Subsection: Monday 21 October 2019 Up Section: 1.06 …Versus the Aztec Mummy Section: 1.07 All Night Suckers 

Tuesday 22 October 2019

Two items of news: a storm is moving in, perhaps making landfall in a few days. (Jesus reckons that it was certainly there before, but it’s perked up rather a lot, particularly on Sunday.) And a local lowlife, one Damian Merrill, has been found strangled; there’s some care about how he’s described, but it appears he has little visible means of support (he works as a church caretaker) but still manages to live remarkably well.
Natasha has made some amulets which should damage undead things nearby when they’re broken. The others cruise by Merrill’s apartment and see police tape, but it looks as if the place isn’t being guarded. There’s a place to hide the car, and the locks aren’t up to much here either. There’s a lot of expensive electronics; the place has been destructively searched, thus presumably not by the police. (Though any drugs and loose cash have probably been “taken into evidence”.) There’s some cast-off blood; the splash pattern suggests it’s faster than a knife, punch or club but slower than a bullet. Jade notes a distinct smell including natron, myrrh, cassia, and many other spices; and the group takes a small item so that Natasha can do a remote viewing later. There’s nothing to indicate who his confederates might have been, but there is a broken digital photo frame which seems worth investigating. On the card from that, as well as family photos, there are quite a few of three people, Merrill and two others (one male, one female).
(18 November 2020)
Natasha, having already failed to get a good retrocognition of the main body of the museum when the robbery was taking place, tries to look at the loading dock… but again something goes wrong, and a nearby TV starts showing Reagan’s victory speech from 1980. Another try works better: an Econoline backs up to the loading dock, the hooded figures get out, one crowbars the shutter open while another hits the camera; then they switch to submachineguns, let off a burst, and move inside.
When they come back, two are looking quite shaken, while the other one is trying to maintain their confidence. They load their three trolleys full of items into the van, and depart. The three figures (two male of about the same height, one female a bit shorter) are consistent with the photos.
Natasha moves her viewpoint to the front licence plate of the van, where she can see both where the van’s going and the inside of the cab. After a turn or two they pull off the masks, and are indeed the same people. (Damian Merrill, now deceased, appears to have been the confident leader.) They drive west, then into a residential street where they look for a parked van, then break into it, transfer the goods and drive off.
Jade searches for the woman: nothing within 300 miles, but with longer range she seems to be in Louisiana, perhaps New Orleans. The other man is quite close to where Merrill was, in Springfield north of the centre of Jacksonville, and they go to look for him.
He’s in an apartment, with four doorbells on the street door. Juan and Natasha go in, but get no answer, so he climbs to the balcony and sees what looks like an improvised barricade inside the window. When he asks to be let in, a ragged voice tells him to keep away because “I’m armed”. There’s the sound of something heavy being moved around inside.
The balcony door is locked. When Juan says that he’ll be attacked by something supernatural and they want to help, he says he’s got his granny’s recipe: a great big gun.
Jade climbs up to join Juan. Juan climbs from the balcony to a window along the side of the house; there’s similar barricading behind that. Jesus breaks into the block, moves up to the front door, and prepares to cause annoyance with a loudspeaker.
In the end they decide to wait outside and see what happens. Then Jesus says, though the speaker just outside the front door of the apartment, “your front door lock is appalling”. Then the apartment explodes.
Jesus is knocked about by blast. All the windows blow out. Juan, who’s managed to hold on, looks inside: it’s on fire, though the recoilless rifle in the middle of the room is still recognisable. He and Jesus scan the room quickly; there are fragments of cash floating about, but nothing else obviously of interest.
They get away, Natasha fixing the broken windows on Jesus’ car as well as Jesus’ own injuries. At a nearby coffee shop (across the road from the county courthouse), she spies on the female thief: she’s in a touristy bar, not particularly full out of tourist season, drinking heavily and looking around nervously from time to time.
Natasha reads her memory, at a distance: she’s Cat Niemec, and lives a block down from the fellow they’ve just left. Cat fled when she heard what had happened to Damian. The stolen artefacts were sold to “Tim”, and she knows where he does business. She saw the attack on Leo, the security guard, rather better than Alex did; she got the impression that the Egyptian-looking man was running on automatic, a bit like her cousin in the Army who gets behind cover instantly when there’s a loud noise, then thinks about what’s happened and how to deal with it.
Natasha scries for the Egyptian-looking man: not within a thousand miles, nor anywhere on Earth. But the locust swarm is a few miles to the southwest, pretty much at Tim’s place. When they get there, the front door has been smashed off its hinges, and there are sounds of violence inside, crashing and banging with the occasional gunshot.
An animated mummy, with an amulet on a chain round its neck, is strangling a small man who’s just dropped his hand cannon. Jade leaps for the mummy, trying and failing to bear him to the ground. Juan tries and fails to knock the victim out of its grip. Natasha opens the clasp; the amulet starts to fall, and the mummy lets go of the victim with one hand and grabs it. Jade claws at its neck, ripping bandages but doing superficial damage. Juan continues to try to pull the victim free; instead, the mummy throws the victim into a solid wall. Jade tries to bite off the hand holding the amulet, but he whips it out of the way. Jesus shoots, and makes a bit of a hole, but not much of one.
