Orpheus: The Taste of Ashes - Missions - Mission003
- Annie Harper, unknown shade (ghost)
- Tom Knox, Haunter
- Teresa Reilly, Banshee
- Kate Dennison, Banshee
- Craig Forrest, Skinrider
- Annie Harper, ghost (unknown shade)
- Samuel King, babysitter (looks after investigators' bodies while they're projecting)
- Chet Mason, Skinrider
- Matthew Peterson, manager
- Alex Pretorius, Skinrider
- Rodrigo, non-projector (driver)
- Zoe Vitt, Poltergeist
- Beta Crucible, various
- Mark Chandler, Chains’ barman
- Gwynneth Davies (also called 'The Bright Lady'), Wisp (PLE)
- Jeanette, non-projector (goth club-goer)
- Jayne Jonestown, non-projector (rock superstar; the client)
- Emily Temple, Skinrider (PLE)
- Two of Jayne’s groupies
- Unnamed woman, Poltergeist (PLE)
- Unnamed man, unknown shade (PLE)
Mission Three: The Party Spirit
Tom and Teresa are the only investigators assigned to this case, so Matthew Peterson delivers the briefing. The client in this case is Jayne Jonestown, a rock star with a rather extreme ‘goth’ persona. He frequents a nightclub called ‘Chains’, a place he has come to believe is “haunted by dark spirits”. This is why he contacted Orpheus: he wants them to remove these “unquiet shades” from his hangout. (He hasn’t really said why.) The management of the club are aware that he has retained Orpheus to investigate and cleanse the premises, and they have no objections. (Possibly they are simply happy to humour him, as a substantial portion of their customers go there primarily because of the legendary Jayne Jonestown.) The investigators’ mission is to find out whether or not there are PLEs associated with the club, and to remove them. Matthew would prefer that this be achieved within the week.
Orpheus’ mundane investigators have already done some research into the place and they have discovered that Jayne is not the only person to believe that Chains is haunted. There is no one spook associated with the club, but a number of people have reported feeling unexplained chills, seeing (and even dancing with) ghostly figures (there are reports of people vanishing in plain sight) and witnessing objects move by themselves. (One specific example of the last is a glass of vodka that levitated off the bar and upended itself onto the floor.) This has been going on for some time. Once they’ve left Matthew’s office, Teresa tells Tom that she’s familiar with Chains: she, Annie and Zoë have paid the occasional visit there during the past few months. Annie is actually the cause of at least one of the reported ghostly encounters, for one their first visit she lost track of time and abruptly dematerialised in front of witnesses. Following that, some people seemed to be able to see her (and possibly hear her; it wasn’t entirely clear), despite her unmanifested state. This information is not to make its way to Management. (Teresa does, however, use the mental link to tell Annie that she’s instigated -- or at least contributed to -- an Orpheus investigation. Annie is not impressed.)
Tom and Teresa get in touch with their various contacts to find out a few things before going on site. They are specifically interested in a drug known as pigment. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it can allow non-projectors to see spooks, and the mission briefing mentions its use as a possible factor in the rash of ‘sightings’ at the club. Between Teresa’s friends in the medical community and Tom’s police contacts, the investigators manage to find out that pigment (also known as ‘black heroin’) hit the streets between two and three years ago, and is known to be extremely addictive. It comprises a compound extracted from a little known South American plant known to have hallucinogenic and euphoric properties, plus another substance that no one has yet been able to fully characterise. The second compound seems to heighten both the drug’s efficacy and addictiveness.
There has been only one death reported within the club. This was a young girl who died about three months or so ago, apparently of a drug overdose. Her boyfriend, however, claims that she was murdered. The investigators look into this, just in case it has some relevance (and because they’re curious). According to Tom’s sources, there was no evidence that the death was anything other than the drugs overdose it appeared to be.
When their initial research is complete, they project and head over to the club to poke around a little. (Their driver, as always, is Rodrigo.) They see three ghosts (two women and a man), all in different locations within the premises. All three of them bear death marks. The man was apparently shot, one of the women (fairly young-ish) appears to have been run over by a truck and the other (somewhat older) displays the physical contortion and skin lividity associated with a heart attack. In their current state, it is difficult to tell anything but the most basic details about their appearance. Tom and Teresa decide to approach the younger female ghost. She starts to stir as they approach, seeming somewhat panicked. Teresa uses Wail in an attempt to calm her down while Tom speaks. His instinctive response is to identify himself as a cop, which only seems to panic her more. However, between his subsequent speech and Teresa’s Wail, they manage to soothe her enough to ask her some questions.
The ghost’s name is Emily Temple, and she was run over by a truck as she went to meet her boyfriend, Josh. She says she tried to go home when she realised what had happened, but things after that are a little hazy, and she thinks she wandered the streets of Brooklyn for a few days before encountering “a beautiful lady”. She says this lady -- perhaps an angel, she thinks -- told her to go to Chains; that Jayne Jonestown could help her pass over into heaven. She doesn’t know how. Teresa concentrates to get an image of the young ghost’s tethers. She sees a car and a young man. The latter is presumably her boyfriend. Upon further questioning, Emily says that her father recently bought her a new car, and that she hasn’t had the chance to drive it yet. Tom tries to discern what type of shade Emily is, and comes to the conclusion that she is most likely a Skinrider. Emily doesn’t really know anything else, so after Teresa tries to reassure her that this isn’t all there is for her, they move on to try to talk to the older female.
