The hunters slept deep beneath the heavy blanket of alcohol as dawn’s pallor crept over the distant peaks of the Sierra Nevadas. In that little nook of the sprawling city, the night smelled of oak, dew-damp grass and the slightest hint of skunk all hung thinly in the morning air. Like shadows across the valley, memories of panic and distant sirens faded into the cool rays of the rising sun. The neighborhood began to stir.
There were sirens the night before. And the passing buzz of a helicopter – but that wasn’t unusual. Right? There were always sirens and helicopters distant in the night. Screeching tires. Crack shots dismissed as (hopefully) fireworks, but almost certainly gunfire. And, sometimes, the song of a mockingbird.
Last night, however, the sirens brought a bit of a twist to the stomach. Old sounds, with new meaning. They whispered names and implications, which were subsequently drowned in alcohol.
Harry did not sleep. The sun rose on the stink of industrial water and bus exhaust, with little ceremony. A stack of messages awaited Thomas in his voice mail, with terse, cryptic instructions. What Harry had not burned, he packed away in boxes. He paused a moment, looking up the stairs of his basement apartment to the door, beyond which slept his mother. Old, infirm but stalwart, she slept, thinking that her strange midnight encounter with her son was just a vivid dream.
— Introduction to MotW Session 5, by Emily C. Martin
Harry spent the pre-dawn hours frantically packing up his basement apartment, fearing that his midnight captors had traced his location. Leaving cryptic messages for Tommy asking for help in the morning, he broke down his computers, stacked his bankers boxes of paranoid conspiracies, and made arrangements to rent a moving van at first light.
Tommy’s restless slumber, largely punctuated by the numerous answering machine messages left by Harry, finally came to an end with hurried tapping at his bedroom window. Quietly racking the shotgun kept under his nightstand, he used the barrel to carefully pull the curtain open, revealing a Chinese woman who held her hands up in surrender. “Thomas?” she mouthed as she stood in the dark side yard. He nodded. “May I come in?” she asked, using slight hand gestures to convey meaning. He nodded.
Letting her inside, he kept his finger on the trigger but no longer kept the shotgun directly pointed at her. “I am Doctor Long’s daughter,” she began, her hair mussed from an apparent nighttime flight. “Jolene, if you prefer. Word spread fast that there was an ‘event’ at my father’s house last night, and there are those in the society who worry.”
“They should worry,” he retorted grimly, eyes narrowing. “Doctor Long turned on me, turned on those who were helping us. All but demanded I kill them.”
“That’s not what I mean,” she paused. “There’ve been rumors that my father was involved in extracurricular activities, things the rest of the society didn’t appreciate. I wanted to warn you that some, loyal to him, are going to be hunting you. Others, like those with me, think this is the right moment to bring the society back to its original purpose, back to its roots. As I found your house, undoubtedly the loyalists won’t be far behind.”
“Just peachy,” the implacable (former?) agent frowned, thumbing on the shotgun’s safety and pointing it away from his unexpected guest.
Ismene flipped through the morning newspaper as the rest of her ramshackle crew slept in a heavy, alcohol-induced haze, noting the surprising number of suspected arsons over the past thirty-six hours, including her public access studio. Another article about the uptick in self-described “paranormal investigators” lead many community elders to wonder if Satanism had taken root in their quiet suburbs, driving teens and young adults to race into the night, hunting for “mysteries.” She hoped this would lead to a larger audience for her show, rather than competition for the limelight.
Slowly roused by the smell of freshly-brewed coffee and cooking eggs, Ismene’s guests peeling themselves off of the couch, floor, and recliner, sluggish and glassy-eyed from the copious amounts of alcohol used in a vain attempt to muddle the events of the previous night. Reaching out to the Sacramento police, Ismene scheduled a sit-down with the detective investigating her studio’s firebombing, wary of his true intentions and assuming he believed her to be a prime suspect.