Natasha moves over to Tim; he’s technically dead, but might be worth a try to heal. The mummy immediately moves over and kicks her hard. Jade leaps onto its back, slamming it hard enough that while it does stay upright the amulet drops to the ground. Juan and Jesus shoot, but it gets out of the way, stooping to try to grab the amulet but failing. Jade grabs it in her jaws, and runs further into the house; and the mummy dissolves into a cloud of locusts, which start to disperse. Juan catches one. Jesus breaks one of Natasha’s amulets, and all the locusts still in the house fall dead to the ground. Natasha heals herself slightly, but clearly isn’t in good shape and loses consciousness. Juan and Jade go outside to see where the locusts are going: it’s south-east towards the shoreline.
(16 December 2020)
The team leaves the site in haste, and gets Natasha to Jade’s father, who burns incense; Natasha wakes up feeling distinctly odd, then manages to heal herself further.
She pokes at the amulet; it’s very specifically designed to strengthen a mummy created with a particular ritual. It needs to be in contact with the mummy in order to have this effect. There’s no intrinsic magical connection between mummy and amulet.
Destroying the amulet seems like a good idea, though from what Jesus knows about undead in general it might be quite a challenge.
A chemical supply store provides constituents and tools for making thermite, and the assembly is routine. They go to a patch of swamp to conduct the procedure. The thermite burns very nicely, but the amulet is still there afterwards. Throwing a bucket of water over it cools it off, but doesn’t break it.
It looks as though only the death of the mummy will make it possible to destroy the thing. They set it in concrete to prevent the mummy from getting it back, at least quickly, and Natasha makes it harder to detect by magic.
The evening news mentions a local businessman found beaten to death by robbers – Charlie Lundgren, whom they looked into earlier. Since the other name they have as a receiver of artefacts is David Lynwood, they set off through the storm (which seems to be arriving early) to find him. This area has large houses set back from the road, but they can hear the sounds of violence from roughly the right place; a man with a sub-machinegun is struggling hand to hand with the mummy.
Jade charges in to slam, but without much effect. Juan shoots… and the mummy falls over. The victim fires a burst from his SMG. Jesus and Natasha close in as Jade tears the mummy to pieces. The man fires at Jade, but she gets out of the way, and the party starts to shout at him to stop; he doesn’t lower the gun, but he does stop pulling the trigger for the moment. The mummy starts to dissolve.
Lynwood asks whether Charlie sent them; they deny it and say that they’re freelancers, hunting down things like this. Lynwood is evidently a high-level drug dealer, but admits that he might have bought some antiquities recently.
They warn him to keep a look out for locusts, then leave. As they’re departing, they see a few SUVs full of enthusiastic local businessmen making haste to Lynwood’s home.
They return through the storm to Jesus’ place and batten down. Natasha checks whether the storm has been altered by magic; yes it has, it’s been pulled off its track and made to move much faster than it would, and that magic is ongoing.
She looks at the magic at various points in the storm, and sees where the lines cross: the centre of the attraction is at the Museum of Art. It seems as though it might be worth a trip, though the roads are closed and people are being told to stay in their homes. Natasha looks into establishing a gate directly to the target; it’s a difficult working, but she should be up to it.
First she looks into the museum, inside the loading dock entrance; the lights are off, except for the emergency exit lights. In the direction of the main part of the museum is a flickering light, perhaps candlelight; and from that direction come several voices, speaking in unison in a language she doesn’t recognise.
She causes the portal to appear. Both Jade and Juan can smell something large and lizardlike, and they go forward first. In the main hall they see a group of people seated in a circle, chanting, surrounding a large crocodilian that’s standing on its hind legs and appears to be directing the proceedings. Jade charges, but the crocodilian gets out of the way. Some of the chanters stop, and several of them scramble for safety.
Jade recognises the creature as an alligator (though not an albino), and moves closer. The thing bites at her, though she evades and bites back; it has tough scales. Juan and Jesus shoot; Juan does some damage but it gets out of the way of Jesus’ shot. Natasha tries to stun it with a charm, but it shakes off the effect. It keeps trying to bite; Jade claws it across the neck, which does some damage; it seems pretty tough against bullet hits too, though not invulnerable. The creature tries a tail-whip against Jade, but doesn’t connect; her claws slice into its neck. Natasha’s second charm works, but it manages to clear the effects fairly quickly. Juan charges in with a dagger, attacking furiously; it’s still upright at that point, but looks distinctly wobbly.
(30 December 2020)
Jade swipes with her feet, and Juan with the knife, and they make more progress. Jesus tries to kick one of the people who are still chanting, but doesn’t manage to connect; he switches to a stun gun and makes contact with one of the chanters, who slumps – then passes the gun to Juan. Jade continues to trade blows, while Juan pushes the stun gun down the thing’s throat, only to find his hand following as it bites down. The creature collapses, sparks a bit, and stops moving. Jade cuts its head off, and slits down so that Jesus can retrieve the hand; Natasha reattaches the hand, and pumps in more healing.
The others have stopped chanting, and are looking confused and scared. The body starts to disintegrate. Jesus goes to make coffee, and finds some in a restoration workshop, where he spots an obsidian-edged club sitting on a workbench. The victims don’t remember what happened; and the storm, that was being held in place over this building, seems to be moving on. It seems that the club got damaged during the robbery…
The group hangs around until morning, when the sky is clear and the water has gone down a bit;
 Subsection: Monday 21 October 2019 Up Section: 1.06 …Versus the Aztec Mummy Section: 1.07 All Night Suckers