Blood Ties

Part 3: A Whitechapel Digression

April 26, 1937
Roderick returns in the morning, having been out in Springfield where his son Marcus has been hospitalized following a stabbing. The police have a suspect, William Mitchell, in custody, as Marcus was found in William's apartment and William was the only one there when the police broke down the door. A visit to Marcus and then to William suggest with aura-sight that Marcus is trapped in a dream world of some sort, and he can only be rescued by people going in after him. Also, depending on the power of the dream in question, having a bunch of people together to anchor each other is good, to prevent them from being sucked into the dream without much personal volition. William says that he and Marcus were taking some drugs, which are in the sugar tin.

Roderick contacts the Valiants, as he thinks he'll need help breaking and entering into William's flat, and then to get into the dream world to rescue Marcus. Eddie is dubious as to whether he can help with the dream world part. Dr. Schreber is also contacted; Roderick arranges to go to Arkham, where Gerti and Junior are also heading due to the previous night's dream where Junior scratched his face.

Roderick isn't able to tell anything about Junior's aura, but psychometry on the snake scale says it belongs to a greedy / jealous / insane woman. Roderick remembers some stuff about face dancers when the scars are described to him. The first thing you do to become a face dancer is take your own face off and put it back on. Apparently they kill their teachers to take their faces, so their teachers can live forever. And they have life energy to some extent based on the faces they've taken, so they may be harder to kill than normal people. Snakes are traditional creatures to take the faces of, because snakes already shed their skins...

Gerti leaves Junior with Esme, and then everyone hops on the train to Springfield from various different stations.

Dr. Schreber takes Charlie into another car to talk to him, and draws a glove and slaps him across the face with it. Charlie says "What was that for?" in utter bewilderment, and then punches Dr. Schreber. Dr. Schreber says he might have known, picks up his glove, and stalks off. Charlie follows, still wondering what all that was about.

Roderick thinks everyone should go into the dream. There's some concern that someone should be left as a guard - what if the face dancers show up? Roderick doesn't think Marcus's attack is connected with the face dancers, and that they should have a hard time tracking people here.

Roderick talks to a policeman about retrieving Marcus's stuff from the apartment. A cop takes him there, unlocking the outer building door; the inner apartment door is broken, with police tape across it. Roderick notes that a window is unlocked, and there are bloodstains on the bed. He psychometries around some, picking up "happy cuddly somewhat befuddly AAAAH KNIFE KNIFE KNIFE!" (He later also picks up a general malevolent aura, but doesn't notice it now).

The group returns that night, with Eddie climbing through the window (Tommy is quite worried Eddie will fall off the fire escape) and letting everyone else through the door. Roderick unearths the drug stash from the sugar tin, which Dr. Schreber confidently identifies as axle grease. No, wait, it's opium. Everyone has some (though Charlie is a bit less enthusiastic than he has been in the past, and it's unclear whether Sheila inhales.) Then things get fuzzy, and everyone wakes up again in 221B Baker Street...

Eddie is Sherlock Holmes. Tommy is Inspector Lestrade, who is here to consult with the great consulting detective regarding several murders of prostitutes. Gerti is Mrs. Hudson, the housekeeper, and Charlie is Mr. Hudson, her husband, who has walked her to work. Dr. Schreber is Dr. Watson, and Sheila is his assistant Sheila. Appearing at the door is Roderick, as the 14-year-old Harry Houdini, who is worried about his missing cousin Mary Jane Kelly, as apparently one of her friends, Polly Nichols, has turned up dead. Lestrade recognizes the name as the first murder. Gerti and then Eddie start to recognize the references to Whitechapel as Jack the Ripper - Tommy / Lestrade is horrified when he realizes. Unfortunately, people don't remember a lot of details about the murders, aside from the fact that they weren't nearly as frequent as one per night, which they seem to be in this dream.

Everyone heads out to the address Harry provides for Mary Jane's room in a flophouse. Roderick / Harry is insistent that everyone stick together, lest they be turned into NPCs in the dreamworld. Whitechapel is a fairly unpleasant section of London, as it turns out, and Mary Jane's room is no exception. The bloodstains on the bed match the ones in William's apartment. There are some bloody footprints fleeing down the hall, but even Holmes can't follow them through the streets. Psychometry gives hints of malevolence, escape, flames, and a very shiny knife.

Mrs. Hudson tries to ask around at a nearby pub for rumors about the murders, but has no luck. The group proceeds to the scene of Polly's murder. Holmes turns up some footprints for the Ripper, but they have utterly no detail. Harry speculates that this is because the dream itself is filling in the details in most cases - if one were to look in a rubbish tin, there would be appropriate detailed rubbish. And the dream world has filled in details for all of them. If it's not filling in details for Jack, then that's because he's in some sense more powerful than it is. Everyone carefully avoids looking at Sheila.

Harry decides that magnets are, again, the answer, and he and Lestrade head off to buy a compass, agreeing to meet back on a particular Whitechapel corner. Everone else, somewhat forgetting the existence of these two, heads back to Baker Street. Lestrade goes back to his office to push papers around, having become completely an NPC. Harry starts following the compass, making a big circle around Whitechapel.

At some point, Holmes remembers that Lestrade was involved in here somehow, and the group goes to call upon him in his office. At that point, they realize that they've lost Harry, and dash back to Whitechapel to look for him. The Baker Street Irregulars are dispatched to look both for Harry and for Mary Ann, while Lestrade asks the posted constables if they've seen the boy. Yes, they have, he's gone past here twice with a compass. They wait there for him, and not long afterwards, one of the Irregulars turns up with Harry, who now remembers what he said initially about not splitting the party lest one be completely assimilated into the dream.

