Prelude: Strange Days, Stranger Nights

Prelude: Strange Days, Stranger Nights

You’ve been at The Castle for three weeks now.

John owns the entire building, all fourteen floors to the roof.  It’s an active theater, running mostly small musical touring shows anywhere from four to six nights a week, and John himself is back onstage within the first week of his return with a late night set accompanied by piano and string quartet.  Anyone who takes the time to see his performances are completely swept away – they are supernaturally compelling to the point of being indescribably erotic – and it’s obvious that many of the theater’s patrons come specifically for that rush. The theater is managed by a very sweet lady named Martha Klein who runs the place with an iron fist.  John’s other businesses, including you, are managed by Alfred.

John immediately and unsurprisingly became nocturnal, and while he seems cordial enough when you see him, his nights are generally very busy.  He takes meetings in his offices or private box during shows, greets dignitaries and entertains after the curtains close, and typically ends the night in his suite, which, by all accounts, is non-stop sex, drugs, and Rachmaninov.  Once you saw Daphne stumbling down the stairs from the 13th floor at four-in-the-morning muttering “Nope..nope….” it stifled your curiosity.  You occasionally hear the sound of his violin or piano drifting through the halls during the day, but it’s rare.

Because of The Castle’s position in the supernatural world as a sanctuary, it is frequently host to meetings, events, negotiations and the like of all manner of people and creatures.  Several floors of the building are dedicated to this purpose, with anachronistically modern and lavish conference centers and hotel space.

True to John’s word, you’re not just set up with lodging, but each with a small studio apartment, complete with a kitchenette and ten thousand dollars on a cash card for furnishings, clothes, and personal effects.  Within days of arriving you each have new, fake identities and paperwork to help “make sure you don’t get tripped up by normal folk” while going about your business.  Alfred also gives each of you a sealed bug-out bag with yet another set of fake IDs and Canadian passports, cash in several currencies, and other odds and ends in case “the Division decides to break the rules”.

You’re not exactly given a line of credit, but you don’t want for much of anything, you just have to ask Alfred for everything.  You’ve gotten the impression that John’s wealth is somewhat vast, but accessing it is subject to the universal rule of staying under the radar.  Food is catered in every day for The Castle’s small staff, and you’re welcome at the craft services table, as it were.  There’s been some talk of John connecting you with people who’re willing to pay for supernatural services, but it hasn’t yet materialized, and frankly, taking a few weeks to settle-in and find a new normal has been welcome.

You’ve been given no impression that you’re out of danger from The Division, so you haven’t ventured out much, and never more than a few blocks from the theater.  The secret plaza between 42nd and 43rd street is called One-Eyed Cat Lane, and it’s a remarkable hodge-podge of shops and services catering to the unique needs of the supernatural community that couldn’t exist safely out in the rest of Manhattan.  You’re able to learn quite a bit about the goings-on of this new world you’ve been plunged into simply by people (and creature) watching and the occasional bit of polite conversation.

It doesn’t take long after acquiring new personal devices and both Alfred and Emily certifying they’re effectively untraceable before curiosity gets the better of you and you try to look yourselves up.

Margaret, you are not only officially missing, but listed as a person of interest in an ongoing FBI domestic terrorism investigation.  The personal effects from your apartment were confiscated and by all accounts are stored in a lock-up at the FBI field offices in Boston.  It appears that a warrant was issued for your arrest through Interpol a few days after the party escaped from the facility in Dubai.

Nigel James, Hugo’s contact within Lloyds of London, was arrested shortly after pointing Hugo at the container ship carrying Cole.  He was charged with fifteen counts of insurance fraud as well as several maritime statutes involving abetting piracy.  He was killed while awaiting trial shortly thereafter.

Apart from a few outstanding warrants against Daphne for failure to appear on minor larceny charges, there isn’t much else to be found.  Records involving the murder of Mason’s gang have been sealed by the FBI.

L3 listed Cole as KIA on a classified overseas operation in partnership with the State Department and paid out your death benefits to a widows and orphans trust.  What assets you had are being held in probate awaiting next of kin that aren’t likely to surface.  Shortly after the incident, a woman was seen breaking into your apartment in Cleveland but wasn’t apprehended.

There’s an open missing persons investigation in Las Vegas for Mike.  It took over two months for either UNLV or your ex-wife to report it, but they finally did (missing those alimony payments).  About a month ago while you were at sea, a teenage girl whose records are sealed brought a rape charge against you and the missing persons investigation took on a new tone.

Steve’s mother identified his body in Chicago after the warehouse collapse at the zoo.  A woman’s body was found along with him, but was too badly mangled for positive identification.  However, considering Emma’s disappearance and the presence of her pickup truck outside the building, the authorities have assumed you died in the “collapse and resulting fire”.  You’ve been missing and presumed dead for six months.

Strangely, Emily was declared a victim in a peculiar murder/suicide at Stanford.  By all accounts, she was murdered by one Aston Stone, a jilted suitor, who then committed suicide in her dorm room.  Autopsy reports say you were positively identified by dental records and acquaintances.  You’re not sure how they pulled that one off.  Additionally, you become aware that a man in Cleveland has been searching for you the last few weeks in regards to the estate of his father.

Jamie, you are perplexed.  At some point in the last few months, photos from your back catalog have been starting to sell again, including several from after Daphne’s fateful kiss.  In fact, your tiny gallery in Toronto is planning a grand re-opening, showing, and sale in several weeks.  You’re not sure if you are going to be present.

