March 2, 2014

Demons Ascension - The Room

[Posted by Ted H]

So I attempted a follow-up to my Oblivion play through where I finished the Fighters Guild quest and made fun of them some more, but ultimately decided it wasn't worth the effort. The gist of if was that they waited until the 11th hour of the quest line to make the rival guild look as evil as they'd been talking about. The final quest solved the "evil" guild problem but did little to nothing over how useless the Fighters Guild still was.

On the bright side, you'll get even more of the novel, which is now [finally] going somewhere plot-wise!

[Demons Ascension - The Room]

            The center that James was banking on turned out to be a low rent apartment complex. Some outer windows were boarded up and the front door to the entire building looked recently replaced. They milled around for a few minutes while James sucked his sweet nicotine from his newly purchased pack of cigarettes. The weight of last nights rain still hung heavily in the air, adding to the bitter cold that even the rising sun didn't seem able to penetrate.
            "You're sure about this place, right?" John asked as James blew and extended puff of smoke from his mouth. "No," he said "But if Bradford puts the lockdown on me at any more important places, then this is our best bet." He took a final drag from his cigarette and flicked it away as they approached the front steps. They had to step under some scaffolding since a part of the wall high up was being painted over. James figured it was graffiti since this was such a "nice" part of town, to which he chuckled since he really didn't think any part of Chicago was particularly "nice".
            The door opened when James tugged at it, which struck him as odd since he figure such a door would have some sort of measure to only let people in who lived there. "Up or down?" John asked as they stood in the cramped front lobby. James rolled his eyes as he looked for a basement access. "Always down," he said as  he found an elevator and called for it.
            The elevator let off into a dingy basement hallway. The walls were worn and dirty and James figured at least a dozen rats lived in the walls somewhere. "Ain't exactly the Ritz, is it?" John said as James walked forward. To their immediate left was an entry to where various washing machines and dryers were, many of which had an "out of order" sign taped on top. Across the hall was a common room with a single exposed light bulb that hung unlit. Farther down the hall were various storage closets and a small office that looked disused, a thick layer of dust rested on the desk and various cobwebs stretched from the sides.
            At the far end of the hall was a small stone staircase that twisted farther down. There was no light for the stairwell and John instinctively pulled out his flashlight. As John flashed light down the stairs, James could see they dropped down a few steps, then cut off in a new direction down. "After you," James said with a smile. Before either man could move, a voice called out from behind them.
            "You boys, you need help?" John and James turned to see a man in a button down blue shirt and jeans looking at them from down the hall. He didn't look much older than 50, but he had a neglected beard growing that was a much lighter color than his jet black dye job hair. He spoke with an accent from eastern Europe, but still spoke clearly enough for James to understand. He walked cautiously towards them while eyeing them up. "You don't live here," he said "I know every person who lives here, and even most of those peoples family, and I've never seen either of you two before. This building is full, there is no sign for vacancy." James forced a smile as he stepped in front of John towards the man. "I'm James," he said as he motioned towards John with his arm "And this here is John."
            "You not understand me? I'm calling the cops," the man said as James called for him to wait. "What a coincidence!" he shouted as he elbowed John "That's what we are." The man looked at James, then back to John as John pulled out his badge. "Detective John Praque," he said as he emphasized his title "And this is James Blake."
            "You two cops?" the man asked.
            "Why yes, yes we are," James said before John could say anything.
            "What seems to, uh, be the problem, officers?"
            "What's down this way?"
            "Down there?" the man asked "Nothing. Cellar, storage, those types things. Also where we keep the sump. Nobody goes down there anymore. Light in the stairwell went out years ago and I never bothered replacing it. No one care."
            "You're in charge of maintenance?" John asked. "This and many other buildings," the man said with pride in his voice "Name's Mark."
            "Mark?" James asked with skepticism.
            "I came here named Marek, but no one calls me that. They say Mark much easier. I say it's one letter. They say not so simple. I call them simple. They get mad. This long time ago, I grow used to Mark so I keep it."
            "Well, uh, Mark," James said as he motioned behind himself "Mind if we take a look downstairs anyway?" Mark licked the inside of his mouth as he tilted his head. "What is it you two are looking for anyway? That is the old basement, original. No one goes down there anymore," he said. "Murder investigation," John said with a flat face and a matter of fact tone "We have reason to believe this building may be involved."
