[AJAX] Out in the Field (All 1.1)


Corn. You've been smelling it for miles. Miles and miles, even before you could see the lush green stalks zipping past the windows.

After hours of driving, you're almost there. You know you're going to Dalhart, Texas (population 8500), right all the way in the upper armpit of the state, just across the Oklahoma border.

You've got a few scant details in the case file- over the last few years, the town has had a number of disappearances around the same time every year. It could be a serial killer, or small-town ennui, or... something else. And it's that time of year again. Your money is on it being something else. Why else would they send you out to the middle of nowhere?

Maya, who or what did you have to leave behind to come on this trip?
Peter, what did you dream about last night?
Steven, what do you do on these long trips about your family?

Any or all of you, who's driving, what is the vehicle like, and what's one thing you packed? How do you pass the time?


  • edited October 2016
    "Maya, I saw an excellent deal on a used Ford Focus before we left, just think about all the money you could save by not having to always be fixing that car of yours. How much did you pay for those new tires, again? If you just saved up a few purchases worth of parts you could afford something more safe and reliable."

    Peter has been trying with utterly clueless perseverance to bridge the gap he senses in his relationship with his daughter, but never brings it up directly out of fear that naming something makes it real. A principle which also applies to the haunting dream he had night of a green skinned man wearing all green clothing who was folding Steven up like a literal piece of human origami while Steven screamed in agony.

    Peter gave up his driving shift when the cornfields began to close in and get closer to the highway, all that green was unsettling to him.
  • "A Focus? Really Pete? That's a bit much even for me. Besides, you know you'll be asking to drive her baby as soon as she gets it finished."

    Normally Steven would never say anything to contradict Peter to Maya, but he knows how much she loves her car. So he felt compelled to interject.

    Steven really liked traveling with Peter and Maya. Even though they were a constant reminder of how much he missed his own family, being with them somehow made it easier. Maybe because Maya was such an impressive young woman. Aside from the danger of what they do, he would be so proud to have his daughters turn out like her. And Steven liked being a sounding board for for Peter if he ever needed someone to help him talk to Maya.
  • edited October 2016
    I drove down ahead in my Boxster — partly because I needed to transport some equipment, and partly because the Boxster is actually running at the moment. It's only got the two seats, so I couldn't really take anyone else with me — unless they liked cramped quarters, that is. I don't mind time alone, though — I backed out of a relationship that was tailspinning a few weeks back, because he couldn't deal with me working more than I spent time with him.

    I'm starting to enjoy being my own person again, though. It was nice to open up the Boxster's flat-six on some back-country roads... I'm pretty sure I flew past a speed-trap earlier, and the cop decided not to try his luck. If not for the murders, I'd say things are turning up Maya!

    I met Dad and Steven at my hotel in the next town over, about a 20 minute drive away, and we all took off to head into town.
    "A Focus? Jeez, Dad... Sell a classic car that costs less in maintenance than the payments on a new car? I can't afford that!"
    I pause a moment before realizing that may have come across a little harsh. I get back on the walkie, this time less serious.
    "And who says my Boxy isn't safe? Tell him, Steven! You'll be eating those words when you need to haul butt somewhere, and Boxy's the one who gets you there in time!"
    Pretty much as soon as I say that, I feel a slight vibration in the steering wheel, and freeze... It passes, but it makes me really glad I brought some tools, just in case.
  • edited October 2016
    Steven had to stifle a laugh at Maya's response. It was a nice break up of the monotony of the corn.

    There had been too much monotony the last few months since Ajax got off the ground. He had never traveled so much in his life. But in the end he knew it would be worth it. All the boredom and time away from his family was worth it knowing all the good they were doing.

    "Are you two all caught up on the facts of the case? Peter, anything jump out at you in the reports?"
  • edited October 2016
    "I do have some ideas relating to the timing of the disappearances, but I'll have to bounce them off a colleague of mine."

    During the next pitstop (which Peter calls for before he strictly needed to) he steps aside and makes a call to his superior in the Promethean Society. He exchanges hushed words with a hand to his other ear to block out any ambient noise.

    Rolling +charm (Rolled: 2d6. Rolls: 6, 5. Total: 11)
  • The phone call goes as expected- you exchange the appropriate code words and countersigns until you get connected to the right person. There's a little more static on the line than usual, some staccato sounds in the speech. Must be a bad connection out here in BFE Texas.

