11: My Big Fat Greek Party

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When It Happened (Chronicle Time): September 24-28, 2002

Who Was There: George Phillapoussis (Storn), Mark Donovin (Eric), Nemura Kentaro (Chris), Yukio Ohta (Bob)

What It Was

The ongoing TNI lockdown has New York's Occult Underground tense and worried, but this doesn't stop Demetrius Katsoulakis from throwing a party to honor the long-delayed return of Japanese poet Yukio Ohta to the City. Meanwhile, George meets his new taxi's Haunt; Ken has an unexpected guest; and Mark has a new nightmare, as well as a valuable phone call with his dispatcher, Carla. The party comes off flawlessly, and ends with a late-night conversation that abruptly expands the Four Aces' world.

The Full Horror

Despite Lesek Czernin's best efforts, The New Inquisition remains out-of-touch, and tension continues to build throughout New York's Occult Underground. But that hasn't deterred Demetrius Katsoulakis from throwing his first party in many years. In fact, all the anxiety just seems to encourage him. Most of the Occultists have been trying keep a low-profile and think Katsoulakis must be nuts, but this is such a rare opportunity, no one on the guest list even considers not attending.

The official reason for the party is the return of Yukio Ohta, a poet of some fame in his native Japan. Some time ago Ohta spent a few years in New York as a visiting scholar at Columbia. He was also a guest lecturer for one semester at Berkeley, where Ken had been one of his students. It's not clear how Katsoulakis first met Ohta, but he clearly respects the man's talent.

Daria Zannakis has been keeping in touch with Ken lately; she clearly senses something amiss in him, and Ken feels it too.

Mark is back from following up the leads Carla gave him about Curtis Book. Every one of them went cold right away, which is something that just never happens when she's involved.

George, however, has been having better luck. Katsoulakis is guiding him through his first lessons in magic--first up, an introduction to several fundamental "laws of magic"-and Lady Margaret has given him contact information for Lindsay Fraser, a medium who might be able to help him find the mysterious Tessa, and who happens to have a Gift of her own with cards.

The Cop & the Poet

Then on September 24, George has another revelation. Katsoulakis asks him to go to JFK and pick up Ohta. The flight is due to arrive in the afternoon, and while George heads for Queens on that beautiful sunny day, a man suddenly appears next to him in the passenger seat. He is Officer Jim Oleson, late of the NYPD. Jim was the unlucky guy who got eaten alive by rats while hiding in the cab in the abandoned Yellow Cab Company garage, where George and Ken had found it.

Jim remembers seeing a woman in a hooded pink jogging suit sneak into the Yellow Cab office, but he can't recall what happened next, and George decides not to push it right then. Jim explains he only became aware of himself a few days before, and wasn't able to do much beyond make the trunk open. This is the first time he has ever been able to manifest himself, and he soon has to fade again to regain his strength.

By then George is at JFK. He picks up Yukio who asks if they can visit Yankee Stadium before going to Katsoulakis' residence. George agrees, and Yukio takes several digital photos of the park. Then he asks to be driven to Ground Zero, where he does the same thing. Ground Zero is especially profound, so soon after the first anniversary of 9/11. Yukio clearly has some interest in these places, but doesn't explain why.

Back on their way to Katsoulakis, George impresses Yukio with his ability to predict where parking spots will suddenly become available. But the poet seems even more interested in the rhythmic possibilities of rap music. As they pull up, Nico helps with the luggage, and Katsoulakis himself comes out to the curb to greet Ohta and escort him inside.

George hopes to see Alexandra, but she stays out-of-sight. Katsoulakis takes a moment to ask George to settle matters with her. His life isn't any easier having "a crazed woman, a crazed Greek woman" as his personal assistant. George sits down and writes a letter to her, expressing his deep apology for putting prophecy ahead of her. The heart-felt letter makes Alexandra relent a little and agree to meet with him at the party.

Little Miss Muffet counting down from 7-3-0

The next day, Ken is spending a quiet afternoon in his apartment (which usually means trouble), when his phone rings. It turns out to be his mother, who has no patience with being told she should call her son "Ken". She starts off by accusing "Nemura" of convincing his younger sister, the twenty-year-old Kaori, to "abandon her family" and head off alone into a treacherous world. . Ken isn't having much luck defending himself, when he hears a knock at the door. Sure enough, it's Kaori.