            "Now that you mention it," Mark said while nodding to himself "Someone has been vandalizing over front of building. Had to paint over it yesterday. Going to put second coat up this morning." Both James and John looked at each other before looking back to Mark. "This vandalism," James asked "Was it a symbol of some sort?"
            Mark shook his head. "No," he said "It word. Some gang or something. I already paint over."
            "What was the word?" John asked out of curiosity. Mark looked back to John and shook his head. "It not matter," he said. "What do you mean?" John asked "What did you paint over? What word?" Mark pressed his lips together for a moment. "Why does it matter?" he asked "It just word."
            "You can't read, can you?" James said as Mark shrugged. "I read," he said "Just not English. Don't need to read your language to do job. I work here for many years and not need to read." James laughed at this notion, while John made a less amused face.
            "Can we just go downstairs?" James asked. "What rush do you have to go down dark and scary stairs?" Mark said "Bad things happen in dark places, like killer."  James looked down the stairs and back at Mark with a smile. "Well that's exactly what we're looking for," he said as he started blindly down the stairs before climbing back up. "Seriously, flashlight, I can't see a damn thing."
            There was a different, working light at the base of the stairs. "So," James said as his eyes adjusted to the dimly lit room "The basements basement. Cozy." The room was entirely concrete and stonework with two doors leading out. One door was metal with "Pump" written across the front. Next to it was a clipboard that hadn't been touched in at least a decade. The door on the far side of the room was wooden with nothing written on it.
            "What's that door?" James asked as he pointed to the wooden door. "Is nothing," Mark said "Room has been locked. Nothing in there now but mold and bugs." James walked over to the door and tried the handle to find it locked. He then noticed scratched around the door frame both old and some more recent. "Open it," he said to Mark.
            "You think?" Mark asked. "Oh yeah," James said "Police business and all that." Mark shrugged and pulled out his keys and fished through them. "This master key," he said as he held up a single key on the ring "Opens every door in the building."
            "Even old basement doors?" John asked as Mark walked up to the door. "Oh yes," Mark said "The building is old, even the renovated parts above ground, but none of the doors down here have ever been replaced." He slid his key into the door as he spoke. "I work here many years, too many to count, and never a new door. Least of all down here..." he trailed off as he attempted to turn the lock. A few moments passed and the door remained locked. Mark grunted as he continued.
            "Problem?" James asked. "No problem," Mark said "Old lock, that's all."
            "I don't think it's an old lock," John said as he shone his flashlight on the door handle. The lock lacked the layers of dirt and grime that the rest of the room had piled on. "That isn't the original lock," James said as Mark gave up and took his key out. "Impossible. I never replaced the lock here," Mark protested. "Someone else did though," James said "And they didn't want anyone else in here."
            "No one lives there, right?" James asked. Mark shook his head.
            "And no one comes down this way?" Mark shook his head again.
            "It never occurred to you that someone might be trying to use this room for whatever reason?" Mark yet again shook his head.
            "Any camera footage?" John suggested "Something that could tell us who came down the basement and when?" Mark frowned. "No cameras in building. It's not that kind of place."
            "We need to get in here," John said. Mark began for the stairs. "I will call my supervisor," he said "See how we can get this door open. You two wait upstairs while I make call, ok?" With that, Mark disappeared up the stairs. James trailed his fingers against some of the scratches and markings along the door frame.
            "Is he gone?" he asked. John checked behind himself towards the stairs and shrugged at James. "I guess, why?" he asked as James dug into his pockets and crouched near the door. "Keep watch," he said as he pulled out some lock picking tools "Best if our friend Mark isn't around for this next part."
            "We can't just do this," John said "We need a warrant. There's a procedure." James only laughed. "YOU need a warrant," he said as he picked at the lock "I can do whatever I need to." John sighed and turned away. "If you're wrong about this, then this is breaking and entering," he said as James tinkered. "It's not B and E," James replied "I'm not breaking anything. They'll never know I was here. This is more like trespassing. And if we catch the killer because of this, it'll be known as a game changer."
            "How good are you at that?" John asked, rolling his eyes.
            "Got us into the library at Cazenovia, remember?"
            "That was different."
            "Tell me about it, those doors were all jokes. I remember I could break into the main residence hall with a butter knife, the latch was that exposed."