This attempt at communication doesn’t go quite so well. As with Emily, she stirs at their approach, but her response is to lash out with silver tendrils, hurling objects at them. (She is apparently a poltergeist.) As they are already immaterial, this has little effect. However, a hurled glass passes through Emily, shredding her gauze a little. She yelps, and Teresa tells her to get out of sight; something she doesn’t need to be told twice. Teresa tries to calm the poltergeist down using Wail, but her attempt has no discernable effect. Tom uses his police voice to try to get her attention, but that only seems to enrage her further. They decide that discretion is the better part of valour and beat a hasty retreat, heading for the car at speed. She shatters one of the windows as they dive inside, and Rodrigo takes the hint to leave. As he heads back to the Orpheus building at speed, Tom Inhabits the mobile phone so he can tell him to head back to the Orpheus building. hey rapidly leave the poltergeist behind them.
Back at Orpheus (and back in their bodies), they ask Matthew if he can arrange for Jonestown to be at the club tonight. After that, they do a little more research. Teresa asks Kate if she can look through her transcripts of the Radio Free Death broadcasts, or if she knows if it has had anything to say about a “beautiful lady” wandering around Brooklyn and telling PLEs that a rock star can help them pass over. One of the broadcasts, about four months ago, spoke of a shining lady offering to help PLEs to the other side. Kate doesn’t know whether or not this has been verified, and there was no mention of a location. Annie has never heard of such a person, but wonders if it may be similar to the “Blue Lady of Miami” mentioned in some of the tales of the homeless children. Tom finds out that Emily Temple died about three weeks ago (she had obviously greatly underestimated the amount of time that had passed since her death).
After sharing the results of their respective research, the two investigators decide that they want to speak with Jayne before going to the club in person. They ask Matthew if he can arrange it, and rest to recover their vitality while he does so. Eventually he gets back to them with the news that Jayne will see them that evening; 8pm at his place. As they’re planning on going straight to the club after speaking with him, they dress up (well, dress goth).
Jayne lives in a spacious apartment in a well-to-do area of Manhattan. He has bodyguards on the door, but they let Teresa and Tom through without any trouble when they explain that they have an appointment to see Jayne. One of the guards shows them through to a reception area decorated in a manner befitting the legend of Jayne Jonestown, and gestures towards a plush sofa. He tells them that Jayne will be here shortly, and then leaves them to take a seat and wait. They are not kept waiting for long. Jayne makes a dramatic entrance, as might be expected, and greets them both effusively (kissing Teresa’s hand). He then takes a position in front of the window, leaning with casual grace against the grand piano. The neon glow of the city streams through the window, backlighting him dramatically. On anyone else, the pose would have looked overwrought and tacky, but on him it just looks stylish. The same is true of the décor and his clothing: somehow, he pulls the look off.
The investigators get down to business, telling him about their trip to the club earlier that day. Teresa notices him becoming agitated, although he hides it behind his persona. From his reactions throughout the conversation, she suspects that he is experiencing extreme viewer psychosis and is teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown. It seems likely that he has experienced repeated and traumatic (possibly hostile) encounters with spooks, probably over a long period of time. His persona seems to be the only thing holding him together. The fact that he called Orpheus in the first place -- something distinctly out of character for Jayne Jonestown, goth rock superstar -- is probably a sign that his coping mechanisms are starting to break down. The technical way in which the investigators are describing the investigation seem to be making him more agitated, not less. Working on the theory that framing the situation in terms that his persona can relate to might calm him a little, Teresa borrows some of Annie’s occult knowledge so that she can talk the talk. (At the moment, she’s less concerned with the perils of supporting his delusion as she is about causing his barriers to come crashing down all at once.) It seems to help, and he visibly relaxes. It isn’t clear what Tom thinks about the normally scientific Teresa suddenly talking about “dark shades” and “restless souls”.
After telling Jayne what they learned from Emily’s ghost, they ask him if he knows of anyone who might want to send spirits to seek him out. Teresa theorises that perhaps it’s an enemy of his. He deflects the question, but it definitely seems to get a reaction. She doesn’t want to press too hard, less that prove to be the thing that brings down his elaborately constructed house of cards. The only other thing of interest that comes up in the conversation is that Jayne mentions a “dark muse” he calls Gwynneth. He is reluctant to expand further on the subject, however. When Teresa thinks they’ve gotten all they can for the moment, they make their goodbyes. Before they leave, Jayne takes both their mobile numbers and says that he may see them at the club later.
