from the building!” He gestures back in the direction of the skyscraper. From the deep mist come thunderous sounds of bending metal and cracking stone. “Who knows what he’s going through back there!”

“I’m sure I don’t,” says Cassie. “But we need to be here.”

The rumbling intensifies, changing in quality to the thunder of an urban avalanche. Arthur looks back in alarm.

“Look out,” says Cassie. She pushes Arthur so he stumbles a few steps.

From the sky comes a plummeting figure. It hits where Arthur had been standing. As it hits, faint green dragonscale afterimages flash on the pavement.

It is the mysterious trenchcoated figure, limp and unmoving.

“Is he dead?”

“He’s alive, but he won’t be for long unless you protect him.” The sounds of avalanche grows louder.

Arthur holds out his arm, and a shining shield forms on it. “Protect him from what?”

Cassie points back toward the building. “That.”

Arthur looks. His eyes widen. “Oh.”

A tsunami of stone, concrete and steel crashes down on the three Gatekeepers.

Episode L1
A Clear Fall Day

It is a breezy afternoon, as Feng Li Long hurries home down the wooded path. This workout has been a long one; a month of ceaseless training and meditation, alone on the far side of Baiyun Mountain. It is dry and clear, good training weather. It will be good to see Grandfather again.

The path emerges the woods. From below the rim of your flat conical hat Li Long sees the mouth of the Pearl river emptying into the delta. The city of Guangzhou sits at the river mouth.

Guangzhou is burning.

It is November, 1938.

Ugly, grey warships sit in the bay. Iron vehicles surround the city. Black airplanes fly overhead. Between the city and the ring of vehicles, people seem to be milling, as if torn between remaining in the city and running the gauntlet of enemy troops. Pens have been erected, and are full of prisoners. Over it all, columns of smoke mark where huge uncontrolled fires burn most of the city. The city center itself is a huge, smoking crater.

A family—a young father, his wife, three children and a grandmother, carrying some meager household possessions—hurry in your direction. “Run!” the father says. “The Japanese! They’ve bombed everything! They’re taking everyone prisoner! Run!” The family hurries by, up into the mountain.

Below, the destruction of Guangzhou, the only place you’ve ever lived, continues…

Li Long gapes at the devastation, “Ancestors preserve us.”

He continues down the path, watching the city and trying to think of a good way to get past the siege to find his family and get them out.

The path winds down the mountain. Li turns a corner around a boulder, and there on the path ahead are four Japanese soldiers, armed with bayonetted rifles, walking up the path in a close group, probably looking for escapees or scouting out the mountain. They are about 20-30 yards away (10-15", -4 range modifier).

One of them looks up and sees you. He shouts something unintelligible; probably in Japanese or Mandarin. The rest look up.

“Halt! Be giving up now!” another shouts, in broken Cantonese.

Li Long immediately raises his hands in surrender and says in Cantonese, ’I give up!"

The four soldiers approach at a casual walk. As they near, one of them points his bayonet.

“You go with him!” one of the others orders; his insignia is different; maybe he’s their leader. The one with the bayonet gestures with it for Li to walk ahead of him down the mountain. The others keep walking up the hill, talking and chuckling to themselves.

Li Long goes along, willingly and weakly, with this for awhile then when they are out of sight from the other three and a little beyond, and if no one else is around he walks slower and slower. The soldier jabbers at Li when he slows down.

Li spins around, grabs the rifle by the barrel and yanks it away from the surprised soldier’s grasp. Li smashes the solder across the jaw with the butt of the rifle. He staggers. Li continues the momentum of his strike into a roundhouse kick, connecting squarely on the soldier’s head with a loud crack. The soldier spins around and drops to the ground on his face, unmoving and bleeding from his ears.

Li Long drags the soldier off the path and hides the body. He switches clothes with the soldier and pulls his hat down low over his face (trying to hide it). The soldier’s uniform fits adequately, though the helmet is a bit cracked from your roundhouse kick. He uses some of his “old” clothes and the blood to make a fake bandage around his head and ears (blood by the ears). He walks as soldierly as he can down the path while looking for one of the prisoner pens.

At the bottom of the path he sees two soldiers with rifles on guard, chatting with two other apparently unarmed soldiers sitting on a dangerous looking tracked vehicle.


Li Long leaves the path, crouches behind some rocks, and, summons the goodwill of his ancestors, causing the nearby air to blow and twist around the 4 soldiers. One of the soldiers notices Li Long, frowns when he sees him leaving the path, and shouts at him in a commanding voice. His eyes grow wide as the winds grow wilder and a miniature funnel cloud coalesces right above him. It touches down.

Tornado-like winds rip at the soldiers. The two with rifles are swept off their feet; one falls six feet away while the other slams into the side of the tank, collapses to the ground and drops his rifle. The two on the tank cling to it, buffeted by the winds, staying put but yelling in surprise.

As the winds die, the soldiers shake their heads to gather their senses, then come alert—all but the second soldier, who remains on the ground. The first soldier shouts at the others.

The tank motor suddenly roars to life. It turns, carrying its two riders, and bears down on your position until it’s almost close enough to touch—and doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

The second soldier sits up, seemingly in pain but alert.

Leaves flutter in the winds that envelop Li, and his body becomes indistinct, as if it were made of a cloud. He dives toward the oncoming tank, but his aery body divides and passes through the main gun and the view ports, reassembling itself on the inside. The soldiers riding on the tank looked shocked as you pass by them.

The inside is cramped and confining. Li feels panic rise at being denied the world’s wind—he has to get out! With an effort of will, he masters the panic for the job at hand. 

It’s a wonder that three people can even fit in this thing. Li finds the gunner’s chair and positions himself in it before resuming solid form.

The driver sits just below and to the right. He turns and stares in terror, the winds whipping his hat away and roiling his hair. It’s hard to move in here but it’s also hard to dodge and he’s sitting right under Li’s foot. Li focuses his training and snap a kick at him. The driver is stunned but conscious—though his foot is still on the gas.

The soldiers on the outside of the tank yell and begin climbing to the top hatch of the tank. However, the tank continues its forward motion, slamming into the rocks where Li was hiding. The riders lose their grip and tumble down to the ground. You hear yelling and at least one pair of running footsteps outside.

The cramped quarters are too much for him; it’s time to make a run for the city. Li Long looks around for some way to disable the tank. He knows you probably have to pull some wires somewhere, but he’s in the gunner’s seat rather than the driver’s seat. He decides the best way to temporarily disable the tank is to knock out the driver and hope the cramped quarters make it difficult to remove him. A quick kick and the driver slumps over

Li Long decides it’s quicker to exit the tank in mist form than to figure out how to open the hatch from the inside. He filters out though the various cracks and slits and blows toward the city as fast as a race car. Behind he hears shouts. A couple shots are fired. One bullet tears harmlessly though him.

Leaving the soldiers far behind, Li Long approaches the city, dropping the mist form when reaches the limits of his endurance. He keeps low, and tries to avoid being noticed.

As he approaches Guangzhou, hoping to blend into a crowd, he notices two crowds; a crowd of Chinese prisoners in a makeshift barbed-wire pen the size of a soccer field, and a crowd of Japanese soldiers patrolling the fence and stationed at the entrance. The city is ahead. There are a few patrols, but Li feels he can dodge them…probably.

Li counts about 20 soldiers at the gate—maybe 10 on alert in a 10 yard area in front of the gate and 10 lounging around in a couple tents nearby—and maybe half that many clerk-types writing at camp desks or talking on radios. There are maybe 20 more soldiers patrolling in groups of 4 around the barbed wire fence (it’s pretty large; like a hastily build prison compound. Maybe the size of a football field). There is a manned machine gun next to the gate.

Li decides to try to free them from the inside, reasoning he can always escape himself. Winds flow as he calls upon them for defense. He takes off the Japanese army uniform, hide it, and walk toward the camp with hands in the air, “I surrender! No shoot! I good Cantonese! No Shoot! I give up see!”

The Japanese soldiers are not gentle as they march Li into the pen at gunpoint. They demanding his name and pitching them into the muddy compound on his face. They seem a bit puzzled about how breezy it’s gotten all of a sudden. The skittish Chinese prisoners slowly approach Li after the gate has been locked.

He gets up and brushes the mud from his eyes, nose, and mouth. Li asks if anyone has seen the Long family who own a restaurant. He looks around to see what the guards are doing.

“Long family? They own the fish place by the sea shrine?”

“No, it’s the noodle place by the municipal center.”

There’s a buzz of conversation, the hushed conversation of bored and frightened people desperate to get their minds off their circumstances and do something useful.

The guards return to their lounging and their guard posts and the clerks to their writing. You notice one of the clerks hang up his phone, then with a big grin chatter to the nearby guards. Then they all laugh as if they heard the funniest joke.

“Honored sir?” One of the prisoners, an older gentleman, is addressing you. “I am afraid none of us here know what happened to the Long family. Many of us think they perished when the city center was…when the battleship…” he breaks off. “A thousand apologies.” He wanders off.

A younger, hard-bitten man comes up. “The honored elder’s sons and grandsons were wealthy businessmen and lived in the center of town. Now there is only a smoking crater where there used to be many city blocks. Did you know the Long family? I am sorry. If they are alive, they are not here, and there are many prisoner compounds. I would not hope to see them again. Especially since now you are trapped with us. No one knows what they will do with us…but we’ve heard about Nanking.”

“What about Nanking?”

The man’s face grows bleak. “What not about Nanking? I didn’t think even the Japanese could imagine such atrocities. Casual murder of civilians on the street. Humiliation of the elderly. Indiscriminate rape. Looting. Torture. There are rumors of unnatural rites and perversions. They are not human, those Japanese, they are animals—or demons. I thought they’d never come this far south, but…I’m afraid those who died in the city center and in the fighting are the lucky ones.”

Li gathers the old men and anyone who looks like they have had military training.

“My name is Li Long. Let’s try to find a way to free as many of us from this camp as possible. The ancestors are strong in my family and I think I can help.” After hearing what the Japanese are doing to his China he secretly questions whether the Ancestors are right about not killing.

“What if we opened the fence away from the city, i took care of the machine gun causing a diversion, and we had a mass exodus? From what you say it seems that we are all dead if we stay here. Some of us will survive if we all make a break for it en masse. I would welcome all ideas. What do they have for food in here?”

“Are you crazy?” says an excitable prisoner. “There are 40 armed soldiers there, and a machine gun, and the clerks have radios. There’s no way to break down the fence. Many of us have women and children and elders; should we leave them behind, or more likely get ourselves shot? It’s impossible!”

“Hush, Ping,” says an older gentleman. "Let us hear him out. Death may be preferable to what awaits us. Or do you have something better to do?

“Li Long, we would all love to be free. I know the mountains well enough that if we reach them, we have a chance. We may be able to hook up with Chaing Kai-shek’s Nationalist Army. But we have to accomplish three things: Open the fence, neutralize the guards and radios, and move everyone fast enough to escape motorized pursuit. Now, how do you propose we do that?”

“Hey!” A tall, sharp-eyed man breaks in. “I might have an idea for the escape part.” He points to a distant caravan of supply trucks coming this way.

Li speaks to the tall, sharp eyed man,“What’s your idea? From what I have heard I agree that trying to escape and maybe dying is better than what will happen to you under these monsters. I should be able to stop the machine gun, open the fence, neutralize the radio, and distract the guards while as many of you can escape through the fence as possible.”

