[2Dets] A Favor for L'Infer (BC 04)

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Bianca,
It's been a day or so since your date with Siobhan and one of Madame L'Infer's people reached out to request that you visit. No details about the visit were provided. What time of day did you arrive? How are you dressed?

You're escorted quickly into the same conference room as before. Siobhan isn't in the lounge when you pass by. The employee offers to get you some water, perhaps a pastry if you like.
Madame L'Infer arrives moments later. She enters the room briskly wearing a dark black silk pantsuit with a crimson tie. Under her left arm is an iPad Air, which she sits on the table face down. She sits down and engages in some polite small talk as your waters arrive. After a sip, she begins speaking, "Miss Claremont, thank you for coming. I have a matter I cannot personally attend to that I'd like you to handle for me. I anticipate your skills are well suited for this problem." She flips over her iPad Air and cues up a program, still talking, "Mr. Andrews is one of my newest employees. His cousin Nathan lives in Grosse Pointe, and something unnatural has likely happened to him. According to Mr. Andrews, Nathan had always been sickly, but he's recently packed on a good deal of muscle and become very aggressive. One might dismiss this as a young man getting healthy, but Nathan is in his thirties, and the changes are startling. I anticipate involvement by one of my enemies among the undead, or perhaps right in your wheelhouse. A barter of humanity for power, something like that. Can you look into this for me? If you do, I will consider our Debt settled, and I will pay your expenses, plus a stipend for your expertise."
She shows you the pictures of Nathan, one obviously "before", a man barely pushing one forty, then "after", a behemoth with muscles, popped veins, and a grimace of aggression.

