The Scooby Duo are having one of their late night research meetings. There's been a few things happening - the library trip; the Magnificent Magnussen - so there are some things to talk about. While Aurore is on the phone, Amanda is roaming the Dark Web. It's where Network Zero hang out and also where you get to find all kinds of...things.
Tonight's 'entertainment' is a short video called 'Real Ghost! 837'. Yes, there are a lot of 'real ghost' videos out there. This one begins with a young man, probably about nineteen, looking into his camera and blathering on about how he'd just met this hot chick at a party and was going to 'do her'. A true charmer. It is a close-up but there seems to be a house behind him and the sound of a...cuckoo clock? Just as he's grinning about the size of the breasts of his unnamed paramour he suddenly stills and his eyes open wide in shock. Blood trickles down from the top of his head off-screen and then he falls to the ground, the phone falling with him so that there is now an image of him lying there in mid-shot...a machete embedded in his head. A booted foot stands on his face to help lever the blade free and it wrenches out suddenly as brains dribble out onto what looks like concrete. So where's the ghost? A couple of seconds later and a white haze rises from the seemingly dead man. And then that boot stands on the camera and the image goes to black.
"Ergh," Amanda says, cringing a little at the gore in the video, but is otherwise fine. "Another ghost video, looks kinda legit" she says to Aurore, but otherwise leaves her to her call. She starts typing in commands, looking for the conversation surrounding the video.
That... is certainly enough to perturb Aurore, though she's doing her best to restrain both her fears and her hopes that this is just CGI until the (comparative) expert on online postings has had a chance to pronounce judgement. "And... that's not just SFX? Can you analyse the footage, maybe, and look for signs?"
"I'm looking for what others have said first," the N0 says. "Someone else may have done the analysis already. If not, I can look into it."
The comments are the usual counterarguments of 'that looks so fake', 'no dude, that's real brains', 'how would you know', 'Hitler started like this'. There is one user though called Angel386 who is quite adamant it is real because it's her boyfriend in the video and she hasn't seen him in two weeks.
Amanda and Aurore are busy doing online investigations. "I'm looking for what others have said first," the N0 says. "Someone else may have done the analysis already. If not, I can look into it." Seeing Angel's comment, she sighs. "Might be legit, someone says the guy in it has been missing for 2 weeks."
There is, indeed, a light knock. Pavel likes to keep something of a vague idea where the other Hunters are. In case something comes out to skin them and wear them like a puppet to get at _his_ group. What? It's happened three times in New York.
Aurore looks to Amanda, then rises to her feet to move to the door. Cracking it open, she peeks out, blinks, then looks back to Amanda as she swings it wider. "You have a visitor."
Looking over, Amanda seeing Pavel and waves. "Hey, how's it going?" she says. Once Pavel's in and the door's closed, she says, "We have a murder and a possible ghost sighting," she says, before playing the video for Pavel.
Pavel says "A ghost?" However, then someone dies on screen in front of him. Pavel crosses himself, and says quietly "Ashen Devlesa, Romale." He clears his throat "I...see. There is...where did _this_ come from?"
Aurore gestures to the computer screen. "Found online. But seems as if it might be somewhat local. We could try contacting 'Angel' and see if she's willing to tell us any more. And we can certainly investigate the, ahh, unfortunate star of the show."
Buried in the comments - comment 865 - is a link simply described as 'Part 2'. There is no user name attached. Clicking on it leads to a black page. It remains black for about twenty seconds before text comes into view - 'Would you like to see more? Click on machete'. Another few seconds and there is a close-up of the dead man's face with the machete lodged within the skull.
Amanda looks to the others, as if to ask "Should I do it?" After a few moments, she clicks on the machete, quietly saying, "This better not be a screamer."
Pavel rubs the side of his head, awkwardly "Yes, well. We have some. Film people in my group - Ira. Perhaps he would be able to work out some more clues about where the video was filmed." He pinches between his brows "Or the...type of thing? That did the filming? Phone or...something else? I am very much not a...technical man." Nor, indeed, very modern. Pavel says "...click. Yes."
Aurore bites her lower lip... but nods. "Amanda's Network Zero, and knows more about this sort of thing than I do, certainly," she murmurs. "But yes. I think we'd best find out what that might be."
The machete is clicked. Silence. Then 'Never Gonna Give You Up!' starts blaring from the speakers and Ric Astley is prancing around on a stage with his two back-up singer/dancers. Most people will turn off after a couple of seconds but after about thirty seconds the image dissolves into a two storey family home. A shaky camera image - probably from a phone - moves slowly around the house and to the driveway where that body is laying on the ground. Hovering nearby is the white haze.
Amanda groans when Rick Astley starts singing. This was worse. When it changes to the house, Amanda perks up and starts studying the footage. "Either of you recognise the house?" she asks.
Sometimes having very little collection to modern culture is useful. Admittedly, Pavel just looks sort of confused by this point "What is that man doing? He is a ghost?" he enquires "He is a dead man?" And then he says to the others "It is probably that North place - with the 'blood and bandages' style architecture. If it is in this town, at all. It would not be that hard to find, I imagine...the white haze. Is it a - you, computer lady, please do that thing they do in the movies where everything is clearer and all zoomed in!"