“Erm,” responds the tall man. “I thought we might get everybody on that convoy of trucks coming this way. You know, if we can actually get out of here without getting shot at too much. Women, kids, elders, everybody. And they probably have food or something in them, you know? ‘Cause I’m not leaving my six kids behind to have the ancestors know what happen to them. If you can do all you say, I’m with you.”

If he can do all he says. More likely he’s a Japanese sympathizer looking for an excuse to get us all killed.”

“Hush, Ping,” says the elder. “Legends speak of men with astounding power appearing in desperate times past. Can you do it? Can you distract the guards, open the fence, and disable the gun and radios?”

Li swallowes hard saying a silent prayer to his ancestors, “I might be able to, yes. I think I can open the fence for sure and distract the guards… the radio and machine gun will be more dicey. Ok, here is what I am thinking: First priority is disabling the radio, I can do that. Taking out the machine gun next, I can probably do that before being shot. This in itself will be a distraction. Gather the people near the trucks, I will then break the fence and help with any guards near the trucks and loading the people on the trucks. Some may die but all will die if you stay here – I am certain.”

“How soon can we organize the people but make them not look organized?”

The elder says, “Leave the organizing to me. We will be ready by the time the trucks arrive. After you attack we will all go to the south fence, waiting for your hole. Wait for the trucks to come closer; they will likely stop to unload supplies for the guards.”

“I’ll work on a diversion on the west side,” says Ping, “if Li Long can do what he says. I know some of the men who don’t have families here and are itching to do something dangerous if there’s half a chance it will do some good.”

It looks like the trucks are approaching along a dirt road that goes along the south side of the compound (away from the city). The gate, radio, and machine gun are on the east side. The soldiers there are goofing off, glancing at the compound once in awhile but mostly playing cards and talking to each other.

The elder turns and talks with the nearby men, who nod and filter off into the camp. Ping heads to the west part of the camp. The trucks continue to approach.

Li Long takes a breath and thinks to himself, “If this goes wrong, if I screw up, many will die… it must be done… all will die if we do nothing.”

To himself as he strolls toward the east – calming himself with techniques learned through training with his ancestors, “Ok. Radio First, then machine gun, then barricade the gate, then fly over and blast the escape hole through the fence, then try to distract the guards.” Li Long walks into a tent on the east side of camp and turns into vapor.

Li Long mists through the tent and the fence to the radio table, ready to yank the wires out, rendering it inoperable.

Unfortunately, it’s battery operated, and it’s a radio, so there aren’t any wires coming out of it, except for the microphone.

Fortunately, it’s open in the back. There are lots of tubes and wires to smash. Li Long solidifies and puts a fist through the delicate electrical components.

Li Long quickly summons the winds, creating a vortex around the machine gun. Papers and leaves, twigs, and a fair amount of dirt fly everywhere. The machine gun flies into the air, much to the consternation of the gunners. It sails about 70 yards into a clump of bushes and lands with a clatter.

Fierce winds flip the hefty radio table into the air, scattering the radio equipment and what papers survived the previous vortex. The table ponderously crashes into the gate, tangling itself in the wire and blocking the entrance.

The soldiers shout and run around. A couple have their rifles ready and the presence of mind to fire! One shot is fired true—but the bullet is deflected by the local high speed winds! The nearby soldiers on patrol around the fence begin running toward the gate. The convoy has pulled up by the southeast corner of the compound.

Li Long pops up above the height of the gate to get a clear shot at the south fence. Hurricane-force straight-line winds rip at the chain-link fence and tear a platoon-sized gap in it. Chinese prisoners rush the gap—men first, with the elder herding them through, followed by the children and women. The vanguard heads toward the trucks. There’s noise of a ruckus over on the west side of the compound.

Li Long flies over the soldiers’ heads, and raises a Wall of Wind separating most of the troops from the trucks and the prisoners. There are 4 soldiers on the truck side of the wall; they begin trying to club the dozens of prisoners into submission. About 6 of the soldiers on the troop side rush the trucks, only to be turned back by the palpable force of the winds. 10 more get their rifles and form up for combat. 4 of them are running after the machine gun. Most of the radio men are running for the city. The soldiers appear frightened but are steeling their nerve under the discipline of their squad leaders.

Li yells will for the prisoners to flee far away and leave him behind. He does his best to delay the guards from interfering with the escape. He tries to tangle some guards up in the tents by blowing the tents down and slamming them against groups of guards.

The irresistible wind hurls an uprooted tent toward the group of soldiers lining up to fire. The soldiers yell as the tent covers their shoulder-to-shoulder formation. The wind wall dissipates as Li Long’s concentration goes elsewhere.

The wind whistles around a second tent, hurls it at the group of 6 soldiers nearest the prisoners, and manages to cover or impede four of them in the heavy canvas. The two free soldiers fire at the flying wind demon! But the bullets can’t seem to find their marks.

The four soldiers among the prisoners furiously club with their rifle butts, knocking two of the prisoners to the ground. The ten tentified soldiers throw off the tent canvas and look around. They look into the eyes of an enraged mob of prisoners.

The mob surges! The elder and some of the prisoners with military experience direct the attack. Some drag down the four soldiers among them and pummel them senseless. Some rush the trucks, dragging the drivers out or making them flee. The six guards where the wall used to be fall to the twenty or so lead prisoners. The leader of the six soldiers in formation, outnumbered and soon to be out-gunned, suddenly looks a lot less sure of himself. More prisoners, with a higher proportion of women and children, hurry out the gap in the fence. Gunshots can be heard from the far side of the compound.

There’s some kind of ruckus going on across the compound, but tents in the compound obscure the view. Some of the soldiers who were patrolling around the fence are coming but they won’t be here for a minute or so. The radio operators have begun running toward the city. Reinforcements could come in a matter of minutes.

Li Long yells, “Get in those trucks and get out of here!”

He flies toward the squad of 6. He will try to crash into as many as he can and fight hand to hand as a diversion until the mob arrives. He knocks another flat on his back, unconscious, kicks at another one and drops him, too. The remaining soldiers raise their weapons to give Li Long a good clubbing. Li dodges all but one, which is deflected by the local winds and the grace of his ancestors.

The mob rolls over the four standing soldiers, who go down yelling defiance. Li Long takes a break.

Prisoners begin seizing the trucks. Drivers and non-combatants flee for the city. From the far side of the compound, Ping and a dozen other prisoners are running and shouting, carrying captured rifles.

All the guards at this compound seem to be down or running. The prisoners let out a loud cheer. There is medicine, food, and ammunition on the trucks, and there is enough room for all the escapees, if some hang on to the sides and the running boards.

“Come!” says the elder to Li Long. “We must escape while we can. They will soon be back with more than a few rifles. We can head for the mountain, and then inland, and hopefully we can find Chiang Kai-Shek and his army.”

Li Long hesitates for a moment. Deciding to either go into the city to find his family and restaurant or help these people. He decides that helping these people outweigh the more selfish desire to see his family safe. He prays for forgiveness to the ancestors, hops on the side of a truck (or drives one since he knows how to do that) and says, “Lets go find Chiang Kai-Shek and his army.”; encouraging the group to leave as soon as possible.

The convoy heads toward the mountain, Li Long with the elder in the lead truck, with many passengers and people hanging off the side.

Before long the convoy is away from the city and on the road among the rocky hills near the mountain.

The truck rounds a corner.

In the middle of the road ahead, coming down hill, is a familiar Japanese tank. The hatches are open and the crew is at their posts but not particularly alert. Around it are maybe half a dozen soldiers, one of whom is leaning on another for support. In front of them a small Chinese family is being marched; a young father, his wife, three children and a grandmother.

Everyone shouts out in surprise.

Li Long looks at the soldiers and looks at the ex-prisoners, not wanted their new-found freedom to be short-lived. He tells the elder to stop the convoy.

Li Long flies toward the tank. The tank hatches are small; there are two, one for the driver (with head and shoulders outside the tank) and one for the commander (exposed waist and up). The gunner is encased inside the tank, peering out a slit.

Li decides a heavy blow would knock the commander down into the tank, preventing him from (gulp—it’s tight in there) getting at the gunner. Instead, Li Long lifts the commander out of his hatch and tosses him to the ground. The commander lays there stunned, for now.

The driver stops the tank and rotates it to get a better firing arc for the gunner, then drops below the driver’s hatch and closes it. The gunner loads the main cannon and begins to aim. The other six soldiers drop to one knee and aim their rifles at Li Long, hovering over the tank. The grace of Li Long’s ancestors and the swirling winds deflect every shot!

The captive family falls on their faces in terror. Some of the freed prisoners grab their rifles and dismount the trucks, heading for cover along the roadside. The trucks stop, and the elder stares ahead into the muzzle of the tank.

Li Long can see down into the open commander’s hatch at the top of the tank, where the gunner is aiming the loaded main gun. He shudders at the thought of the tight space, so instead he slams the hatch shut and send a burst of concussive air through one of the viewing slits, exploding the air inside the tank. He hears the driver bang his head against the closed lid of the driver’s hatch. The tank’s main armament is pointed at the first truck in the convoy…

Li Long opens the driver’s hatch, pulls the limp body of the driver out of the seat and drops
into the road.

Li Long gathers his courage, gulps, and drops into the driver’s seat, intending to drive the tank over the cliff. It’s cramped in here, even with the driver’s hatch open. And the dials and levers and pedals make absolutely no sense to him. Still, it’s already running. How hard could it be?

Pretty hard, turns out. Li Long fails to get it to budge.

The soldiers around the tank fire at Li Long, but, protected by the winds and the tank body, he is unaffected.

Li Long tries again, and the tank lurches to life! Pushing pedals and pulling levers at random, Li Long manages to move the tank…a couple feet, where it stops again. The gun is no longer pointed at the convoy, though.

A groan and a stir comes from the gunner inside the tank. Apparently he’s awake now.

Shouts and rifle fire erupt from the ex-prisoners. Several of them begin to charge as the Japanese soldiers hit the dirt. One of the soldier’s captives, a child, begins crying. More ex-prisoners jump off the trucks to get into the fray.

To get at the gunner Li Long manages to crouch down into the very cramped, closed-in tank, keeping his anxiety under control for the greater good. The gunner shakes himself back to alertness in the seat next to Li Long’s. Li Long snaps a punch at him and feels ribs snap under his blows. The gunner goes limp. With the commander and the driver out of the tank, none of the original crew remain in control of the tank.

Li Long judges that he’ll have to drag the gunner through the tight spaces of the tank to get him out but he determines to do it anyway to save the gunner’s life before he drives off into the ravine. He drags the unconscious gunner’s body across his lap and pushes him out the driver’s hatch.

Li Long sits with his head outside the driver’s hatch so he can see (and at least his head is in the open air). He tries the drive the tank off the nearby cliff. It lurches again, and Li Long manages to get it turned somewhat in the right direction before it conks out.

A firefight has developed around the tank, but the Japanese soldiers are soon badly outnumbered.

One of the soldiers steps on the captured child and holds his rifle to his head. “No move! No move!” he says in bad Chinese. The fighting stops. The soldier looks around, not sure what to do next, but he is sure that if anyone makes a move, he’ll shoot the boy.

