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Chronicling the games i've run

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Intimate Encounters

Part IV
Intimate Encounters   Some weeks after the four experienced the strange dream Rafe Weston, FBI agent undercover as Private Security Christopher Rameriz received an email from his contact:   Field Agent Weston
Congratulations, you’ve been reactivated.   Don’t get too excited, I expect that fact we needed someone to do some detective work up there is the reason you got expedited.
There’s a killer on the loose. This alone wouldn’t be especially new but this guy seems to have some serious hacking skills on top of his bizarre methods. We need you to check it out before we get seriously involved. Your liaison will be a Detective Neumeir. I think you’ve met. He will be in contact shortly.   It seemed Neumeir had changed his tune since his run in with the investigators during the Church of Sunyata case. At 10 that night Rafe received the call he’d been waiting for.
Neaumeir reported that the latest body in a string of murders had been found at ‘The Honey Spot’ Motel in Compton and requested that Rameriz organize his group to meet there.
The four arrived at around 10.30 to find the crime scene bustling. A cordon of police tape had been run around the motel and confused and angry looking guests were in the parking lot being interviewed. A trio of news vans had already arrived, including some sort of ghost hunting show.   Rameriz, Williams, Field and Smith approached the cop guarding the perimeter. ‘Move along’ he said tiredly. The quartet introduced themselves and he radioed in. A barely audible response of ‘send them up’ buzzed back. ‘Stairs are on the right’ he says, raising the tape.   The police shifted around the crime scene taking photo’s and dusting surfaces. It occurred to Rameriz that the equipment the police were using seemed rather dated. On the floor in the centre of the room lied the body of a woman. Small holes dotted the room. Neumeir crouched by her.   The body was unusual. The woman appeared thin but her skin was loose and baggy as if she had lost a lot of weight quickly. She looked approximately 50 and was dressed rather provocatively. A blond wig was dropped nearby.   ‘Thanks for coming. I’ll tell you straight up I’m not thrilled to have to call you in but this **** is insane and I need someone who has worked with insanity. This case….. it feels similar to that church craziness you lot were involved in.   The victim’s Name is Miranda Tinoco, missing since the 25th of September, when she went on a date with one Robert Hoff. Hoff was found in a similar state to Ms Tinoco here. He too had been missing since a date with a lady named Charlene Mendle, deceased also of course. A week prior to that she met with a David Eugenson and he, so far, is our patient zero. We’ve found that all the victims met on a casual rendezvous site called ‘Intimate Encounters’   ‘The Medical Examiner will be here shortly but I can tell you what he’ll find. All our victims have experienced massive, sudden weight loss. They’re call our guy the Lip Killer. Though I’m not certain there even is a killer and some weird virus. Hell I don’t know, all I can think of when I see these folks are those bags of skin left around after that Sunyata ****. You think this is connected?’   George responded that they couldn’t know but they would look into it. ‘Oh and one other thing’ Neumeir pointed out. ‘Our equipment has been affected by some sort of virus. Researching this craziness online has a habit of killing your electronics. You might have noticed we’re down to last generations kit.’ he said, gesturing to the police investigators.  
The group left the scene to discuss in the SUV. A quick search of the victims profiles on Intimate Encounters showed a couple of things in common. For one, all the victims were overweight. Secondly, all the deceased seemed to have been alcoholics, or at least drinkers.   The Investigators came up with a plan to catfish the killer. Each of them set up a fake profile, making sure to suggest they were on the bigger size and weren’t adverse to having a few drinks.   But the rate the murders happened suggested that there wouldn’t be a bite for about a week. They decided to be more proactive.
The offices of Intimate Encounters might provide some information into the mystery. Fortunately, Tannequa’s cleaning company held to contract for the offices and they were due to send someone around in a couple of day. A few favours called in and Tannequa arranged to be sent out there on the next rostered day.   But there was one final lead they had and they could look into it now. The first murder, David Eugenson.
With a bit of digging the group was able to find Eugenson worked for National Communication Services.
