4783/Sealed With a Kiss

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Sealed With a Kiss
Date of Scene: 18 January 2021
Location: Midtown, New York City
Synopsis: A medium comes to reclaim a package, and it turns out to be more than Jacqueline bargains for.
Cast of Characters: Meggan Puceanu, Jacqueline Falsworth

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
Sometime around dinner, there's a delivery. New York has condos aplenty. One tower becomes very much like another when your job is driving around all day in a little Sprinter van with packages, envelopes, and boxes piled to the roof. The siren call of free enterprise doesn't have much to offer the university student pulling a double shift to try and offset the cost of his student loans. Even getting parking in front of a building is difficult so he squeezes into the loading zone. Earbuds in drown out the world with rough lyrics for a kid who grew up in a nice part of Queens.

There really are nice parts of Queens, honest.

Sitting there like a stone, a squarish box awaits. It's been hastily papered, wrapped end to end in clear packaging tape so it shines. The packaging tape bears more packaging tape to make it impervious to the rain, wind, and loose fingers. The driver hesitates, his lanyard swinging side to side. Gloved hands reach, then retract. A good two minutes staring is money lost, so he scoops up the cheap, battered plastic crate by the handholds and carts it like it weighs fifty-five kilos rather than the two kilos, tops, it really does.

"Heyo, heyo, delivery!" he announces too loudly when he gets in the building. Probably someone guarding the doors, buzzing them in. Always is. The FedLex name badge identifies him to get access, but he can't swing it around with his hands full to the person at the front door or heck, the owner of said package herself. "Get this one away from me! Gotta run, it's all yours!" Stamps printed manually from a scale cover a corner, the return address simply marked as a zipcode and T. Faneuil. The address is the building, no name listed, just the suite. Pity the hasty scrawl transposes a digit. That's what makes life interesting, the slurry of ink that probably ate the recipient's name.

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
When bulding security lets Jacqueline know there's a package for her, she comes down more curious than anything else. She hasn't, she hopes, been in the city long enough to either make enemies or for her current enemies to track her down. Doesn't matter that this building is technically owned by a FI subsidiary. So are several others in the city and surrounding burrows.

She's been an agent with MI-13 long enough to know to watch her six and never trust unsolicited mail, however. So, her curiousity is tempered. "Thank you, David," she says to the middle-aged man in the crisp blue suit at the concierge desk. "I'll take it..."

Then she's looking at the package, her brows receding some into her strawberry hairline. "Well," she murmurs... "Someone certainly didn't want this opened before it arrived."

Of course, the name on it is wrong. She glances to David. "Have you ever heard of T. Faneuil?" she asks him. Maybe he was a previous resident.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
There lies a handsome box in all its packaged glory, stuck in the bottom of the white corrugated plastic crate. At least this helps for the transport or tossing it out into the bin.

David is happy to pass over the package and get the deep white container off his desk. Watching the delivery man go, he shakes his head. "You know, used to be a time when they wore uniforms, came in crisp as a newspaper, and might even whistle," he says. "I'm afraid we may never see the like again, Ms. Falsworth." Pushing back his office chair, he stands to properly look over the smeared labels and writing. "Faneuil? Can't say I know anyone named that, but I know -of- Faneuil Hall. Market in Boston, quite the spot before the Revolution. The missus insisted on seeing it a few years back. You want me to look up the zipcode on my phone and check?"

Luckily the box isn't ticking. Whatever is inside is extremely well insulated against being knocked about, but it has a bit of heft to it, a feeling of being quite solid and dense.

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
"Yes," Jacqueline says slowly. "If you wouldn't mind, David. Perhaps I'll arrange to have it redirected there in the morning." Or maybe she'll dig into what happened to the Faneuils. She could use a distraction from work... and it's not like she knows too many others in the city she'd actually like to spend time with, right now.

She hefts the crate and looks down at what's in it. Her expression returns to her initial curiosity. Still, she glances to him and gives a small smile. "I don't doubt you're right about the uniforms and past attention to detail. I must say, I think I miss that." For all that she looks far too young to remember it.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
"No trouble at all, ma'am." That's upstanding New York manners instilled by years at a good boys school, then a good university, then good employment. David pulls out a sleek phone and promptly goes inquiring of a search engine about the numbers. 02108 get plunked in, and a few seconds later, the obliging website displays a neat white box with a green map, a blue marker over it. "Fancy that, ma'am. Boston, Massachussetts. It covers a good portion of downtown Boston. Looks like the Boston Common and quite a few government buildings." He shows Jacqueline the screen for her own information. "Is there anything else tonight?"

