Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Snow Day Post #1: God-Machine Chronicle Update

Snow day! Wheee!

One of the nice things about working in a public school district is that I still get to enjoy snow days. Of course, it puts me closer than I'd like to out of compliance on an ETR, but I can manage that.

So! Anyway! Last night we finally got to play World of Darkness again.

The characters were in Erie, PA. It's the next morning, the day after Mallory shot and killed a man named Peterson, who'd pulled a gun (seemingly on Mallory, but some evidence suggested he was pointing it at something behind Mallory, except there was nothing there). All of the reports, however, were very much in Mallory's favor - it was a good shoot. That didn't mean Mallory was doing well. He'd been up all night filling out reports, and only the dedicated efforts of Agent Lundy kept him on the team and armed.

King, meanwhile, hadn't had a great night, either. He'd had dreams of stabbing a man in a thunderstorm, and he woke up to find he felt as though he'd really done it (Mind of the Madman Merit; he lost an effective dot of Integrity and picked up the Spooked Condition, which he still has. He'll get the dot back when the killer is apprehended). Upon awakening, he thought through the dream. He remembered the man's hat coming off, and he remembered seeing a car with a Kentucky plate.

The characters got together in the morning to talk about their next move. They'd gone over most of the forensic and technical evidence. Cochrane had the post-it note overnighted from Detroit, and compared the one from the crime scene here. They were identical in terms of fibers, the handwriting was a perfect match, it's just that the one from Erie seemed slight older. But that wasn't possible - there couldn't be two of the same item. She also analyzed the paper that the note from the killer was written on, but couldn't find a match. Frustrated, she sent some to her labbies in Tulsa with instructions to pull it apart.

The characters decided to go and visit Cohen, whom they'd put in protective custody. They found him in his hotel watching the weather channel. Lundy interviewed him, and Cohen revealed that he'd suffered from bouts of lost time, the worst being a three-week period when he was 14. He thought he was schizophrenic for a while, tried medication, nothing worked. And then finally he learned to control it, but now he'd sometimes experience the future before it happened. He described it as similar to deja vu, except that he would see multiple possibilities and would never quite know which one was coming. He also knew that Lundy didn't believe him, but that was fine, there was no reason he should. He did tell Lundy, though, to plug his phone in to charge.

King asked if Cohen had ever been to Kentucky; he said he had, he'd lived in Berea, Kentucky briefly, but hadn't been there in years. At this point, Lundy's phone rang. "Coincidence," said Cohen. "Of course, you're getting calls."

It was a detective in Lexington, KY named Dysart. They'd had a murder there last night, a man named McAndrew had been walking home from his office, got caught in a thunderstorm, and stabbed in the neck, once, with what looked like an ice pick. Lundy told them to get their best CS people to process the scene; Dysart said there wasn't much to work with because of the storm, but he would.

Cohen told Lundy to make sure they talked to the first on scene, because there would be a temptation not to. They headed out, and Lundy told Cohen to stay in the room and not even get ice without an escort. Cohen said that he would be careful, but really, "if he wants me dead, a cop isn't going to stop him." Lundy, maybe despite himself, nodded.

As they left, Cohen called Justine back, and said that he thought she would be OK. He wasn't sure why, and he wasn't sure about the rest of them. She thanked him and made sure he had her cell phone number, and the team left for Lexington.

They arrived, touched down, and went to the crime scene, where Cochrane and King got out. The others went to the police station to talk to the first officer on scene, an old man named Pat Sayers. Sayers didn't have much to say about the crime itself - some sanitation workers out to remove a fallen tree branch had found the body, and Sayers had just called it in. But he did remember a similar, almost identical case, up in a small town in New York called Binghampton. A man stabbed in the throat, one wound, no one was ever caught. He gave Lundy a name of a cop up there ("Probably chief of police, if he hasn't retired") and left.

Mallory, not having much to do without people to shoot, started going through Internet sites looking for locked-room murders. He found one on an old "mysterious murders" site - a woman in New Jersey who'd been stabbed in the throat with a knife (one of hers), but he apartment was locked up tight. The knife was found across the room, and finally it was called a suicide because she'd apparently convulsed and flung the knife as she died. But a commenter on the site called "brootncheer" said that no, he'd seen the crime scene photos and there had been two other people in the room.

Berry, seeing this, thought it was significant, and tried to track down the commenter. But the account (traced back to ATT) was old, and all she could easily get was the city (Toledo).

Meanwhile, King and Cochrane processed the crime scene. They found no footprints in the mud. No evidence that anyone else had been there. This scene was more like Detroit than Erie; one wound, perfectly place, and scraped on the victim to indicate that his coat had been yanked back (just as King had dreamed). King went looking for, and found, the guy's hat, which had a hair (not the victim's) on it. They processed the scene and headed back to the lab for the autopsy.

The characters got together again, and quibbled a little about how much weight to give "brootncheer"'s comment. They called New Jersey and requested the files, and Cochrane got her staff working on finding similar cases, going back as much as 30 years. Steve, her tech-in-charge, said that they'd found a match for the paper - it was made by a small company in Utica, but they'd been out of business for over 15 years, and they'd mostly sold to hospitals, schools, etc. Cochrane told him to start his search there.

He called back a few minutes later, because they'd found something right away - a doctor named Halliday had been murdered by his car, in 1996. They called Utica and got the file faxed over, just after the one from Jersey arrived.

Jersey was a mess - they'd not done half the work they should have. There was no way Christensen had flung the knife; she was drunk when she died. Looking at the photos, they found a key rack - in the shape of a key - with two trace marks around it. King, analyzing the writing, determined it was from two different people.

The Utica filed revealed that Halliday had been stabbed in the throat from the front, standing at his car, keys in hand. At this point, Cochrane suggested they split up - some go to Hackensack, some to Utica - so they could investigate both crimes.

Berry's phone rang - Cohen. He warned them not to split up, and told her to make sure all the pages from the Utica file were there. They weren't (one page had fallen on the floor from the fax machine). It was a list of contents of Halliday's briefcase, so far as his assistant knew. Paper, pens, tape recorder, and a patient file: A woman named Anne Cote.

Berry told them they couldn't split up, but offered no reason except Cohen's warning. That, of course, wasn't good enough for Lundy - they were going to drop off Cochrane in Hackensack (plus whoever wanted to go with her) and then continue on to Utica.

Before they left, though, they ran analysis on the hair samples. They were from the same person - but the one from Kentucky was older by several years. They were both recent samples, but one was from an older version of the same person. This, of course, was not possible.

Next time: The exciting conclusion!