A few phone calls later and they found he had last been seen when he went on a job at Sommerset Industrial Park. The failed park had been abandoned since the mid eighties but NCS held the contract to maintain an antenna located on the site. The Group decided to get some sleep and set out in the morning.   The following day the group set out. The park had little in the way of security aside from a barb wire-topped fence, which the team managed to scale with a few scrapes and cuts.   A stark industrial wasteland stretched before them. Papers blew past in the L.A. breeze. A pair of mangy strays rutted among some trash. Most of the area looked like it had been abandoned for the last thirty years but for a pair of tyre tracks in the dust looked fresh.
The investigators followed the tracks to one of the buildings and a closed roller door. Quietly inching open the inset pedestrian door they located the source of the tracks. A van bearing the logo for National Communication Services was parked in the warehouse. The group approached it.   Inside the unlocked van’s glove compartment the group discovered a log book with Eugenson listed as the last driver, obviously they were on the right track. Beyond some heavy doors a rumbling was emanating. With the doors opened the sound was much louder and the group soon traced it to a room with a large hole in it.   The stink of excrement seeped up from the darkness but the group pressed on and clambered, as quietly as possible, down the rubble into the hole.
They found themselves what appeared to be an old septic tank. Fortunately time had evaporated much of it’s contents but the smell of **** still hung in the air and the ground still had a slippery coating of slime.   Further in the depths of the chamber the investigators could see a figure working on a huge contraption. The machine didn’t look like anything any of them had ever seen before. It was a bizzare mish-mash of electronics and it’s purpose wasn’t apparent. The figure was a man, his back to the group, but as they approached he straightened. Without turning, in a rather bored tone he announced ‘Hello.’   ‘I guess you’ve found me.’ He continued. ‘Im afraid you’re going to have to let me finish my work however.’
The group pressed him for information, demanding to know what was going on and the figure had no qualms about telling them.
‘You might recognise this body as one Scott Parker’ he explained, his voice conversational.
‘I’m afraid ive had to borrow it, along with the others. You see this place I’ve been dragged to isn’t compatible with my kind.’
When quizzed about this he continued;   ‘I believe it was just an accident that brought me here. The one called Eugenson was repairing one of the antenna in this park. Funny how just the right combination of electrical interference, combined with some chemicals left over from the previous tenants, was enough to tear a door in reality. I was dragged from my home and stranded here. Just bad luck I guess.’ He shrugged.
‘Well now if you’ll let me be I’ve just got to finish up here and I’ll be on my way back home.’   ‘So what exactly will happen when you start up the machine’ enquired Williams.   ‘Well It’ll open up a portal to my home.’ Said the being. ‘I mean it will cause a small explosion on closing, but that can’t be helped.’   ‘Small explosion?’ echoed the investigators.   ‘Yes, about ten to fifteen megatons I expect. Can’t be helped.’  
‘I’m afraid we cant allow you to do that.’ Began Smith as Rameriz drew his gun.
‘Oh I don’t think you can stop me’ – said the Eugenson thing, ignoring the request and continuing to work on its machine.
‘Ok, step away from the machine!’ yelled Rameriz, taking aim with him Magnum.   Eugenson stopped and turned, an annoyed look crossing his features.   ‘Well, sorry it had to come to this.’   His skin erupted and as a living void smashed through his chest. The empty skin of Eugenson collapsed on the ground in a pile leaving a black ball of negative energy in its place.   The Entity moved on the team and Rameriz fired but his bullets did nothing as they were absorbed by the creature. They fled.   The Entity closed in on them as they scrambled up and out of the hole and fled the building. Lighting crackled from creature burning small wounds in the team.
The van stood ahead and they piled in. Field threw it into reverse and slammed the accelerator. Then they realized the warehouse doors were shut.   With a smash the back of the van crumpled in as it collided with the heavy doors. The Entity closed in, moving in front of the van. Thinking quickly Field threw the car in drive and plowed into the void-like creature. The speeding van collected the Entity and all five hurtled into the far wall. With a tearing sound the Entity came apart, absorbing the front of the van into itself and collapsing. As sense returned to the situation the creature, and a large semi-circular part of the front of the van, was gone.
The investigators piled out of the wreckage and raced to the machine which was looking exceedingly unstable.   Esther Smith approached it while the others considered what to do and a few seconds later the machine was deactivated, leaving everyone wondering how a hairdresser had any knowledge on Interdimensional Engineering.   Epilogue.
Agent Rafe Weston soon arranged for the FBI to come and seize control of the strange machine and the incident was covered up quickly and cleanly.