    Peter, who is your superior in the Promethean Society? What's that relationship like? What happened when they stuck their neck out for you last time? Are you expecting information or boots on the ground?
  • edited October 2016
    My superior in the order is a Mr. Jeff Turner, an expatriated South African and devout Catholic who almost got himself excommunicated the last time he stuck his neck out for me. Definitely expecting information this time.
  • edited October 2016
    "This is no human pestilence, my son," rumbles Turner's clipped, accented voice. You can almost hear him leaning back in his chair and looking out his office window as he prepares to lecture. "The signs and the portents are clear. Be prepared for the misdirection of the damned, of the youth beyond the veil. There will be whispers of fairy-tales that are not completely lies. But make no mistake, there is a terrible danger here for the unwary, for those who believe in the lies and are fooled by the glitter in the corn. "You hear the creak of a door over the phone, then there's a muffled sound as he covers the mouthpiece to talk to someone.

    "Be strong, Peter. Study your languages. Is there anything else?"
  • edited October 2016
    "Jeff, Maya is along on this one. Any practical advice one father to another?
  • edited October 2016
    Turner huffs through his nose the way he does when he's holding back an opinion. "Give her the room to be her own person. Never forget she will need you to be there for her, no matter how much of a grown up adult she considers herself. And do not neglect her spiritual education! And be watchful."

    You hear the creak of his chair as he leans back again, hesitant with next next words. "Also- she is not the only child in the fields. Go with God, my son." He is needed elsewhere and will hang up if you let him.

    Maya and Steven, what details did you look for when you read the case file?
  • edited October 2016
    As Peter walks back to the car, Steven places his phone to his ear and loudly whispers "FBI. Secrets secrets." Even though his job usually requires him to keep as many secrets as Peter's, Steven rarely passes up an opportunity to hassle Peter about his.

    "I been reading over the witness statements again, and there really doesn't seem to be too much to go on. There are a few people I'd like to speak to, but I'm not sure how much use it will be."
  • edited November 2016
    From the case file, the earliest disappearance was 4 years ago tomorrow.

    The same police officer, Jennifer Harris, has contributed reports of the missing persons. Many of her notes indicate repeated interviews with local farmers. She asks them some probing questions about their religious preferences (mostly Baptist, but some Methodists and Catholics) that seem like they have little to do with evidence. There's a list of the various farmers and other interviewees from over the years. Maybe some of them will tell you something they didn't tell a cop? Hard to say, some Texans might clam up to an outsider.

    Here's what Officer Harris looks like, by the way.

    The case file also has some clippings from one Phillip Laredo, a reporter from Oklahoma City. It's clear that he's convinced it's not just missing people, there are some references to timelines and patterns of other serial killers, and a series that he did for The Oklahoman, the OKC paper, on a serial killer operating there.

    There's also the list of the missing people, of course, and their last known locations around town. Looks like all the last known locations are on the south side of town, lending credence to Laredo's theory.
  • edited October 2016
    Steven hands Peter and Maya each a copy of a local map with markings for each disappearance.
    Switching to a more serious tone: "Peter, Maya, can either of you make out any sort of pattern to based of the locations of the crime scenes?"
  • edited November 2016
    I'm leaning against Boxy's hood, munching on some Cheetos, and sipping from a can of Nestea while I wait for Dad's call to be over.

    I'll be the first to admit I'm not a detective... I read my fair share of eloquent politics blog, and can fix a seal on an old BMW E30 in no time flat — but considering my dad was apparently in some super-secret cult my whole life, and I'm only now figuring that out, I wouldn't exactly say my game is "pattern recognition".

    "Does 'a blob' count?" I tease, nudging his elbow, "All I know is that one there is by Miss Horton's house — I arranged an interview with her today at 7:30, when she gets off her shift at the clinic. I also set up an interview with her ex-husband Zach Winchester, but he weaseled me into making it a 'lunch date'." I grimace, "I expected nothing less from a high-school quarterback who proposed to the prom queen after graduation, and divorced her a year later."