Once they’re out of the building, Teresa shares her professional opinion of Jayne with Tom. She says that she’d rather be at the club in gauze form, so that she can use Wail on Jayne if necessary to head off a complete breakdown. After a brief discussion, they decide that Teresa go there incorporeally, and Tom will go there in the flesh. Tom takes a slight detour to drop Teresa off at the Orpheus building and then heads to the club, arriving in time to be near the start of the queue. While he’s waiting, he receives a text-message from Jayne, conveying the rock-star’s regrets that he won’t be able to be there tonight after all. Apparently, his spotters have warned him to keep away. Teresa projects from the crèche and has a driver take her to the club, where she meets up with Tom. He gets inside not long before she arrives.
Just like Annie, Teresa finds that certain of the club’s clientele can see her. Some of these -- but not all of them -- can also hear her. She and Tom start asking questions about Jayne and his visits here. It seems that his appearances are memorable not simply for the fact that he is Jayne Jonestown, superstar. Many people tell them that when he’s here, he always ends up dancing with the most beautiful woman they’ve ever seen. No one seems to be able to describe her in any detail, but they all agree on her beauty. Some of them even say that she almost seems to shine. After a while she, Jonestown and some other people all head upstairs to one of the private rooms. Everyone whom Teresa speaks to report feeling drawn towards her at that point. They all tried to follow, but the security guards stopped them. Shortly after the woman and her entourage disappear upstairs, it happens: waves of energy pulsing through the crowd. They describe it as pleasure, as something akin to orgasm; better than that, even. It certainly goes some way towards explaining why Jayne’s presence at the club is such a draw.
After having found out when Jayne last visited Chains, Teresa heads upstairs to try to shed some light on what happened. After giving the place a quick once-over to make sure it’s free of spooks (there are none that she can see), she uses Forebode to look back at the events in question. The first thing she notices is a shining, perfect figure. The bright lady draws her attention, filling her sight completely until she is barely even aware that anything else exists. With a great effort she manages to close her eyes. The darkness brings freedom from the compulsion of what she now recognises as Unearthly Repose. Not wanting to risk falling under the Wisp’s sway once more, she concentrates instead on sound. Someone is speaking: words perhaps, or whimpering; nothing that she can make out. That’s not what grabs her attention, however. From all around her, surrounding her, closing in, comes an incessant clicking chatter: the sound of knives. There is movement behind her, and then… The vision ends. Instinctively she whips around, nerves jangling with alarm, but there’s no one there. She is alone in the room.
Teresa’s exertions have left her with the merest flicker of vitality, and barely enough will to keep herself upright. Not wanting to have to make her way through the crowd of people whilst looking like a corpse (and, more importantly, not wanting to risk running into another spook), she decides to ripcord back to her body. Kate and Annie are immediately in her head, demanding to know what happened and (in Kate’s case) “why the fuck” she felt the need to do that. She briefly explains and then contacts Tom to let him know what’s happened. After ringing off, she sets about trying to sketch the woman she saw. As she was under the influence of Unearthly Repose when she saw the Wisp (assuming that’s what she was), the image is somewhat idealised. However, it’s a start. One feature that didn’t really register at the time is a series of red marks on the woman’s neck. Teresa surmises that these may be some form of death marks.
Back at the club, Tom hasn’t really discovered anything further, but he has managed to pick up a little goth girl called Jeanette. She seems determined to hang onto him, but he shakes her off -- she doesn’t seem to have any trouble latching onto someone else -- before leaving to go back to Orpheus. He meets up with Teresa, and they discuss the evening’s revelations.
As their discussion leaves them none the wiser about what to do next, Tom and Teresa decide to sleep on it and then meet up again the next morning. Tom uses his contacts to try to find a “Gwynneth” with some connection to Jayne, but turns up nothing. He discusses their findings to date with Chet, who advises caution when dealing with the Wisp. He surmises that it might be possible to rig some kind of projection system for the Terrel & Squib spook-vision goggles, so they could view it on a screen, but that will likely take more time than they currently have and involve having one of Orpheus’ technical staff on site. At Teresa’s urging, she and Tom both go to see Matthew, and Teresa expresses her concerns about Jayne’s mental state. In light of her assessment, he suggests that it might be best if she handle any direct contact with Jayne from now on.
Teresa tells Tom that she’s recently been working on developing a new Horror that may prove useful when facing the wisp: a form of shape-shifting. She says that she can give herself the ability to navigate without sight. They briefly discuss the possibility that she might be able to imitate Jayne and, whilst manifested, attend the club in his place. However, they shelve that idea for the moment. After some more brief discussion, they decide to head over to Jayne’s apartment in gauze form so that Tom can possess him and go through his memories. They know that he tends to sleep during the day, so this should be the perfect time to try to do it without him noticing.
