39: Dead Air

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When It Happened (Chronicle Time): October 31, 2007

Who Was There: Mark Donovin (Eric), Yukio Ohta(Bob)

What It Was

Spooks On!, New York's favorite local paranormal tv series, runs into trouble when its hosts pick the worst possible place they could for their first live Halloween broadcast. Which leaves Michel Borsavin to inherit the show, provided Mark and Yukio can help him survive the night.

The Full Horror

Bad Penny

A few days prior to Halloween, Mark and Yukio get calls from Katsoulakis, who assures them that if they do not take possession of a very particular penny, "New York will be fucked beyond every fuck," and the gods help them all if anyone sees them taking it. To make things even better for Mark and Yukio, this penny happens to be at the very bottom of a penny jar sitting in the most visible part of the bar at Jeremy's Ale House, which just happens to be one of the favorite off-duty hang-outs of the NYPD.

They do get the penny, though it takes a replacement penny jar, Cassandra in a getaway van, and Mark's reflexes to make it happen. Unfortunately, even Mark cannot pull off the switch in the middle of a bar full of veteran cops, so it is a very good thing they arranged for a very fast van to get them out of there.

Katsoulakis is pleased to take possession of the penny, but he never does bother to tell them exactly why it is so important. Just another day in the City for Mark and Yukio.

A Very Special Episode

Cryptic missions from Katsoulakis aside, things have been reasonably quiet at the Renaissance and the Marble Arch. Though, that hardly matters, given recent evidence that Thomas Donnelly, Ann Salters, Kokuyougan, and the Contessa Catalina Saragossa may now be acting in concert against them.

That potential threat leads Yukio to make the Ward guarding the Marble Arch even stronger than before. Mark, for his part, is practicing the use of his Sight abilities, in the hope of being better prepared for his next confrontation with Donnelly. They also install a secure landline connecting Yukio's bedroom in the Arch with the Command and Control Room in the Renaissance.

But some people have other priorities. For example, Michel Borsavin, who is steadily rebuilding the celebrity he abandoned after that night in Winfield Hall in 2002, which left him with a vulnerable Gift followed by a complete nervous breakdown. Having long since recovered, Michel has recently been a special guest star on New York's favorite local paranormal tv series, Spooks On!, hosted by two other local celebrities: Jamie Perez and Adam Richland.

Spooks On! has have enjoyed a solid jump in ratings since Michel joined the show, and he definitely seems to be getting back his old taste for the limelight. So it was a foregone conclusion that he would be there for the show's first live broadcast on a Halloween night. He even agrees to go along despite not knowing the special "surprise location" for the episode. How bad could it be? In all the times he has guest starred, the show has never once come into contact with an actual spirit.

Not until that night, when the satellite truck pulls into the drive of Winfield Hall. Oh, shit.

The live Halloween broadcast starts out fine. Jamie and Adam set up several cameras inside, and as usual, make much of their Ghostbusters-style detection equipment. The usual fake moments are staged, and everyone plays the part of a terrified yet bravely scientific (but not TOO scientific) ghost hunter. Michel is, if anything, a little too good at the terrified part that night.

A half hour into the broadcast, Michel has begun picking up on some very bad auras indeed, and when he notices Adam and Jamie getting nervous, he knows they are truly screwed, especially when he sees the next scene will be in the Empress Josephine Room. They have only been in there for three minutes when:

Jamie: "Ok, I'm, uhhh— I'm hearing the sound of—. Is that crying?"
Adam (pausing much too long): "...Uh, yeah. Yeah, that really sounds like a girl crying."
Jamie (still thinking this is part of the act): "Ok, I'm getting some readings here, I—."
(Disbelief): "...I'm getting some readings here!"
Michel (in the background): "Yeah, no shit you're getting readings...."
Jamie: (rattled but trying to recover): "Uh, yeah. Yeah! Getting readings here guys. Let's get serious, this is what we're here for—OH CRAP!"
The camera in the room goes black.