Onemeantoaster

Onemeantoaster

 

In Media Res

No one knows what causes the artistic types of L.A. to dream so vividly in the last days of August. They just do.
A painter might consider it a mark of honor to wake one morning with the inspiration to paint a great work. A singer would sit bolt upright, drenched in sweat, and immediately set to work on a brilliant, if somewhat dark, Ballard. Like clockwork, every year writers and actors claim fleeting memories of dreams of voids and impossibly large beings.   Others might think this superstition but it’s undeniable that many of the greatest, and darkest artistic works were first conceived in the later days of August.
No one knows why it happens, but now it was happening to the investigators.   For the last few nights they had been dreaming. The first was of Maria del Ponchard. Maria stood straight upon a stone table. Her face showed no emotion. Her missing eyes showed nothing but endless space. She holds a torch of black flame, spluttering in one outstretched arm. In the crook of her other arm she holds a stone tablet.   Next was of chains and cells. Before them, bored looking old men held up Rorschach prints, one after the other. They knew whatever they said this will continue for eternity.   A bus trip. From behind the investigators they heard sudden screams as the back of the vehicle was torn away by a huge, black, winged creature. The bus rolled. They blacked out.   Darkest Space. They sensed the area they were in was limitless but they were not alone. There was something before them. Lightning from some distant cosmic storm silhouettes the immense mass of tentacles for a fraction of a second and they feared they may go insane.
In their heads, they heard a voice ‘I am The Opener of The Way, join me on the other side.’
They awoke with one, strange word imprinted on their minds.

Nyarlethotehp.   Morgan, Pfeiff, Gantry and Douglas are dangerous men. All have killed before, solely for pleasure. Given the opportunity they will kill again. They are incarcerated in The Liberty Centre for the Criminally Insane in Missouri.
Their actions have caught the interest of an otherworldly being. One that refers to itself as ‘The Opener of The Way’ though it is known by many names. It promises them power if they join it ‘on the other side’ and teaches them the ritual to do so.
The time has come. Heavy rains have caused flooding in and around Liberty and the Center has been evacuated. The four inmates are bundled into a prison transport bus to be moved to a safer location.
The Opener of The Way keeps its word. It sends a winged creature (a Hunting Horror) to attack the bus, which crashes. Upon waking Gantry finds he is holding a large ceremonial knife. He uses it to threaten the surviving guard, Denis Gellon, into releasing him and his accomplices. Taking the guard’s gun, they manage to flag down an unfortunate lady named Linda Maye Olcott. With the doomed Guard and Civilian held captive they order Linda to drive to a safe place, The Olcott farm.
Upon arrival Morgan orders Linda to drive the car into a ditch before shooting the poor woman. They hide the body in the trunk of the car.
They force Gellon into the empty house where Pfeiff slits his throat and removes his face and tongue while Douglas paints the required image on the wall in blood. They begin the ritual……
But something goes wrong.
A burst of energy erupts from the image and the four find themselves without any memory of anything up to that point.  
The four men stood around the body of the dead man. In Douglas’s hand was the guards gun, by Gantry’s foot was the ceremonial dagger. Pfieff held the face of the guard over his own, the dead man’s tongue replacing his missing one.
The yelling began.
All the men were shocked at their surroundings. Morgan dove for the door and found themselves in the hall. Opposite was the kitchen. Knives. He made his way in.
Back in the lounge Pfeiff had grabbed a poker and was backing away from the other two. Gantry departed as well and made his way upstairs.
Pfeiff crept into the kitchen and attempted to brain Morgan but he dived aside and fought back. Pfeiff grabbed a knife and cut at Morgan, cutting up his hands. Douglas came in and drew his gun on them. With his opponent distracted Morgan was able to wrestle Pfeiff to the ground. Douglas ran down to the basement to look for rope to restrain the crazed man.
The basement held a locked gun safe, one of the rifles seemed to be missing. He made an attempt at picking the lock but was unable to. Finding some rope near by he raced back up to restrain Pfeiff.   Gantry had made his way upstairs and was searching through the bathrooms he found there. In the main bedroom he found some clothing that fit so he hastily changed. He found a guest room that seemed to have belonged to a young man. From beneath a bed a box poked out. Gantry threw it open and found what appeared to be a stack of adult magazines with a distinct theme.   As Gantry glanced at the BDSM Magazine a flash of memory struck him. He recalled his youth, his sister, dressed in BDSM garb tied him to a chair. She asked him meaningless questions. With each answer she struck him. His memory returned.   Downstairs Pfeiff had charged into what appeared to be a teenaged girls bedroom. In a mad rage he turned on a big stuffed dog, hacking its head off. Then he was back in his twenties….
He stood at the front door of a house. He knocked and a girl came to the door with a friendly looking Saint Bernard. In his pocket he felt the hammer he was going to use to kill her. His memories returned.   From the lounge he heard the sound of barking.   Douglas had found a bathroom and was setting to work removing his beard. Then they heard the car.   From the window an RV could be seen making its way up the drive. Douglas moved into an ambush position. The back door opened, and Douglas moved fast, bringing the rifle up to the hunters face. ‘You killed my wife ’cried the man. ‘You killed her and stuffed her in the trunk like an animal!’ He swung up his rifle in rage and Douglas shot him dead.   Pfeiff had moved back into the loungeroom at this point. In the dark outside he spied a man, a hunter by the look of him creeping up to the house. Pfieff took action. He pulled the skin over his face and smashed a chair through the window where the hunter was approaching and followed it out. The hunter understandably turned and ran. Gantry had followed Pfeiff back into the room and had turned his attention on the ink block. It pulsed at him. He turned his shotgun on it and opened fire..and disappeared.   Pfeiff has seen this. Gantry had joined the master. He dover back through the window and charged at the blot. He too vanished.   At the front porch Morgan had been in the shadows watching another pair by the RV. When they heard the shots he slipped into the shadows and let them race past. He then ran for the RV and jumped behind the wheel. With a squeal of tires he peeled off down the drive. Douglas meanwhile had taken off into the woods.   Rafe, George, Esther and Tannequa awoke. Deep down they knew what they had experienced was real.   Epilogue
Douglas was soon apprehended after an anonymous phone call (supplied by Rafe) tipped off his location. He would later commit suicide in prison. Morgan is still at large.   Thoughts   This was fun. In many ways it was a fantastic scenario for beginning keepers as much of the story is taken care of by the players. I could just sit back and watch the chaos unfold.   That said, i kind of wished my group had been more suspicious and hostile towards one another. In hindsight i could have handed out notes here and there to sew the seeds of paranoia.