Before they head out, Teresa uses Forebode to try to get an idea of whether they are likely to run into the Wisp. Starting with the investigators’ immediate future, she narrows it down to where that intersects with Jayne’s future and, further, that of the Wisp. In response, she receives a vision of the club’s VIP room. She sees herself, eyes tightly shut, sporting bat ears. Tom, Jayne and a group of ghosts -- about six or seven of them, she thinks -- are gazing vacantly at a radiant female figure who is sprawled on the floor. Teresa finds her own eyes drawn to the woman, but manages to pull away. That’s when she realises that there’s someone else standing there, in the corner of the room. Even though the room is lit, that corner is shrouded in a darkness so thick that even the shining lady’s light can’t penetrate it and. Someone moves within the shadows, their movement accompanied by the slow, steady drip of blood. And, underlying the whole scene, there is a buzzing like that of many voices; many whispers. It’s a sound she hears, but not with her ears. Just as she’s beginning to feel that she might be able to make sense of it, the vision ends.
Teresa shares her vision with Tom, and they decide to go ahead with their original plan. Rodrigo drives them out to Jayne’s apartment, where they find the man himself asleep in his coffin with two female groupies wrapped around him. Tom possesses Jayne, easing into him in stages so as not to generate a pulse that will draw every spook in the area. He looks for Gwynneth’s identity, and finds out that she’s a girl who Jayne was intimate with for a while, up until about six months ago. That’s when he killed her. It seems that he throttled her to death in Chains’ VIP room whilst off his face on drugs. It’s not clear from this brief trawl whether that was his intention, or whether it was simply rough play that went too far. It’s also not clear whether or not he feels any remorse for her death. At this point, one of the groupies wakes up, sees them and screams. The noise wakes up Jayne and the other groupie. Teresa and Tom ripcord just as he blearily focuses his gaze on them. They’re not sure whether he got enough of a look at them to recognise them.
After resting for a while, Tom investigates Gwynneth’s death, matching her to a body pulled out of the river a few months ago. Her name was Gwynneth Davies, and she was reported missing by her family a few weeks before turning up dead. It looks like she was a runaway, and had been in and out of youth or homeless shelters for a while. Between Tom’s contacts and Teresa’s, they manage to get hold of the autopsy report. The cause of death is listed as strangulation, as they expected. However, there were also signs of repeated injuries over a long period of time. She had previously suffered numerous broken bones, some of which have healed badly, suggested that they were never treated by a doctor. There are also indications of severe bruising, with various degrees of healing, at death. The physical evidence is consistent with what is known of her history, as those who knew her have reported that she had a string of boyfriends, all of whom treated her badly.
As evening approaches, Teresa receives a call from Jayne on her mobile. He asks her if she and her colleague were entered his “lair” in spirit earlier that day. She tries to evade the question, but he will not be deflected. Eventually, she says that they were. (Although she does contemplate lying outright, she hopes to be able to use vague hints of what they might have discovered to encourage him to open up and tell them the whole story. Not, however, over the phone like this.) Sounding a little disgruntled, he asks if they managed to find out anything. Couching it in suitably occult-sounding language, she tells him that she sensed two figures -- one dark, one bright -- connected to him and to Chains, but the deeper meaning of her visions has not yet become clear. He doesn’t comment on that, but does say, somewhat curtly, that he would prefer they ask his permission before entering his domain in future. That subject seems to be closed for the moment, and he moved onto the main reason for his call: Chains will be graced by his presence that night. (His “familiars” have informed him that there will be no undercover reporters nor “porcine stench” hanging around the premises.)
It seems that tonight is the night. Earlier, the investigators contemplated asking Jayne to avoid Chains for the time being, but they need more information about what actually happens there. It’s also their best chance of actually finding Gwynneth’s ghost. Teresa is concerned about what this might do to Jayne’s mental health, but she also thinks that this is necessary if they’re going to address the cause of his mental stress. Tom ceased to be concerned about his wellbeing when he found out what he did to Gwynneth. As far as he’s concerned, this is now purely about stopping what looks like something preying on ghosts.
There are a number of practical issues to address, the most pressing being: do they go in physically or while projecting? Either approach has advantages and disadvantages. Skimming isn’t really suitable for any kind of extended projecting, which this may very well be. If whatever’s going to happen occurs at the end of the night, they might not be in any shape to deal with it. On the other hand, if they go in physically and have to project whilst in the field, their bodies will be left vulnerable. They know of at least one Poltergeist and one Skinrider likely to be in the vicinity, and there could be any number of other dangers. After some discussion, they decide to go there in the flesh, but take one of Orpheus’ babysitters -- a specialist security section employed by Orpheus to guard projectors’ bodies in the field -- with them. Tom rings ahead to the bar manager -- who knows all about Orpheus’ investigation -- and arranges for them to have the use of the store-room for the evening. After bringing their babysitter -- an ex-army man called Samuel King -- up to speed on the possible threats (they make sure to tell him to cover their eyes/turn them around/drag them away if they show any signs of being entranced), they head out.
The bar manager (Chandler, a very large, heavily tattooed and very pierced man who could be the archetype of the dedicated biker) lets them in through the staff entrance. They decide to give the store-room a once-over, just to make sure it’s suitable, and that there isn’t anything nasty lurking in its depths. (They didn’t go down there on either of their previous visits. Chandler gestures them to a door behind the bar and, after warning them not to touch anything, leaves them to their own devices. The store-room is at the bottom of a short flight of steps. As the name might suggest, it is filled with an array of casks, bottles, and all kinds of things that the bar might need. It is illuminated only by a single, bare light bulb, but that’s enough to show them everything they need to see. Including the large, pulsating mass thirty feet into the room.