He isn't rushing to shoo her off, but manners demand. Her smile is mirrored in his. "Be sure to tell me if you find out anything exciting. Hopefully not a year's worth of tax documents!"

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
Jacqueline's brows rise as the zipcode turns out to be some place in Boston. "Well, that's a surprise," she says. She gives David a smile. "Thank you," she says to him. She picks up the crate. "You've been more than helpful, David. I think I'm good now. I'll take this upstairs, shall I?"

With that, she returns to the elevator and her penthouse at the top of the building. There, she sets it on a table inside the entry foyer to the condo. Intending to leave it there, to redirect it in the morning, she walks a few steps away. Ultimately, though, she finds herself back there, looking into that crate again. She reaches in to pick up the package itself, wanting a closer look, even if she's not prepared to open it.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
David respectfully nods and returns to his counter, prepared to keep watch over the world. All's well that ends well, as far as he is concerned. Besides, the city rumbles on and other important business awaits.

The package itself doesn't seem odd. All that tape has been applied in haste, though, with the clear intention of keeping the brown paper sealing it intact. Whomever wrote the addresses clearly didn't spend much time on that, but wanted to make the thing essentially proof against being tampered with. Nothing marks the back or the sides like a stamp, except for one very small splotch under the paper. On the bottom corner, perhaps unseen to most except an actual spy looking for details, is a splotch. Mostly round, it has the feeling of something dried neatly into the paper.

Brown paper, brown stain. Like a drop of dried blood. Not quite coffee.

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
Jacqueline is from an age when packages wrapped in brown paper were commonplace. And, sadly, when many of those packages ended up stained with blood and other, less wholesome, fluids. She knows what dried blood looks like on brown paper. "Oh, bother," she sighs.

She picks the thing up and takes it into the better light of the kitchen, fetching a small knife from a drawer. "Appologizes, T. Faneuil. I'll tape it right back up again, if I'm wrong." She can totally do that.

Thus, she carefully takes her knife to the packaging, seeking to free whatever's inside from its external wrapping.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
T. Faneuil ought to have known better, sending that package to a smeared swathe of ink. He got Jacqueline's address, and it's only fair she respond to a package delivered fairly and squarely? Besides, the FedLex delivery system ought to have notified him that his package was delivered to the desired New York address. Responsibility only goes so far.

The knife sinks into two and a half layers of tape. Sticky, tacky glue clings to the cutting edge. Splitting off the clear outer shell reveals the paper, and it's been neatly cut from a pair of shopping bags for a supermarket and welded together to protect a shoebox. Men's shoes, Italian loafers, in a size 8.5. The contents of that box most certainly aren't likely to be shoes: too solid. Much more like a book.

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
Jacqueline takes an extraordinary amount of time opening the box -- particularly given how fast she can go. She's a spy. She's checking for traps. Expecially explosive ones. (Cleaning up afterward is exceptionally inconvenient.)

When she finally gets it free of the tape, she delicately loosesn the edge of the boxtop, prying it off with much care. But, when it ends up open enough for her to see what's in it, she takes a closer look.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
Layers upon layers go. The paper is a hasty job, cut to wrap around the box. The box itself is solid enough, dented in a corner. The hints of wear on the bottom of the box imply it sat on a shelf for a bit, as do traces of dust. Clearly repurposed after a long stint idle or stuffed away somewhere. A sniff would give that hint of dustiness too under a very strange collection of odors. Nothing explosive, fortunately.

The box smells odd, like burnt frankincense that was scorched from overheating or too strong a flame. A bit eyewatering, that. Something else registers: a touch waxy, almost greasy. Not strong, but that could be the result of a lid being on the shoebox. When it pops off, the fragrance grows stronger and clearly there's a bit of a grease ring around the tissue paper that probably held those nice loafers. Odd considering the book there: an old, leather-wrapped volume that could just be a missing volume of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1889 edition. Except there's no stamp on the front cover, the worn out gold lettering reading 'Records of the Sisters of Charity' and a year in Roman numerals almost totally wiped off the aged, stamped leather. Raw edges of fine paper stick out around the edges. A fairly handsome piece, really. But the cover is slightly crooked, not lying flush against the pages. A slight bulge is visible.