Comments

  • I take in what she's told me. "Do you have any suspicions of who - or what - in particular might see this as a good way of getting to you?" At the possibility of demon involvement, I can almost feel The Preacher's anticipation.
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    In a clipped fashion, she answers, "The Tong family is most likely. They have several labs in Grosse Pointe and we compete for product for my customers here. MDMA, pharmaceuticals that won't show on drug tests, even old-fashioned cocaine. I want the best grade, and they want control, so I work with suppliers and mules who will slip past them. It's a very indirect route, and I'm surprised they even knew the connection to a very new employee. Unless, of course, Mr. Andrews is a plant. I sincerely hope that isn't the case, or I'll need to review my vetting process."
  • Great. "Do you want me to find out what happened, quietly?" Quietly is not really my strong suit. "Or... stir the pot and see what jumps out?"
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    Madame L'Infer smiles, "Miss Clarement. I would not ask a snake to dance. I fully expect pots to be stirred. Whoever is doing this, let me know. The priority is finding out what has happened to Nathan, and how to stop it. Secondary importance to knowing who is behind it. Is that clear, Miss Claremont? " Her tone isn't sharp, she's trying to cover bases and make sure she's understood in what is a very fluid situation.
  • I nod. "Crystal." I gather all the information she has, asking about Nathan's work and his home address and the like. I glance at my phone. "It's only two o'clock, so there's no reason I can't start right away. How often do you want reports?" I'm dressed like usual, The Preacher in a back sheath under my leather jacket, the baton hooked to a belt-loop of my jeans. Not exactly Grosse Pointe Country Club material, but for wandering around casually, I shouldn't raise two many eyebrows unless I want to.
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    "Daily." she answers in a tone that makes it seem reasonable, not demanding. "If you get in over your head, call sooner. You're unofficially acting at my behest, but that doesn't mean I'll let you take the brunt of an offensive meant for me. Anything you need from me before you begin?"
  • "Some walking around money, in case I need to grease any wheels. Aside from that, I think I just need to hit the pavement and see what I find out."
  • edited April 5
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    Madame L'Infer brings up an ap on her iPad, swipes, then types a few things, answering, "Mr. Andrews handles the petty cash. I sent him a message to provide you funds to grease any wheels. It's a three day stipend, call if you need more and we can discuss it." With that, she clicks off her iPad and rises to give you a curt nod, then she leaves.
  • I assume Mr. Andrews will make himself known to me, so I stand up and start toward the door. I'm not put off by Madame L'Infer's manner - I'd rather have business that looks and sounds like business than any sort of fake friendliness.
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    A young man leads you to a closet-sized office where Mr. Andrews is sitting behind a laptop. Mr. Andrews looks up to give a tight smile, then opens a drawer in his desk to pull out a cash box. He counts out money in twenties, puts it on the desk, "Six hundred dollars in cash. The bills are not sequenced or marked."
  • I nod. "That should be enough for low-level flunkies, if I need to spread some bribes. Come back to you if I need to?"
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    "Yes, ma'am," Mr. Andrews answers, his tone worried. "I... are you going to kill my cousin Nathan? I hope you can save him. He's a raging dick right now, but back when we were kids, he stood up for me once. Got his ass kicked for it, but I still feel like I owe him, you know?"
  • edited April 5
    I do a mental headslap. "I'm sorry, I didn't make the connection." I hold out my hand to shake his, if he will. "I'm Bianca. What's your first name?" After we either shake or don't, I say, "I don't plan on killing anyone. I'm going to try to figure out what's going on and make it right."
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    "Jeff, my name's Jeff, Miss Claremont. And thanks. I..."" he glances past you, lowering his voice. "I was an, uhm, acqui-hire from one of Madame L'Infer's former competitors. I wasn't sure how she might have instructed you."
  • I give him a smile. "She actually told me that top priority was figuring out what happened to your brother, and making it right. Does that help, Jeff?"
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    Jeff nods, blowing out a breath he'd been holding. "Yes, it does." He glances past you again, the coast is clear, "It's a dangerous place to work. Here, I mean. How did you start?"
  • I shrug. "I'm more a contractor. An occasional deniable asset." I tuck the money in an inside pocket of my jacket. "I've been getting the sense that it's dangerous around here. A lot of infighting?"
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    After a moment of consideration, he does a bit of a head waggle indicating more or less yes, "It's a dangerous business. Once you're drawn in, there is no real exit strategy. You know too much to be allowed to go, so the best hope is to end up with the, pardon the term, top dog."
  • edited April 7
    "I get that." Cut-throat corporate world shit with extra supernatural bits thrown in to make it worse. "Jeff, anything I should know about your cousin going in? His situation before, and anything that might give me a clue about what's up with him now? Even if it seems like a little thing, might be a piece that slots into place later."
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    "Nathan had a steady girlfriend for a year, they recently broke up. A month ago, I think." Jeff says. "He tried Tindr, then went to a gym for a bit, but left, said it wasn't working for him." He thinks for a bit, "He's started going to clubs recently, after he bulked up, which was after he quit the gym by the way. Loud ones, dance clubs, lots of different music. Rock, dubstep, he didn't seem to care."
  • I nod. "What sort of work does he do? Or has that changed, too?" Probably my last question... I'm asking as much to make sure Jeff feels involved, in case I need to come back for details later.
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    "He's a web designer, works from home. I'm not sure, you know, if he's still doing it. He didn't mention it, got testy when I asked about it." Jeff answers without hesitation. "If I hear from him or think of anything, I'll call you." He indicates the laptop, he has your details.
  • I offer him a hand to shake. "I'll do my best, Jeff." I turn to leave, then turn back. "Oh, by the way. Which competitor of Madame L'Infer's did you work for?"
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    Jeff doesn't hesitate when he answers, "Her name was Bloise. Madame L'Infer... took care of her through intermediaries for debts unpaid. I kept Bloise's books and I'm handling the transfer of her former assets into Madame L'Infer's holdings. That's why I'm still alive right now. And most likely why you've been hired." He doesn't seem to be bragging, it's simply a fact of his life that gives him a slight advantage.
  • I nod. So this is cleanup rather than compassion. That fits. "Thanks, Jeff. I may get back to you, and if you hear anything or think of anything, call." Then I'm out the door and off to work.
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    Are you heading straight to Grosse Pointe? It's a half hour drive unless there's traffic. Or did you need to grab gear or something?
  • edited April 8
    I have my personal-carry stuff, and everything else is in the lockbox in the truck. I'll grab an iced coffee along the way if I see the chance, but otherwise I'm pretty much heading directly to Nathan's place in Grosse Pointe.
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    photo 2062 Ridgement Rd_zpsylwbvilg.png
    2062 Ridgemont Rd. in Grosse Pointe is a squat little one-story house nestled between larger homes on the block. Trees almost hide it from the street. As you pull up, you can see the weeds in the yard, a half dozen newspapers near the front porch in various spots.