Tom and Teresa stop dead as soon as they see it, but Sam carries on, apparently oblivious. He disappears from view behind an expanse of something that stretches from wall to wall and floor to ceiling, apparently using casks, support pillars, and whatever else is nearby to anchor itself. It’s oddly organic, oddly alive; the still-wet shroud of a chrysalis, perhaps, or the slick fleshiness of a freshly biopsied lung. The skin (for want of a better word) isn’t a flat, smooth surface but, rather, flows with the shape of the room and of the objects in its path. It’s as if it has simply grown into the available space. There is movement within its folds; a slow, undulating rise and fall as if something beyond stirs or draws breath. Its secrets, however, remain concealed behind its opacity.
Before the investigators can do anything, Sam emerges. He hasn’t been out of sight for more than a few moments, but his reappearance is still a source of much relief, despite the mucilaginous sheen coating his clothing and exposed skin. It disappears before their eyes, but whether it evaporates or is merely absorbed into him is not clear. Upon questioning, it’s clear that he can neither see nor feel the membrane and its secretions. He tells them that the room is about sixty feet long, so about half of it is blocked off by the membrane. Cautiously, Teresa moves closer to it. As she does so, she notices more of the mucus coating the various casks and bottles, where tendrils of the skin wrap around and pass into them. It makes her feel a little ill to think that she’s probably drunk some of the tainted stuff from this cellar on her previous trips to the club.
When she stands next to the barrier, she becomes aware of a strange buzzing sound. Something about it reminds her of the sound she heard in her vision, earlier, but this is far, far worse. It seems to make its way into her brain without passing through her ears, clawing at her from the inside out. The sound makes her feel physically sick, and it’s almost all that she can do not to violently throw up then and there. Abruptly, she feels Kate and Annie’s presences in her mind, both of them wanting to know what that sound is. (Annie asks; Kate demands.) She brings them up to speed and they listen in for the rest of the exploration. Taking a deep breath, she focuses intently on the sound so that Annie can try to pick out anything that sounds like voices or language. After concentrating for a few moments, Annie tells the two of them that she can make out words in several languages: German, Russian, Chinese, English, Latin and something that could be Sumerian. She would need to spend much more time on it to actually work out what they’re saying, but Teresa has had enough for the moment.
Tom also approaches the barrier but, unlike Teresa, he hears nothing. Reaching out his hand, he cautiously places it against the membrane. There is resistance -- it feels like he’s actually touching something. He presses his hand through it and feels his gauze tear as if he were projecting and trying to pass through a solid object without being immaterial. It’s quite strange to feel that while he isn’t even projecting. When he brings his hand back out, it’s covered in more of the slime. Not deterred from further experimentation, however, he next tries to push his head through the barrier. He feels a great deal of resistance and, again, the disquieting feeling of tearing gauze, but he manages to get a little way in before coming to a dead stop. There is nothing but impenetrable blackness on the other side. At least: nothing that he can see. Remaining there only long enough to establish that, he withdraws to find his head covered with mucus. Unlike with Sam this doesn’t disappear, and his attempts to wipe it off only spread it around further.
The projectors decide to get on with their mission, and come back some other time to investigate this phenomenon. They have no intention of leaving their bodies here, however, and come up with a plan B: they will leave the car by the back entrance and simply slip out to there if they need to project. Sam says that he will restrain their bodies whilst they’re out, just in case something else comes back. Quite sensibly, he doesn’t want a hostile Skinrider getting the drop on him. All preparations made, they head back into the club.
Time moves on, and the club fills up. Tom grabs a pile of napkins and does his best to wipe the slime off his head and hands. It does seem to come off, albeit with great difficulty, leaving a small mound of tainted tissue that neither of the investigators are willing to touch. In the end, Tom just leaves them where they are. At the stroke of midnight -- naturally -- Jayne makes his entrance. He is accompanied by a woman who seems to glow with an inner light. Tom and Teresa immediately look away, but are too late to avoid getting a good look at her. Fortunately, they are not entranced. (She doesn’t seem to be using Unearthly Repose at the moment.) They make sure they don’t look in her direction from now on, having Sam report what’s going on instead. He can’t see Gwynneth, but he tells them that Jayne seems to be dancing. After a brief discussion of what to do next, the investigators decide to project and head upstairs so that they can conceal themselves there before the party moves into the private room. It seems unlikely that anything will happen before Jayne, Gwynneth and their retinue of ghosts go up.