    People are my game, in case you haven't guessed — I scoured the reports for people I thought would be easiest to strike a chord with. Darla Horton (formerly Winchester), and Zach Winchester were easy targets, because they're my age. I've got a short-list of POI's that I'm still trying to get interviews with...
  • edited November 2016
    "With just the four locations I don't know if I can offer a very educated hypothesis on what'a going in here, Steve; but with a bit more data I'm sure I can find something of enough significance that I can successfully analyze in terms of mythic significance. Are we absolutely sure that the first disappearance we have records for is the actual first occurrence? I'd like to head to the ME's office and check to see if anything didn't get past anyone."
  • I toss my empties into a bin, reach into my bag, and pull out a moleskin filled with case notes. I thumb through the pages, looking for anything from the preliminary interviews I did earlier in the week...
  • Investigate a Mystery (roll+sharp)
    (Rolled: 2d6-1. Rolls: 3, 1. Total: 3)
  • edited November 2016
    Maya, you find the notes from where you did a preliminary phone interview with Dr. Tarrant. Definitely a small-town doc, there were only two useful facts out of the rambling conversation you had. A little over six years ago, there was a murder in town- a child was evidently kidnapped and was eventually found decapitated in one of the corn fields. This being Texas, they executed the killer in the state prison. You've got all these names. Could you list them?

    About five years ago, however, there was a local mechanic who was thought missing. Julio Limas was eventually found wandering the corn fields, his clothes in tatters and suffering from severe dehydration and preliminary starvation. He was also out of his mind, wounded somehows, speaking nonsense, and eventually was committed to Willowdale, the county mental health facility here in Dalhart.

    What do you do?
  • I've got it scrawled in my notes here:

    Dr. Tarrant Interview
    - 6 yrs ago: Leah McTavish goes missing.
    - Amber alert.
    - Trail goes cold...
    - ... or does it? Leah turns up near middle of Duke Robinson's corn field.
    - Decapitated, "among other things..."
    - Tarrant deflects with humor — Thank. God.
    - Duke Robinson presumed not-related (he reported it). #ALIKELYSTORY
    - Enter stage right: Rick Gonzalez — confession + psych-eval = INSANE.
    - Rick Gonzalez found guilty, locked up, summarily executed because Texas. #CASECLOSED

    Not sure what else there is to say... I toss my moleskin back into the car, and shake my head.

    "I'm not sure... But the details in this case are pretty sketchy. Lots of hearsay... Do you want me to set up any other interviews?"
  • edited November 2016
    "Yes Maya. If you could set up a meeting with Phillip Laredo, that would be great. I would like to speak with Officer Harris, but I'll reach out to her myself."
  • edited November 2016
    I'm going to bet it all on red that Laredo is going to be hesitant to dig up this obscure case from five years ago that didn't get traction — but Steve's just so damned pretty...

    I smile, and haul out my phone.

    "Sure! I'll fire off that email now..."

    I'm already pulling up his contact details... God, Maya — smooth.
  • Maya, what do you put in your email? How much are you letting Laredo know what you know or suspect?

    Steve, what's your plan for Officer Harris? Good cop or bad cop?

    Peter, do you have a usual cover story when dealing with locals? Usually they won't offer up details to non family?
  • Peter isn't the greatest at subterfuge which is surprising considering how long he managed to keep Maya in the dark about his paranormal activities. He relies upon whatever brute force charm he can muster while sticking as close to what he is as possible: an academic before all else. He's found limited success at melting through reserve by honestly displaying his enthusiasm for nerdy details and downplaying the dangers and realities of his work. People open up a bit more when they think they're being written about in a harmless academic journal in ways that they simply wouldn't for a full blown journalist.
  • edited November 2016
    Steven checks his notes for Officer Harris' contact information. He calls her directly to make an appointment with her for this afternoon. When speaking with local law enforcement, he always tries to be as affable as possible.

    After exchanging pleasantries, he explains the reason for his call. He ends the conversation with "Is 2pm an alright time to meet? And is there any certain location you'd like to talk?"
  • edited November 2016
    Steven, Harris seems encouraged by the interest of an FBI field agent. "I've been saying we need to kick this up the chain of command for years now," she says in her soft Texan drawl. "It's about damn time that someone listened before we have another one. Look, I don't want to say more over the phone- but let's just say I'd feel better if we met inside a church, y'know? I go to Saint Anthony's, if that's not a problem for you." She'll tell you the address- it's a Catholic church on East Texas road on the south side of town.

    "Two is fine, I'll get there early. If the last few years mean anything, these bastards are liable to strike tomorrow. Are you bringing anyone?"
  • edited November 2016
    My email is pretty straightforward:

    to: plaredo@oklahoman.com
    Dear Mister Laredo,

    I'm a film studies student at UT Austin ... Doing a documentary about the incidents in Dalhart, Texas ... Your take was very interesting ... If you could spare me some time in the next few days for a Hangouts interview, that would be awesome...