Li Long tries to think of something he can do before the soldier pulls the trigger. The soldier is highly alert for any motion. The mouth of his rifle is against the boy’s head, and he is paying particular attention to the magic flying tornado man in the tank. “No move! No hide! I shoot boy! No move! No fight!”

Li Long says (without moving), “I no fight. Take me prisoner. Leave boy.”

The soldier looks around, wild-eyed. “Can no shoot you! You no hurt! No move! NO MOVE!!” His hand shakes ever so slightly.

A gunshot rings across the rocky terrain.

The soldier gasps, and looks down at the blood from the bullet wound. He touches his chest. He brings his hand up, looking at the blood on his fingertips. Then he slumps over and collapses.

Behind him, one of the other Japanese soldiers lowers a pistol. “He was no warrior,” he says, in accented but passable Chinese. “He shames us all.” Then he reverses his pistol and fires again. He drops to the ground.

After two seconds of silence, the other soldiers scream and charge the convoy. They fall in a hail of bullets.

The boy’s mother runs to him, but the boy turns and bows to Li Long.

“Thank you, sir.”

Men from the convoy begin clearing the area, hiding the bodies and recovering anything that might be useful. Ping, the loudmouth from the camp, commandeers the tank with a couple enthusiastic volunteers.

“Ha ha! I’ve been on the wrong end of one of these too many times! Now we’ll see what I can do with it!”

“Take it to the rear, Ping. Let’s get moving!”

“You got it, old man!”

“Li Long, are you coming?”

Li Long bows with respect to the mother and pats the child’s head.

He speaks to the leader of the ex-prisoners,  "You have things well in hand. May the ancestors be with you. I will travel and see if anyone else needs help.”

“We all owe you our lives Feng Li Long,” says the elder. “Be careful. We wish you success, and to meet again in better times.”

Li Long bows and takes his leave without looking back. Eventually he finds a place to meditate and thanks the ancestors for luck and asks for guidance.

Li Long flies up the mountainside a hundred meters or so to a shady stand of trees. So much has happened and is still happening to so many. He calms his mind and seeks his ancestors guidance…

“Grandson!” the thought bursts into Li Long’s calmed mind. “Grandson! Come now! Hurry!”

LI Long zooms straight up to a height of about 1000 feet, then streaks toward Guangzhou and his family’s restaurant, the last place he knew his grandfather to be.

Episode M4
The Final Night

The city’s buildings are shattered and crumbling. Bodies lie everywhere, and slavering feral dogs prowl the streets. Distant choruses of screams seem to suggest that these dead are the fortunate ones. Fire is everywhere; consuming the buildings, guttering out of open manholes, rippling the sky, painting the city blood red.

There’s more. But Mark blanks it out.

“Mister! Hey! Wake up!”

The vision fades—mostly. It’s dark. It’s foggy. Things are lit by a faint, flickering red light. There’s a tall, athletic, light-haired man in a black sweater slapping Mark gently on the cheek. He seems to be an architect, for some reason; maybe the black cylinder slung across his back holds blueprints.

“Is this him, Cassie?” He seems to be talking to someone else.

“I don’t know,” comes a reply; a woman’s voice, with an old world accent. Her face leans into view; she’s got long black hair in ringlets. “There’s nobody else here, and this is where I lost track of him.”

“How could you have lost track?”

“I don’t know. It’s never happened before.”

The man turns his attention back to Mark. “The Rabbi sent us. Does that mean anything to you?”

Mark seems to be lying on the ramp leading into the Weaver building. He is still transformed. The building’s walls seem to flicker when you don’t look directly at them—flicker faintly, like fire. Thick mist blocks the view even as far as the street. But far, almost directly overhead, there seems to be an irregular flashing light; purpleish-white, almost like lightning, but the only thunder is an ominous shuddering in your bones.

Mark groggily thinks, “A creep who just looks at you, and clobbers your soul. Wonderful. Gotta pull yourself together. It’s not good for the image.”

Out loud: “The Rabbi? Perhaps. Do you see that light up there?” He points towards the irregular flashing light.

The man looks up. “Oh. That’s not good.”

“Third, maybe fourth order ectoplasmic energy,” says the woman. “I think we’re in the right place.”

“Look, mister,” the man says, polite but anxious. “I’m Arthur, this is Cassie. The Rabbi sent us after a man going up against an entity who’s probably trying to break the plane during tonight’s conjunction. He thought the man might need help. We’ve been searching all evening. Did he mean you? Do you have any idea what I’m talking about?”

Mark: “Yes, that would be me. While not looking like much more than a disheveled man, with one glance he seemed to send my soul screaming into Hell. I presume he’s the one we’re looking for. I believe he went inside.” Mark stands up and faces the building.

“Fifth order,” says Cassie. She swallows, hard. Then “Arthur! Look out!” and a heavy thump-crunch sound.

Turning around, Mark sees Arthur under the paws of one of the two stone lions, now somehow come to life. The other leaps for Cassie, but she steps out of the way, almost absently.

Mark steps up to the stone lion pinning Arthur and swings! It’s like hitting a rock, but the lion’s head snaps back. It shakes its head and paws at its nose.

Arthur takes advantage of the distraction to get a leg between him and the stone lion. He heaves, and the lion lifts just enough for Arthur to roll out of its grasp. He comes up standing, and the architect’s tube rolls away, leaving him holding a long, bejeweled sword.

The other lion pounces at Cassie again, and she absently steps aside. She swings at it with an outflung fist, but doesn’t seem to have any effect on it.

“Thanks, mister,” he says. “I owe you one. Now let’s teach these cats a lesson!”

The three humans stand side by side between the lions and the door. The lion you attacked has shaken off its disorientation, and they are both sizing up their prey.

One leaps at Mark, the other at Cassie. Mark connects to the jaw while Arthur cuts deep into its stone shoulder and rebar tendons. The lion goes down. Cassie avoids the the other one with typical awkward grace, and it lands, barring the way to the door.

The arcs of the Spirit Sign spin and lock into the Sign of Light, pulsing red and gray. As the lion leaps again, red and gray energy bursts from the sign, but the burst misses and splashes against the glass doors. Arthur chops a chunk out of the lion’s foreleg, but it knocks Arthur with a heavy paw, spinning him around. The sword drops to the ground with a clatter, followed by a splash of blood. Cassie steps to Arthur’s side, touching him on the shoulder. Her ring glows a gentle green.

“I’ve stopped the bleeding, but he’s stunned for a second. Distract that lion!”

Mark steps up and plants one on the lions nose. Snarling, it clamps its teeth on Mark’s shoulder. The teeth don’t pierce his magic aura, but force of the bite shakes him up a bit.
Arthur recovers his balance, and Cassie touches Mark with her ring, restoring him. The active lion looks rather strained and cracked.

Mark gives the lion a left to go with the last right. He slips on the misty pavement, but connects anyway. The lion falls under his brutal pummeling.

“Take this, foul demonspawn!” Arthur picks up his sword and drives it between the lion’s shoulderblades. “Well fought, my friend!”

“No time for that,” says Cassie. “We have to get to the top. It’s getting close to midnight.”

Arthur retrieves the fallen cylinder that was carrying his sword and straps it to his back. He gives one end of the cylinder an odd twist. With a clatter, bright metal pieces appear fasten themselves on various parts of his body; gauntlets, elbow, knee, and shoulder pads, breastplate, greaves. “Much better,” he says.

A wide hallway leads from the outer doors to the main lobby of the Weaver building. The lobby is a round room located at the center. It is a vaulted study in brass and marble, with gargoyle faces in unexpected places. The floor is a mosaic of abstract yet slightly disturbing patterns. Passages lead off northeast, northwest, southeast, and southwest, presumably to the outer towers. Between these four passages are four elevators to the north, south, east and west.

“What do you think, Cassie?” says Arthur. “Elevators? or stairs?” There are doors around the corner from each elevator that presumably lead to stairs.

“Hmm.” Cassie concentrates a moment. “Elevators are faster and it is a long way to the roof, but I sense that the stairs are safer. Either way, the outcome is uncertain. We may die in the elevator, or take the stairs and be perhaps be too late.”

“What do you think, Mister…um…mister? I’m for risking the elevator.”

Elevators again.  Great. The spirit of justice imbued in Mark says, “Danger should not deter us from thwarting evil.  Let us take risks to ensure we arrive on time.”

Mark adds, “It would be nice to have a plan in case the elevator falls while we’re in it, though.”
There are eight passages leading from the lobby. Four broad passages lead in the cardinal directions to main doorways on Elm, Hudson 6th, and 7th. Four narrower ones lead to the four corner towers. The eight elevators are on the walls between each pair of adjacent passages.

Arthur pushes the call button on the nearest elevator. Cassie taps her chin, thinking.

“Plan for the elevator falling…I wonder whether we could stand on—”

There is a sudden sound of glass shattering and metal tearing. Animal roars echo through the lobby. From each of the passages leading from the main entrances on 6th, 7th, and Hudson, two more stone lions burst into the lobby.

Six snarling lions face the Gatekeepers.

The elevator door opens. Arthur shoves Mark through the door into the elevator. “Go! We’ll hold them off!”
Mark presses the button for the top floor. He’s not particularly happy about it though.
As the doors close Mark turns and pushes the button for the top floor. He’s not particularly happy about it thought. He briefly sees Arthur and Cassie swarmed by the lions, then hears grinding shrieks of metal on stone and stone on metal, roars, and thuds against the door. But the car goes up.

The elevator is a fairly typical if high class model, all brass and black marble tile. Tiny faces reminiscent of the gargoyles in the lobby appear on some of the fixturing. Their eyes follow Mark—except when he looks at them, in which case they’re just normal inanimate objects. As the noises of fighting quickly fade, the elevator music continues to play. It might be slightly out of tune.

In any case, there is clearly a hint of evil. Not exactly surprising.
Mark punches the ceiling emergency hatch off its bolts. The clanking and the creaking of the elevator machinery is louder now, with a subliminal suggestion of shrieks and moans beneath it.

The elevator passes the tenth floor, on it’s way up to the 70th.

Mark hears a faint sound of metal scraping rhythmically against metal in the space above the escape hatch, like a file, or a hacksaw. The sound doesn’t seem to be getting any closer as the elevator rises.

If it’s not one thing, it’s another.  I wonder why elevators don’t like me?

Mark jumps up out of the elevator to see what might be cutting through the elevator cable.
It’s dark up here, in the elevator shaft—except for a dim, red light emanating from nowhere. Guided by the rasping sound, you see a black shape about 25’ up the elevator cable. The shape suggests a small, gnarled, evil monkey, dead black in the dimness, clinging to the cable, busily sawing away with some kind of tool. Small sparks occasionally fly from where he’s working.

I thought gremlins were supposed to attack airplanes, not elevators.

Mark shifts the Spirit Sign to the Sign of Pain sending waves of pain into the little creature. The Sign and Mark’s eyes flash red and green in a machine gun staccato. The creature’s body is outlined in flashing green and red. It shrieks—a monkey-like shriek, with bass undertones and a touch of reverb—and drops to the elevator roof.

Its body remains a twisted, humanoid silhouette about 2 feet tall, dead black except for its yellow eyegashes and needle teeth. It is carrying what looks like a perfectly normal metal file, about a foot long and covered in rust.
Mark will run up to it and punch the thing into the wall of the elevator shaft!
Here’s the snap…the set…the impact of Mark’s foot releases a small cloud of smoke; it feels like kicking a body of soft, black flour, or soot. The creature smashes into the wall (not that far away; you can just about stretch out and touch the elevator shaft walls on each side) in another burst of soot. It drops, disappearing into the gap between elevator and shaft. The rusty file clatters away.