    What do you do?
  • I park down the street, at the end of the block (from the right in the picture). If the driveway next door is empty, I'll walk up and knock on the door, hoping for no answer. (If there is an answer, I'll apologize for getting the wrong house and "check my phone" for the right address.) When I get to Nathan's door, I knock and put on my best "new client" smile. Wait to see what happens.
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    The neighbor, an elderly woman wearing a flowery blouse, answers and smiles when you apologize, doesn't seem bothered at all. There's no answer at Nathan's front door, after a few minutes.
  • edited April 8
    I peek through the window, but I'm not trying to break in or anything. Might be best if I ask around first, anyway. I go back to the neighbor and knock again.
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    The window looks into a tiny hallway, a living room to the right, a kitchen at the end, a hallway to the left near the entry to the kitchen. Cozy. No movement, nobody appears to be inside or coming to the door.

    It's late afternoon, probably not wise to break in.
  • Not wise, no. I will head back to the nice lady next door and knock again, this time with an apologetic smile.
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    Flowery blouse woman opens the door, smiles, seems a little concerned, "Is everything alright, darling?" She seems comfortable with you, not wary.
  • "I'm sorry to bother you again, but I was supposed to meet Nathan, next door? I know I've got the right day and time... did you happen to notice when he left?"
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    She frowns slightly, "Oh... you should knock really loud. He had some mail that arrived in my box and I took it over. I had to knock for a few minutes, started to get worried." She looks over there, then back to you, "Are you sure you need to meet him? He's not been... feeling well lately." She changes subjects like she thinks she might sound weird, "What is it that you do, darling? Oh, I'm Mandy."
  • Hmmm. "I work in the editorial department of a new fitness magazine. One of our people saw Nathan, and we're thinking he'd be a good cover story for our first issue. You know, the transformation? This is just a first meeting."
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    Mandy breathes out slowly, then nods, "Oh, right. The big muscles. I don't know, I think he's taking steroids. Pretty sure of it, he is definitely angry. Joe Atsel, across the way, his dog Banjo barked at Nathan non-stop, and after he got all those muscles, he yelled back. And... well, Banjo went missing."
  • edited April 8
    I furrow my eyebrows. "Well, that's not the kind of story we'd want to run. Is that what you meant by not feeling well? The anger?"
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    She nods, sadly. "He used to be a real sweet boy."