            "That was a long time ago, too."
            "Do I want to know?"
            "Plausible deniability is your friend in this case."
            The soft click and a turning latch brought a smile to James. "Shall we?" he asked as he pocketed his gear and stood up. John waved his arm but did not turn around. James chuckled as he turned the knob and leaned in to push open the door, but it still wouldn't budge. "...The hell?" he said as he pushed into the door again but couldn't open it. "You sure you picked the lock?" John asked as James started knocking up and down the door. "The knob turns," he said "Something else must be blocking this shut."
            "Bolted?" John asked as James shook his head. "If that was the case, only part of the door wouldn't budge," James said as he pushed the door one last time "The entire thing is shut."
            "Maybe it's just an old door," John said "Maybe the roof sagged and the door's buckled shut." James ignored him as he went over to the metal door and picked the clipboard off the wall. The clipboard had a pencil attached with a string and only a few pieces of yellowed paper. James placed the paper on the scratches on the doorframe and rubbed the pencil over them to leave an imprint. "You honestly think we'd have better luck figuring out those symbols?" John asked as James folded the paper up and put it in his pocket. "I know a guy," he said as he looked over the door again.
            "This door's not wedged shut or anything stupid like that," James said "I've never seen it in person, but maybe it's sealed magically." James looked over to John to see him with a puzzled look on his face. "You mean..." he began but stopped "What do you mean?"
            "These symbols along the frame where the door closes," James said as he pointed each out "Perhaps they're sealing the door against unauthorized entry...and if that's the case..." he trailed off and wiped his brow with the back of his hand. Suddenly he wasn't feeling so well with where this was all going. Stan and Amy had been odd, often unsettling conversations, but everything was starting to fall into place in terms of why this case wasn't making sense.
            "So, if this door is as "sealed" as you claim it is, how do we get in there?" John asked "I mean IF I can land us a warrant to open this door and search, and that's going to require some favors are the very least, how are we suppose to get through?"
            James looked over the entire door frame and smiled. "We're good," he said "Though I guess I will be doing the "breaking" part of the B and E."
            "I don't understand," John said as James took a step back. "It's an old door," he said as he kicked the door as hard as he could. The door held, but a noticeable crack formed on the far side where the hinge on the other side held it. Whoever put the protection on the door probably never figured anyone would try to kick it down from the hinge side, let alone find it to begin with, a fruitless tactic of not for the fact that the door was rotting and neglected after decades in a damp, disused basement. The protection would keep the latched side shut, but James had no desire to open it that way anymore.
            Another kick and the door leaned back. James kicked a third time, this time much higher and the door cracked at its other hinge. One final kick between the hinges and the door swung awkwardly in on its wrong side before toppling out of the frame all together. "Practicality: 1, supernatural: 0," James said triumphantly as John gave a sarcastic slow clap. Immediately afterwards, both men recoiled at the smell that washed over them. "My God!" John exclaimed. The bitter and sour smell keeping either man from walking forward into the darkness. "Don't your cop senses tell you that that ain't right and you should investigate?" James asked as he plugged his nose and breathed through his mouth. "You couldn't pay me to go in there right now," John said as he pulled out a handkerchief to breathe through.
            James leaned into the dark doorway, but couldn't find a light switch in the immediate area. "Are you gonna come in or not?" James asked as John shook his head. "Apparently warrants are a big deal," James said as he extended his hand out "At least give me your flashlight?" he asked. John rolled his eyes and handed it over. "Need my gun, too?" he asked as James turned the light on and entered. "Nah, I'm good," he said "But hey, if I go ten feet in here and just cry for help, would you be required to enter anyway, warrant or no warrant?" John thought about it for a moment then nodded. "That would work," he said.
            James slowly made his way through the dark, his feet walking over wet concrete as he searched the walls with his flashlight for any sort of switch. He tried to ignore the fact that it probably wasn't water he was walking on. The smell was intensifying, but James had strangely begun to get used to it and ignore it, which he was still deciding whether or not that was a good sign. The flashlight, which shone bright enough all the times it was used before, seemed to struggle to provide adequate light, as if the darkness in this room was somehow too thick to pierce brightly.