The shaft continues to flow down from the darkness overhead. Unheard cries and screams echo through the bones of the building. Shadows play cruel games just out of eyeshot.

With a sharp rumble the building shakes. The tremor passes. The malevolent darkness stares at the living intruder, watching as the floor numbers slide by.

Then from above comes a deep, raging bellow, full of dissonant overtones and infernal reverb. The darkness seems to spit out two hulking forms, which drop and crash onto the elevator roof. They seem
similar to the small creature, but are as tall as a person and thick in proportion. Yellow gashes in what must be their faces stand in for eyes, and when they howl their needle-sharp teeth are plain to see. Otherwise they are gnarled black humanoid silhouettes against the dim shaft walls.

Mark decides to fight a little more defensively, being outnumbered.

He sends a right jab to the face of the nearest abomination ns hits it square, but it somehow seems to shift under his fist, like he was punching loose soot. Still, the fist connects and bounces the creature off the elevator shaft wall. It manages to keep its feet and retaliates!

Mark ducks under the first creatures unnaturally large fist, and steps away from the second’s.
Mark’s next puncjh grazes the sooty beast. It stumbles and bounces off the wall a little. It’s not very fazed.

They try to mangle Mark again with their fearsome black fists but still can’t seem to connect.

This is taking too long.  These things keep popping back up like a fighter who doesn’t know how to quit.  What can I do to speed up the process?  I could blind them, but I’m already connecting with them enough, and they’re not hitting me.  The sign of pain?  That doesn’t do much, usually.  They’re shadowy; maybe they’re hurt by light?  It’s worth a try.

Mark shifts the circles of the Spirit Sign spin to the Sign of Light. Red and gray flames erupt from Mark’s eyes, briefly illuminating the elevator shaft. The shadows of the violent creatures are as absolute black as their bodies.

The black and red flames tunnel into one of the creature’s eyes. It claws at them, screeching its echoing bellow. It seems to be a bellow of rage rather than pain, as near as Mark can tell.
One of the beasts attacks with characteristic fury. Its smoky fist thuds against Mark’s magically reinforced trench coat with a puff of soot. The blinded one flails at random, easily avoided.
Mark hits something other than smoke; something that feels thin and bonelike cracks under his punch. The creature’s eyes flash, and it groans in an echoing, multiharmonic voice. It seems unbalanced.

Mark follows up with a right cross and the creature falls to the roof of the elevator. The second creature flies into a rage! His eyes glow bright red and his fists seem to double in size. The massive smoky fist blurs by as Mark ducks under it.

The elevator is continuing to move. Between the dim light and the violence, it’s hard to read the floor numbers, but Mark guesses he’s somewhere between 30 and 60.

Mark stamps at the wounded, fallen creature. His foot scatters the creature’s body as if stomping on a bag of soft, black flour, leaving only a sparse skeleton of splintered bone. Mark barely steps to the side in time to avoid the other creature’s enlarged fist.

Mark winds up—-and connects with a giant roundhouse! He feels splintering under his fist and is briefly blinded by the cloud of smoke. The creature is laid out flat on the elevator roof. A sharp follow-up kick leaves nothing but an evaporating cloud and scattered brittle bones.

Mark takes a breath in the suddenly quiet elevator shaft. He sees floor 63 go past. The elevator still seems to be rising steadily. He looks up to the top, but sees only darkness.

As his heart stops pounding from adrenaline, he hears a rhythmic muttering, each delicate echoing chitter similar to, but not exactly like, the last. As if someone were counting the floors in a blasphemous tongue.

Mark looks up again. A dozen small glowing eyes look back, clustered around the elevator cable about 20 feet up. Six shiny new hacksaws appear, held by small black hands. Six spine-toothed grins cackle out chalkboard-scrape laughter.

These things just don’t stop coming.  And how do I stop six of them at once? Maybe it’s time to pull out the sign of motion …

The Spirit Sign spins and realigns to the Sign of Motion. Ghostly, blue-gray whorls form from its aura and reach. The spinning shapes reach out and pluck a gremlin from the elevator cable. They slam the gremlin against one of the others still clinging on. There’s a double squeak and a puff of sooty smoke. One gremlin falls to the elevator roof.
A deafening elevenfold high-pitched shriek erupts, unearthly toothy screeches in disharmony with triumphant metal-on-metal screams. Red sparks shower as sawblades bite and chew metal with blurred diabolic speed.

Almost in slow motion, the cable parts in five places. The titanic backsnap flicks the gremlins against the shaft walls, scattering them into five clouds of black dust and twigs.  Twenty feet of cable twists free in the air.

Mark feels the weight leave his body as the roof drops beneath him. He notices with the sharp senses of the doomed the number 69 on the elevator shaft wall.

The gremlins had waited until almost the last floor.

Episode M3
A Busy Day

A missing cat, a marital dispute, a leaky roof and one week after his encounter with the eccentric archeologist, Mark Maxwell is sitting at his desk doing a well-earned crossword puzzle. The news reported Doofus McGee and Dr. Tennyson back behind bars, but are silent on the rest of the gang.

The door to the outer office opens.

Stacey pokes her head in. “Hey, Mark, I’m going to lunch at Ching How across the street. Want anything? Oh, and some package came. And doesn’t your P.I. license expire today?”

It had slipped Mark’s mind; his license does expire today. He’s got the fee, thanks to that cat-lady heiress, but the license bureau in the Murray building downtown closes at 5.

Fortunately, downtown is fair walking distance; it’s closer than the University. It’s sunny today; a nice breeze off the bay, not a cloud in the sky. Mark takes the package and opens it as he walks.

The package is a small cardboard box, about 4 to 6 inches on a side, with some kind of scientific warning labels stuck to the sides. The return address is a place called Morningside Biochemical, in Wilmington, Delaware. Inside are six small bottles, carefully padded.

Mark doesn’t remember any recent medical cases. He puts the bottles back in the box, keeping them carefully padded, until he has time to find someone who knows about this sort of thing, and ask them about it. There’s an invoice stuck between the packing and the side of the box. It lists six different chemicals with dozen-syllable names.

Mark almost puts the paper back in the box without another look, but at the last moment something strikes him as strange about it. Two things, actually. One the one hand, there’s a handwritten message scrawled in pencil in the corner. On the other hand, the invoice doesn’t seem to be addressed to Mark. It’s addressed to one Dr. Konrad Lehr at the Temple Beth Shalom downtown.

The outside of the box is also addressed to Dr. Konrad Lehr at the same address.

The license bureau and the address on the scribbled note are both in the financial district, about six blocks apart. The Temple is near Central Park, about seven blocks from the other two locations. It’s a struggle, but paying the bills comes before mysteries. At least, for now. Mark continues to the licensing place.

The Murray building is a grand old skyscraper, maybe thirty stories tall. The small, vaulted lobby and the hallway to the bank of elevators are paneled in dark wood, with a chandelier hanging overhead. The license bureau is on the twentieth floor, for some reason. Though not as modern as some, the building is pleasant enough.

Except for today. The stench of garbage assaults Mark as he enters through the revolving doors. Standing—more like leaning—facing the wall across the from the reception desk is what is probably a man. He’s wearing what seems to be a large, hooded rain slicker over a ragged, possibly flea-infested tuxedo and is carrying a shoddy, stained umbrella. He smells like he’s spent a solid week in a restaurant dumpster, and it’s impossible to tell his hair color because of the grime. His face and eyes are sunken and starved-looking, and his crusted hands trail along the wall, leaving streaks behind.

“Hmph. Hmph.” He grunt/mumbles as he slowly moves along the wall, ear pressed to the paneling, keeping up an unintelligible commentary as he moves along. The two security guards and the receptionist seem to ignore him—or at least keep their eyes averted.

Mark walks up to him and say, “Hey. Mac. What’re you doing here?”

The man doesn’t seem to hear. He inches his way along with his ear pressed to the wall, muttering syllables slurred beyond recognition. On (phew!) closer inspection, beneath the layer of grime his face and hands seem to be scarred and blistered, as if he’d been splashed with boiling water or possibly acid.

Mark tries again, “Hey! I’m talking to you. Can you hear me?”

The unwashed gentleman continues to concentrate, as if he’s listening very intently to the wall, and either ignores Mark or can’t hear him. He keeps up his running unintelligible commentary.

Mark heads to the elevators. The elegant paneling is continued inside the express elevator, which he takes up to the twentieth floor. The licensing office isn’t hard to find, and the clerk examines his paperwork, takes the fee and stamps the approvals with a minimum of interest. Chore complete, Mark heads back down the elevator.

The doors open at the ground floor to reveal a young man, in his twenties, smoking a cigar and carrying a newspaper under his arm, and a little girl, probably about five years old, holding his hand. They stand aside as Mark gets out.

“Are we really going to the very top floor, Daddy?” The girl seems quite excited.

“Yes, sweetheart, the very top floor. We’ll be able to see the whole city from up there.”

“Gee whilikers!”

The door closes on them and Mark heads out to the lobby.

As he steps into the lobby, several things happen in rapid succession.

First, all the lights in the lobby and the hallway abruptly flash and explode in a shower of sparks. The people milling about gasp in surprise. For a second, Mark can see nothing but the bright rectangles of sunlit street through the front doors of the building.

Second, a series of loud bangs, squeals of metal on metal, and frightened shrieks as the elevators lose power, drop, and abruptly stop as the automatic brakes come on. The security guards rush toward the elevators as the receptionist picks up the phone.

Third, a muttering voice says, in a very matter-of-fact way, “No. Wrong. No no no.” Mark sees the ragged shape of a man silhouetted against the front doors, making his way to the exit.

Fourth, a muffled child’s voice, edging into panic. “Daddy, wake up! Daddy! It’s on fire! Wake up!”

Mark: “Great. Two things happening at once again. Let’s see what I can do about this elevator.”

Spirit: No. We must stop the perpetrator.

Mark: “What? And leave these people to die here?”

Spirit: Our task isn’t to save lives. Our task is to thwart evil.

Mark: “I can’t do that! We have to help them!”

Spirit: And what can you do here, that others cannot? Can you freeze fire? Can you rip open elevator doors?

Mark: “I’ve got to try something!”

From the sounds of the elevator brakes and the voice of the girl, Mark estimates that the elevator is stuck between the ground floor and the second floor. The elevator is not visible, since the outer doors are closed.

The security guards and a couple onlookers are gathered around, trying to figure out how to get into the elevator.

“Hurry! They’re in trouble!” one of the watchers yells helpfully.

Mark gets a grip on the doors and pull. The doors are jammed.

“That’s no good!,” shouts a guard. “We’ve got to get to the roof of the elevator car, to the emergency hatch! The doors lock between floors!”

“Don’t we need some kind of wrench to get the roof hatch open?”

“Try the super’s closet!”

“In the basement? There’s no time!”

“Hurry!” One of the security guards runs off, presumably to the stairs.

Mark mutters, “This wasn’t in the job description. I wonder how many people I met trapped in fiery elevators before I got chosen?” He hears the girl crying hysterically behind the doors. He hurries up the stairs to the 2nd floor, where the elevator door is also shut. There he hears crying and the hint of a crackle. There’s no one else on the second floor.