    I don't have a UT Austin email, but "mie.pie@gmail.com" is a pretty good substitute for a college girl's vanity address. No sense in putting him on the defensive right away...
  • edited November 2016
    Maya, you get an email back fairly quickly.

    to: mie.pie@gmail.com

    The WiFi in the Dalhart motel here isn't super great for video. I'm happy to do a phone interview today, but check your dates. I think he's going to strike again tomorrow, and I'll be busy if so.

    Attached are my previous articles for your project. Do you have a source of funding for your film? What's the working title and what is your timeline?

    Phil Laredo

    The articles pretty much cover what's in the case file, but it's clear that Laredo expects a serial killer is the culprit. He has a bunch of comparisons to previously caught killers and points out some similarities to unsolved murders. He spends time focusing on the cyclical nature of the incidents and the implication of tomorrow's date.
  • edited November 2016
    Well that's... Mixed news. I cock an eyebrow, and inject myself between Dad and Steven,
    "Laredo's in town investigating the disappearances... He says he thinks there's going to be another victim tomorrow. We should probably get moving? I'll fill you in on the way..."
    I send him a quick mail back before jumping in Boxy:

    to: plaredo@oklahoman.com
    In town filming with my professor. This is a practicum. Minimal funding for the film is provided by the department, and my Dad's credit card. Editing, equipment, etc all provided by the program. Film is due at the end of the winter term, with no oversight other than my Prof's.

    I could meet you at 3? Motel lobby?

    p.s. No working title... No narrative figured out yet — but I like "Whispers in the Stalks".
  • edited November 2016
    Finishing with Harris:

    "St. Anthony's at 2 o'clock. No problem. And I've got two colleagues with me. They are consulting behavior analysists. They may or may not be joining me today. With our timeframe being so short, they may be working on another lead at that time. I'll see you shortly."

    Steven fills Maya and Peter in on his conversation.

    "The odd thing about it is, she acted as if someone was listening in on us. And then mentioned being more comfortable discussing this in a church."

    Steven gave Peter a look of concern as he mentioned Officer Harris' insistence on them meeting in a church.

    After Maya details her back and forth with Laredo, Steven suggests that Peter accompanies her to the meeting.

    "Harris seems like she's got a lot to say and I don't want you to miss your meeting with Laredo. So I'll head to the church and you two can head to the motel. Sound good?"

  • edited November 2016
    Peter's relationship with the Catholic Church is... complicated. If he were the type of person who is capable of acknowledging the existence of a problem when it's not necessary, he would shoot Steven a grateful look for the offer of an out on visiting the church. Steven is always so damned considerate.

    "I'm concerned that my presence may disrupt Maya's cover, Steven. I can't imagine her film professor accompanying her on a project. Perhaps I could go seperately and merely listen in to see if I can ascertain anything useful by eavesdropping. Your thoughts Maya? Alternatively, I could visit the sites of the missing persons last known whereabouts and see if anything reminds me of the Odyssey enough to discern something about the locations."

  • edited November 2016
    I look up from my cellphone, looking perplexed.

    "Huh? Oh! Well, I dunno... I was thinking Steven could go as my Professor, since he wanted the interview... Your call?"
  • image

    You hear the whispering and rustling of the nearby corn fields, almost like it wants to be part of the conversation. You notice you don't hear any birds.
  • edited November 2016
    As Steven listens to his partners talking, an eerie feeling washes over him. Lost in the feeling he finally notices Peter and Maya looking to him for their plan.

    "Sorry guys. But ah....nothing." Steven mutters trying to shake these thoughts.

    "Something about this has Officer Harris spoked. She seems willing to trust us, but I'd like to keep this as simple as possible. And I think the best way would be for me to meet with her alone."

    "As for Laredo, if he's half as good at what he does as I'm hoping he is, he'll figure me out as a fed in know time. He's too important a potential source to have clam up. So I think you'd be better off without me."

    Steven turns his sight to the fields for a few moments before continuing, then turns to Maya "But I'd really like it if Peter accompanied you. I don't know why but I'd feel better knowing you two were together."

    Steven looks at his watch and realises he needs to get going to meet with Harris. He pulls his phone out and starts typing a message as he speaks. "Ok. I need to get going. You two be careful."

    As he turns gets into his car, he sees Maya looking at her phone where she'll read his message. "Keep an eye on your father. Make sure he doesn't get too lost in his notes."
  • With that, the three of you sort out vehicles and set off into Dalhart proper. You seem to keep hearing the whispers of the corn, even through windows and over music.


    Maya and Peter, please go here.

    Steven, please go here.

    ===END SCENE===
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