            The last thing on James' mind was the notion that there was anything else in the darkness with him. He found it odd that there were rats in the basement level above when there was an easily accessible level of darkness below that. What could possibly be going on down here that even rats would refuse to venture?
            In the middle of the room was a candelabrum. James pulled out his lighter and lit up the six candles. The light they offered allowed James to see a light switch on the far side of the room. Even as James crossed the room, he could tell what the moisture on the ground was, but he put the thought aside as he flicked the lights on. An electrical hum sounded as two lights on the ceiling lit up, giving a dim glow to a red colored room. Empty wine racks lined an entire wall as James easily guessed the rooms original purpose.
            James looked about the floor where blood pooled around most of the floor and a few chunks of unknown meat sat festering. In the far corner of the room were three steps leading up to another small room. As James climbed the stairs, he realized that all of the blood on the floor had spilled out from this raised room. James could make out a few details from the small slivers of light making their way in from an unknown point on the far side.
            James scanned the area around him with the flash light and noticed a flood light hooked up to a battery. He powered it on and the light sprung to life, almost blinding James with how fast and powerfully it lit up the room. James waited a minute for his eyes to adjust to the bright intensity and then focused on what he could now see.
            The middle of the room had a platform raising several inches off the ground. On the platform was a table with a large, leather book and several metal instruments, wire cutters and steel thread. The entire room was coated with blood, even up to the ceiling. Even more chunks of meat were piled in three various locations in the small room. The only parts of the room that weren't crimson were the book itself and parts of the wall that had black symbols drawn all over, many of which James already recognized from before, including the C symbol that was at all the crime scenes. At the far end was a stone staircase leading up to a surface door held shut by a padlock on the inside.
            The smell that had been so prevalent before was gone now. This was obviously the source of it now, but James could not smell anything. He found he couldn't hear John milling about anymore either. Before he could hear him coughing, mumbling to himself and remarking about the smell, but now it's as if John wasn't there anymore. James could hear his own breathing and smell his own self, but it was as if this room didn't exist in the same plane of reality, like he had stepped through a portal and could only see as if he was still on earth.
            "John, get in here," James yelled out as he stepped up and onto the platform. He fixated on the book, the only thing free of blood stain despite it being at the center of the bloodbath that the room had become. He reached down and touched it, finding it only looked like faded leather but it felt much different, different than anything he'd ever experienced before. Despite having every reason to the contrary, James picked the book up, immediately feeling a sense of dread and fear coarse up and down his spine as he did. He opened the book and tried to read a random page, but couldn't make out the writing.
            "James!" John screamed as he stepped into the room, almost causing James to drop the book and scream. "Holy crap, what is it?" James asked as John looked at him baffled. "I've been calling out to you and you didn't answer," John said "I didn't know what happened."
            "You didn't hear me tell you to get in here?" James asked.
            "You didn't say anything. I saw you disappear into this room and that was it. Ten minutes and nothing. I got worried."
            "Ten minutes?" James asked "Let's not exaggerate. I was in here maybe three minutes, tops."
            "Look at all this blood! That is what it is, right? And what are those piles of? Organs?"
            "I have no idea. But it would take more than one dead person to make this kind of mess. How could the police miss something like this?"
            "Maybe everyone involved live here."
            "Yeah. It's not a big place, but it defiantly houses more than enough people. Anyone go recently missing though?
            "You know how long our missing persons list is?"
            "What about Mark? Guy says he knows everyone. Maybe he's noticed something."
            "You think maybe he might be involved?"
            "That's...actually an interesting idea. He just seems too out of it to be involved."
            "You'd be surprised at how some people in this town can surprise you."
            "Think he would know anyone named Crow?"
            "What the hell is a Crow?"
            "Just look into that, ok?"
            "Should I even bother asking why or how you think that's relevant?"
            "You know me so well."
            "Look, this place is fucked up. I'm calling it in, and I don't want you in the middle of everything again when backup arrives."
            "Yeah..." James said as he looked down at his shaking hands that still had a grip on the book, wanting nothing more than to leave this room and never come back "Let's go."

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