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
Jacqueline is used to fine, old things. Her father's collection of books is impressive, still preserved at Falsworth Manor in England. She's even seen old leatherbound tomes before now.

Of course, she's also seen a whole lot of spellbooks, too. This isn't her first mystic rodeo. "Sisters of Charity," she reads. She's not sure if that name rings a bell or not. She lays the tome on the table and runs her fingers over it gently. Slowly, eying that bulge for a moment, she starts to pull back that cover and look inside.

Yeah. For a speedster? She's really not that fast.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
The Sisters of Charity have a copyright mark and a very spindly set of faded handwriting, documenting the work of Sisters Teresa, Maria, and Angelica in the preservation of said records. Most are printed in black ink pressed hard into the page. A quick flip reveals their boiler plate: The Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul of New York. An address indicates the Bronx, Riverdale to be precise, which corresponds to the existing liberal arts college there run by the same Catholic order. The text is all pretty dull, accounting for annual spending, charitable works, the dry litany of good works from nearly a century ago. Certain notations gently made on the side are much newer, apparently referencing the index or a set of footnotes. Really, fair dull. But if that were all, a sorry story it would make.

Flipping the pages past skims over the revenues of a year, and Sister Angelica's tireless efforts for the foundling hospital or the college. Then it tips right into the middle where that bulge is. An envelope gone completely translucent bleeds that same grease ring that a really cheap hamburger would leave on wax paper. The contents barely fit inside, paper straining to not tear apart with a touch. That may be because of the texture: it's not paper. Something too thick for that. It smells, too, of grease, of wax, of fat. Something oily, which is proven the same to Jacqueline's touch. A fresh red wax stamp marked by a Christian cross and a quartered symbol of some kind. Definitely feels Catholic, associated with one of the larger local cathedrals in New York.

But that smell's oddly specific, oddly familiar, as it emanates from the fouled envelope.

About the same time, a buzzer or a phone, whatever the front would normally use to ring up to her, politely sounds.

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
Going through the book, Jacqueline doesn't find herself all that interested in the text of it. It seems more something to send to an analyst. However, the thing in the center of the book? She knows what that is. The smell. The texture. "Oh, bloody hell..." she swears. "Bloody flipping hell." Yeah, that's not good. That's human skin. And probably fresher than not, to still be so oily.

But then the buzzer is sounding and she's aware of someone at the door. "Naturally," she grumbles. And then the room is alight in spitfire. She takes the book, the skin, the packaging -- all of it -- and deposits it in the oven. It's about the safest place she can manage in between heartbeats, short of taking it outside. She comes to a dead stop and sprays a short squirt of air freshener. Then, she's speeding again, making sure the apartment is entirely unlikely to attract a visitor's undue attention.

Only then does she go to the door. She stands beside the door for just a moment, letting the air and the spitfire settle. Then, she brings up the camera intercom. "Can I help you?"

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
Human flesh in a paper envelope, it's the revenge of the trees for being turned into humble pulp. Probably not, though. There might well be writing on the pages stuffed in there, but the way they are enclosed does not give a strong visual cue for that. In the oven, it just adds to the usual smells of cooked food that might linger. Better than nothing.

The buzzer's barely faded from hearing when all is said and done. The benefits to being quick as that, Jacqueline need never worry about a cleaning bill.

The intercom displays David in his fine suit and a petite woman in her mid-to-late thirties. Everything about her speaks to quiet, tailored decorum: smart tweed coat, pencil skirt, proper shoes. She carries a handbag and wears a patterned light scarf, exuding business professional with a twist. Nothing especially strange. She very well might be familiar; her name's on a mailbox, part of a real estate contract, in proximity to the condo.

"Ma'am? I have a Mrs..." David begins.

"Ms.," the very short woman corrects him softly. True to form, no rings on that left hand.

"Pardon, Ms. Flora Lopez. Ms. Lopez received a notice of a package delivery, albeit misdirected to our care. May I send her up?"

"So terribly sorry for the fuss." Her name might be indicative of her origins, but that accent? Pure New York, clear and precise. "I came directly from the Met when I received the alert. I had no idea of any deliveries or else I would have directed them to come to the office."

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
Jacqueline arches a brow and gives David a surprisingly easy smile. "By all means, David. Please. Do send her up." Because she has questions for Ms Lopez. Lots and lots of questions.