Hardly visible in the dark hallway, Mark’s aspect changes, to dark gray and black, like live shadows. Red eyes blink on in the shadows of his face. With a grunt, he manages to crumple the doors enough to get through.

The area behind the door seems to be a single shaft containing four elevators in a row. It is dark in here, but he can see cracks and spots of light from the emergency lights in one or two nearby elevator cars. There are ladders on the wall of the shaft to his left and right.

The space directly in front of Mark is empty, the car lost in the darkness above. But to his left an elevator car is stuck between the first and second stories, so that the top of the car is about five feet above the level of the floor he’s standing on. The girl’s crying is coming from that car, louder now that he is in the elevator shaft. Mark realizes as an afterthought that she’s in the express elevator, which doesn’t have a door on this floor. He opened the door to the local elevator that runs alongside it.

Mark climbs the ladder to his left to the top of the car. He finds a flat plate about where he expects the emergency exit to be. It’s bolted down, probably to keep people from climbing out and hurting themselves.

He punches through the plate, and peel most of it back. A cloud of smoke billows up from the inside of the elevator, momentarily blinding and choking him.

On the floor of the elevator he sees the little girl sitting huddled in one corner. The limp body of her father lies near her, looking like it’s been dragged to that position and bleeding from a head wound. In the other corner, a scattered newspaper burns, the flames spreading up the wooden paneling.

She stops crying, and looks up at Mark. Then she screams in terror.

Mark mutters to himself. “Great. Kids. Of course she’ll scream at me.”

“Hush, child; I’m here to help.” Mark jumps down into the elevator.

“You stay away from my daddy!”

Mark beats the flames with his coat, succeeding in helping them spread up the lacquered wood wall. Turning from the flames, he grabs the child and leaps up to the roof of the elevator. “Daddy!” she screams. Quickly Mark leaves her in the 2nd floor hall and returns for her father. It’s not as easy, but he manages to extricate him from the elevator too.

Back in the dark hallway, the girl calms down as Mark lays the man on the carpet. “Jeepers, mister, you saved us! Thanks!” The man groans a little and brings his hand to his forehead. “Ow! What happened?”

“There’s a fire in the elevator. It would be best to leave the building.” Mark leaves, taking his coat, which is remarkably unburnt. He activates the fire alarm, and bells clang throughout the building.

“Hey!” calls the man. “Who are you?” He staggers to his feet, following Mark, holding his daughter’s hand, limping slowly toward the stairs.

The shadows drip from Mark’s form as he descends the empty stairwell. “Great,” he thinks. “With my luck, the building will burn down and I’ll lose my license.”

The people in the lower story have cleared out because of the alarm, more are passing through from the other stairways. “Keep walking, folks, you’re going to be fine,” says one of the security guards. “Power outage, and a fire! That’s all we need,” he mutters. There’s a janitor there, too, he’s talking on a phone from the wall to panicky people stuck in elevators. In the confusion Mark makes his way out to the sidewalk.

It’s a beautiful afternoon. A fire engine screams in from around a corner. The smelly man in the raincoat is nowhere to be seen.

Mark finds his package, still in a coat pocket. Somehow, after using the coat to try to put out a fire, the package is fine and the coat doesn’t even look or smell singed at all. He pockets the invoice (with the chemical names) and the written address, and heads to the temple, wary that this doctor might be involved with some secret organization, and that the chemicals might be intended for nefarious purposes.

The Temple Beth Shalom is a walled compound taking up an entire city block in the park district. A few trees are visible over the walls, as if much of the inside are taken up with landscaped lawns. Mark hears a fountain playing inside over the traffic.

A half-circle driveway, gated but currently open, leads to the main entrance, surmounted by the image of a menorah and Hebrew letters. Inside is a spacious, ornate lobby. The lobby extends off to the left, and at the far left doors open into what looks something like a church but is probably a synagogue. To the right is a receptionist’s desk, currently attended by a middle-aged lady with glasses, in front of a door. Another wide set of wooden double doors (closed) stand straight across the lobby from the main entrance.

“May I help you?” asks the receptionist. From her attitude, there are probably one or two other things she’d rather be doing than helping visiting Gentiles.

“Yeah; is there a …” Mark looks at the package again. “… a Dr. Konrad Lehr here?” I got a package of his by mistake."

The lady suddenly looks more interested. She quickly leafs through some papers on her desk.

“Mr. Maxwell, I presume?” she says, reading from one of the papers. She doesn’t wait for an answer. “Right this way. He’s expecting you.”

She comes out from behind the desk to the large double doors across the lobby. She pulls out a key and unlocks them, then opens them and motions for Mark to follow. Mark follows, puzzled that he was expected. And that she knew his name.

Behind the doors is a fairly large, rectangular, well-groomed courtyard or quad completely surrounded by the porches of low buildings. A few taller buildings rise in the background; gymnasiums or dormitories or classrooms, maybe. On the near side of the courtyard is a large, splashy fountain. On the far side is a medium sized ash tree. Walkways criss-cross the green, and there are benches arranged along the walks, around the fountain, and around the tree. The effect is quite peaceful.

A few people sit on the benches or walk calmly along. Half of them seem to either be nurses or wear institutional pajamas and robes. Mark admires the compound. They must have some wealthy sponsors in these tough times. But is this a temple or a hospital?

The receptionist leads Mark to a man wearing black. He’s sitting cross-legged on a walkway that circles the tree, apparently meditating. His clothes are loose and bound with a cloth belt. He’s wearing a yarmulke on his balding head and has a very thick beard and the long, curling sideburns of a Hasidic Jew.

“Mr. Maxwell is here, Doctor Lehr,” says the receptionist.

“Excellent!” Dr Lehr has a deep, resonant voice [like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof] and merry, twinkling eyes. He stands with a smooth grace. “Welcome, Mr. Maxwell, to Temple Beth Shalom.” Dr Lehr is somewhat shorter than average, somewhat stouter, and inordinately cheerful.

“You were expecting me? You were expecting me to get a package meant for you, and that I would come by personally to hand it over?” Mark asks. After a short pause, he says, “This is one of those things, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” Dr Lehr replies. "It is as you say. One of those things. You and I travel among some of the same gates, as it were.

“I knew you were going to come today. I knew you’d bring a package. I have no idea what the package might contain, or where it might be from. And I must admit, I have been looking forward to meeting our newest associate.

“But I forget my manners. I, as you know, am the Rabbi Dr Konrad Lehr, one of the administrators of the Temple, and a teacher. I also move in certain, let us say, obscure circles. And you, as I know, are Mark Maxwell, Private Detective and recent initiate. Now don’t worry, no one can hear us, and we Keepers keep each other’s secrets. But I find that it is good to have people to talk to about these things. To many secrets drives one mad.

“And perhaps I can get a look at that package.”

Mark hands over the package. “Here. It’s got chemicals in it.”

Dr Lehr examines the package. “Excellent! I ordered these chemicals for a patient. I wonder why it came to you?”

“I thought you could tell me.”

""I suppose the delivery service made an error. It must happen from time to time. In any case, it is here now. I am anxious to see if they will bring Soloman back to his senses, poor man. I am afraid I relate to his plight rather too well. Still, there is still much we can try to reach him.

“His is a tragic tale, but a good one to know. Would you like to see him?”

“I guess. If you think it’s worth the time.”

Mark also says, “So do you know anyone who’d be after some ancient Egyptian thingamajig?”

“Hmm. Perhaps you refer to the break-in at the University? The ancient Egyptians were quite advanced in the esoteric arts; some of the most ordinary artifacts we find today are the remains of highly powerful and dangerous arcana. But who can tell unless one has the skill and knowledge to unlock their sealed power? I have examined the University collection in the past. Most of it is second rate pottery shards and shaped neolithic tools, as common as any collection might have. The Natural History Museum collection is of much better quality. Dr Tennyson seemed to think he knew something, but I found him quite secretive about it, and, frankly, as encyclopedic as his knowledge of archeology is, he does not have the signs of someone with true talent.

“Now that you mention it, you may be on to something. Perhaps someone is using his knowledge and access. But who? The known local Gifted are accounted for. We must be vigilant.”

“Yeah, that’s the story, isn’t it. ‘Be vigilant,’ but not knowing for who or what.”

Dr Lehr leads Mark to a gate on one side of the courtyard. The gate is locked. An orderly opens the gate from inside and bows, in an odd, oriental fashion, as they pass through. There is a short outdoor lane, then another door. Dr Lehr knocks, and the door is opened from within by another orderly.

“The Temple Beth Shalom is a synagogue, and a school for children and for religious studies. But it is more. It is also, among other things, a hospital where we try to bring healing and comfort to shattered minds.

“Which brings us to Guy Salomon. Here we are.”

Dr Lehr stops at a locked room. A man in a doctor’s coat is approaching from the far side.

“Dr Samuels. How is he?”

“The same.” Dr Samuels is tall and balding, with wire-rimmed glasses and a preoccupied demeanor.

“This is Mr Maxwell, an associate. I have the chemicals. Shall we try them?”

Dr Samuels looks at Mark appraisingly. “Any friend of Dr Lehr’s is welcome here. We have tried everything else. I hope it will do no harm.” He unlocks the door.

Inside is a small hospital room that smells of animal. One wall is lined with stacked animal cages, containing mice, weasels, birds, and a few other assorted small animals. Another wall has a bench with dusty chemical apparatus arranged neatly on it. Another wall has a window, draped against the afternoon sun. Below is a bed, and on the bed a man, curled with his knees to his chest. There is an ugly scar running from his forehead to his temple.

“Le gardien, le gardien,” the man mutters, rocking a little.

“This is Dr Guy Salomon, Mr Maxwell,” Dr Samuels says. “A Frenchman, one of the premier animal biologists of our time—or he once was. He disappeared during a conference in Austria a few years ago, but was found last April in Belgium before it was overrun, delirious and badly hurt. We suspect he was tortured. His family sent him to us, both because he is Jewish and to get him as far from his trauma as possible. He does not respond, either to drugs or electroshock. He looks at the animals occasionally, but does little else. Apparently he was traumatized by what he calls ‘the guard’.”

“I looked up his research,” says Dr Lehr, “and I hope that by presenting him with something familiar we can begin to reach him. We shall see if that is the case.”

Dr Lehr removes one of the vials from the box and shows it to the man cowering on the bed.

The man stops muttering. He looks at the vial, and his eyes slowly widen.

“He’s interested,” whispers Dr Samuels. “Fascinating. Thank you, Dr Lehr. I can take it from here.” He crouches down by the bed. “This is for you, Dr Salomon. But first you need to eat.”

Dr Lehr ushers Mark out of the room. He face clouds over with hardly-repressed anger.

“I did not show you Dr Salomon only as a curiosity, though he is an interesting case. I believe, as do most of us, that Dr Salomon has been in the hands of the Nazis these last years, and his condition is their responsibility. The world has finally seen that Hitler will make war on who he pleases, and only our oceans protect the United States. But as you have seen, he has special hatred for Jews and other races he feels are ‘sub-human’. The news of atrocities perpetrated on them—on us—is no idle rumor; in fact, I believe we will not know the full scope of his malice unless somehow his entire empire is laid bare. His armies are fearsome, but those are not his only weapons. And the evil almost certainly does not spawn entirely from the mere man Hitler. Be on watch!