    You hear a front door open from the house, Nathan's house. Mandy flinches a little, "Oh. I-I need to go." She moves to close the door, her tone suddenly fearful.
  • edited April 9
    I nod. "Thanks." Then I step back, turn and make my way back to Nathan's house, quickly like it's important. "Mr. Andrews?"
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    This is the shirtless Nathan:
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    He gives you a bro-ish head nod, "Hey there little lady. What's up?"
  • I give him my best attempt at an impressed smile. "Mr. Andrews? I'm Mimi Terrance, from Fitness Publishing Group? Do you have a few minutes to talk?"
  • edited April 9
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    He looks you over, and there's a sense of interest, but oddly it doesn't tick the meter of "he finds you hot". Nathan nods, gestures towards the interior of his house, "C'mon inside, Mimi. I've got a few minutes." He stares past you towards Mandy, cowing her to shrink back into her own house, then waits for you to enter his abode.
    What do you do?
  • I walk into the house, all my combat senses alert and my limbs loose and ready for action if needed. "Thank you." I wait for him to join me.
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    The place smells like death, Bianca. The iron hints of blood lie heavy in the air.
    "I work out plenty, Mimi" Nathan shares as he ushers you into his cramped living room with old video game systems, a big, ancient flatscreen HDTV, and second- or third-hand furniture. "But I didn't bulk up until I tried this new supplement. Hey, you want a drink or something?"
  • "No, thanks. I have to tell you, one of our interns used to work out at some gym with you... I don't remember which one, sorry... and she said the transformation is incredible! We're starting a new monthly about the ways in which people can change their lives through fitness, and you seem to be a great candidate for a feature. Do you mind telling me what supplement did this for you?"
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    "Golds, that's my gym. What's your intern's name?" Nathan says. "I got the supplement off a guy named Randolf, Mimi. Nice guy, makes his own herbal remedies and stuff. Ran into him at the Whole Foods. I know it sounds a little weird, just buying supplements off a guy you meet at a grocery store, but trust me, he's legit. Hey, you want to try one for yourself?"
  • "I'd love to, but I'm on antibiotics right now for a... well, you probably don't want to know. Could I take one to try next week, after I'm done with 'em? What's it called, anyway?"
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    Why don't you try and Persuade him to hand over a pill?
  • Bein' Persuasive. (Rolled: 2d6+0. Rolls: 3, 6. Total: 9)
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    "Sure, Mimi, I can shoe you my home gym, too. It's down in my basement. Come on, you'll like it." He motions for you to follow him towards the kitchen.
    What do you do?
  • That's a really bad idea, even for me, but I need to know what's the what. I take out my phone. "Mind if I take a few reference pictures, for my editor?" And then I follow.
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    The mention of your phone, followed by you pulling it out, it does put him on edge. He puts up a hand, "No! I, uh, I mean the basement's a little messy. No pictures until I clean it up." He looks you over, "Maybe this isn't so good an idea."
  • edited April 12
    I put my phone away. "Hey, it's fine. I don't mind a little mess, and we can arrange for a real shoot some other time. No worries, Nathan."
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    That relaxes him a little. He walks over to the kitchen, then opens a door to the basement, reaches in to flick on a light. It's a naked bulb halfway down the concrete stairs to a dank bare earthen floor. "Don't worry, I've got some floor remnants down there. And a sump pump. After you, Mimi."
  • edited April 12
    Serial killer much? "No, no... lead the way. It's your castle, after all. I'm just the tourist."
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    Nathan shrugs, "Sure, alright." He trots down the steps on sure feet, then waits for you at the bottom. The basement is about a thousand square feet, one open space with columns for support and some areas blocked off by curtains on rods. "Lots of junk down here, sorry" He reaches up to pull a string to a naked bulb and heads past a grimy pair of freezers to his all-in-one home gym, a set of cabinets, barbell set, and a radio.
    "This is where the magic happens, Mimi."
  • edited April 12
    I act appropriately impressed as I let him give me a "tour" of his gym. Seems non-miraculous, if this is all there is to it,but I ask questions to draw him out, trying to get a handle on Nathan.