She considers the fact she's probably got time, knowing how long the elevator takes, to get the package all wrapped up again. The question is, does she want to?

No. No, she really doesn't.

She's seen too much weird crap in her life to want to just pass this on without comment. And perhaps the woman will have answers. With the right motivation.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
"Thank you, ma'am. Right up in a moment." David steps aside to guide Ms. Lopez to the elevator, and it's only a few minutes tops before she travels up the floors in good time. Doors might be heard opening with a soft ding, and the barely audible click of her sensible shoes muffled on the floor.

A knock announces her to Jacqueline later. It's a light sound, proportionate to her modest stature. In person, she is barely five feet tall and tidily arranged, her purse slung over her arm. Gloves removed and tucked in her pockets of her coat add tasteful flashes of lilac leather.

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
Jacqueline gestures for the woman to enter. The white crate sits on the side table in the entry. The shoebox is now in it -- the bloodied piece of brown wrapper with it. The book is not in evidence.

"Ms Lopez," the MI-13 agent says cooly. "Do come in. Please. I don't suppose you'd be willing to tell me how this little mix up happened, would you?"

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
The white crate doesn't quite get a look from Flora. More important that she offers her hand in a greeting, if Jacqueline is willing to take it. "Good evening," she speaks clearly, warm to that coolness, but not rude. "I must apologize for the inconvenience. With my working hours, I prefer to receive deliveries at work. This was a surprise, normally my professional contacts courier items directly due to the size. Art restoration, you see." That smile is polite, not too wide. "In the conservation lab, reception is notably poor and I didn't receive the notification until my break. Was it dropped off that long ago?"

Only then does she look aside, and then back. "May I? I can show you the email the company sent. The man downstairs checked it against my driver's license.

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
"Long enough," Jaqueline says, accepting the woman's hand briefly. She still smiles politely, nonetheless. "I'd be interested to see your credentials, yes," she admits. "Do you often work nights? It seems unusual to take delivery at this time in the evening."

She doesn't move to show the woman the crate or the box. Instead, she leaves it sitting, obviously, on that side table. "Where is it you work?"

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
"I'll submit a complaint with customer service for the inconvenience. No one likes having their mail misdirected or delivered." Flora withdraws her hand, clasping it over her purse handle once the smart bag slides off her shoulder. She is quite willing to remove her shoes. Unclasping the top, she produces her cellular phone and whisks over to the FedLex app.

The screen shows a delivery confirmation with a tracking number, Jacqueline's address below, a neat array of standardized messages and timestamps showing departure from the New York facility, arrival from Boston, all the way back to sending. The package send date corresponds to four days prior. Slow, but not unreasonable, given the time of year.

"I work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art." A quick show of her driver's license corresponds to her name, address literally a door over on the block. Age 37. Behind a neat bank card, a security pass stamped with Met credentials has her face, too. "I start at 10 after the Met opens, and continue until 7, most days. For the important works, it goes as long as half past 9." She shakes her head. "Sadly, we have a few older pieces sent over from the Getty in dire need of loving care." Another look ticks past Jacqueline, and she shakes her head. "I don't get the sense you are one for small talk and don't wish to intrude any more than necessary. Theodore surely didn't mean to cause any headaches, but he's gone and done so anyway. A sweet man, but a bit out of the world."

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
"Mm," Jacqueline regards the woman for a long moment, blue eyes piercing. "Forgive me, Ms Lopez. Given the threats that are sometimes leveled against me, given my position--" That would be CEO of a major international corporation --"I've learned to take certain liberties. I expect you'll be more put out with me than your customer service. But I really must ask: Were you intending to take delivery of a bleeding piece of human skin, or is Mr. Faneuil perhaps a little more 'out of the world' than you initially thought?"

She watches the woman carefully for her reaction, now. She's lived nearly 100 years. She's an excellent judge of character and can often spot the subtlest tells as a result. Not to mention the fact she's paranoid about being attacked by vampires and other things that disguise themselves as human but still go bump in the night.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
For a moment, there's just silence. How does a normal comprehend those words? Make them fit into the slots in the mind where language goes, crunch them down, and spit out an answer? Flora has presence of mind enough not to open her mouth and leave it wagging. She starts to answer, and words fail her. The second try is a stammer. "I b-beg your pardon?" Horizontal wrinkles crease her forehead, her eyebrows cresting. "What? I don't think I heard you right. Pardon me, a skin. A human skin?" The hallmarks of surprise are hard to fake credibly to someone who knows the tells, and she clutches her purse like a woman suddenly lost in the fog rather than finding an island. Flora isn't feigning that confounded state.