Onemeantoaster

Onemeantoaster

 

Episode 2 of The Space Between

Part 2   Form and Void   As the group stood around the SUV an unusual car pulled into the lot. The vehicle had clearly been a Herse once but some stylish modifications had given it a second life. Maria recognized it. The car pulled up and out stepped Esther Smith, Maria’s personal hairstylist. Maria had not turned up for work since filming had halted and was returning to her apartment in the building. Before the group could act she had strode over to see what was going on. After a short and probably very troubling conversation with Esther she agreed to assist.
The Investigators prepared to return to Jarred Woodward’s apartment.   From a bag in the trunk of his SUV Ramirez pulled a surprising amount of weaponry. Throwing a shotgun to George the party entered the elevator.
Maria suggested that perhaps the impenetrable darkness was somehow created by some sort of electrical field so the group attempted to shut off the lights. By torchlight they headed to the suite door and found the impenetrable darkness still complete. With little else to go on they stepped across the threshold.

The group came to their senses atop a large cliff in the dark of night. A natural auditorium made of smooth glassy rock surrounded them on all other sides. Far below waves smashed against jagged rocks. A short distance ahead two forms were visible. Jarred Woodward knelt, head bowed in front of a woman in a long black sequined dress. He appeared to be sobbing. Drawing his Desert Eagle, Ramirez announced himself. Woodward turned, wild eyed to the group, rose and began running madly at them. Behind him the woman began a slow advance. The group turned to one another, unsure what to do.   ‘Run!’ yelled Woodward as he closed in on them. Ramirez fired on the woman but the bullet went wide. Woodward closed in and grabbed Maria and Esther and began to drag them to the cliff face but a sharp palm to the face soon stopped him. ‘We have to get away from her!’ he yelled and threw himself over the edge. As the woman slowly drew closer the party decided to join him….   And came to on the floor of the editing suite.   A large editing desk and screen stood against one wall, a shot of the familiar basalt cliffs where stood The Woman in Black facing Verity frozen on it. An editing table with a canister of film and some clipped frames against another. A small bowl of what was almost definitely blood sat beside it.
Woodward lay in the middle of the floor blubbering. When challenged he scurried over to a corner and began rocking backward and forward.
As Ramirez approached the screen The Woman in Black turned towards him. A loud shot echoed around the room as the screen exploded from a close-range Magnum round.
He’d clearly got sick of this.
Turning to the table Ramirez scooped the contents into his bag to the protests of Maria who wanted to examine the film further. This caused friction. After a brief argument about the film and whether to turn it over to the authorities Maria withdrew from the confrontation. Ramirez found her a couple of minutes later attempting to call 911. He relieved her of her phone.
Dragging Woodward to his feet, the group left the penthouse.   When the five got back to the car the door was open and Verity Harrow was nowhere to be seen.
Woodward was pushed into the trunk of the SUV and the group began to pile in. Maria, however, refused. She distrusted Ramirez. After a short debate Esther and Maria decided to take the Herse.   The Celebrity Retreat seemed like the next stop and Woodward could get them in. Christopher Ramirez and George Williams pulled the car up in a vacant lot. They dumped the film in a barrel and set the evil thing on fire. They then turned to Woodward and politely explained to him why he was going to help. The trio continued to the retreat and caught up with Maria and Esther.   In the foyer of the retreat the group met Mandy Solek, the bubbly receptionist. Mandy arranged for security to come and get Jared Woodward but refused to let the group into the building. As they were about to leave, however, Mandy received a call. It seemed Craig Steel had heard of their arrival and wanted to see them. A little worriedly the group, accompanied by security, were led to Steel’s office.   Craig Steel sat behind his desk in a very opulent office. He seemed genuinely happy to see the group but concerned about their wellbeing, offering an emptying session. The four, of course, politely declined but Steel became more and more insistent.
