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@Punished GN@Atrophy@FernStone@Blizz@AtomicEmperor@everyone
Kari Wilson's House



Sloane had shot him a dispassionate expression that he met with one of his own, unrelenting. He was familiar with the unhappy gaze of strangers, the other side of the nuisance-friendly-do-gooer spectrum, the kind of people who were more like to shoo their own kids away from him and whisper thngs to their spouses.

"Finally, some honesty." he acknowledged Linqian - the girl who'd lost a brother, if he recalled from that argument at the church correctly, and she at least didn't entertain this 'facade' they were anything but associates by necessity at this stage. And unlike the rest, she'd suffered personal loss in this. A sibling was something he could understand. He'd had a brother once, lost some seven thousand miles away in a foreign country he'd barely heard of. And the thought of Judy's withered face before had crossed his mind before he dispelled it.

She was asking about his situation? Not something h wanted to broach, in light of the RV. This place ]would have been a half-decent waiting spot, if for nothing else then because it was somewhat close enough to St. Portwell while being isolated enough that he was unlikely to be disturbed by anything but wild game to whet his appetite, "Not on the streets,", he deflected, before shifting onto his next point as the other one, "But respect or not, dead people don't care about what you do with their stuff believe me. Just don't want Smokey Bear-" Clancy gestured to the encroaching suburban wilderness outside by lazily jabbing one sleeve outwards, "-or any of the other neighbours calling the cops because you broke down the door, before..

"No! No, no, I won't stand for this now! Who... What... Why!? Can't we ever get fucking organized? It's just like making plans! Just like it, I make sure I come back for a certain date, I syncronize my cronometer between the two dimensions, I get home on time to texts telling me that things are canceled like Verizon exists in the Kingdom of Molaran?"

The stranger with peculiarly eastern features and a dour expression cut off his train of thought. "Kingdom of what?" He wasn't sure if it was a metaphor, a joke, or something outright tangible. But he was right - the planning department in this group was lacking, and he felt exasperated at having to be the one to tell them - and get no results. Was this why Ashley had decided she was done with them, dead or alive? From the internat chats they'd shared, he was getting the impression this was almost certainly the case.

And he couldn't help but notice that some of the others were looking at him queerly. The bearded man with the chalice - was that the same chalice as the one from the dream? And the other bearded guy, the one who'd dispelled the blinding light that night at the strip club. He wasn't close enough to make out what was being said, but he suspected it would lead to some difficult questions - he'd deal with those later.

The plan to drink a round of sacky or whatever it was called seemed sound enough, for the rest of them. At least they had a better lead than just look through the dead girl's things for clues. He was starting to grow tired of thinking of these people as the bearded man and the grieving eastern man - and decided to be blunt about it.

"You're Sloane. I think I recognise the 'Britney' and 'Adora', but I'm struggling to follow who you are," he recited, "There's a lot of names carved in that tree, and Ashley didn't say much except how some people were assholes. She was family to me. I want Father Wolf. He wants you dead. Does that answer your questions?"

He wondered if he'd regret that in just a few minutes.

Dreaming



The same girl again. Imitations of a human face, a human expression. An oily black fluid. Snakes, writhing in the ooze. When the creature climbed atop the girl, that entropic pit of despair gnawed at the memories deep within his consciousness, and he felt a pang of familiarity that brought no warmth. And then the ooze burst forth from the humanoid creature's constrictor-like maw.

"No," he wanted to scream, but the word gave no voice, "Leave her alone!"

He had no mouth, and could not scream. Forced to watch, he thrashed non-existant limbs against equally non-existant walls, raging against the immaterial. Helpless, in a way that cut at his core, unable to intervene or break this creature that forced its poison upon another. To rip, tear, bite, devour-

And then it ended, and the girl had dusted herself and moved on, undeterred - that was more than he would've admitted to doing, where their places swapped. A temple ruin of some sorts, like the comics he used to read. A book of symbols that he didn't understand, save that they meant some form of power

Automaton suits of armour, with sections that precluded a human occupant, following the orders of a 'King' that made little sense to him. The girl seemed done for, once again, as they levelled arms against her - only to be crushed by the arms of a giant sprouting from the ground, a creation of the older woman's blood magic - if such a thing were as it seemed.

Their joy was short-lived. The girl had doubled over, serpentine shapes writhing beneath her skin; the black ooze. Phantom fingers tightened into a fist, but as before, Clancy was an observer and nothing more. He had no control here. Instead, the other creature's words to the girl's "mother" cycled through his mind.

"How can you kill what doesn't live?"

It was a good question.



Junkyard


Deja vu.

Thoughts of the hunted girl, the chalice and the book were soon pushed to one side.

Morning light spilled into his vision, and he realised he was awake and in the real world. The second dreaming. And not just from the skylight; in the thrashing before his waking - as he had watched the ooze forced upon the girl - Clancy realised his phantom limbs had, in fact, raged against something. The interior of the cabin was in further disarray than when he'd left it, cabinets torn from their fittings on the wall, the windows hatttered and where there had been a finished plywood wall beside the doorframe, there was now a jagged hole the size of his arm where even more light spilled through.