Harry and Tommy spent the morning moving Harry into a new “home,” a small, single-room flat owned by a landlord who wasn’t interested in asking questions, or being asked any. “Thank you,” Harry said as the last box was brought inside, closing the door on Tommy. It had been a tense twenty-four hours and neither were in the mood for small talk, the entire move having been completed in terse, clipped sentences and emotive grunts. Setting up his computers before anything else, Harry used one of his conspiracy boxes as a chair while he began tracking down any electronic sign of the being known as “Elijah.”
Seth offered to accompany Ismene to the police station, which gave her pause – Seth was a very loyal friend and employee, but wasn’t particularly known for being helpful in social or politic circumstances. He meant well, but intentions aren’t everything. Knowing he only wanted to help, she finally acquiesced, parking down the street from the imposing building, next to a frozen yogurt bar. “Seth, I have an important job for you,” she began solemnly, placing her hands on his. “I don’t know what flavor of ice cream I’ll want when I’m done in there. While I’m away can you try all of the flavors and toppings and let me know what combination is best? That would be such a big help.”
Nodding slowly, Seth’s normally wide-eyed expression turned serious. “Of course, Ismene – you can count on me!” and he gave her hands a little squeeze. She handed him a crisp $20 bill and smiled. Not only would the ice cream keep him out of trouble, he’d have real satisfaction when she came back to pick him up. Watching him excitedly point to each container in the freezer as he talked with the TCBY employee, she steeled herself for a conversation with the suspicious detective who wanted to ask her pointed questions about the suspicious circumstances surrounding her studio’s razing.
Detective Weiss met Ismene in the station lobby and lead her to a private interrogation room. “It’s the only private room we have,” he lied, offering to get her coffee or tea in order to make her feel “more comfortable.” Trying to play the role of friend and confidant while simultaneously grilling her for information, Ismene was not impressed or fooled by the officer’s ham-fisted attempts at subtlety. She feigned ignorance when she could avoid directly answering questions, and gave passive, non-specific answers when he started closing in on the truth about Paul Vega.
Ultimately outmatched and left unsatisfied, he released Ismene, giving her the “friendly” advice to avoid exploring the urban wilderness and that there had been multiple missing persons reports filed that seemed to relate somehow to hand-held video tapes purporting to show “paranormal events” in the area. With her deep involvement in that community, he warned, she may be, or continue to be, a target.
With a saccharine smile, she waved goodbye to the detective, taking her leave, glad to be out of the stark interrogation room with its looming one-way mirror. Collecting Seth from his adventures in exploring frozen Sacramento treats, he handed her a tall cup of Oreo-flavored yogurt with fudge and whipped topping, his own face showing evidence of having sampled various chocolate and candy-swirled delights. Mission accomplished.
Face illuminated by the cathode glow of his multiple monitors, Harry sneered in the darkness of his new apartment. There may just be a way to banish this “Elijah” to the demon pits. By accessing hidden and arcane databases, his caffeine-fueled hunt had resulted in several possibilities. Having stayed awake for more than thirty straight hours, stress peaked for almost the whole duration, he felt he knew just the way to get the real truth behind the mysterious stranger that had kidnapped him.
Starting to write computer code, the logic behind which he later wouldn’t be able to intuit, he planned to create an electronic simulacrum of a genuine demon, the kind of creature who he could barter for Elijah’s true name, the first step into banishing it away from Earth forever.
Laughing with a mania that only multi-day sleeplessness could provide, he sat in the dark, oblivious to the world outside his new room, trying to teach a computer to summon a being from Hell.
At her apartment, Ismene filled in the rest of her friends with the developments she uncovered at the police station. “People like us have gone missing lately.” Patting Seth’s fudge-topping-stained hands, she preempted the concerned question. “Not people just like us, dear; people who aren’t prepared for the weird and wild. We can handle this.”
There was more going on than one rogue being drawing the group of investigators into the woods, then presumably firebombing their TV studio. Perhaps the news about lights at the airfield would be a substantive next step, guiding them into further understanding of the scale and scope of their opposition. Notes recovered from Paul Vega’s house – the man whose possession by the demonic being Tyenx began the whole catastrophe – pointed to a big “experiment” happening at the end of the week, so they were on a quickly-dwindling clock.