Then he told the guards to take them by force.   One attempted to grab Ramirez but he ducked aside. The second went for Williams, striking him in the face. As Ramirez and Williams were engaged in combat Maria and Esther had other plans. They approached Steel, agreeing to go with him. Steel seemed puzzled by this but eventually began to lead them from the room and down a connecting corridor.
Back in Steel’s office one of the guards had tazed Ramirez while Williams beat the other with a chair.
Esther made her move. From her coat, she pulled her favorite scissors and put the point to Steels neck. A fight broke out but Steel was able to push Esther away. Esther fled into the building.   Maria had other plans. She agreed to accompany Steel and together they made their way across the building. Steel opened a door near the emptying suite and led Maria inside.
Esther circled back and made her way back into Steel’s office to find the two men still in combat with the guards. She quickly searched the room for something to assist her. In Steel’s desk Esther found the final reel of film and quickly destroyed it. A large cupboard was next to be searched. Throwing open the door Esther (and the combatants) were shocked to find a man standing there. When the initial shock wore off it could be seen this was not a living person but a mannequin on which hung a human’s skin. Despite the wear it appeared to be the Church’s founder, Ralph L Chandler.   Wilson and Ramirez had finished off the guards and set off after Maria while Esther continued her search. A cardboard box marked the Exegesis of Ralph L Chandler and another Tome titled The Sussex Manuscript took her interest and she scooped them up to return them to her car.   The two men continued down the hall to find more security coming for them. One of the guard’s head exploded from Ramirez’s large caliber weapon while Wilson took down the other but beyond them was a high security door.  
Beyond the door Maria screamed as she was tied down and skinned alive…       Desperately Ramirez turned to search for something that could be used to set the place alight but didn’t get far before Steel emerged from the room. Ramirez blasted Steel in the chest.   Craig Steel’s chest split open. From within, blackness spread into the world. Tentacles of night whipped at the two men. As the void spread the two fled from the retreat.   Epilogue – The hours following   The Survivors were apprehended by the police and taken into custody shortly after their escape from the Celebrity Retreat. During the hours they were held an FBI raid was undertaken on several Church buildings, including the Retreat. Few Church members put up resistance and the raid was completed cleanly.
While exact information on what was recovered remains classified FBI spokesmen have referred to it as ‘of troubling and occult nature.’ In the coming weeks, many high-ranking church members would be arrested and the church would eventually close. Brian Musgrove, the head of the Church, has not been found.   George Williams, Esther Smith and Christopher Ramirez were released without charge after intervention from higher government authorities.   Maria del Ponchard, would be seen a few more times, always wearing dark glasses before disappearing completely.   Esther Smith retains The Exegesis of Ralph L Carter.

Onemeantoaster

Onemeantoaster

 

Episode 1 of The Space Between

The Space Between

Part I – Hollyweird
Future historians may look back on the morning of April the 8th as a defining moment. It was the moment a small group of professionals discovered a plot to destroy humanity but were able to fight back and triumph. Or perhaps it was the moment our doom was ultimately sealed. Perhaps there will be no future historians.