There is dead air for nearly fifteen seconds, before the guys in the truck cut in, talking over each other at Jamie and Adam. Some more banging and crashing ensue and then the camera comes back on:

Jamie (clearly rattled) "What the hell was that?"
Michel: "Uhh, yeah, ok—."
Adam: "Yeah, yeah, right. Ok, we're back on, we're good. Uhh, clearly, we have something going on here. This is definitely what we came for—."
Michel: "We didn't come here for what we're gonna get—."
Adam: "—and, uh, we're gonna get the equipment going in here now because clearly we're seeing, uhhh, stuff happening."
Jamie: "Man, it's cold in here."
Adam: "Ok, getting a reading on the K-2."
Jamie: (surprised): "You're what?"
Adam: "WHOA!"
Shattering noise as the K-2 bursts and smokes in Adam's hand.
Michel (snark): "Nice effect. That's a good one there."
Jamie (panicking): "That's not in the script you FUCK!"
Michel (cool as a cucumber): "Ohh, the FCC isn't gonna like that...."
Adam (also panicking): "SHUT THE—. WHAT'S THAT!?!?"

It is a woman laughing loudly. Michel is certain it must be Ann Salters.

By this point Jamie and Alex are freaking out, but Michel is slightly more confident. He knows he is completely screwed, of course, but at least now he can be certain he is on his own in there. And there is something to be said for certainty, even when it is about incredibly bad news.

Fortunately, Mark and Yukio are on the way. They had been having dinner with Katsoulakis that evening, when a smirking Niko came in to say, "You got to see this." A few minutes after they do, Yukio and Mark are in the car, flooring it all the way to Oyster Bay.

They are still several minutes away when disaster finally strikes, and in a matter of minutes, Michel is the only one left alive to broadcast from inside the house. The good news is, his next few minutes on the air are worthy of an Emmy. The bad news comes when the last cable is mysteriously severed, and the show goes off the air for good.

By the time Mark and Yukio get to the satellite truck, the two guys within are going into a complete meltdown. Yukio and Mark take over the situation, and head into the house. Michel's last broadcast was from the Grand Ballroom, so they carefully make their way down the western hallway from the foyer.

They find Michel, still very much alive and hunkered down behind some furniture. But before they can get out of the mansion, Mark hears an oddly familiar sound.

What the hell, Red Bush Squirrels?

Mark has not seen one of them since his days in Somalia, but one glance down the hallway they just snuck through, and he is face-to-face with a crowd of glowing red eyes, and some suspiciously mutated-looking squirrels. Mark slams the door shut, only to hear the familiar sound of furious and very unnatural slashing and gnawing of wood.

Hauling Michel behind them, Mark and Yukio beat a fast retreat out the west side doors to the outside, and put Winfield Hall in the rear-view mirror. Spooks On! will be Michel's for the asking, but one look at the shattered back door of the satellite truck proves he is going to need a new crew before he gets on the air again.

Remembering Somalia

Perhaps it was the shock of seeing red bush squirrels again, or maybe it was being back within the walls of Winfield Hall, but that night Mark dreams of that one particular day in Somalia again, and this time he remembers everything:

"You're back in Somalia, Mark. And your mind is pissed because it thought it had made sure you were never going to remember what you're now about to remember.

"You and Book had been split off from the first rescue convoy. You were taking fire from every direction, and the whole deal was just going to shit. Book was already starting to lose it, and you had six other guys to look out for.

"It looked like just another alleyway, but you weren't getting any shots from it, so you led everyone in. There was some good cover and you were able to head half a block down, no problem. A quick status check told you all you had to do was keep going about five more blocks and you should be able to pick up the convoy again. The get the guys and get the fuck out.

"So you kept making your way down, and then Collins got picked off. Just out of nowhere. And then the whole fucking street opened up. Then Willis and Storl, gone just like that. Bodies ripped and pounded to mush, right in front of you. That's when you, Book, Thompson and Grace ducked back into the building.

"It was dark but quiet. Maybe if you could cut your way through, get off that street. Maybe the next one would be better. Thompson and Grace took point. There wasn't much left of the place. And you had to keep looking up in case some fucker with an SMG was pointing it down from a ledge.