"Theodore." A swallow. "Brother Faneuil, he's a Jesuit. His great love is study, the libraries, it always has been. An archivist for the Church! We've worked together for years. Why? Why he would have it? He's pushing eighty. Where would he even /get/ it? Have you opened it? Oh God, the police. Your fingerprints..."

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
Jacqueline's ears rise faintly as she watches the woman process the information. A wry smile touches her lips. "I have great respect for the Church," she says evenly. "Most of the time." There have been times when she's met souls more corrupt than what the Church typically tolerates within its ranks. But, then, every organization fighting the Good Fight is prone to a little 5th column action once in a while.

"I opened it because it was bleeding, Ms Lopez. I've seen blood more than you might credit. I found it... too disturbing not to investigate. So, yes. I opened it. And I have to say... I'm not particularly concerned about the police."

Because she knows the Church has its own branch of clean-up artists. And if this legitmately came from them, they'll end up knocking on her door before long. If Lopez, herself, isn't already affiliated with them.

She studies her for a moment. "Shall I show it to you? Have you the stomach for it?" Never mind the clarity.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
"I'll try not to be sick. But you need salt. Holy water if you have it, but immediately salt." Flora's face is going ashen, her olive complexion doing little to cover that. For the moment she is beside herself enough to look around sharply and then back to Jacqueline. To the box, away to the woman. "In a circle around yourself and the table. A bleeding piece of skin is deeply troubling."

Her tone is a bit off, but solid enough advise as she hugs herself, her purse, the same moment needed for stability as calm that won't show. "I am so sorry. What compelled him to send this, I cannot fathom. We spoke about religious icons and the messages in paintings. He loved nothing more than seeing the grime washed clean. You must believe me. Brother Theodore couldn't do this unless there were something terrible." Her throat closes, a cough forming. Her gaze shifts again.

"Quickly, then."

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
The mention of salt catches Jacqueline's attention, as does the tone of the woman's voice. "Right-o," she says, moving to the kitchen with the woman. "Why don't you tell me who you really are, Ms Lopez? This isn't my first encounter with the occult. And if you're insisting we cast some sort of protective circle, I'd consider it a courtesy if you'd perhaps let me in on the details of what we're facing. I think you'll find I'm more capable than I may initially appear."

She pulls the thing from its hiding place and lays it on the table. There is a salt shaker on the table, of course, but once the book is there, she fetches the salt box from the pantry, as well. "Do you need candles?" She pauses. "Also I should warn you: If you're playing me false, we will have words. And they will not be pleasant." They will also be accompanied by physical violence.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
Flora isn't comfortable and it shows in the rigid way she moves, in the wider whites around her eyes. "Candles? What, no. They're not necessary." Her distance from that box is measured, mostly because the surprise and a heavy leavening of grief are wound together. Questions that Jacqueline can answer dent her brow, groove her lips into a frequent frown. Her head comes up too fast at the threat, and she has that look of someone confronted by such words before. It has an ugly bruise over her expression, her head dropping and gaze lost somewhere in the space between the wall and the floor.

"The salt's enough," she says, tone losing its fullness. "It is for you. Not for me. Like a wall, and a grounding rod. You know, how they catch electricity?" Her gloves stay off. She fusses with her collar, opening the top button on the fitted coat. The scarf can stay. "I perceive ephemeral entities. Ghosts. The dead." A bluntness to the delivery simplifies the matters. "They can speak sometimes. Sometimes I start writing. It's not controlled. A bloody scrap might cause it. There could be something to learn. Does that satisfy you?"

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
"Psychography?" Jacqueline says, lifting a brow again. She considers the risks, but realizes that her vampiric nature and her mutant abilities will probably allow her to react quickly enough to mitigate most of them. Though ghosts do present their own challenges.

"Very well," she says calmly. "Though at least tell me I am right in assuming your assertion of employment at the Museum is perhaps not as a conservator?" Because this whole thing smells like a cover, to her. Not necessarily a setup, but certainly a cover.

"Instruct me," she tells her. "And lets get to this."

