WHEN THE SHADOWY WORLD OF INTERNATIONAL ESPIONAGE REVEALS AN EVEN DARKER, MORE TERRIFYING SECRET, WHAT ARE WE TO DO?

YOU TOOK UP THE CAUSE. YOU DID DARK, TERRIBLE THINGS FOR YOUR COUNTRY. BUT WHAT IF YOU WERE NEVER WORKING FOR THEM AT ALL? WHAT IF IT WAS ALL A LIE DEVISED BY SOME CREATURE, NOT EVEN HUMAN, TO FURTHER ITS OWN, TWISTED AGENDA.

WILL YOU BE A PAWN? OR CHANGE THE GAME?

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21 September, 2016
The conversation with Mr. Morris went on until it became clear to me I had to let him in on the conspiracy - if for no other reason than that he was going to stumble backwards into on his own, and would probably be in the way. He was smart enough to figure it out, and nosy enough to paint a target on his own back.

He took some convincing, of course, but showing him the scant physical evidence we had - the video of the experiments on the worms, and our (Matthew and myself) testimony, he eventually came round. He even agreed to help, agreeing to run surveillance on the NHS haemotology buildings (as his ancestor had agreed to do a week or so ago). We also learned that he had communicated with Hopkins, sent her some pictures of a particular castle in the Borgo Pass.

Isabelle had some success tracking down the server for those emails and finding some potentially interesting files, in a folder titles "Typhoid Mary".

That night, while we were engaged in our research and arranging our watches, Olivia got up to use the restroom. I didn't really think of it, but she was gone a long while. Twenty minutes or so later Matthew warned that someone was climbing the stairs to our rooms, tried the door, walked away, and then simply disappeared.

While we were still trying to figure out what that could mean, the bathroom door burst open, and who was it but our dear friend Mr. Brown. He opened with "I don't want to do this, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to kill all of you."

My first thought, and my only instinct, was to get between him and Olivia - but when I tried he grabbed me and bit my arm, spinning me around to act as a shield between him and the others.

And then he drank, as pain and ecstasy tore its way through ever fiber of my being. I tried to struggle away, but couldn't, even as the world spun and faded away...
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20-21 September, 2016
20 September, 2016

Matthew and Yael took care of the "blood drive" and handled the transfusion process (truthfully, I'm glad I wasn't around to see it), while Jack and I went to Brown University to look at the fossil. Isabelle stayed with Olivia and helped keep an eye on us all, so to speak.

At the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology, we visited the fossil. It is kept by Brown by agreement with the estate of the discoverer (one Henry Wilcox). It is an odd arrangement which keeps it here instead of at say, the Smithsonian or another large museum. So long as any of the direct family line remained in Rhode Island, so the fossil would remain, to the point where the museum each year sent a letter to ensure their continued residence.

According to the docent (who was very happy to chat with Jack), every so often some researcher or academic would get it into their heads to try and identify the thing, and for some reason bad things seemed to happen to those individuals. The school (for obvious reasons) downplays the tales, but it is part of the reason the specimen does not appear in the official records of the department.

By way of example, she informed us (Jack, really), that Wilcox's own son had committed suicide, and that the department head who had taken the donation murdered his family, as well as another half-dozen or so equally chilling cases. She provided us both with the name and residence of the current living descendant of Henry, one George Wilcox, and also furnished us with notes of previous researchers.

Looking at these, I was able to confirm our suspicions that it was a fossil of a great worm (and not, as earlier researchers assumed, part of a larger creature). The most current materials suggested that it was a predatory beast, although they were still unable to connect it directly to any modern examples. I did note many terms overlapped with what Matthew had said when he was examining the live worms.

Isabelle did some research into George Wilcox, and informed us that he was a telephone psychic. His home had three telephone lines, two of which were for his business. By all accounts, his predictions seem accurate, but even so, he is struggling to pay his bills, and has been on heating assistance for the last few winters. She went on to say that judging from his power consumption, he was not using his whole house.

Despite his financial troubles keeping a far-to-large home, he has been stalwart in his refusal to sell the property. Varney and Stein, and American-owned shell company for foreign interests (most notably Klopstock and Billruth), are offering him market price for his lot (and are not interested in the surrounding lots, either, precluding the assumption they are buying people out for development purposes).

After her transfusion, Olivia seemed more alert, and more her old self, but at sunrise on the 21st she once again began speaking in Latin. She sounded almost as if she were quoting something as she spoke of "a worm-shaped column spinning with the energies of dark aeons" and something about smoky fire. She ended with three words in Romanian, "All Hail Mordiggian." Looking that up led to a story called "The Charnel God", a 1934 story related to the works of H.P.Lovecraft.