    (Rolled: 2d6+1. Rolls: 3, 6. Total: 10)
  • Questions:
    Who's pulling Nathan's strings?
    What does he worry might happen?
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    During your impromptu interview, you get a look at his supplements. There are a number of vitamins and "herbal supplements" that you've seen before, they're made by a local company - Anara. Anara's operated by a member of the Night faction, they use it primarily to move blood and other sustenance for supernatural creatures throughout the city.
    With nervous fingers, Nathan unlocks a drawer with a tiny key, reaching inside to pull out a large pill bottle. It's unmarked and clean, and he opens it, showing you the orange and white capsules inside, "This is it, Mimi. the good stuff." He pulls out one, hands it to you. "Try it."
    He's afraid you'll take the pills from him. He's afraid you'll steal what makes him special.
  • edited April 13
    He's likely to wind up disappointed before this is all over, at the very least. I look at the pill in my hand, tuck it into the breast pocket of my jacket. "Any side effects you've noticed, Nathan?"
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    He watches the pill disappear with a sense of longing. When you ask about side effects, he looks down at the bottle in his hand, "Well, it works your metabolism like crazy. So you'll get hungry more. Keep up on your... protein intake. Or you'll be sorry." He looks up at you for a moment, then asks, "What else do you want to know, Mimi?"
  • I've actually gotten more than I expected. "That's it for now, I think? Just wanted to ask... do you mind if I pitch you to my editor as a story? Any problems with a real interview and some photos?"
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    He considers it for only a moment, "Yeah, sure. I mean... I already showed you like the whole story. When do you think you'd be back? I can get, like, a haircut." He glances around his hovel of a home gym. "This place... wouldn't look so good in your magazine or whatever. Maybe we meet for lunch. Or something?"
  • I nod. "I'm sure we can find studio space for a shoot, with equipment. Let me finish the pitch to my editor and get back to you in the next few days? Maybe plan on doing a real interview next week?"
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    Nathan offers no objections and walks back up the stairs, leading you out of the house. There's a subtle menace to how he looks at you, but you've evidently given enough signals that attacking you would be unwise that he's hesitant to do anything. Or... maybe he's not a bad guy?
  • He's a puzzle. Seems cocky but unsure at the same time. Menacing, but not in a sexual predator sort of way. I walk back to my truck and head for someplace I can get a coffee and make some notes and calls.
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    You end up grabbing some java and a seat at The Bottom Line Coffee House on 3rd Avenue. The music is some light bossa nova music. The place looks like this:
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    Who are you calling?
  • edited April 14
    I'll call Ade... Father Sabah... first. I haven't had direct run-ins with Anara, but he keeps tabs on Night goings-on more than I do. He may be able to recommend someone to cast a mystic eye on the pill, too.
  • edited April 17
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    "Bianca, my dear," Father Sabah says in his deep, brassy tone. "Anara is a sneaky little cuss, always trying to misdirect and hide things in plain sight. She plays like she's keeping the family fed, that she's helping to maintain peaceful relations, but that's a smokescreen. Do you want to come in, show me that bottle? Or should I set up someone to meet with you?"
  • I smile. The accent just makes me do that, despite that fact that Ade is a certified badass. "I'll come to you. I just have the one pill, but the bottle was unlabeled, anyway. You want me to pick up anything to eat or drink?"
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    "Some butternut squash would be nice. And a jar of Jif." Father Sabah says with interest, he's thinking of food from his childhood. "I have water and tea here, but thank you. See you soon, Bianca."
  • Since he asked for squash and peanut butter, I'm assuming he's talking about cooking, not asking for takeout, so I'll stop by Dion and April's place, an "urban farm" built around an old duplex in the middle of four vacant lots—"Bum Rush the Plow Farms." Hey, I didn't make it up.
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    After Father Adetokunbo Sabah was kicked out of his parish, he ended up moving every few weeks, living with different thankful parishioners and others he'd helped, always doing his best not to wear out a welcome. Once he committed to setting up a business where he supplied people with things they needed to deal with the supernatural, he was able to settle in his own place.

    That's where you bring the squash and peanut butter, to a old Pawn Shop (still has the sign up, he hasn't bothered to remove it) on John R Street, across from a Plasma Center, beside an Employment Training Designs office where they hire out day laborers right in the middle of Highland Park, one of the roughest neighborhoods in Detroit, and if the internet is to be believed, in the US. The windows are papered over or boarded up, very little daylight comes into this place.

