33: Unfinished Business

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When It Happened (Chronicle Time): February, 2006

Who Was There: Bruce (Matt), Mark Donovin (Eric), Nemura Kentaro (Chris), Gisela Isadore Balesio (Erin)

What It Was

New York's winter slumber is disturbed by the return of Mark and Ken, drawn back to the City by a frantic call from Tamara who believes she may have seen one of Donnelly's Saints. In fact, what she saw was the first recorded sighting of an Uranur elemental, and to track it down, the Aces and the Jokers will need the help of Jamal Rashid and Thomas Cartwright.

The Full Horror

Deep winter has settled over New York, and even the Faerie are in seclusion, but New York's Occult Underground continues its quiet revival. The dominance of Demetrius Katsoulakis is undeniable, but he has been careful to exercise only the lightest of touches, giving Stuyvesant Lodge room to regain some measure of its former glory. New faces are slowly replacing those lost during the massacre of Red Rain.

Then a frantic phone call from Tamara Westcott brings Mark Donovin and Nemura Kentaro back from Scotland. Tamara fears she and Latrell saw one of Thomas Donnelly's Saints only a few blocks from the Renaissance, or at least they witnessed the familiar blue crackle of uranur in the distance.

Mark and Ken are on the very next flight to New York, but despite their immediate response, they find Niko Kakoyannis already waiting for them when they land. While clearly intended to show Katsoulakis' lock on the City, Niko does not rub the Aces' nose in it. He drives them straight to the Renaissance and tells Mark and Ken they are invited to an elaborate, 'welcome home' dinner at their convenience.

Meanwhile, Gisela Isadore Balesio is welcomed to New York by Jamal Rashid. Gisela has come to the City to study its Faerie, and Jamal makes arrangements for her in Harlem, though he also acknowledges Katsoulakis' request to meet this visitor to his City.

Back in the Hood

Mark and Ken find the Renny in fine shape, thanks to the conscientious administration of Tamara and Latrell. Every surface gleams, and the Orgone field is even stronger than before. When Mark and Ken look in on Jonathan, they find him exactly as they had left him, unchanged since the night of Red Rain so long ago.

Tamara and the guards are visibly relieved to have Mark and Ken back, especially since Yukio has been away on extended trips overseas. Jamal's regular visits have helped, but not enough to overcome their worry that the Saints may be about to return.

The two Aces head down the street to the corner where the 'Saint' had been, and Mark invokes MindTime to go back to that night. That takes care of the worries about a Saint, because clearly something else had been happening: namely, a small-time hood flicking a lighter that suddenly erupts into what seems very much like a creature composed of pure Uranur. When Mark tries to focus on the lighter, even the remnants of Uranur left in the area threaten to overwhelm him, but he does get a good look at the inscriptions engraved all over the lighter.

Something that odd must have a history, and since Jamal is the most prominent occultist they can trust, the group heads for Harlem and the original Soul-Nut Hole. When Mark tells Jamal what he saw, Jamal reveals that he has been worried about that item for a while now. The blue-steel lighter had once been in the possession of a powerful Dominican bokor. For years it was in the safekeeping of Lesek Czernin, but since his death, it's been making its bloody way through the new Underground.

Enter the Joker

The Marble Arch has been just as quiet as the rest of the City. With Yukio overseas, there are no students around, and Cassandra, Ishida, Michel, Pwyll, and Oison have been keeping the place in order. Bruce, meanwhile, has been busy building his contacts throughout the City and founding his own cell of mundane Mockers. With the Cult of the Rending Shadow as their top priority, Bruce has decided that only a 'Fight Club'-style recruitment will be tough enough.

But Bruce has a more immediate concern: a cellphone call from one of his men, Joaquin Guzman, who tells him that a valuable informant, Carlos Mendez, may be in trouble. Bruce knows Joaquin and Carlos have long been blood enemies. Firing up his Yamaha, Bruce breaks a cigarette, slips a hair from Joaquin into it, and tracks down his man before Joaquin can start his third drink. A rattled Joaquin tells Bruce that Carlos is only the latest in a string of small-time thieves turning up burned to a crisp. And there have been reports of a silver-haired man in a long, black coat going around the City asking weird questions.

Once Joaquin finishes the story, Bruce recruits him on the spot for the Mockers, and performs a ritual to scry the area where Carlos was killed. Joaquin is less than happy about his new status, but has little choice but to go along with it. Bruce's ritual confirms Joaquin's story, showing a man picking up the lighter, looking closely at it, and then walking away.