Kaori triumphantly announces that she left Berkeley because she's been accepted into Columbia's pre-law program. Ken is delighted and agrees to let her crash in his apartment until she can find her own place. Within days, Kaori-who was always a slob-is leaving her crap all over the apartment, though at least she respects the privacy of her brother's bedroom.

The next evening, September 26, George and Mark show up at the apartment to drag Ken off for a night at O'Malley's. After a moment's alarm at seeing a black bra on the sofa, they meet Kaori. Ken's kid sister is a stunner (think Shinobu Nakayama), and judging from her reaction to Mark, she has a serious thing for bad boys.

Dreamland Redux

At 3am the following morning, Mark wakes up at CentCom in a cold sweat, a voice in his head screaming, "Call Ken! Call him now!" Ken arrives less than an hour later, and the two have an impromptu therapy session. Ken manages to calm Mark down and walks him through the nightmare that woke him up: It began with a return to the Cavern of Flame and the two bearded men, who this time direct Mark down a different tunnel, saying "This is your path now." Mark emerges in a valley surrounded by mountains. It reminds him of the eastern Mediterranean or northern Africa: very desert-like with waist-high shrubs and dry earth. High above on a cliff, Mark sees a castle which begins to glow with an inner light.

Then suddenly Mark feels an itch at the back of his neck telling him a sniper has him in his sights. Then he feels another crosshair, and another, and then still more, all while he's trapped in the middle of the valley with no cover anywhere in sight. Then for a moment, he thinks a wind has begun to whip the bushes around, but in fact, there is no wind. Instead, the bushes are alive, rising up on root-like legs. They begin circling him, their razor-sharp branches snapping through the air.

Ken has been listening intently, but now he feels the rage building within him again. Before he knows it, he finds himself inside the dream, standing right beside Mark as the bush creatures circle around them. Ken manages to calm himself again, which sends him back to the "real" world. Fortunately, Mark is able to draw his mind or spirit or whatever it was, back from the valley too. A very disturbing experience, and both men are at a loss to explain it.

Carla Comes Through

A couple of days pass, and on the afternoon before the party, Mark gets a coded message from Carla on his pager asking him to call on a secure line. When he does, she explains that she's found what they were looking for. After her first leads failed, she began looking for ties between Curtis Book and the American College of Orgonomy:

"The ACO's really into this stuff called orgone and the work of Wilhelm Reich. They were founded by this guy named Elsworth Baker in 1968, who I guess was some kind of friend of Reich. He's dead now. Today the guy in charge is named Gerald Carlyle. Let's see......they've got a research institute in Princeton, New Jersey, and there's a lab in Maine too, near a town called Rangeley. That's where Reich's old estate is too-called Orgonon. And just to be confusing, there's another lab out in Oregon, but that's run by some other guy...uhhh...yeah, Victor DeMeo. I don't think these guys, DeMeo and Carlyle, get along too well."

Actually, Carla says, most of the ACO leaders hate one another's guts, and it's not easy to keep their griefs straight. The ACO's "experiments" don't seem at all like what the Aces encountered in Grand Rapids; it's all just "housewives in curlers hooked up to stupid little boxes." But it does make enough money to support all those labs.

"So, anyway, Book. You last saw him in '93, but he was there for another year. He'd made some connections and started getting into some drug running. He kept it off-base at first, but then started doing some deals-anyway, looks like November '94 some shit went down and a couple Rangers and a bunch of Somalis ended up dead. Book got shipped back to Fort Benning, but got off with "just" a dishonorable discharge. Guess they didn't have enough on him to do any more."

After that Book spent a few years in the South, racking up assault-and-battery charges and the occasional rape, escaping prison each time thanks to his status as a veteran. Carla was surprised to find even those records had been sealed, but the reason for that became clear after she got lucky and found evidence of a lunch in February 1999 between Book and Colonel Gregory Sloane-a former Ranger who had once been Book's and Mark's boss.

The last news Mark had had about Sloane came when the man started a mercenary group called Defense Solutions, Inc. They aren't as professional as they claimed to be, but they know how to work their corporate clients and are a pretty rough bunch. They are certainly not supposed to be conducting operations within the US. And yet, while Carla could not find out exactly who did it, someone in the ACO hired DSI in September 2000: "Now you tell me what the fuck one of those whack jobs needs with a team of mercs."

But her last news is the most important. The ACO connection took her back to Princeton, where she managed to find the address of an apartment linked to Curtis Book.