“But there I go again with my vague warnings.” He seems to regain some of his good humor. “Let me see if I can clarify them somewhat.”

They return to the courtyard. Dr Lehr goes back toward the tree, and seems to be meditating in front of it.

“Ah,” he says to Mark. “You have seen a man twice, and will see him twice more: once at the place of power, once astride his mount. The fourth time you see him, he will speak to you. You will not meet a fifth time.” He begins to turn pale. “If you survive, it will be as one washed ashore from a shipwreck. If you do not…”

Mark notices one of the leaves of the tree. It was green, but swiftly turns brown from the edges inward, then black, as if invisible flames were consuming it. The black leaf falls.

Dr Lehr picks it up, visibly shaking. “I’ve never seen it do that before. I suggest you survive. For all our sakes.”

“That was supposed to clarify things?”

“All the world is reflected in the Axis Mundi,” says Dr Lehr. “This makes it difficult to pick out specifics. However, the man it speaks of seems to be a quarry you are seeking; you have already learned the location to which he is going and will find him there, late tonight. He has lost his…” He seems puzzled. “Umbrella? Must be a metaphor for some kind of ward or shield—but the loss makes him vulnerable to…a giant bucket?”

Mark thinks, “Axis … axis … where have I heard that before? I don’t like that word, but why not? Can’t put my finger on it.”

Dr Lehr continues. “Does any of that mean anything to you? Are you seeking someone?”

“Not really. I met a weird guy earlier today a couple of times; I’m not really looking for him. And that bucket thing; maybe your ‘axis’ has been watching that movie from last year too much.”

“Movie? What?…oh. Oh yes. ‘Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.’ Heh heh. I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time. But the symbols of the Axis are often strange. Half the time I have no idea what they might mean until they come to pass. I think you’d be astonished at how often I perceive mushrooms among the leaves.”

“Mushrooms? Uh, okay …”

“You see? I have no idea. Doubtless it will become clear in time.

“Well, perhaps if you go about your normal activities the meaning will become clear. There is a hazard in seeing the future, what seems to be a kind of principle of uncertainty: the more people who know about about a future event and the more that is known about it, the less likely it is to actually come to pass. Thus the unobserved future is virtually predetermined, but peeling back the veil introduces some doubt. And if there is too much doubt, you won’t get a prophecy at all, thus prophecy by its very nature must be vague to some extent. But I prattle.”

The courtyard clock chimes. “Oy, is it that late already. Mr Maxwell, it’s been a genuine pleasure to speak with you. Please come and see me whenever you have a mind to. I must prepare for class. If there is anything I can quickly try to answer for you? Otherwise I must bid you au revoir. And mind; a minor convergence occurs tonight. Be on…never mind.”

Mark makes a polite withdrawal and heads back into downtown, puzzling a bit over the scrawl on the chemical invoice. It seems to be an address, 635 North Elm, one that nags at the back of his memory. The MII could be the Roman numeral 1002, or M11 could be some strange room designation, or someone could have written IIIII in a hurry. It’s hard to say.

As he reaches the end of the 700 block of North Elm Avenue, he remembers what was strange about the address.

The 600 block of North Elm Avenue is taken up in its entirety by a single building. Back in the ‘Teens, 635 was a 5 floor brownstone, with a laundry on the bottom floor. The owner, one Sigmund Weaver, bought out the other buildings one by one until he owned the whole block. Then he leveled the block in the 30’s and rebuilt in his own unique style. After which he promptly died, officially of a household accident, but rumors persist that it was spontaneous combustion.

The Weaver Building has four square towers, one on each corner of the block, each a respectable office building in its own right, with enough space between adjacent towers for a wide, ground-level ramp leading toward the center. At the center of the block, wider than the towers and uniting them into one structure, a skyscraper rivaling the tallest in the city stabs into the sky. The towers and the skyscraper taper slightly as they rise, giving the unsettling illusion of even greater height.

The entire building is made of white stone. Carved gargoyles line the borders of the roofs of the outer towers, and presumably the topmost roof, though it’s hard to see from the street. People walk by on their various errands, some turning in where the stone lions guard the inner ramps to enter the main tower.

It’s always been a strange place. Lately Mark has been finding reasons to avoid it. Today it seems suffused with a palpable, quiescent malice, like an ungodly egg, hard, and echoing with the struggles of the terror yearning to break out.

Something is going to happen here, soon.

A nearby church bell rings 5 o’clock. The people go unconcerned about their business, many heading back to their homes and families.

Mark thinks, “Great. A spooky building. And I probably have to go in, with no back-up.”

Mark remembers that 635 was about in the middle of the block, in the gap between two of the towers along Elm. There’s nothing left of the old brownstone.

Mark walks between the Elm Avenue stone lions, up the gently sloping ramp between two of the towers and toward the main doors. The ramp, paved with polished granite, looks impressive but not unusual. Near as he can tell, he is now standing where the laundry used to be, probably among the racks of cleaned clothing behind the counter ready for pickup. The old building probably went deeper into the block than the ramp now goes, as far as the alley that used to cut through the center of the block.

It’s noticeably chillier now than just a few moments ago, though the sun is still out. There doesn’t seem to be a breeze. The air is still—unusually still, for an Atlantic seaport. It isn’t uncomfortably cold, but feels more like October than June. Mark wanders back and forth for a bit, to see if there’s a certain spot where the chilliness starts and/or ends. The chilliness seems uniform across the ramp, and out onto the sidewalk. Mark doesn’t notice any warmer areas; it could be this way across the whole city. Passersby seem to notice the change in the temperature, putting their hands in their pockets and hurrying just a little bit.

Mark mutters, “Stupid magical chillification.”

Mark glances around, notices nobody around, and aligns the Spirit Sign’s circles and they flash red. Mark’s eyes glow to match.

The very walls of the building are saturated with a dispersed, latent evil, frozen but waiting for the time or conditions to wake.

Mark starts to smell a faint stench in the still air, and it begins to grow. It smells like garbage and decay, vomit and offal.

Some thing catches Mark’s attention. He turns away from the door toward the street.

If a car were slowly approaching on Elm Avenue, one would see the wall and the lion to one’s left lit up by its headlights, and the illuminated part of the wall would be increasing in brightness as the car, hidden by the tower to your right, drew near. Mark doesn’t see reflected light, but does see reflected evil, and it is less like the beam of a headlight than the glow of a torch, as bright or brighter than any headlight would be. The reflected patch of evil on the wall is more intense than Mark has ever seen from any being, and its purity is uncolored by any rage, fear, greed, cowardice, arrogance or negligence. It is as if an unprecedentedly intense source of plain and simple evil were walking along the sidewalk toward the bottom of the Elm Avenue ramp, and only its reflected aura is visible. So far.

It occurs to Mark that he has never noticed a source of evil strong enough to reflect off a surface before. Still, he hasn’t been at this very long.

The temperature continues to drop. Wisps of mist appear and vanish, to appear again in the chilled air.

Hoo boy. I gotta look into this, don’t I? I’ll regret if I don’t, I know. The only problem is, I’ll regret it if I do, too.

Mark deactivates the Spirit Sign and casually walks down the ramp between towers, out to the sidewalk by Elm Avenue. The smell of decay gets worse.

Coming down the street, about halfway to the corner of 7th and Elm, is a man wearing a large, filthy rain slicker over a ragged and rotting tuxedo, carrying an umbrella. It seems to be the same person Mark saw in the Murray building, though he’s filthy enough that he probably couldn’t identify him from a (clean) photo. The stench is hard to mistake, though.

“Hrm. Hrm.” He mutters incoherently as he walks past, talking to himself in a speech that consists primarily of consonants. As Mark turns around to tail him, the man seems to have vanished. Then Mark realizes he probably just turned up the ramp toward the Weaver building entrance. Sure enough, when Mark returns to the foot of the ramp he sees him walking toward the doors, trailing his hand along the side of the building (leaving a smudge). The man stops, and leans against the wall, seemingly listening.

There aren’t any other people about, not on this block. A mist is coming up though, so one can’t see much farther down the street. The streets aren’t usually this deserted at quarter after 5 in the afternoon.

Mark shifts form, blending at the edges slightly into the mist. He approaches the man. The mist seems to thicken.

The stinking man is still muttering. “Hrm. Hrm. Yes. Good. Hrm.” He pulls away from the wall.

Mark announces himself. “What are you doing in this place? Speak up!” The man doesn’t respond and starts walking toward the door. Mark reaches for his shoulder.

Suddenly, like a striking snake, the man turns and glares at Mark. His eyes are far more bloodshot than any you’ve ever seen, as if rimmed with fire, and the swollen red veins of his eyes are also visible in his eye sockets and cheeks. The irises are blood red. The pupils…ferocious lights rage within, a world of hate. The eyes seem to expand, swallowing Mark, the street, the building, the city, the world, creating a hell of fear and pain in its place…

Episode M2
A Night on the Town

Episode 2: A Night on the Town

Mike’s Rusty Nail is a smoky hole-in-the-wall, an old speakeasy, down by the docks. Not all Mark’s clients used to be on the shiny side of the city, and that makes him as tolerated as anyone here, where the law is often the least of a gangster’s worries. Sometimes he wonders if his welcome here will change since the Event, or whether he might have to turn down—or turn in—some old clients. But not today.

There’s a group of dangerous looking revelers at one table, playing with knives. “Hey! Maxwell! You here to bring me in? I didn’t do nothin’!” They all laugh at the joke. Mark joins their table.

He skillfully works the conversation to the topic of museum heists. “Wasn’t Threeface going after a museum?” “That was a month ago. He gave that up after his tonsilectomy.” That gets a chuckle. “Oh yeah. Well, somebody said something.” “Say, Tommy was shootin’ his mouth off the other day.” “Tommy was here?” “Nah, he showed up at the countin’ house. Lookin’ for muscle. Easy job. But Ace Kiser was gonna be a big boss after.” “He get anybody?” “Nah. Some nutcase they met in prison, he said they’d all be runnin’ the city when they were done. Guess Ace is gettin’ desperate.” “Huh. Ain’t no percentage in museums. Heck, the Milkman donates a truckload to them cultural spots. Ain’t worth my neck to cross the Milkman.” “You said it.” “Way I heard Tommy tell it, it wasn’t much of a museum anyway. Never heard of the place, some college joint.” “What do they got?” “That’s just it. They got nothin’. Rocks. Old pots they dig up. Bones.” “Maybe they know a collector. I hear the Milkman’s got his own private collection of stuff like that.” “Nah. If it was worth somethin’, it’d be in the real museum, or at one of the bosses’ places. Take it from me, there’s nothin’ worth nothin’ there.” “Well, you ask me, it couldn’t happen to a nice guy. Ace was gettin’ on my nerves before he got tanked. Got half a mind to drop a dime on him myself.”

The table gets quiet and tense. “Hey, no, I’d never do that. Caesar’s ghost, guys, I was just talkin’. You know.”

The conversation turns to how bad the Hawks got beat by the Dodgers.

Mark gathers the heist is supposed to take place tonight sometime, but they don’t know for sure when since nobody admits to signing on.

“See ya Mark! And ya didn’t hear nothin’ from us!”