Amanda starts typing, trying to gain more information from the video. She takes a screenshot of the house, runs it through Google reverse image search, as well as checking google maps of the north part of town for that same style of architecture.
"I should think that we can narrow it down. Streets with 284, and that style of architecture. I'd agree it's somewhere in the North of the historical district. Street View might give it to us, if nothing else."
The quality of the image is dreadful of course. No HD cell phone here...unless it was deliberately transferred to video first. Their investigations lead them to an address - 284 Morris Street. It looks like the same house but the google pic could be a couple of years old by now.
Pavel leans in, peering, and committing the area to his own memory. He says "We can start there? Or. You can. This is your thing. But I would advise taking some...what does Ira call us? 'Ablative Armour'." He _always_ advises a heavy.
"Looks like we have an address," Amanda says to the others. "Want to head out now, or should we do more research first?" she asks.
"At the very least, we can check local news. Get a name for the family who live there. See if there are any reports of a missing student or a machete death..."
Pavel says "Does the computer know?" It is a bit of a desperate guess.
No news reports of a machete death and despite Angel386's protestations, no mention of anything about her boyfriend, Jeff Trent, on the news sites. Doesn't mean he hasn't gone missing just that no one has been reporting it as something worthwhile.
"Should we contact Angel yet? Or wait till we have a little news, do you think?", Aurore asks - chiefly directing the question at Amanda, given Pavel's evident degree of connection to the youth of today.
"Looks like there's absolutely nothing about the murder in the news," Amanda says sadly. With a spark of inspiration, she starts checking for similar videos and stories, of people being murdered and the ghost popping out soon after. "We could contact her, ask her why she hasn't reported it, what her bf's been up to," she offers.
Pavel says, puzzled "How can it be a real murder, if it was never covered by anyone? I am bad about a lot of these things, but the news..." And then he says "Can you replay the bit with the ghost?"
There are plenty of similar stories and videos but they range from people running around in sheets to videos that are so dark it's hard to even tell if the camera was on. Plenty of hazy 'ghosts' as well. Some obvious camera tricks, others too hard to tell with a cursory glance. But there is nothing else where a person gets killed and a ghost immediately appears.
Amanda is somewhat dejected at no corroborating evidence. She replays the ghost bit for Pavel as many times as he wants. "See something?" she asks.
Six keen eyes watch the videos over and over again. Pavel, despite his devotion to being a Luddite, seems to be quite adept at pointing out things of interest. Like the smiling clown face at a window behind the man just before he gets the machete to the head. Like how 'Torrens Surplus' is engraved on the bottom of the boots. Like the faint sound of Bing Crosby crooning that makes it obvious the second video follows directly on from the first. Amanda isn't too bad either and she spots the van mostly parked off screen in the second video - 'Chug-a-lug...' (the rest is unable to be seen).
Pavel rubs the back of his night "Was it a cold night? Breath? Is it perhaps dry ice? Is it a real ghost? Real ghosts are not on film, are they?" And then he says, in his stiff way "I have killed several ghouls and there was never a ghost. There is often less blood than you think, but a head wound is a bleeder..." And then it comes out, and Pavel is demonstrating _how_ he managed to kill several ghouls and then come out alive. Finally, he pulls back, and he looks at the women "...this makes me slightly happier than being chased by a horrible skeleton, but less happy than killing ghouls."
Amanda points out what she notices to the others. She googles Chug-a-lug, looking for results local to the area, then follows that up with a search for Torrens Surplus. Hoping for usable info she says, "At least at the moment you're relatively safe."
'Chug-a-lug Promotions' is a small company that hires out mobile keg vans for parties while 'Torrens Surplus' is a military surplus shop in Hanging Hills. A real nasty part of Hanging Hills.
Aurore seems rather impressed... though not necessarily *favourably* so with Pavel's war-stories. She frowns pensively, peering worriedly at the results. "Well, it looks as if we have some physical locations to try to investigate...."
Amanda nods. "Yeah, though I don't like the sound of where Torrens Surplus is," she says. "Chug-a-lug could be fun though. Go there first so we can bribe Torrens with beer?"
"It is a sliding scale," says Pavel "But the clown face is not giving me the most delightful of feelings." He peers over Amanda's shoulder, reading very slowly - he moves his mouth when he reads. And then he says "_Hrn_." After a moment, he says "It would be very embarrassing to get killed by a drug dealer while investigating this." Then he brightens "Yes, that way around."
Aurore offers Pavel the latest in an increasingly-long line of worried looks, before nodding agreement. "Sounds like it might be a good idea. Could potentially also try to get in touch with the girlfriend, but she's got no particular reason to trust any of us. We can't really claim to be journalists or the like."
Amanda closes down her computer, saying, "Yeah, well that'll have to wait for later. I need to get to the library to write some papers."
Pavel says "Yes we can. We just might not succeed. But you could say you are working for a film company - we have people on the payroll who are." He then pushes himself up, and he says "I am going to go, I think. Maybe in a day or two, I am going to try a walk through Hanging Hills. It can be very interesting. I will let you both know, eh?" He rolls his shoulders "I need to go finish my run. Thank you for showing me interesting things!"