Brigitte has called up two of the smart Hunters to help her out with a problem. She's all about the blasting of holes in demonic flesh but this requires a little more subtlety. The Frenchwoman has given them an address to meet and she waits, sitting on her Harley, a shotgun across her lap.
Thankfully, it is a deserted street for the most part so no one calling the cops about the armed woman outside. A street of old apartments, Sunwood Estates - though is the 1970s really that old - that are awaiting being pulled down to be replaced by new apartments. A couple of flickering street lights are the only illumination of the (very) early morning. At least it’s not raining.
Aurore also arrives in bike leathers and with a shotgun... but is driving her and Qent's beat-up old Land Rover, in part so that she can provide suitable transportation for Amanda. And also for their ritual and esoteric kit-bags. Amanda at least might be aware that Aurore is capable - given time - of warding a discrete space, such as a car, against ephemeral incursions.
Bringing the vehicle to a halt, Aurore hops out, leather creaking as she arches her back slightly, before cracking a grin and raising a hand. "So... what doom awaits us tonight?"
Amanda gets out of Aurore's car, with her camera and her trusty bag of paranormal safety gear. "Hey Brigitte," she says as she walks up to the woman on the motorbike. "What doom waits us today?" she asks.
Brigitte snorts with amusement at the two women. "Why do you think doom awaits?" A shake of her head. "And did you two rehearse that question?" She gestures to one of the houses with the barrel of her shotgun. "Something in there...supposedly. A patrol came through here last night and got the fright of their lives. Details unclear but it sounded like ghosts or spirits and you two are better at that than me."
Aurore remains silent for a few moments, gaze unfocusing... before she nods. "There are ghosts somewhere nearby. But I can't feel them doing anything active in the vicinity.... But sure, we can help. Letting myself see and hear ghosts'll only take a minute or so, but will make me a bit spaced out, most likely."
Amanda watches Aurore, and wraps an arm around one of Aurore’s so she can guide her once she spaces her. "Once Aurore's on detector duty, shall we head in?" she asks the others.
To Brigitte, the Loyalists are always a bit spaced out. "Go ahead" she nods to Aurore and Amanda before dismounting her bike. She slings the shotgun over one shoulder before grabbing flashlights, toolpicks and a satchel bag that jingles with who knows what inside.
This one of Aurore's rites is more subtle than many, seemingly involving little more than a light trance and some soft murmuring... before she reopens her eyes, looks around and nods. "Okay. I'm seeing both the ghostly side of Twilight now. And retain my ability to sense the proximity of ghosts and spirits even if they're not in view or talking to me."
Amanda keeps walking close to Aurore so she can be guided. "Ok, so let’s head inside then," she says. A glance to Brigitte and she smirks, saying, "If it's ghosts, maybe we should get our proton packs and bust them."
"Have you got a proton pack, mon ami?" Brigitte smirks back at Amanda as she leads the way to the apartments. The first barrier is a locked door into the block of six. The windows have also been boarded up on the first floor but are curtainless on the higher floors. She crouches down to check the lock of the door. "Let's go round the side. See if there's another way in. You okay, Aurore?" She leads the pair around the side, kicking away some palings in a wooden fence there before sliding through the gap.
As Brigitte is busy kicking down the fence, the other two notice something above them. In the window. A white humanoid shape staring down at them. At least they assume it is staring because it does not seem to have a face. Just a blank surface.
Amanda offers Mr Spoops a big smile and a wave. Because she's nice like that. "Well, looks like we might have a new friend," she says. "Or it could be the curtains."
Aurore peers up, frowning slightly - seemingly quite willing to let herself be guided and maneuvered around. "I think that's quite an old one," she muses softly. "Barely any clearer in form in Twilight. Though probably not *too* powerful, unless anyone's been foolish enough to call up something from the Underworld. Ones brought back from *there* can be really darn scary. And I think that proton packs might require a Valkyrie club card. Us mere plebs don't get that sort of toy to play with."
"Yeah, all the tech I can get my hands on you can get on amazon, ebay and whatever I can make," Amanda says. "So, what's the plan? Go in and talk to it while I threaten it with some holy water?" she asks.
Brigitte looks up at what the others are staring at and frowns. "Creepy" she mutters before glancing around at some of the other windows. "And not alone." More featureless faces stare down from the other apartments...and even behind them from another apartment block. About eight in total now. "Anything, Aurore?" she asks the ghost expert before looking at Amanda. "Does holy water work on ghosts?" Brigitte makes her way slowly further around the building and discovering that a laundry door is unlocked. "We can get in here by the look of it. Let's see what they want." She slips inside.