After the American Revolution, the Bayside City fathers wanted to start a college, and granted the new school a piece of land on the steep western slopes that nobody was interested in farming. Three-story classroom and lab buildings surround the quad on the widest stretch of level land available, while the rest of the campus is laid out fairly haphazardly, following the contours of the hillside.

Mark passes though some deep shadows as he approaches the campus, and emerges a different man—fedora and trenchcoat now gray as the night shadows, face obscured by darkness—except for two piercing, red eyes. He touches a strange medallion that he wears, and it pulses with eldritch light—a pulse picked up by the unsettling eyes as they scan the darkness for the hearts of evil men.

The campus seems deserted tonight. Crammed between the gymnasium and the English Literature building, the Archaeology building has the neglected look of a department whose faculty rarely stay long enough to earn tenure. Rumors are mixed as to whether this is by choice, by coercion, or by the onset of madness. Few come here, even in daylight.

Except for tonight. There is a car parked outside, a sleek Hudson sedan. It’s too dark to see into it—but the aura of a snarling jackal, slavering for the remains of the pack’s kill, which radiates from it is all too evident. He finds an appropriately shadowy perch to watch from, see who they are.

Nothing seems to be happening. In the quiet of the night an aimless, tuneless humming occasionally comes from the car.

Mark decides to enter the building. There’s a side door that’s not locked in any meaningful way.

It is quiet in the dark, abandoned hallway, the glass in the classroom doors giving away nothing of what may lie behind them. In the middle of the building, a wide stairwell has flights of stairs leading both up and down. There is a dim light coming from below.

Down in the basement, a narrow hallway leads to the left, and a door to the right with frosted glass is lit from within. Mark can read “B C U ARC AEOLOG MUS UM” in black letters on the glass. The door is ajar, and Mark slips in. The room is cluttered with random arrangements of glass and wood cases and shelves, full of dusty junk: earthenware pots, pieces of brick, rusty metal and the occasional semiprecious stone.

“This is what we came here for?” The voice is broad and skeptical.

“Zip it, Knuckles,” says another voice, gravelly and biting. There is an odd sound, rather like a machine gun on a silencer.

“It heh heh heh looks like like a rock. A rock!” the third voice is squeaky, fast and manic.

“This…this is an ancient relic. I-I swear! It’s the Hand of Sutek.” the fourth voice is a bit petulant and weak.

Through the maze of cases five men can be seen, in a clear area in the center of the room, wearing pieces of prison clothing with otherwise normal attire. One is large and broad, with good looks and hair, sporting brass knuckles on each hand and holding a flashlight. One is short and skinny, dirty and unkempt, carrying a large, 20’s style tommy gun. One has a scar across his face and a neat purple fedora, and is nervously handling a deck of cards, absently cutting and shuffling it one-handed (making that odd noise Mark heard earlier). One is nondescript to the point of invisibility. And the fifth is shortish, squatish, and balding with small round glasses, holding a piece of slate, very roughly the size and shape of a child’s hand. Mark recognizes him as the professor he sent to jail—Doctor Tennyson.

“How is that thing going to help me? I got a lot on the line here, and if I sprung you for no good reason then I guarantee—”

“No, no, Ace, this is it! This is what I promised you back in prison! It’s the key to—”

Doctor Tennyson stops suddenly, and freezes. Then he relaxes.

He seems to stare into the middle distance. “Well. If it isn’t Mr Maxwell, my old nemesis. I should have known someone of your impressive detective skills would track me down.” He seems to be relishing his role. “Well, the joke’s on you, this time. I have fr—”

As he turns to look at where Mark is hiding he stops. His eyes and mouth widen in shock. The others turn in puzzlement to look in the same direction.

“You—you’re not Mark Maxwell! Who…who are you??”

Mark can feel the mystical spirit begin to exert itself. And, to Mark’s dismay, it tends to be somewhat theatrical. “I am that which haunts your dreams. I am that which cannot abide the evil in your hearts.” The Spirit Sign around Mark’s neck [an iron circle, with four arcs of circles inside it] shifts from the Sign of Seeking to the Sign of Light [the arcs inside the circle shift around], and a soul-searing burst of gray and red strikes the eyes of the one holding the machine gun.

“Aieeeee!” the gunman lets out a high-pitched scream as the gray and red burst tunnels into his eyes. “I can’t see! I can’t can’t can’t see!”

“He’s gonna haunt our dreams!” shouts the big guy with the brass knuckles.

“C-can it, you mugs! Get ’im!” The man with the cards draws a gun from his coat with his free hand, but his hand is too shaky to take proper aim.

The others seem frozen in terror.

Mark slips behind the disorganized cases and shelves, and lets out an eerie laugh. “Repent and surrender yourselves, lest you face the wrath your evil deeds have earned you!” He waits in the haphazard shadows for your chance to strike. It’s the kind of arcane maze in here that only years of well-meaning enthusiasm, chronic underfunding, weak light bulbs and poor curating can create.

The gunner’s eyes return to normal. “Where’d he he he go! I’ll perforate ’im!”

“He vanished! He’s a spook! Ace, I didn’t figure on spooks!”

“Zip it, both of you. Tommy, take the left. Knuckles, the right. Fingers—Fingers? Jiminy Christmas, he’s gone again. Well, we’ll get him anyway. Now move!”

“But he’s a—”

“I said MOVE!” Mark hears the click of a revolver being cocked, then footsteps.

Mark is almost startled to see Ace’s shadow against a nearby bookshelf, and as he rounds the corner Mark lashes out.

Ace gasps as his breath whooshes out after a hit to the sternum. Mark feels ribs snap. He staggers, dropping his gun.

“It’s it’s it’s him!” Suddenly the air explodes with machine gun fire and the crash of splintered glass.

“Tommy! Knock it off!”

“Knuckles, it was him, I tell ya, I tell ya, it was him!”

“Where? I didn’t hear nothin! Where is he?”

Mark easily grabs the punch-drunk Ace and slams him to the ground behind the cabinet. Ace lies there awkwardly, clearly unconscious. Mark’s eerie laughter echoes among the dim light and shattered glass.

“No, no, not now! I must save the…where is it?” It’s Tennyson’s whiny voice. “I just had it! It has to be here, somewhere!” Mark hears scuffling and sounds of shelves being upended.

“What was that? Ace, what’s…Ace? Ace? Jeepers, Tommy, he got Ace!”

“You you you ain’t takin’ me, dream haunter!”

The machine gun chatters again, tearing a bookshelf to flinders…fortunately it wasn’t the one Mark was hiding behind.

“Sheesh, Tommy, hold it! It’s me! I’m coming over.” Mark hears Knuckles stomp through the wreckage.

Mark moves up behind Knuckles from the shadows.

“Knuckles, behind you!”

Knuckles turns as Mark approaches him.

“Pleasant dreams, Knuckles,” Mark says, in a voice that visibly raises goosebumps.

Knuckles throws up his forearms in an attempt to block as Mark winds up to lay him out. Years of street experience and a flood of mystic power combine into a punch that could snap a telephone pole and send it hurtling across the street. Knuckles describes a flat trajectory through the air, trailing blood from his nose and ears. Knuckles collides with the gun-carrying gangster, knocking them both into a case of heavy iron artifacts, which promptly collapses around them. The machine gun clatters away, falling under the debris. Tommy groans a little, but Knuckles seems lifeless and bleeding.

In the distance, the sound of a car door opening and running footsteps.

Mark (to himself): “Crap! Crap crap crap! I didn’t mean to kill ’im!”

Worry not, mortal; the innocent lives this man has taken, or will take, surely mean he deserved death.

“Oh really, spirit; didn’t you say before than no man is innocent?”

Um …

“And by taking a life, doesn’t that mean we too deserve death?”

Er … that’s diff—

“I’m taking over now!”

Out loud, Mark says, “Flee and repent your ways, evil ones, lest you remain here and die.”

Tommy struggles back to consciousness as Mark speaks. “Yeah yeah yeah, sure sure sure. Repenting, that’s what we’re gonna do. Anything anything anything you say. Knuckles, the nice…man says we we we can go and…Knuckles? Oh man oh man oh man. Nobody ever done that that that to Knuckles. Ooh, still still still breathing, good. Look, mister, I’m just gonna pick up Knuckles here, and we’re going nice and easy, and giving up all that evil stuff, and won’t bother nobody nobody nobody again. And—”

The door to the museum slams open.

“Guys? What’s going on? What…what a mess!”

“Wheels! Find Ace, and get get get him back to the car, and like the nice man says we’re going going going straight and getting out of here.”

“Going straight? What’re you—”

“We’re GOING STRAIGHT, all all all right?”


WHEELS! Find Ace and let’s get get get out of here!”

Tennyson rummages in the shards of glass and wood, ignoring the cuts and splinters in his hands. “Where is it? The Hand? Where is it?” He seems quite oblivious to his surroundings.

Tommy grunts as he picks up Knuckles.

“Where’s Ace?”

“I I I don’t know, he went over over over that way.”

“It’s a maze in here!”

“Zip it, and let’s get out of here.”

“What happened?”

“Not not not now!”

“Caesar’s ghost! Ace is out cold! And—is that Knuckles? How did this happen? You don’t look so good yourself.”


Wheels picks up Ace, and the four of them leave the room. Car doors slam and tires squeal.

“It’s gone,” moans Tennyson. He sits on the floor with his head in his hands. “What will I do now?”
As Mark approaches, he looks up, eyes wide. “W-What are you going to do to me?”

“You are going to tell me what you are looking for, and why. Now.” The arcs of the Spirit Sign shift and resolve into the Sign of Thought, peering into the man’s mind. He seems broken and in despair.

“I…I…I [my destiny!] it’s [the Hand of Sutek] gone [missing lost nothing to live for]. The Hand of Sutek [Sutek promised!] would have realized my destiny [my true ascension my throne my empire!]. But it’s [my life, my destiny] all over [nothing matters now].

“Are you [don’t hurt me] going to take me back to jail [cold scary confusing]?”

“Yes, Tennyson; you are going back to jail.”

Mark ascertains that the Hand of Sutek looks like a grey stone shaped, with a little help from imagination, like an open hand (like a policeman, signaling “stop”), about 3 or 4 inches long. Tennyson’s mental image of it looks exactly like what he was holding when Mark entered the room. Prominent in his mind is also a shadowy figure that he calls Sutek, a towering man, an unearthly animal, a thunderous storm with no rain.

The nondescript gangster is nowhere to be seen. Mark didn’t notice him leaving with the others, but then again he didn’t notice much of him at all other than his presence at the start.

“It doesn’t matter anymore,” Tennyson says. “I’ve failed. Do what you want. I’ll go turn myself in tonight if you say so.” He sighs. “It would have been glorious.” He imagines countless people bowing to him in golden splendor, with various ex-colleagues in chains, but the image fades to black.

“Go now. Turn yourself in.”

“Yes sir.” Tennyson turns and dejectedly climbs the stair.

Mark looks for the rock, and finds a few pieces that are similar but are not the same size or shape. The room is rather a mess, between bullets and flying bodies, and after a rather thorough search the object itself hasn’t turned up. A scan for Evil shows nothing.

Mark rushes outside. The car is gone. The lanes of the University are empty; Tennyson probably walked downhill toward downtown. The hint of an aura of inhuman misanthropy sensed earlier fro the Hand is nowhere to be found.