21 September, 2016

Matthew, in order to get a read on how best to approach him, called up George Wilcox using one of the hotline numbers. Although the on-hold speech was full of flummery and melodrama, once the man himself got on the line he was very straightforward. After Matthew gave him his credit card information, however, his voice became scared and he said he didn't think he could help him.

I stayed with Olivia and Isabelle while Matthew, Yael, and Jack went to speak with Wilcox in person. It was a big house, they reported, and a little worn and shabby. The mailbox out front listed a second address for Wilcox Entertainment, and the car in the drive didn't look as if it had been driven for a while. George insisted that they remove their weapons if they wanted to come in, and while Jack refused, Matthew and (eventually) Yael complied and they entered the house.

He told them the stone was connected to the beast, the one who laid a claim on Olivia, and that there was a greater beast and a lesser. The lesser thinks of himself as the heir, while the greater thinks of the lesser as being his herald (after all, they were told, why would you need an heir if you will never die). He further told them that the cowboy is a tool of the lesser beast, and that the two have cooperated for a long time. He also felt it necessary to warn them, that Jack was the more immediate danger, that he had been compromised, and we have 28 days (a lunar month), to resolve it. He suggested that we might need a book called "Le Dragon Noir," and warned that there was something in Jack that the lesser beast would be able to call. He also suggested that the friends of Soren might have something we want.

Meanwhile, at the motel, there was a knock on the door. I answered it to see a young man with a camera bag. I opened the door with the chain still on and my weapon drawn to see what he wanted. He introduced himself as Thad Morris, a freelance photojournalist, and said that he wanted to speak with Olivia Barnes. He said he was looking for anything she might be able to tell him about a certain individual, as he held up a picture of Mr. Brown.

After a brief conversation, I agreed to go with him so we could speak more thoroughly, but I was still unwilling to let him speak to Olivia. Once in his car, he showed me a folder of old photographs. The first ones he indicated showed a group in party dress, including a man who looked exactly like our Mr. Brown. Thad said he was Quincy Morris (a possible ancestor?). There was also a Sir John Williams, whom I recognized from a photo at the church - he was the possible Jack the Ripper subject.

The others he identified as their counterparts to the Dracula novel, although he dismissed the correlation as fantasy. He explained that he became interested in Mr. Brown after he noticed the same (always blurry) figure in various shots, leading up to a recent one of him and Olivia at Heathrow.

He also seems to know much too much about Olivia - knowing her real name and not the one on her passport, as well as knowing (most appallingly) my real name.

Note; according to the book, Quincy was an acquaintance and travelling companion to mssrs. Holmwood and Seward, and there seem to be references that one or more of them may have been connected to British Intelligence, some sort of early version of MI5 or SAS.
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19 September, 2016, continued
Matthew eventually got me calmed down enough from my initial shock to do something useful. While the police were gone, we took advantage of the time to search the room. There wasn't much interesting there, other than half of a shipping ticket in with some men's suits.

The stub was coming from Sarajevo, and dated September 8th. I noted that was the day we put Olivia on the plane here (oh god, what did I do to her?), and Matthew added that day coincided with the ending of a rash of strange murders in Sarajevo, groups of beatings and stabbings, which had started in early September. Most of those murdered were connected with AQIR

We (Matthew, that is, although Olivia helped too) talked the manager into letting us into the vault. There was a great deal of money from various countries (mostly European), a passport for Arthur Seward (showing a recent trip to Sarajevo), and the fake passport I had made for Olivia.

There was also a pamphlet about Brown University's Archaological program, which to Matthew at least, was so out of place it seemed intentionally left for us.

There was also a profound lack of engagement ring, in either the room or in the safe.

Seward's passport, when I had a moment to examine it, was a forgery. An excellent one, but with several maker's marks. I had seen some of them before, on old examples of forgeries at MI6, some of the ones used to train me. Whoever had made this passport was, or had been at least, in British Intelligence.

From there it was into the car to make the trip to Rhode Island, figuring out most cogent lead was Brown University (as much as it rankled to go where "Seward" was seemingly leading us).

Olivia was weak, and hated the light. Matthew attempted to touch her arm and then her forehead with the Host, the latter of which she violently slapped away. When he brought holy water into her view she was quite angry.

She turned that anger on me, blaming me for her sickness, for the whole situation, before bringing up every fight we've had, every slight, every bruised ego. I tried to remind myself that she wasn't in her right for mind, but still, her words stung, and added to the list I had been repeating to myself since I found her shaking in our apartment on just ten days ago.

I'm doing what I think I need to be doing, but am I right? Should I have just given whoever it was the dossier and been done with it? She might have been safe, instead of this...

She eventually fell into a coughing fit, and then passed out. I held her close, trying not to cry, as we discussed our next step.