As expected Seamus, you lost your job at the grocery store. 

1 Comment

  1. Patricia Gillian
    Aug 29, 2020

    Comment’Terrorism!? Seriously? I’m a librarian, for Heaven’s sake! The only thing I might terrorise would be noisy kids in a library!’ Margaret glowered at the screen. ‘Oh, and those two kids we caught trying to set off a stink bomb in the store one day, but the only reason _they_ were scared was because I threatened to call their parents if they ever did something like that again.’

    Granted, she was out of that cell in desert, and pretty much anything was better than that. The container ship had been a surprise. She had expected cramped, primitive conditions, the kind media wrote about; a lot of people crammed into a container with no privacy, not enough room for everyone to lie down on the floor at the same time, little air circulation.

    This had been nothing like that. It seemed the ship had been used to smuggle people before; it was not a setup that had been hastily set up. Although it had looked like a single container among many from the outside, the inside had made it clear that the container exterior was just a façade. There had been plenty of room, well, for a hiding place on a container ship. In fact, for a hiding place for people smugglers, it had been luxurious. It had also been a lot more room than a single container, it had filled the space of some fifty containers, she suspected.

    When they had arrived at the safe-house, that, too, had been a pleasant surprise. When John had stopped in front of a wall, he had turned to them and asked if any of them had read Harry Potter. She had realised what was going to happen, then, of course. And suddenly, the wall had disappeared, and they could see Diagon Alley. So, perhaps that was not its real name, but it was exactly what she had expected Diagon Alley to look like. It had been difficult to keep following John, rather than running off and explore right away. There had been sounds, smells, and sights that she had never seen before.

    It had taken a few days before she was settled in and got the chance to explore. Also, she had been, at first, worried that the Division, or the Technocracy, or whoever they were, would lurk somewhere to grab them. Mr. Jones was aware of where they were; he had waited for them the day they had arrived at John’s theater, as a hologram or a apparition or a sending or something. Mentioned a coming invasion. Then he had disappeared.

    Still, it had only taken a couple of days before curiosity got the better of her, and she had ventured out into the strange alley. It had been everything she could ever have dreamed of, and she had come back from the first shopping trip with a bag full of books. Of course. With all the magic available, even real magic, she had gone for the books. But she was who she was, undead or not, it seemed that had not changed.

    Most of the following days she spent either exploring the various shops or reading. She had gone to a couple of John’s performances. It had been beautiful; it was without doubt the most wonderful concerts she had ever been to. But they had also somehow made her feel uncomfortable. So she had decided she would keep away, at least until she figured out more about herself and her new life.

    It had taken her more than a week to work up the courage to do some careful searches for information on herself. Foolish, really, since the Division knew very well where they were. It had been more that seeing the information she suspected she would find would make the end of her old life final. Still, she had wanted to know.

    She had expected an accidental death, or even a missing person case. But this? Now she wished she hadn’t checked. ‘Person of interest in an ongoing FBI domestic terrorism investigation’? Also, did she count as domestic? She wasn’t even a US citizen, and hadn’t really been here that long.

    And terrorism. Really? She could only imagine the neighbours. Ms. Rogers would probably say something like ‘Her? That nice young lady? I thought she had gone home to Britain for a visit or something. Tom likes her, you know, and she doesn’t like many people. An excellent judge of character, she is. Tom, that is, not miss Carlisle. Well, maybe she is too, I don’t know many of her friends, she keeps to herself a lot. Reading, mostly. You know, I happened to get a look at her apartment one day, and there were books everywhere…’

    And the downstairs couple, Mr. and mrs. Bennon. Mrs Bennon would say something about her always being so quiet, and then mr. Bennon would stay something in the line of ‘Well, it’s always the quiet ones you have to look out for, right?’
    Her colleagues… ‘She was quiet, kept mostly to herself. Loved reading. We thought she had run off with Ezra and was off somewhere on a tropic island, enjoying drinks with parasols and talking books with him. That the two were seeing each other was probably the world’s worst kept secret. It was just a surprise that she didn’t give her notice, she didn’t seem like that kind of person to just run off without saying goodbye. And we’d never thought she could be involved in anything like that.’

    At least, she hoped they’d say something like that. But even ‘oh, yeah, we knew there was something strange about her’ would be better than ‘who?’, right?

    But of all things they could have picked, they chose terrorism. They could have gone with fraud; she had, or had had at least, enough money from her financial dabbling that they could pull that off, most likely. Or theft. The few valuable books she had were not _that_ rare, but given the power the Division clearly had, they could probably have planted some more valuable and rare books in her apartment. Or… Except, being a white, Western European woman, terrorism was probably one of the few charges that, were she to be killed during an arrest attempt, would ensure that there would be little noise about it. And one of the few charges that would make it difficult to even try contacting the British Embassy.

    Well, she supposed it meant that there was no way she could regain her old life, even should the Division get off her case. And she would probably not get her stuff back either. Or her money. The money she didn’t really care that much about, and most of her stuff could be replaced. A handful of rare books, but nothing extremely valuable, and most of it had more sentimental than monetary value. Like the family relics. Diaries, photos, documents. Like the only photo she had of Ezra. The photos of Brandon. Her parents and grandparents.

    It was strange, she mused, after she had finished, for now, ranting about the terrorism part, how it was the small things she would miss. Stuff she almost never looked at anyway. Maybe just knowing they were there had been enough. It had, however, been a rather brutal way of learning the truth behind the saying ‘You never know what you’ve got till it’s gone’.

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