Leaving Sam to stand guard over their bodies in the car, they enter the VIP room and look around. The first thing they notice is that they are not alone there. Shadows pool and writhe in one corner of the room, a figure moving in the darkness. It walks forwards, into view, revealing hands made of knives. Teresa recognises those hands from her vision. And she and Tom both recognise the figure, in a way. She looks like Gwynneth, but made of smoke and shadows; darkness rather than light. She looks upon the investigators with the empty black pits of her eyes, and starts to glide towards them. Specifically, she starts to move towards Teresa, who backs slowly away from her. Tom tells her to stop, but she ignores him. He interposes himself between her and Teresa, orders her once more to stop, and when she still pays no heed he lights up with Witch’s Nimbus. That gets her attention. She stop, looks at him and then his aura is simply snuffed out, like a candle. She starts forward again, casually knocking his arm out of the way. The blades of her fingers slice into his gauze, but do no serious damage. She keeps moving.
Teresa cannot back away any further without turning and running, so she simply waits. The figure reaches her and, stretching out a hand, carefully strokes her face. Teresa asks the woman if she’s Gwynneth, but she shakes her head in denial. She opens her mouth, and Tom hears her make glottal clicking noises in her throat, as if she’s trying to speak with ruined vocal cords. To Teresa, however, she seems to be speaking more or less normally. “Welcome Sister,” ‘Not-Gwynneth’ says, “Grandmother’s been expecting you.” “I’m not your sister,” Teresa replies, angrily, but Not-Gwynneth continues to talk over her. “You brought food, good: Baby’s hungry.” Teresa doesn’t react well to this. The conversation (of which Tom hears her side) rapidly degenerates, the final straw being Not-Gwynneth’s exhortations to “join us”. Teresa simply opens her mouth and Wails. The sound is born of fear and fury. It feels strange; different to all the other times she’s used it; darker, somehow. Tom sees her eyes grow dark, her fingers elongate into long, spindly, spider-like appendages and her breath bring forth slivers of glass and metal. There is no spike of energy, as both of them would have expected from a Wail this strong. Not-Gwynneth’s gauze is all-but ripped to shreds by the force of it, but she manages to keep herself together. “Grandmother will be so disappointed,” she says, and then the fight is on.
Tom joins in, burning with the flames of Witch’s Nimbus as he strikes at Not-Gwynneth. She side-steps the brunt of the blow, and catches his arm. Her touch sears him with cold, and he is forced to pull away or lose the arm. She lets him go and turns with blinding speed to strike at Teresa, who reels but does not fall. She continues to Wail. The fight is short and brutal. Not-Gwynneth is fast and strong; enough that they can’t simply overwhelm her. But she was already badly injured by Teresa’s first attack, and there are two of them. After what feels like an eternity -- although it can’t actually be more than a few seconds -- they manage to disperse her. Not without cost, though. Tom only sustained light injuries, but Teresa is severely wounded and only barely able to remain conscious. She isn’t really in much shape to do anything beyond stagger around right now, so they decide to leave. After all, with the spectre -- assuming that’s what Not-Gwynneth was -- out of the way, whatever bad thing was going to happen now, presumably, can’t. That’s their hope, in any case. With Teresa looking like a corpse, they don’t really want to pass through the crowded dance area so, Tom supporting his injured colleague, the two of them start to make their way to the back stairs. And that’s when the other shoe drops.
The space around them seems to stretch and distort, warping as if something is forcing its way through. There is a sound, like the tolling of a great bell, that echoes through their gauze; that echoes through their very souls. The world shatters, and the Reaper comes through the breach. Without pause or hesitation, he moves towards them. No, he moves towards Teresa. Too badly hurt to run, she yells “Ripcord!” to Tom, and then does so. A heartbeat after, he does the same. They wake up in the car (although Teresa almost wishes for the blessing of unconsciousness when the pain of her injuries bites), and Tom tells Sam to drive back to Orpheus right now. Sam floors it. Looking through the rear windscreen, Tom sees the Reaper emerge from the building as they leave it behind. As agreed, Sam has restrained both of them with strip cuffs, so Tom can’t simply pick up the phone to warn Orpheus that they may have the Reaper in tow. Instead, he projects again and simply Inhabits his mobile phone, using it to call Craig Forrest. When they reach Orpheus, both investigators are immediately taken to the medical facility. Tom is checked over and then released, but the doctors say it’ll be a day or two before Teresa is up and about.
In the morning, Tom is called into Matthew’s office for a debriefing. He makes a full report, not keeping anything back. A couple of hours later, he is called back, and informed that Beta crucible and Annie have been detailed to investigate the object in Chains’ store-room and that his presence has been requested. Matthew tells him that Alex Pretorius will be coming to find him. A short while later Alex does just that, interrogating him thoroughly about what happened out there.
Beta crucible, Annie and Tom head out to the club. They go straight down to the store-room and examine the membrane. Alex prods at it a little, and observes that it seems to be solid to his touch. Annie takes a sample for analysis. Like Teresa -- who is observing through their link -- she can hear the whispering voices when she gets close to it. None of the others seem to be able to hear them. After some discussion, Tom is given the task of opening up a way through the barrier. Everyone else withdraws to a safe distance and he flames up with Witch’s Nimbus before moving forwards. His fire eats through the barrier and Annie hears the whispers sharpen into screams as he does so. Moving forward into the breach he’s made, he can see only darkness ahead of him, but it’s a darkness that seems to extend far beyond the edge of the room. The area illuminated by his aura has the slick texture of smooth muscle, shuddering and drawing away from the flames. He continues forwards, ramping up his Nimbus so that his way out can’t close behind him. The screams rise in pitch and intensity, and the membrane ripples and shudders almost fit to tear itself apart. And then, suddenly, with a great tearing sound, it vanishes.