The wind starts to pick up. The sky is overcast; there’s no moon or stars. The lights of the city are starting to go out; it’s probably past midnight.

It’s a long walk home. Thunder mutters politely overhead.

Mark is a few blocks from home when he sees another wanderer ahead, several blocks away, under a streetlamp, one he doesn’t recognize. The stranger is wearing a dark suit, possibly a tux, has unkempt hair, and is walking with a weird, spasmodic limp. He stops and looks up into the sky. Or up at the street light; it’s hard to tell.

Abruptly lightning fills the city night, and thunder shakes the street. Torrents of rain collapse from the sky, instantly soaking the pavement.

The dark-suited man screams. He screams like a man on fire. He runs, disappearing from the pool of yellow light. It’s hard to see in the dark and the rain, but Mark could swear he saw wisps of steam rising from the stranger’s body before he vanished.

There’s no trace of him when Mark reaches the spot where he was. Nothing left but the nagging mystery.

Episode M1
A Quiet Afternoon in Bayside City

Outside the dingy second-floor windows of the Maxwell Special Investigations office, Bayside City drums dully about its business. Cars rattle by. Newsboys call out the headlines. Pedestrians busy themselves among the sidewalks and stores. Since the base opened, it seems like more servicemen show up on the streets every day. Good for business—if you’re selling what they’re buying.

Faintly ominous, if you have a head for international affairs.

It’s June, 1940.

No callers, no telephone calls, not even mail, and no pending cases. Looks like another day of re-reading the paper, throwing cards into your hat and wondering where the rent is coming from.

“Hey, Mark.” From the outer office, Stacy knocks and pokes her head in the door. “It’s dead around here. I’m going to the ball game. Oh, that’s right, the Hawks are on the road, playing the Dodgers. Well, I’m just gonna go to that new Tyrone Power movie instead. See ya.” She starts closing the door. “You wanna come? Earl’s out of town today, training or something up in D.C.”

Mark visualizes how his brother-in-law would react if he let her precious daughter loose on the streets of the city alone at night. Not that he gives two cents about that rich twit’s feelings; it’s just fun to visualize his reaction.

Mark doesn’t, in fact, remember anyone in particular named Earl. Must be a new one.

“What? Johnny Apollo? You and your gangster movies. Haven’t you seen that five times already?” Still, there’s nothing better to do here. And Dorothy Lamour isn’t exactly hard on the eyes. “Sure. Why not?”

“Aw, geez, Mark. It’s only been three times. Come on. We’ll miss the newsreel.”

Thet head out on the busy street, walking the five blocks or so to the Bijou.

“Yextry! Yextry! Breakout at the Bayside City Pen! Read all about it!” shouts the paperboy across the street as they reach the theater.

“Go on in, Stacy; I’ll catch up.” After Stacy’s inevitable comeback, Mark heads across the street to look at the newspaper. If he has enough money for the movies and the newspaper, he’ll actually buy one. He’s specifically looking for who broke out, and if they’re ‘evil’ enough for him to go after, or if the cops can handle it.

“You’d better.” Stacy leaves in a huff.

The article says about half a dozen men broke out. It mentions Tommy Vinnelli, Seamus “Knuckles” Houlihan, Joe “Wheels” Hoffman and Leroy “Doofus” McGee, all of whom Mark recognizes as mob muscle. Also Marty “Ace” Kiser, a mob lieutenant, and another odd name: Anchises Kenneth Aeneas Tennyson III, a ex-archeology professor from Bayside State University. Mark remembers, from before, tracking him down for stealing artifacts from his own museum. Little round guy with glasses, always going on about his “destiny”.

It says the police are hot on their trail, and expect to have them back in custody in a couple days.

Bayside Penitentiary is just outside town. Mark tangled with Tennyson in his earlier days, before the Event, but at the time the professor seemed more deluded and out of touch with reality than evil.

Mark walks in as the newsreel depicts the stunningly rapid fall of Belgium and the Netherlands under the Nazi boot and the imminent defeat of France. The movie is otherwise enjoyable, despite the technical inaccuracies.

“Johnny, you never got a break,” Stacey laments as she and Mark leave the theater. “Hey, Mark, let’s get ice cream. My treat; Daddy sent me my allowance today. There’s a place I know…” She looks around… “just a block down. Come on!” She heads around the corner toward the alley behind the theater.

Stacey keeps up a stream of commentary and review on Johnny Apollo. As they approach the far end of the alley Mark starts thinking your anxiety is groundless. But then he notices a deep, thick voice unsuccessfully trying to whisper.

“An’ we got this here guy to get us in and knows what the good stuff is.”

“Doofus, zip it—we got company.”

From behind a dumpster two men suddenly emerge. One is built like a linebacker, wearing a fedora pulled down over his ears and a big overcoat over striped prison wear. The other is wearing a nondescript suit and looks lean, dangerous, and cynical.

“Well, lookie here, Doofus. It’s payday.”

“I don’t got a job.”

“Skip it. You, lady, hand over the handbag. Mister, your wallet. No funny stuff, and nobody gets hurt.”

“Aww. I like hurting people. Can I hurt just one?”

“First we’ll see what they got. Now hand it over.”

Stacey seems frozen with fear.

Mark don’t notice anything that suggests they have guns. A couple hoodlums. Great. The smart thing would be to play along, and get mugged. But I don’t always get accused of being smart.

Mark steps forward, and puts himself between the two fine, upstanding gentlemen and Stacy. 

“Now, who would imagine a couple of young men like yourselves would be hanging out in this alley, here? And would you please not scare the young lady? It’s not very polite.”

“Oh, a wise guy, eh? Somebody wants to be a hero, don’t he? What do we do to heroes, Doofus?”

“Uhh…we…what, Spider?”

“Teach ‘em a lesson, Doofus. Can’t have people disrespecting the Family, can we?”


“Cripes, Doofus. We hurt them. So they’re afraid.”

“Oh. Oh!! Okay.” Doofus gets a big, toothy smile on his face.

They rush him!

Mark waits a moment, and as the big guy runs up he socks him right in the gut! Doofus lets out a whoosh of air and stops in his tracks, gasping for breath. Mark strikes a threatening pose, glaring at the thugs.

“Jeeps!” Spider says, skidding to a halt. Then he recovers himself and takes a swing at Mark. He connects, but Mark hardly notices.

Doofus breathes hard a couple times, then straightens back up with murder in his eye.

Stacey screams and runs, shouting for the police.

“Time for you to fall down, Doofus.” Mark takes on a more defensive posture, and socks Doofus in the jaw! He feels Doofus’ jaw crack. Doofus drops, unconscious.

“Why, you…I’ll knock your brains in!” Spider raises both arms over his head…

…and Mark steps aside as he brings them down hard. Spider stumbles a little bit, overbalanced by his swing.

Mark grabs Spider as he’s stumbling from his swing, spins him around and gets him in a shoulder lock from behind.

“Let go of me, flatfoot!” Spider struggles; he’s wiry, but strong. Mark don’t know how long he’ll be able to hold him.

“Flatfoot? I’m not cop.” Mark slams Spider into a handy nearby wall. “What’s a finely-dressed gentleman like yourself doing in a dark alley like this?”

He grunts when he hits the wall. “I’m waitin’ for a bus. What’re you doin’ here, Mr. I’m Not a Cop?”

Mark: “A bus. In an alley. Right.” Mark spins Spider around and lands a right cross to the jaw. “Look at what happened to your big friend. Why not just tell me what you know?”

He kind of wobbles on his feet. “I don’t…know nothin’. Doofus said to meet him…some kind of museum heist…had an insider…you showed up…I didn’t do nothin’…” Spider’s eyes roll back into his head and he collapses to the pavement.

Mark strolls to the street, in the direction Stacey ran off in, to see if he can find her. He sees Stacey running toward him up the street with two policemen running behind her.

“Mark! You’re okay! What happened?”

They arrive at the alleyway. “What’s the story, mister?” one of the policemen asks.

“A couple of hoodlums jumped us in the alley back there. They should still be there. I think I overheard them saying something about a museum robbery.”

“A museum robbery, eh? We’ll check it out.” One of the police goes down the alley.

Then Mark says to Stacey, “Exactly how often do you go down alleys, young lady?”

“I never go down alleys. At night. Often. Are you okay? They looked pretty tough! Did they hurt you? You don’t look hurt.”

“Hey, Seamus! Look at this!” the policeman down the alley calls. “It’s Doofus McGee! He’s out cold! Still in his prison clothes, too. Better call for the wagon.”

“All right. I will. Hmm…McGee…museum robbery…maybe he heard something from that Tennyson character. You must have some kind of arm there, mister. Say, there’s a reward out for those jailbreakers. Stop down at the station sometime if you want it. What was your name?”

“The name is Mark Maxwell.” He’d tell them he’s a private eye, but cops and us don’t mix well. “And McGee back there tripped over his own feet, even if he won’t admit it.” The noble and honorable things would be to turn down the reward, but Mark has never claimed either of those things. That and business isn’t too good right now.

“Mark…Mark Maxwell, eh?” He seems like he’s trying to remember where he heard that name before.

“Hey, it’s Jerry Robinson, too!”

“Oh, no. Not again.”

“You want I should leave him?”

“No, Ralph, we’d better bring him in, too. I’ll phone for the wagon.”

Mark: “What’s the story with this Robinson fellow?”

The cop sighs. “We’ve run him in a dozen times, and each time he gets sprung some kind of technicality or legal trick. We’ll take him in again, but with no witnesses…McGee will go straight to jail, of course, but I don’t know if we can make anything stick to ol’ Spider. ’Scuse me, gotta make a call.” He walks off to the pay phone. Ralph is busy handcuffing the gangsters.

“Come on, Mark, let’s get out of here,” says Stacey. “I don’t think I’m that hungry for ice cream tonight. Why don’t you walk me home?”

“Sure thing, kid.” As he walks Stacey home, Mark internally sighs as he thinks about what is sure to be a long night.

Usually, crooks who break out of jail lay low, or go on the lam. For one to plan a heist right away, something must be up — something that’s gonna happen soon. Mark racks his brain. Is there anything happening at the museum? Any traveling exhibit leaving, or a new exhibit opening? Reluctantly, he also considers possible mystical events; is there anything coming up now? Does he know someone he might contact about such things?

After Stacey is delivered home, he’ll check out the newspaper archive-of-interesting-events he just might have in his office.

Museums, museums—

The obvious target is the Treasures of Rameses collection, currently at the Bayside City Museum of Natural History. It’s not Tutankhamun, but there’s gold and antiquities. Mark deduces that the police will be alert for a heist there after his warning. The exhibit has been there awhile, but it came to town after Tennyson went to jail.

There’s the Bayside City Institute of Arts. There’s some valuables there. Security is pretty good, but if someone knows the ins and outs…

There’s the museum Tennyson tried to rob the first time; a couple rooms in the basement of the Archeology department at Bayside University that never gets any visitors. There isn’t really anything valuable there though, and the newspaper archive says the thing Dr Tennyson was going after got moved out of state.

There’s a minor astral conjunction in a few days. Those come along every few weeks. The Gatekeepers are a bit more alert around those days, but Mark hasn’t heard anything from them.

Mark heads down to Mike’s Rusty Nail, which certainly wouldn’t have any unseemly business going on, to see if he can find out anything in the ‘buzz’ about a museum/antiquities heist going down.


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