Amanda shrugs. "Not too sure, but I figure it'd be handy to try," she offers to Brigitte, following her inside the building.
"Generally, you need to research what to use in a particular situation," Aurore answers, rather absentmindedly. "But I can presently cheat and talk to them. If they're willing to answer, they might simply tell us what they want or need, or what's got them gathering here. They tend not to be used to finding people who can understand them, as you might imagine. So, ahh, yeah. Lead on, and let's see what they have to say. I'm not detecting any active use of their abilities: they're looking, but not *doing* at the moment. Which seems like a good sign they're not hostile to us."
"Security cameras just watch too and that's not a good sign at all" Brigitte shrugs as she turns on a flashlight to sweep the musty, dusty laundry. "Can ghosts be security cameras?" The thought has her looking worried before she opens the next door out into the communal hallway. She assumes she will be the meatshield here and lead the way. The Frenchwoman has flashlights for the others if need be.
The hallway leads to the front, locked door. Along it are doors into the ground floor apartments. Next to the laundry door, where they are standing, are stairs leading upwards to the other floors and the apartments that the ghosts watch from. The walls are moldy and dirty with streaks of glistening black from the ceiling. The wooden floor squishes underfoot, like it was made of spongy grass rather than supposedly hard wood. And the smell - rotting, moldy wood.
Amanda grimaces at the smell and state of the room. "You two mind if we make this quick?" she asks, moving to the stairs up. "Good job the stairs are so close to the door out. Means we can get out easily if things go south."
Aurore happily accepts a flashlight from Brigitte, rather than fumbling around through her Twilight-overlay to try to locate her own. There's quite enough to think about with that uneasy floor underfoot, in her present state. She hangs onto Amanda with the other hand, peering around at both sides of the veil. "Quick sounds good. But they've seen us coming, so hopefully they - or a leader - will be willing to talk. And yeah, it's wholly possible to forge alliances with the more intelligent and self-aware ones. Some occultists make use of ghostly allies as spies and guardians, certainly."
Amanda takes the flashlight and lets Aurore hang onto her, occasionally pointing out anything the other risks tripping over. "Should we call out, let them know we're here to talk?" Amanda asks.
"They probably know we're here but sure, yell away" shrugs Brigitte as she heads on up the staircase. The wooden steps sagging under their feet but thankfully not snapping. The first level is much like the ground. Wet. Moldy. Almost as if the place has been flooded. In the Twilight it looks even worse. The walls bubbling as if boiling water was under the surface. Brigitte reaches the first door and looks to the others. "Shall we?" She tries the door handle and then kicks it in. A gush of rotting stench hits them from the room and Brigitte covers her nose and mouth to avoid throwing up.
Ahead of them is the figure. Still standing there. Still staring out the window. Its form is still hazy and blurry. No definite clothes and certainly no definite features - though they can only see the back of its head.
"I think it's safe to say that this place is at least verging on full 'haunt' status," Aurore murmurs as she fights to suppress her gag reflex, wishing she'd brought a scarf along so that she could cover her mouth and nose. "Nngh. Ahhh, hello. We apologise for intruding, but we were wondering if it might be possible to have a chat," she says, raising her voice slightly once she begins addressing the ghostly figure. "I can see you clearly, and hear your words, if you are willing to address me."
Once the trio are safely in the room with Mr Spoops, Amanda managing to stifle gags at the smile, she calls over, "Hello? Yeah, we're here to talk and my friend here can see and hear your kind better than others."
Brigitte lets the other two do the talking while she stands guard at the door...where she can breathe a little easier. "We have company" she calls back into the room as another of the figures walks down the hall towards her...and then past her into the apartment. Through the ceiling, another two of them descend to the floor. With Amanda and Aurore in that room are now four of the featureless figures. They all turn to 'look' at the pair but there are no mouths to speak. No ears to hear. No eyes to stare at the living creatures in their midst.
There is a screeching that comes from nowhere but everywhere. An inhuman noise like nails down a chalkboard. And then they see the marks in the walls. The wallpaper scratched off in lines and curves that form letters...then words. It reads 'They stole our faces'.
Amanda holds Aurore's hand tightly as the screeching happens. After reading the wallpaper, she asks, "Who stole your faces?"