Air rushes in to fill the space it leaves, the sound of the wind rising from a whisper, to a rustle, to a roar. It keeps rising, growing ever more intense, ever more violent; tugging at the spooks‘ gauze. It rapidly becomes clear that this is no ordinary, physical wind. Alex gives the order to pull back, and the team make an organised retreat, backing away in parallel with the storm’s expansion. It grows until it is just visible beyond the walls, and then stops. Although it doesn’t grow any further, however, it also shows no signs of dying down, blurring the club’s outlines with the dust it raises. It isn’t clear what the dust is made of. After watching the storm for a short while, the team returns to the Orpheus building. As they do so, Alex observes thoughtfully that since the Reaper seems to have an interest in his partner, she might be a good way of drawing it out so that Beta crucible can take it down. However, that’s a plan for another time.
The day after the Beta crucible-led expedition, Tom tells Zoë about the new dead zone in/around Chains. (He knows that she, Teresa and Annie visit the place on a semi-regular basis.) She seems interested, and wanders off muttering about taking a little trip. Various people visit Teresa in the medical facility (Blink brings flowers). While she’s confined there, she has a talk with Kate and Annie regarding the strange Wail she used on Not-Gwynneth. Neither of them has heard of anything like it before. Going over Teresa’s memory of the event, Kate thinks that it feels like something she would associate with a spectre. In a rare display of tact, she doesn’t actually send this thought through the link. However, Teresa is listening because she wants to know what Kate really thinks, so she picks it up anyway: it doesn’t reassure her.
After about a day, Teresa is healed enough to be allowed to leave. Her torso is an interesting shade of black and blue and she’s still rather sore, but is able to move around unaided. At about quarter past five in the evening of that day, Tom receives a phone call from Matthew, who has just spoken with Jayne’s agent. He has just found Jayne comatose in his coffin, surrounded by needles and drug paraphernalia. Apparently he came back from the club the other night in a state of extreme distress, and now he’s back on the hard stuff. According to the agent, he’s been clean -- or at least off the needle -- for some time. He’s in something of a flap and doesn’t know what to do. Matthew says he wouldn’t normally ask this, but the agent doesn’t want to take Jayne to hospital and Teresa is medically qualified… Jayne is still the client, after all, and this kind of publicity would be bad for them. Tom reassures Matthew that they’ll head over to Jayne’s apartment straight away.
Tom drives the two of them over there. When they arrive, Jayne’s agent lets them in and takes them to Jayne, who is unconscious on his coffin. He is also huddled in one corner of the room. Gwynneth is huddled in another corner, sobbing as she rocks back and forth. Teresa heads over to Jayne’s physical body. As she starts to check him over, Tom convinces the agent to leave the room, closing the door behind him. Jayne’s pulse is slow and faint, but steady, and his breathing shallow but regular. His body shows the kind of damage that she would associate with a spook who’s been too long away from it, but she doesn’t think he’s in imminent danger of death. As well as a hypodermic needle, there is also a foil of some sort of black liquid near his limply outstretched hand. They suspect this is pigment. Tom breaks off the needle (so as not to inadvertently stab himself with it in transit) and bags everything up for transport. Once she’s satisfied that Jayne’s body is (relatively) fine stable for the moment, Teresa goes to speak with the man himself.
Jayne’s gauze form is faint and faded, appearing in monochrome. This is unusual, but has been seen before: it is thought by some to be connected with pigment use. As might be expected, he is in a state of extreme distress and has withdrawn into himself. It takes a long time for Teresa to draw him out, but she manages to calm him down enough to talk about what happened. He tells her that Gwynneth came for him, as she often does and he followed her to the club as usual. They danced, and then went upstairs to the VIP room where events diverged from the script. He snapped out of the trance to hear her scream and see her keel over like a puppet that had had its strings cut. He came home, but she followed him. At that point, he starts to get agitated again, reciting the words “she just kept following me” and “she wouldn’t go away” over and over again. He also repeats the phrase: “I tried to tell her I’m sorry”. Calming him down again, Teresa tries to steer the conversation towards how and when Gwynneth first appeared in her present form (preferably without telling him that they know he killed her because Tom rifled through his memories without his permission). Unfortunately, he reacts badly to the subject and she is forced to back off lest he snap completely. She guides him through the process of re-entering his body, and he seems to manage it successfully.
Whilst Teresa converses with Jayne, Tom watches over Gwynneth. He is careful not to look directly at her in case she uses Unearthly Repose. She seems to be strong for a ghost -- easily Mirage class, whereas most don’t even rate as Echo. Craig and Annie are the only other ghosts of this class that he’s encountered. He tries to sense her tethers, receiving an impression of arms encircling her in a warm embrace, and a brief vision of a grave. There is also an image of what looks like a high school prom. He files the information away for later discussion.