Bruce and Joaquin begin asking around, and learn that a man named Thomas Conyers has been asking the questions, claiming to be a father looking for his daughter, whom he fears may be walking the streets. That night, Bruce awakens from a nightmare about a body torn to ribbons, and immediately casts a spell of Shielding around the Arch. Has the Cult come to New York?

Bruce then contacts Saint-Germain, and tells him about the lighter. Saint-Germain agrees this is another item that is "best gotten off the streets."

Dinner with Demetrius

Katsoulakis is clearly pleased to have Mark and Ken back in town. "Why should I object? The City is yours, of course. When have your goals and mine ever been at odds?"

He is considerably less pleased by news that "the Priest" and his minions may have returned, especially because he has not detected any of them in the City (suggesting Katsoulakis now has exceptional awareness of every else that might be happening there).

As for Scotland, Katsoulakis has no interest there, so long as Ben Nevis remains in seclusion. He tells the Aces about Stuyvesant Lodge, and confirms that Jamal, Yukio, the Marble Arch, and the Renaissance all continue to have his blessing.

Not sure what to do next, the Aces head back to the Renny, and then decide to visit the Arch to see what Michel might be able to find out. Instead, they meet Cassandra and Pwyll, and also Bruce, who tells them about 'Thomas Conyers.'

The Aces in turn tell Bruce about the death of the man with the lighter, who turns out to be Derek Braun, another of Bruce's informants. The loss of Derek is especially troublesome because he had been helpful in getting a piece of a shield Bruce now uses as an Essence battery.

In fact, finding guys, like Joaquin, who can handle really dangerous problems has been an ongoing problem for Bruce, and he had not risked any of his people to find the lighter. Bruce hopes to convince the Aces to join him in his ongoing campaign to steal dangerous occult items from the local museums and put them under safer keeping.

Mark will have none of that (leading Bruce to dub him 'Captain America'), and the Aces leave in disgust. Mark does notice, though, that Bruce's description of Conyers seems to fit Jonathan's old mentor, Thomas Cartwright.

The Aces then visit Stuyvesant Lodge, where they meet Alistair Jameson. Jameson is skeptical about the existence of something like the lighter, but he offers another description of the black-coated man that sounds even more like Cartwright. He also shares his regret about Lady Margaret, saying he never dreamed his actions would bring her to harm. He gives every appearance of a man merely in pursuit of esoteric knowledge.

Finding Cartwright

Mark is convinced they must find Cartwright. The Aces do not believe Bruce has anything to do with the deaths, but Mark wonders if the Joker might have been duped. Does he really know who he is working for? Bruce does not strike Mark as the sort of man who does thorough background checks.

While Mark studies the pattern of deaths on a map in the Command Center, Tamara goes to the basement and comes back with a strange instrument that turns out to be a scanner the Black Serpents used to track Uranur.

With the help of the scanner, the Aces close in on Cartwright. This is fortunate for him, because the reach him just as he is attacked by four hoods, hoping to steal the lighter. The hoods wisely run off, and the Aces bring Cartwright back to the Renny for treatment.

As Cartwright is getting fixed up, he tells them what he knows about the lighter's history. The inscriptions on it Bind an Uranur elemental to the lighter, something Cartwright had not thought possible with a small, portable item.

Klaus Hunderprest once owned the lighter, but it disappeared during the chaos that ruined the Rolsten estate auction in 1999 (the one George and Jonathan attended). Hunderprest had been exploring the effects of Taint at the time, but Cartwright is not sure if that was because Hunderprest himself had been Tainted. If so, his quick death had probably been a gift. Cartwright believes Lesek Czernin claimed the lighter during the fight, and it remained with him until his death. One of Donnelly's Saints must have taken it from Czernin's apartment (Cartwright evidently knows who the Saints are), and the owners have been dying with some regularity ever since. He suspects the lighter releases the elemental only under certain conditions, so the user might not realize for some time just what a dangerous item it is. Whether long-term possession of the lighter might lead to Uranur-exposure is not clear. Most owners have not survived long enough for that to be a problem.

Cartwright agrees to leave the lighter in the protection of the Renny and Jonathan's Orgone field. Once his wounds have been attended, Cartwright departs, though not before Mark tries a Mindsight on him and gets a migraine for his trouble. Cartwright says he will let them know if he finds out who created the lighter.

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