A hotel, and an impromptu blood drive, and whatever investigation at Brown we could manage.

Just after sunset, Jack abruptly left, saying he needed some air, and checking with the rest of the group led to the discovery that he had taken his comm (and the tracker within) out. He was off our radar, and I couldn't follow him and risk leaving Olivia alone, especially after she started to wake and began mumbling (in Latin, no less), asking for someone to come back to her, that she needed them.

I didn't think she was talking about me, either.

She soon came back to her self, to her real self, and we had a normal conversation. She was unable to remember anything that had happened since we had gotten into the penthouse in New York.
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16 September, 2016
16 September, 2016

Over the next day or so, I spent my time working on putting together passports, credit cards, licenses, the works for the team. Then it was time for the job Matthew had lined up. He and Yael went in, the rest of us manned a chase car and ran some surveillance.

They were to go to the train station, load two trucks with a dozen or so large crates, and then drive them to the airport in Constanta. Matthew and Yael were in separate vehicles, which was perhaps less than optimal, but it seemed to work out alright.

At the train station, while they moved and loaded the crates (quite heavy, if I'm any judge), Isabelle noted that someone else in their group was bugged (Sorin, in the same truck as Yael). The other group running surveillance on the unloading operation was quite nearby, as well.

She went off to the security office, trying to get a camera feed, while Jack and I circled the area, looking for any other suspicious vehicles. Finding none, I pulled back around, hands nervous on the wheel. We were questioning whether we should back her up when she came running out. Jack met her halfway and cut the security guard off from following her, pretending to be an irate passenger.

Isabelle reported that there was a couple sitting in the waiting area, sitting very carefully as to not be recorded on camera. She was sitting with a knife up her coat, though, and they were both watching the crates being moved.

By this time, the trucks were on the move again, and we had no choice but to follow them. I was behind the wheel (ugh), and between us and the trucks was the couple in a Yugo. She was fiddling with something, Jack thought it might be a slingshot of some kind.

Unfortunately, we had no way of knowing if we could trust those people, or if our goals aligned. We've already trusted Brown, and I'm already starting to question that. Given that we couldn't be sure we could work with them, we had to take them out. I had my hands full keeping the car apace with the trucks, but Jack and Isabelle were able to take out the couple, and Yael and Matthew were able to disable the drivers of their vehicles.

The trucks then in our possession, we removed the tracking device the woman has shot onto one of the crates, and drove out of the city to wait out the rest of the night. Call me paranoid, but I wasn't enthusiastic about the idea of checking the contents of the crates until daylight.

It turned out to be dirt (lots of dirt). Matthew took several samples, and then we poured the crates out into a nearby river, empty crates following the dirt into the drink.

Seems I'm not the only one in our group that this whole experience is making a little superstitious.

Now, this job done, and having burned this bridge (and hopefully having put a kink in someone's plans), we are looking to the next step. I'm not sure how the rest of the team feels about this, but I have to get to New York. I just.... If we can't trust Brown like we thought we could, then I need to get to Olivia.

I need her to be okay.
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13-15 September, 2016
Matthew and I (mostly Matthew) spent some time over the next few days running some tests and doing a great deal of research on the sample of blood, or whatever it was from the creatures. The blood seemed to be decayed human blood and worm excrement. The worms weren't of any readily identifiable species.

The only thing I was able to find about the worms at all was a fossil which is part of Brown University's collection. It is however, only a partial imprint and about six feet long. The fossil itself dates back to the Triassic period. It was found in the 1900s, and is still the only record of such a creature existing.

Matthew and his cohort spent the better part of two nights experimenting with the worms and various laboratory animals. None of what they found was comforting, but at least some of it was illuminating, and might help us fight the wretched things in the future.

The train tickets were for the 17th, which gave us a few days to follow up on Hildesheim, the lawyer. Matthew talked his way into a new job, essentially, making them think as if he had worked for Vasile.

Isabelle noted that there was a camera feed of his office leading not to another part of the building, or even the city, but to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. To the penthouse, in fact, currently booked under the name James Brown.

We regrouped, and called the penthouse. I shouldn't have been surprised, but still was a little when Olivia groggily answered. I tried to reassure her as best as I could, but a man's voice soon cut in, telling her we had called to speak to him.

He never identified himself, but nothing he said made me happy. He was the one who had been escorting Olivia around the city, but rather than feeling gratitude I just sort of felt sick.

He told us the Borgo Pass was a red herring, that we were clearly looking for proof, but weren't the Ghouls and other things we were discovering enough? He encouraged us to find out who was hiring Luco to move the women.

Me, I'm finding it harder to focus on the mission ahead, as every instinct is screaming at me to book a plane ticket to New York to get to Olivia.
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