Gwynneth sobs helplessly for a long time, but eventually stops and starts to take notice of her surroundings. When she sees Tom she flinches back, apparently instinctively, and he hastens introduce himself and to reassure her that he isn’t going to hurt her. She doesn’t seem to be convinced, observing matter-of-factly that everybody hurts her, but that’s alright because she deserves it. He tells her that she doesn’t, and that he and Teresa won’t let anyone else hurt her if they can help it, but all she says to that is: “Other people have promised that before.” That particular subject seems to be something of a dead end, so instead he questions her about what happened the other night. She says that she led Jayne to the club as ‘she’ told her to, but when they went upstairs there was no one there and she didn’t know what to do. She came back to Jayne’s apartment because: “she always makes me come back here in the end”. After some more questions, Tom establishes that ‘she’ is the entity they’ve been calling Not-Gwynneth. He tries to reassure Gwynneth that they’ve dispersed her dark twin, but she replies: “She always comes back.” She also claims that her twin is whispering to her right now, promising that she’s going to hurt her even more when she comes back again. Tom tells her that he and Teresa work for an organisation that tries to help ghosts, and asks her if she wants to come back with them so that they can try to keep her safe. Her reaction to that is one of outright terror. Belatedly, it occurs to Tom that from what she’s been saying -- and what he managed to dig up on her background -- all the men she’s gone home with have ended up abusing her.
Teresa joins in the conversation once Jayne is safely back in his body. She questions Gwynneth to find out how much she knows about what happened to her, and how long her twin has been around. The ghost knows that she’s dead, and that Jayne killed her. She doesn’t seem to blame him, though, simply assuming that it was bound to happen sooner or later anyway, and that she must have deserved it. Teresa tries to tell her that she doesn’t, but has about as much success as Tom. In her professional opinion, this is something that isn’t going to be worked out with anything less than years of psychotherapy. Regarding her twin, Gwynneth says that she thinks she’s always been with her, but that she only saw her after death. Her twin hurts her, she says, but she does it out of love. And because she deserves it. (The conversation goes round in circles quite a lot, with Gwynneth always returning to this point.) Tom asks if her twin is talking to her right now. When she nods her head, he says: “Ask her if her ass is still sore from the kicking we gave it.” After a moment, Gwynneth says, softly: “She doesn’t care about you.” Turning to face Teresa, she continues: “But she knows you, Teresa Reilly. She knows where you live, and she knows where your family live.” Teresa looks a little rattled -- Tom only introduced her as Teresa, so there’s no way Gwynneth should know her full name. Gwynneth shrinks back, as if she’s expecting one of them to lash out at her in response, but the Teresa just takes a few deep breaths and says that she will do everything she can to get rid of the evil twin for good. Tom offers to take Gwynneth to Orpheus again, but she refuses, saying she wants to leave now. Tom gives her directions to the Orpheus building, in case she does decide she wants sanctuary at some point, and then she leaves. Neither of them try to stop her, or to follow her.
Calling the agent back into the room, Teresa explains to him that Jayne is stable, but needs proper medical attention. Before he can panic too much about the publicity, she says that she would like to take his client to the Orpheus building, which has within it a world-class (and extremely discreet) medical facility. The agent looks vastly relieved, and calls the bodyguard to help get Jayne into the car as quickly and surreptitiously as possible. The agent goes with them. As they drive, Tom calls Matthew to let him know that they’re on their way so that he can alert the medical staff. Tom can practically hear the dollar signs lighting up over the manager’s head -- Orpheus will be able to charge Jayne through the nose for this service. Leaving Jayne in the doctors’ capable hands, and his agent with Matthew, they drop off the possible pigment sample with the technicians -- Tom also hands over the tabs he’s been carrying around in his wallet for the past couple of days. After informing Craig that Gwyneth (and, possibly, her evil twin) may turn up at their door, the two of them call it a night. (Teresa stays in the building, in Annie's room.)
The next morning, the investigators are debriefed by Matthew, and he tells them that the case is effectively over. Teresa points out to him that, even though the club has technically been cleared (they think), they didn’t actually disperse or pass over the ghost haunting Jayne. There’s every possibility that she’ll return. Matthew looks a little uncomfortable and says that they haven’t really been stressing that fact. (Or even, by the sounds of it, mentioned it at all.) Jayne is undergoing therapy for his viewer psychosis, provided by one of the Orpheus psychiatrists (for a fee). (Counselling for post-spook trauma is something offered as standard by the Orpheus Group. Most of their clients would have difficulties with more conventional therapists, as they would almost certainly be working from the assumption that the person in question is delusional, and that their experiences couldn’t possibly have happened. Such counselling may well lead to more problems in the long run.) Tom and Teresa each receive a $200 bonus for bringing in the potential pigment samples, but -- for obvious reasons -- there is no successful completion bonus.