Having put in a hard day's work, everyone heads home, fade to black, to meet up again in the morning at Baker Street. Lestrade has had another report of a murder.

Everyone trundles off again to follow Harry's compass, which is again making a big circle around Whitechapel. They follow it to the center, which is a grubby alley with a pile of rubbish, which Mary Jane appears to have taken shelter in. Dr. Watson forgets to use anesthetic when he tries to suture up the cut on her throat, and she tries to flee, but she's brought to heel by Harry, who tries to make her realize she's Marcus and needs to shape up.

They bring her back to Baker Street where she's bandaged up some and curls up on a sofa. Exactly what to do now is unclear - the exit to the dream isn't yet apparent. Sheila points out that this might be the exit for Harry, and he might well be able to escape the dream, but for Holmes and Lestrade and company, the end of the story is when they catch the bad guy.

They go search the center of the circle again, but don't find a villain. There's some concern that he might not actually be physically *in* the dream except during the time when he strikes - that's part of the point of the Ripper, that he comes from nowhere and then vanishes again. The stories about the Ripper don't have bits about how he sleeps in a hotel during the day.

But it would be good to have another shot at him before the final attack, which it is assumed will take place at the center of the circle, against Mary Jane. However, if the group waits for another day, there will be another murder. There's some argument as to whether or not it matters if a dream figment gets killed - Holmes / Eddie is concerned about saving the next victim, while Harry / Roderick is quite insistent that it doesn't matter how many prostitutes and policemen die, because they aren't real. Eddie is not entirely convinced.

Additionally, will the group be able to spend a night waiting without fading to black again? ("We can't do watch shifts! [Mary Beth] might walk off during the ellipsis!" - Roderick) Mr. Hudson / Charlie (as the character with the least connection the fiction, he has the ability to look behind the scenes) has an idea - to fool the dream into thinking that a different person is the next victim, and getting the Ripper to attack a stalking horse. A police report is written, dated tomorrow, detailing how the Ripper attacked a prostitute called "Mary Beth" who was really Holmes in disguise. Dr. Watson writes up a medical report on the relatively superficial injuries suffered in the apprehension of the Ripper. The Irregulars are detailed to spread a rumor that Mary Beth is next on the list to be attacked.

The group (including Watson, Sheila, and Mary Ann in a nearby building) hides around the center-of-the-circle area. Harry climbs up behind a drainpipe (both Harry and Dr. Watson appear to be having a lot of fun with being spryer than usual). The Hudsons lurk at the mouth of the alley impersonating a prostitute and her customer making out. Holmes, dressed quite convincingly as Mary Beth, trolls in and out of the alley looking for customers.

He gets a customer, who doesn't seem to be terribly nefarious. There's a sudden panic of "Wait, what do I do now" which involves some scuffling with the customer ("Mary Beth, are you mistreating the customers? You'll get knifed!" - Gerti). He eventually flees in indignation, taking back his two pennies.

A second customer tries to pick up Mary Beth - this time, Holmes is sort of entranced, and blithely walks back into the alley to have his throat cut. Everyone else notices that this particular gentleman is tall, dark, and menacing, and in addition, he has neither eyes nor mouth, just holes into a dark space with flames in them. He does have a very very shiny real-looking knife. A combat ensues. Holmes is stabbed twice, Mrs. Hudson is stabbed once, Dr. Watson is stabbed once as he tries to get in between Jack and Mrs. Hudson; Jack then hamstrings Dr. Watson as he tries to flee. Many people pound on Jack. Dr. Watson shoots Sheila (she is appalled), and one of Lestrade's cops shoots Mr. Hudson (rounding out all four limbs and the torso for Charlie). Lestrade tries to shoot the knife, but the bullet vanishes as it hits the blade. Attacking Jack's weapon arm is a little more effective. In the end, numbers take their toll, and Jack falls, dropping the knife. Everyone wakes up again back in Springfield, where not a lot of time has passed.

Roderick notes that people are still missing 1/3 to 2/3 of their auras (in the way that Marcus was missing about 1/3 of his), and they're very tired, though Charlie is only somewhat bruised from where he was shot by the bobby. Poking around more with aura sight, Roderick locates the knife in a hidden compartment in an antique desk. He picks up the knife, and then tries to attack Eddie with it (but misses). Dr. Schreber asks Sheila to restrain him, as he grabs for a sedative. She grabs Roderick's wrist, takes the knife away, and puts it on the desk. It gets put in a bag and taken to the Springfield hotel room.

Roderick goes to see Marcus, who has woken up. There's a decided lack of Touchy Feeliness in the meeting, as Marcus is embarassed and Roderick is dour, but Marcus does say thank you.

Back at the hotel again, Roderick attempts an exorcism of the knife, and manages to get back out without losing his soul. Everyone stays in the same room to make sure nobody tries to pick up the knife in their sleep, which is a good thing, because Roderick does. He ends up being tied to the bed by his ankle, and nearly killing himself later when he trips out of bed.

Father MacNamara (everyone's favorite weirdshit-fighting priest) is called, and agrees to help do a more serious exorcism in church the next day. While there are a few slips during which Father MacNamara tries to grab the knife, and a break has to be taken, putting the knife inside several animal cages does the trick, and Tommy sees a number of ghosts departing. Including, in the end, little partial ghosts of Eddie, Gerti, Dr. Schreber, and Marcus. (Gerti and Eddie in particular are disturbed by the thought of parts of their soul going to heaven without her).

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