Party Time

George, Ken, and Mark help Nico and the staff prepare for the party. The dining room is in full glory, set up for dozens of guests, with the finest china. The first guests include Daria Zannakis; Lady Margaret with Lesek Czernin; Jamal Rashid; and, alas, Martin Murray. Everyone is decked out for the event (even Martin, sort of), but no one can match Katsoulakis' Brioni black-tie.

Then the other guests arrive, and while they aren't Trump, or Giuliani, or high-profile celebrities of the moment, they include more than enough prominent New Yorkers to impress anyone who lives in the City. That makes the party hop, but it puts the Occultists on edge, since they now have to avoid "shop talk."

Yukio soon comes down and after meeting some of the more notable guests, he gets a chance to meet the rest of the Aces. He also takes a moment to grill Kaori and make sure she's been properly raised, a test she passes, though not without some stress. Ken intrigues Yukio, who senses something amiss with the young doctor, though the poet does not explain what that is.

Kaori blushes to be around Mark again, but she has fun mingling-at least until the Aces have to rescue her when she gets trapped in conversation with Martin. Daria checks in with Ken. And Lady Margaret is worried that Michel Borsavin has not been seen since Winfield.

Katsoulakis then tells George that he can find Alexandra in the back room, and suggests he go to her, "So if you are too drunk to return home tonight, you will not have your throat cut sometime before morning." Alexandra listens to George's apology while tapping a very unpleasant looking letter opener in the palm of her hand. After putting him through the wringer, she tells him he's getting off easily, and then whacks him good with an excellent right. She leaves the room, telling Mark as she passes by, that he might want to check on "her boyfriend".

At 9pm, Katsoulakis invites Yukio to share a poem, and then everyone sits down to a fantastic dinner. Eventually the guests depart, leaving only the Aces, Yukio, Lady Margaret, and Lesek. After helping the staff clean up, the Aces join the other guests for a nightcap in Katsoulakis' office. The enter to find him dismissing Lesek's worries about TNI: "What would you do anyway if you found them? Or are you concerned about the Sleepers again? Do you fear they will come for you in the dead of night? Bah, they're nuisances, busybodies, self-appointed Grand Inquisitors." Besides, he adds, there are no more than fifty Sleepers at most. Lesek replies that even ten good agents could kill them all.

Lady Margaret notes that her late husband Alistair believed the Sleepers destroyed the Rosicrucians before the Great War, but Lesek shifts gears and corrects her, saying the end of the Rosicrucians and the Templars was much more complicated than that.

"It was 1913, you see. The last stand of the Saints. When the forces of good in Christianity opposed a great evil that arose during the first years of the twentieth century. The forces of righteous were united for first and last time: the Templars, the Order of St. Cecil, the Rosicrucians, and the Sentinels. Together. A band of brothers, if you will, making a last stand to save humanity. They were victorious. But the price of their triumph was grievous, and now we today suffer with the result-a Church hopelessly corrupt, more a threat than an ally."

"It was the Black Hand, the Serbian nationalist terrorists who were ultimately responsible. They had managed to steal away the Spear of Longinus from the Hofmuseum in Vienna, which of course, was where Hitler viewed that relic in 1909. The Spear was bad enough, but the Black Hand's leaders foolishly allied themselves with the Thule Society and other pagan groups in their bid against the Hapsburgs. Hence the dire need for a grand, Christian alliance to oppose them. Fortunately, the right side won, but the cost was grievous, and the loss of the Rosicrucian leadership and their Church allies left Europe defenseless in a dangerous time."

"Of course, as it happened, the final test came from a direction no occultist would have expected. Since they were unable to bring about a spiritual crisis, the Black Hand opted for a temporal crisis instead: the following June, 1914, the Archduke Ferdinand was felled by an assassin's bullet. And you all know the rest of that story."

Lesek dismisses talk of "conspiracy", claiming everything he has said is well-documented. It's just a question of knowing where to look.

The Aces mention that they had found documents about 1913 in a vault at Winfield Hall. Lesek shows great interest in them, enough to make George suspicious. When the players mention the note from "S-G", Lesek and Katsoulakis are startled and look at each other. Lesek says, "So he is still with us", and Katsoulakis huffs, "Perhaps." When the Aces ask, Lesek tells them the letter might well have been written by the Comte de Saint-Germain, "though how a vulgarian like Woolworth got his hands on such a note is anyone's guess."

Concerned about Lesek's interest in the documents, the Aces go to Jonathan's apartment and take them to make sure they will be secure. George sits down with them again and notices that Lesek's account of 1913 does not match the one found in the vault. What that means, however, remains to be seen.

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