    Father Sabah answers the door himself, pulling you in with a sudden, fierce hug, then gently taking the bag from you and inviting you in, "Bianca, you look too skinny, come inside, come inside." He walks past the bookcases and the table of curios and knick knacks to put the bag on the counter where he has a hot plate and a microwave. "Tell me where you got this pill. Why do you think Anara is involved?"
  • I return the hug warmly. "There were other 'supplements' with her mark. This bottle was unlabeled, but the guy I was talking to seemed to think it was pretty much miraculous. And the before and after pictures back it up. There's something... wrong with him... in him, too. Didn't read like steroid aggression. Creepier. And... he didn't, ah, mac on my fabulousness."
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    Father Sabah was looking at the butternut squash when you mention your "fabulousness", and looks over to you, then chuckles, "He could be gay, Bianca." Laughs again, looks back at the squash, then puts it on a cutting board, "Well, we shall take a look at that pill then." Grabs a knife from a block and starts slicing the squash with the skill of a trained chef, "All in good time, though. Tell me, how are you? I don't get many customers this time of day, relax, grab a stool."
  • I sit, of course, perched on a stool with one leg crossed under my butt. "I'm okay. Had a date with a fairy earlier this week, so that was interesting."
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    Father Sabah gets some water in a pot and puts it on the hot plate, heating it up and starting a make-shift stew. In a playful tone, he asks, "How was this fairy on your fabulousness? Did he approve? I can't imagine he wouldn't, unless he got on your bad side, that is."
  • edited April 15
    Ade is a little... willfully blind? when it comes to my sex-life. We don't talk much about it directly. "She appreciates my fabulousness, I think." I give him a wicked smile. Got to keep him on his toes.
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    Father Sabah nods along, letting the gender flip pass without comment. He spends a few minutes working on the stew before he gets it to a boil, then looks to you, "Let's take a look at that pill."
  • I take the pill carefully out of my pocket and put it on top of a napkin. "There you go."
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    Father Sabah takes the pill, holds it up to the light and peers at it. You hear the water coming to a boil. "There is a... a glamour on it." He reaches under the neck of his shirt and pulls out a golden crucifix, then rubs it over the pill. "Show us the truth, Dear Lord."
    So saying, he puts the pill on the cutting board, and takes the knife, then quickly cuts it open. Inside the capsule, you see the dark spot of dirt, and perhaps a dozen wriggling, tiny worms.
    What do you do?
  • Yuck. Actually, I decide to say that out loud. "Yuck. What the... heck is that?" I look around for something to scoop the creepy contents of the pill into... don't want the wigglies getting away.
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    The worms are white, and wriggle like ribbons moving in the wind. You're able to scoop them into a little Glad sandwich bag.
    "I've seen them before, in Zimbabwe. When a vampire treats their own blood, they can feed it to certain creatures and control them. If your friend took enough of these, he is likely under Anara's sway." He moves over to stir the pot, then crouches down to retrieve a rice cooker and puts it on the counter, plugging it up. "The good news, if there is any, is that the investment of her blood is significant, which means this is not the first wave in a widespread rash of worms in pills. It's a directed attack."
  • That makes it likely that this is directly related to L'Infer. after all. "What would the... withdrawal effects be like?" I'm supposed to be primarily concerned for Nathan's well-being.
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    Father Sabah waggles his head, his gesture for "not so sure". "Well.. if he's seen significant physical effects, then it's likely that he is lost to us, Bianca." He starts pouring rice into the cooker. "If you want to bring him to me, I can try an exorcism, of course. I'm not one to give up, but I like to set proper expectations."
  • I blow out a breath. "He has seen significant physical effects, as you say... I'll have to talk to my client. I don't much like where this is headed, Ade. Not much at all."
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    Father Sabah makes some peanut butter rice and butternut squash stew and the two of you eat and scheme for a bit. He tries very hard to get you to eat more, telling you that you're too skinny.

    A couple hours later, you're leaving Father Sabah's shop. Where do you go next?
  • By the numbers, I don't need to check in with L'Infer yet, but I hadn't expected to learn quite so much quite so quickly. It's a long way to her place, which will give me time to consider the situation and digest Ade's delicious stew. I'll stop for gas, too. Soundtrack? I link my phone up and play Hüsker Dü. Metal Circus to start off with.
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    After a leisurely trip, you arrive at L'Infer's in the evening. The lot is practically full, and the lounge is busy when you enter. There are lots of girls here, drinking with potential customers. There's even a live band playing some soft music. What song's playing as you enter?

    When the attendant sees you, he asks you to sit in the lounge while he notifies Madame L'Infer. Siobhan is on the arm of an older guy in a really nice suit.

    What do you do?
  • edited April 19
    Before I sit, I grab a whiskey sour from the bartender, giving Siobhan a wink as I pass by. Once I've got that, I just find a place to perch and people-watch while I listen to the band cover "Killing Me Softly" and wait for L'Infer. Chillin'.
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