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
"Automatic writing, yes." Flora doesn't deny that, though she is still looking away. Steeling herself for what's ahead, she pats her purse. A simple notebook, spiral-bound, and a pen do the trick. "I'll put these on the table with that paper. Wherever you put it, I need to see it. Mary have mercy on me, it works without touching." The idea has her green around the gills, a shudder going up her spine.

"Circle yourself in salt wide enough to be comfortable. Tell me when you are done. I look at the skin," she explains, speaking too quick, revolted and anxious all at once. "Ephemera are very rarely heard except by the medium. A one-sided conversation is common. Psychography lacks the drama." Resolved with her shoulders hunched forward, she waits for Jacqueline to take up the salt or flee, for all it makes a difference. Though a little pride jerks her chin to the box. "I am very much a conservator-restorer. The official title. Not a job for everyone, but preserving the old pieces gives me great joy. Someone cared enough to paint those images, and we carry that love and respect forward in the field."

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
The woman's pride is telling. It's hard to fake a lot of the responses Ms Lopez is showing. So, Jacqueline studies her a moment longer and simply nods, her lips pressing together. "Very well, Ms Lopez." Her tone gentles slightly and her cool expression doesn't so much warm as relent. It means she's building a modicum of trust.

She sets up the circle and stands within it. "Do what you can." A beat. "Just be aware, if you're in harm's way, I will act."

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
"You've specialized in fighting the invisible?" Flora does not want to look in that box. She does not want to approach any paper. "It is here, then?" Next comes the rumpled paper, the book. She looks into as though she expects a serpent to spring out. Maybe it will. "I'm going to open it now." With a deep breath her hands come to slowly rest on the leather cover, shaking lightly. Peeling it back reveals the printed pages, her fingers walking blindly among them like Jacqueline's did. Fewer layers, until that hideous envelope divulges its truth with a sick brush of oiled paper. "Mother Mary, it's foul." Her hand jerks back.

"The seal is right. His. Doesn't mean anything yet. Theodore uses the Jesuit mark with the elongated cross." Her nail slides over the red blob, and in her other hand, she picks up the pen. Nothing happens, even when she balances the point on the paper. A snap of dry wax doesn't make much noise, the barely holding envelope springing open. "Here we go. There are two pieces here. One has marks on this side. And maybe the other." Its line of glue is warped, not well flattened. Inside are the bloodied sheets, too thick, like vellum. A poke has them unravelling, but she has to pull them out. Doesn't want to, and does, like someone seized the puppet strings and lurched her forward over the table.

The ambient temperature freefalls as Flora does. Her head tilts, twisting, searching for a source. "The flesh is weak. The flesh is impure. With the might we command, these vessels... these... cages will fall. Our strength rises from the ashes. From the ashes, we taste fire and will be renewed. Do you hear chanting?" Her eyes are pure white.

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
"I specialize in fighting monsters," Jacqueline says as Flora reluctant approaches that book. "It seems I attract them." Case in point. She watches the woman begin her bloody work.

And as the temperature drops Jacqueline grimaces. Ghosts are one of the more difficult creatures to fight. She's not the best ritualist around. She prefers to call in others for that.

Doesn't mean she won't try.

Still, as the woman begins to speak, Jaqueline watches and listens. "I can't say I do," she says with regard to the chanting, "But that doesn't mean there isn't any..."

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
Ghosts indeed have opinions to make as the air parches, blanched of heat and scent, dipping into that sickly register of scorched incense. Flora grimaces and turns her face away, the elongated twist of her mouth unhappy. "Chanting. In Latin. The words are vile. It sounds like a prayer, if a prayer could be so disgusting." The pen lurches into movement, sketching out a rough, sharp letter.


"Let the lord clothe himself in mastery of the servants. His vestments will be as blood and flesh of the hosts," it comes out with a strange chant-like quality, singsong, even as her eyes are rolling, Jacqueline there but invisible to the otherworld the shaking woman sees. Still her pen moves. "No. No, I don't want to sing it. I won't."


A scratch of ink veers unwillingly over the page, scribbled out with none of the deliberation before. Excitement, hurried skims and scratches. "/No/. Unhand--" Her voice becomes a gurgle. Her throat convulses.

You. The pen drops from her fingers.

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
And that's about all Jacqueline can stand before she darts forward through the salt. Spitfire springs up around her. She pulls the woman to her, super strength making her as light as a child. Then, she retreats to the salt circle, sealing it again with the box she has kept with her. She isn't sure if it will free the woman or trap the ghost, but either way she has to do something.