Aurore blinks, boggles a bit, then takes a slow and unsteady breath. "That... is not good," she says softly, before forcing herself to look directly to the ghosts. "We will help, if we can. I have a little talent and a small amount of power... and all three of us are keen for the world to be as it should be. Anything you can tell us about this will help us to try to find a way to fix it."
Amanda nods at Aurore's words. "Yeah, we can do things to help, and we want to help," she adds.
As the Hunters talk more of the figures arrive. They float over from the next block. Six. Eight. Ten. The room is getting quite crowded. Another screech as the walls are scratched once more in reply to Amanda's question. This time it is just a number. '13'.
13. Amanda calls over to Brigitte, asking, "Brigitte, can you see apartment 13 nearby?" Looking back to the ghosts she asks, "Is it apartment 13 here?"
A moment's wait as Brigitte looks down the hallway. "No 13" she calls back. "I don't think there even is an apartment 13. Looks like there's four on each level. Three levels. Twelve in total. You sure it's an apartment number?"
"We're getting close to a dozen ghosts in here," Aurore observes. "Could it be a thirteenth? What number's the building, as an aside? And..." She looks back to the unfortunate dead. "Can you provide us with any more guidance?"
"More information would be great," Amanda adds. "What does the 13 mean?"
More of the ghosts appear until there are now thirteen in a circle around the two breathers. "The address is 265 Pettigrew" Brigitte replies from the hall before poking her head in to find a sea of spectral entities. "Merde" she mutters to herself. "Everything okay?"
Another unearthly screech and the number '13' is marked on the walls once more. Tracing over the original mark to gouge even deeper into the wall. So deep that moldy water trickles from it like blood. Then as one the ghosts all turn to face the same direction. Looking out a window towards the dark woods on the edge of town.
"That... isn't encouraging," Aurore mutters, before looking (somewhat hazily) to Brigitte. "I think we have a direction. Something related to '13', in the woods. Take a bearing, if you can. I'd guess one of you has a compass. We can then trace that line from our GPS. Or on a map. See what we can find out there."
Amanda steps away from Aurore to move to the window, trying to move round the ghosts, to look out at the woods. "Are your faces at those woods?" she asks, looking at the nearest ghost.
As one they nod to Amanda's question even while raising their arms to point in the direction they face. Brigitte weaves her way through the ghosts to get a bearing. "Got it" she nods to Aurore. Soon she is laying the direction over a map in her phone. "That line could go all the way to Los Angeles but I doubt these people are Californians. Hmmm...nothing much on the current maps. I'll have to download some of the older ones unless..." She looks to the resident tech expert (aka Amanda) to see if she has something already.
"We can go exploring. See what we can find," Aurore says to both her companions and the unfortunate ghosts. "And I can see if I can turn up anything on what might have done this. It's... thankfully, it's not a routine happening." And, therefore, she has hopes that the Loyalists will have noted anything similar as a special event in their annals and archives.
Amanda looks back at Brigitte and says, "I'd have to get home and use my computer to check stuff out. Maybe there was a building in the forest or was there before the forest?" she offers. "Maybe it's on the other side of the trees and we can't see it from here."
"Okay" Brigitte nods to the others. "Let's see what we can find out." She looks around at the ghosts. "Are they gonna be fine like this? They've already scared the crap out of some Hunters just by staring out the window. They going to be doing much else?"
"If we can, I'd like to head out there tonight. Have a look. I'll call my people, and see if they can give me anything quick. And we can double-check what might show up in online records. But I don't want to let this get any worse. It seems as if something is preying on the dead around here. Conceivably even preying on the living." She sighs, looking to the ghosts once more. "Can... can you tell us whether your faces were taken before you died? Or after?"
Amanda makes a few notes on her phone to check the forest out online and where they currently are so she can do proper research online once they've gone, letting Aurore talk to the ghosts.
Another screech and the wall is scratched once more. A single word. 'Before'. "We'll see what we can do" says Brigitte to the other Hunters as she watches the word scratched into the wall. "But let's get out of here. I'll make sure the Society cordons the area off."
Aurore winces sharply once more. "That's really not good," she mutters. "We'll help, if we can," she tries to assure the ghosts. "We're going to try. But... yeah. Let's get that cordon set up and some quick research done."
Amanda nods. "We'll do our best to get your faces back," she says before heading out of the room.
Brigitte leads the other Hunters out of the dark, dingy, moldy apartment block through the laundry door. They make their way out front to their respective vehicles and when they glance back they see the figures back at their windows. Watching. Waiting.
Amanda offers a smile and a wave to the watching ghosts.