Three people sat around a coffee table at Schriver Studios. Maria del Ponchard, the co-star of The Space Between. George Williams, consultant and Christopher Rameriz, Security. All three were probably wondering if they were going to get paid.

Four days prior, Verity Harrow, the star of the movie had left the set and promptly disappeared. Rumors abound that she had got cold feet and skipped out on her contract or gone on a drug binge. There was even some talk that perhaps she had eloped with Jared Woodward, the director, as he had been absent for about the same amount of time. Of course, others thought it was something more sinister.
Production had, of course, ground to a halt and most of the crew had given up coming in with only a few hangers on trying to look busy. One of them was Tekroop Singh, the assistant director.
Singh had been filming pick-up shots and trying to keep morale on the movie high for the past couple of days but judging from the yelling coming from the hall he had finally cracked. He stormed into the room, visibly upset and looking for someone to vent at. He settled on the trio.

Tekroop was desperate. Despite the film being clearly incomplete a super-advanced screening was supposed to be held the following evening. Woodward had (apparently) been editing at his home suite for the past few days but was refusing to return to set or answer any reasonable questions on the phone. With little to lose he asked the group if they could try and talk some sense into him. Tekroop also appealed to Maria’s friendship and Christopher’s working relationship with Verity. Perhaps they could check her house? The party agreed with Maria suggesting they visit Verity’s trailer first. They set out.

Verity’s trailer was locked, but Christopher held a copy of the key. The trailer proved clean and unremarkable. Some of Verity’s head-scarves sat atop her dresser. After a cursory examination, the three left.
As George, Christopher and Maria left the trailer a car pulled up in front of them and two uniformed police officers exited. They were accompanied by a grizzled, balding man in his mid-sixties who introduced himself as Detective Samuel Neumeier. The detective announced that a body, or rather, human remains had been found in a storm drain a short distance away and it was a possible match for Ms Harrow. Neumeier made no attempt to disguise his distrust of The Church and demanded he be allowed to search the set. George ‘politely’ pointed out that without a warrant ‘they were going to have none of that, thank you very much’ which sent Neumeier into a rage, claiming that he would bring them all down.
Meanwhile, Maria had noticed one of the other officers looked extremely shaken and slipped away from the others. She found him a short distance away, vomiting noisily. With a reassuring hand on his shoulder he recovered enough to talk. ‘They skinned her, man. There was nothing left but...guts.’ he was able to mutter before heaving again. Neumeier yelled for him to come back and the three officers climbed into the car to find someone with more authority.

Rameriz wanted to see if Singh’s reaction to hearing about the murder was suspicious so the three headed back to the sound stage to give him the bad news.
The director certainly seemed upset by the news but was unprepared to shut down production. Concerned the investigation was a witch hunt he refused to let the officers on site until more evidence came to light. He asked the group to continue their investigation. They climbed into Rameriz’s SUV (with tinted windows and all the optional extras) and departed for Harrow’s apartment.

Christopher arrived at Harrows house in record time with the other two in a mixed state of admiration and terror at his driving. As they pulled into an empty space they noticed another black SUV, this one with Church plates, parked outside. A man sat looking rather nervous in the driver’s seat. The group approached.
Rameriz identified him as another part of Harrow’s security detail, a man name Tyrone Goode. Goode seemed somewhat evasive and confused about his interrogation and seemed somewhat surprised that anyone was worried about Verity at all. He claimed that she had paid him $1000 to drop by her house to pick up some things and that she had been ‘detoxing’ at the Churches celebrity retreat. He’d been waiting here for a while and had no problem with the trio checking in on her themselves. The group approached the front door, a line of police tape lay discarded beside it.

The bodyguards key unlocked the door but privacy chain inside was engaged. As Rameriz attempted to unhook it the door slammed shut. From inside a voice demanded to know what they wanted. Any relief the investigators may have felt was short lived as it was clear something was very wrong with Verity. After some pleas from Maria, Verity opened the door and let the three in.
Verity seemed to have adopted the usual celebrity disguise of dark glasses and a head scarf. She seemed distant and distressed. As she spoke she picked up items that may have held some sentimental value to her and gazed at them distractedly. She assured, halfheartedly, that she was fine and had indeed been detoxing at the celeb retreat under Craig Steel’s direction. She had snuck out to pick up some personal items from her house. After some encouragement, she agreed to accompany the investigators. George and Maria joined Tyrone in one car while Christopher and Verity got in his SUV. They headed to Woodward’s penthouse.