"You don't remember who saw it first. Maybe Thompson, since he was first. All you remember is rounding that corner and seeing them—there were three. Sand colored, with scrunched faces, wrinkled and cryptic and... wrong. Evil. They had two of the skinnies down on the ground. And they were chewing. It was the intestines... just chewing... nice and slow... not pulling them out... leaving him in so the skinnies stayed alive—while they ate. And the worst part was the skinnies weren't screaming. They weren't even crying. Their own guts were being eaten right in front of their eyes, but all those poor fuckers were doing was just giggling, like it was fucking funny. And then one of the skinnies looked up, looked you right in the eyes, and started laughing. This horrible laugh like he knew it was gonna be you next.

"Then you heard the footsteps behind and turned to see six more of those Wrinkled Things, coming for you. Book moved first—you didn't even understand what he was doing. Neither did Thompson or Grace when Book grabbed 'em and shoved 'em, stumbling, right in front of those things. Then he started running. You thought you were going to grab that son of a bitch, bitchslap 'em and make him help you grab Thompson and Grace and get the fuck out of there. You thought you were gonna do that. But instead, you were just running right after him, right on his heels. And then you started hearing the ripping sounds behind you and the screams, one of 'em—Thompson?—screaming your name over and over, then he cursed it—Thompson cursed your name once—and then a wet sound.

"You and Book didn't even know where the fuck you were going, just running, bunch of rooms and hallways, all those dark doorways you thought you saw half-shadows moving, shadow outlines of things that weren't right, were you guys going the right way? Then right into this big room, like an auditorium and that's where you saw—.

"Bodies. Dozens, maybe hundreds. All human, mostly soldiers, but not all Americans. Sprawled over stone slabs that fill the vast room, arms and legs every which way. And Wrinkled Things. The skinnies. They're everywhere. All crouching and squatting over the bodies. Feasting. You can't see the floor for all the blood and gore.

"And other things. Serpents. Black serpents here too. You didn't know what they were then, but you recognize them now. Black serpents. And they're eating the bodies too. But with them it's different. Because as you watch—you can't turn away—you see a couple of them finish eating the last body parts of the human they're devouring, and then slowly, slowly, their shapes shimmer and twist, and in a minute or two, now the serpents look like humans. And now they're putting on the clothes that the humans they ate must have been wearing.

"Wait, one of them. One of them looks like Drew. That's Drew. From back in training. The mountain phase. Back in Georgia. Drew Brody. Kid from Savannah. Hated the desert. Didn't want to die here. That serpent looks like Drew.

"And over there. There sitting causally on a stone slab not too far away. Two women. One is Ann Salters. The other you recognize from a picture George identified: the Contessa Saragossa.

"Salters is taking a bite from what looks like an arm. Her mouth covered in gore. "Mmmm, you're quite right, Catalina. Very delicious indeed." Eyes gleaming, she turns to look at you. Looking right at you. And now the snake-like eyes of the Contessa see you too.

"Hello, Mark," Salters mocks. "Remembering all this at last? So glad we could help." She takes another bite. "Mmmm, I forgot how tasty you boys could be." She holds the arm out toward him. "Wouldn't you like a bite? Take it. I won't mind. There was plenty more here to choose from."

"And you run as their laughter echoes through the ancient, stone halls—.

"—and then through another door and burst of daylight you were out in the street. There was screaming all around, Marines gunned down, guts hanging out in the street, a guy's head took a sniper bullet and popped like a melon just two yards away. Then you heard the hummer coming down the road, and that hummer wasn't gonna slow down 'cause of all that fucking metal flying through the air. So Book just opened up on 'em, just hosed down the two Marines in the front seat, turned 'em into pizza. And you wanted to kill that fucker, you wanted to fucking rip him apart, and tear his fucking head off, but you were helping get the bodies out on the street and then he was gunning the motor and you two were getting the fuck out of there, back to base, and then all the shit went black. "

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