The whole process takes her less than a regular human's resting heartbeat to complete. But her eyes gleam and fangs rest against the inside of her lips. Claws remain retracted, but she can feel them beneath her fingertips, wanting to strike at whatever enemy this may be. She just doubts they'll be useful, right now.

"Stay with me, Ms Lopez. Flora. Leave off all this. It's not worth your life or your soul."

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
Salt traps the incarnated ephemera, but the medium is frothing at the mouth, the milky shadows roiling through her eyes giving traces of images that aren't there. Claws flash into ephemeral sight, pale grey talons extending from grasping hands. Just the two, though the wicked length exceeds anything a normal person would have. Five digits conjoin into a distinctly humanoid palm, though the long, thin arms are stretched out of shape that anything humans would have. Likewise is the spectral ectoplasm dripping into ragged fringes that roil in response to the fire scorching the room, at once behaving like smoke and water. Flashes form where the hands hit the salt barrier. They can't pass.

Flora is small, her full weight not much beyond sixty-five kilos at best. A kicked off shoe drops to the floor, the leather starting to corrode almost immediately to a dried out shell. Pages crumble on the notebook, the pen's ink cracking in the cheap plastic container. The woman's purse isn't much better treated, and the stale, aged paper envelope and box go grey in a spreading wave of entropy.

A wheezing gasp, fraught and weak, at least asserts the body's control over basic functions. But the damage is there, windpipe deformed. The pulse is there, weak, frantic, too fast in the throes of some equivalent of a psychic overdose. A slip turns to terror, fright gripping her to some ashen corner. "Coming," she slurs, last vestiges of consciousness welling up. "Sp--" the bubbling noises aren't easy to overcome. "Spect--" The last syllable rolls away, a gurgle, but she can only hope the connection has been made.

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
"What's coming?" Jacqueline says, laying her down and keeping her within the salt circle. She looks up at the raging spectre. "Spectres?" she asks. "Too late. They're here." She needs to find some medical support. A healer, perhaps. Unfortunately, Jacqueline is too new to the city to know where a healer may be. That leaves the hospital and only if the woman survives.

"Stay with me, Flora. They can't cross the salt."

She watches them swipe futilely, baring her fangs to them. "Get back, ghoulies," she snarls, spilling a handful of salt into one palm and tossing it towards them. "This prey's not for you..."

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
Flora is there, to some extent, gliding in and out of unconsciousness. Skimming that sea keeps the medium little better than dead weight, but not fully prey to seizures and convulsions. Three more violent strikes fly, sending white flashes as the salt on the ground slowly greys, but holds.

A low, awful keening begins somewhere deep in the range that's felt more than heard. It rolls and languishes in the shadows of the room, ascending in sound. The medium moans, rigid as a board.

Jacqueline is heard, there can be no doubt of that. A streak of corruption ruins the varnish on any floorboards, or causes the carpet to look less fine. It builds out from a relative spot, giving a blind estimate of being near the table. The women are circled. The book is not, nor the pages, though the awful flesh bits are surprisingly resilient to being worn away by time. Wind and force kick up, the pages ripped from the table by sheer malice. They'll move around if the fire isn't starting to smolder anywhere. Fire is one province that doesn't spare the human flesh pages.

Hard to say if the spectre is much affected, or making a show of it, but the show of wills between it and Jacqueline stretches out. The smell of burnt amber, incense, and brimstone rises over suppurating flesh. Once scented, it's probably hard to mistake the frankincense for anything -but- a spectre.

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
It occurs to Jacqueline that she's going to need to do some serious remodelling come morning. And she's going to need to refresh that salt circle. She purses her lips, considering her options. One, wait here until morning, hoping there's enough salt in her box to last the night. Two... call in backup. And she's only got one number in this city that she knows might be able to help.

Reaching into her back pocket, she dials that number. Eventually, there's an answer -- whether a machine or a person. "Peggy. It's Jac. I'm afraid I need a favour, my friend. If you know anyone in SHIELD's WAND division, I'm under attack by spectres. I could use a banishing spell or two, if they've got any. At my condo." A beat. "And, Peggy. Please hurry. I have a guest whom I fear may be dying."

Probably should have led with that.

Nevertheless... the spectre's time, she knows, is now limited. So, she smiles darkly and flips the monster a very unladylike Yeoman's salute. "Checkmate, beastie."