Verity remained completely impassive on the trip. The two vehicles parked. Verity showed no interest in going into the building and Christopher was in no mood to let her out of his site a second time so the two stayed in the SUV while Maria and William went inside.
On the ground floor a concierge named Manny briefly blocked William and Maria from bothering Woodward but he must have been an off day as he got distracted and wandered off before Maria had to resort to dressing as a maid to infiltrate the penthouse. The pair ascended.
Woodward’s pad was a mess. It seemed unlikely it had been ransacked but was certainly apparent the director hadn’t been looking after himself. Drug paraphernalia lay on a coffee table. The investigators turned their attention to the editing suite.

Back in the SUV Verity began sobbing. While Christopher Rameriz may have been highly skilled at taking down enemies, comforting a distressed woman failed to be his strong point. Attempting his best impression of Maria he put a reassuring hand on Verities shoulder and gave her a stoic ‘There There.’ Verity was inconsolable. ‘I didn’t want this.’ she sobbed. ‘They said they could make me Empty, but I didn’t want this!’ Rameriz asked what she meant. Verity removed her sunglasses. Everything changed.

In Woodward’s apartment George and Maria were contemplating the door to the editing suite. A red light blinked ‘In Use’ above the door. Cold radiated off the door and a thin sheen of frost covered it. Maria pushed it open. Beyond lay the void. Nothing. Blackness stretched into infinity, interrupted only by the occasional pinprick of light that under differet circumstances could have been stars. The pair considered the darkness, unsure what to do. They dialed Woodwards number. Distantly inside the room a phone rang. Seconds later Woodwards crazed voice was on the line. ‘She’s real! She wont let me go!’ Woodward screamed. ‘Yvette Sommers is real!’ The line went dead. It took a couple of seconds for Maria and George to put together who Yvette Sommers was. The Space Between had a role that curiously no one knew who was cast as. Crew speculated that Yvette Sommers, the character who teaches Verities character in the ways of emptiness, was also played by Verity or was some sort of CG creation. It became apparent the truth was more sinister. Maria tentatively reached around the inside of the door jamb only to find she couldn’t touch the inside wall. The pair noped out.

Rameriz peered over the top of a dumpster. At the sight of Verity his composure had broken and he had fled from the car. Verity had no eyes. A lack of eyes probably wouldn’t have shocked Rameriz quite so much but within the empty sockets there was nothing. Space. Broken only by pinpricks of light. Steeling himself, Rameriz returned to the actress. ‘They did this to me.’ ‘I agreed but, I..I didn’t know.’ The distraught Verity Harrow told her story.

A devout Church Member Verity had wanted what all Church members wanted, to become Empty, completely free of Woes. When Craig Steel had approached her and told her of the Fast Track program she had agreed. The program was designed to bring Emptyness to an individual without the years of meditation. Even when Steel told her the expense of the process Verity agreed. Her skin would have to be removed. Verity had met with Steel and Woodward and together they had skinned her alive, recording the whole thing. Verity died, but had awoken ‘Empty’. Emptyness was not what had been promised. Verity still regained her memories and feelings but could feel what was left of herself decaying. She knew she didn’t have much time.
Steel and Woodward’s plans didn’t stop there. They believed the footage they had captured could be spliced into ‘The Space Between’ to bring this ‘Emptyness’ to any viewers. At that moment Verity knew of two copies of the film that had received the splicing. One was in Woodward’s possession and a backup was being looked after by Steel, probably in his office at the retreat.

George and Maria had joined Christopher and Verity. While Rameriz had warned of Verities true appearance George and Maria were obviously still horrified. To her credit Maria regained her composure rather quickly. The hardened war veteran however descended into a screaming fit for a short time before pulling himself together.

The group considered the situation. The Church’s influence was wide spread. There was a high chance that the police would be sympathetic to The Church and tip off Steel. Neumeier clearly would help but he hadn’t left a number and was unreachable. One of the film canisters was in Woodwards editing suite. Rameriz opened the boot of his SUV and pulled out a duffle bag. Throwing it open he removed his shotgun.

What is within the darkness of Woodward’s suite? How many have been Emptied? What is really going on at the Celebrity Retreat?

Time is running out….

Onemeantoaster

Onemeantoaster

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