And he recognised the shadowy digits emerging from the hand closest to that entrypoint, long and thin as stalactites, threatening to burst through his fingertips and subsume the rest of his self in the throes of a paralytic rage. He shook the arm, and when that seemed to be insufficient, held it out into the light until those black digits receded.

His next question: had anyone seem him? To his annoyance, he acknowledged that the RV was no longer an option for him now. If the sound of his unconscious-self tossing the place in a frenzy hadn't drawn attention, the sight of the wrecked motor home would. That meant finding somewhere else to settle down his few possessions, and draw together his thoughts - a question he would settle later in the day, or night if required. It was a frustration that he could contain, at the least, but it brought to mind another problem that had emerged since he arrived in town, looking for the one who killed Ashley.

In the days since the island, he felt as though another set of eyes and ears trailed close behind him - perhaps it was just paranoia, but the standoff with Shayton had left an impression that had more permanence than the cane lodged through his eye socket. He was not wanting for 'enemies', if there were. The biker-nazi assholes would have no love for him or the gradually increasing dent he'd made in their numbers. The PRA believed that something had killed Judas, and the real killer - Shayton and his employers, assuming they were Dollhouse - were yet another set of assholes with an agenda that involved dealing with him.

And for all intents and purposes, if Shayton had been telling any shade of truth, which wasn't outside the realm of possibility, neither of the three had anything to do with Father Wolf.

It changed nothing, he recognised, and he felt that pang of frustration at being no closer to understanding any of it. The dreaming that invaded his consciousness, the messages that trailed them. There were only a handful of artifacts he knew of; one was a blade that served as a means to an end, and the other was the axe in his possession, a sharp and sturdy weapon. The Book was beyond his reckoning. The Chalice, he vaguely recalled having seen it somewhere, but not so well as to know or understand its purpose.

Raven Jones - the girl in the dreams - the monster as the voice had dubbed her, was a stranger to him. When this happened, he didn't know. Days, months, weeks, or maybe years ago? Centuries, even.

Was it a trick, a lie?

Clancy shook the thought away. His only lead involved the group of people being targeted by Father Wolf. The Sycamore Coven. A group that seemed bigger by the day whenever he dropped by, and judging by the initials carved into the tree, it seemed as though they once numbered enough to fill out a school year.

There would be time to find a new place of respite later, he affirmed himself, then tugged at the strap of his dufflebag, sloughing off the fragments of shattered plywood sprinkled across the top, then slung it over his shoulder, feeling for the weight of the axe within.



@Punished GN@Atrophy@FernStone@Estylwen@everyone
Kari Wilson's House



He was early.

And, as far as he knew, alone. The others hadn't quite arrived yet, and he wasn't aware that a third party was watching from afar - although the paranoia of being followed had never quite gone away.

When he'd first approached, the cabin had invoked memories of stalking through forest hiking trails and national parks. It almost seemed too good to be true; where was the moss and overgrowth? He could give their landscraper credit, he supposed.

Getting inside ahead of the others had required a little finnesse, but he'd had plenty practice of quietly slipping inside buildings that offered no warm welcome.

Assessing the wasn't too hard; Clancy had briefly contemplated using the chimney until he realised he was neither jolly nor fat - and realised there was an open balcony that would've just as easily led inside. Scaling the pillar and the railing wasn't a great effort, and prying open the door required just a touch of finesse. That got him inside, although by the time he'd done so, other figures were starting to appear on the horizon, and so he closed that door behind him.

Making sure this wasn't going to be another disaster seemed sensible enough. Why let more of Ashley's idiot 'friends' get themselves killed before they could get results, if such a thing were possible.

The night at the island, he'd left with a wretched outlook, stewing in his failure and surrounded by a crowd of people to stoke that fire - the toga party had stirred some conflicted feelings at the back of his mind, which clashed with the expectations and subsequent behaviour he'd seen from them. For a group of supposed friends, it was clear the only consistent factor between them were the ties to the coven and the entity they fought, and these days it seemed as though that friendship was at its limits.

Ashley's response from beyond the grave was telling enough, although he wondered if he wouldn't have said the same in her place among the dead, whether or not he'd known them. Her answer was enough to suggest she didn't want to be disturbed, and he could respect that to some degree.

The other two, however..

Lionel Hunter - he'd named the killer as a 'he', although he never got specific, but the 'club' angle made something of a difference for him. Problem was, there were clubs all over what qualified as 'downtown', and he'd drawn enough trouble at the first club he'd gatecrashed on his way into town. Despite this, Clancy had tried to find something of use, only to run into dead ends.

Kari Wilson - an outlier in that she seemed to have no memories of their friend group - only heavy footsteps before she died. So maybe Father Wolf was a he, unless . They'd talked about her not being 'their' Kari that night, and from what he'd overheard from following the others, they seemed interested in her. That's why he was here tonight.

The other victims had shown up dead too late to be of any use. In the case of Kali Mahendra - the one that seemed to be tied up with the federals and had supposedly died in a public place - he'd tried to get his hands on the security footage from the place he'd supposedly died, but it had been a dead end. The footage had already been taken by the authorities, or was conveniently absent when he'd gone poking through the back offices of a couple of local stores. Whether that was by design or negligence he didn't know, and he realised in poking around he'd exposed himself to more attention than he'd wanted.

Which brought him back to Kari Wilson.

He'd watched, listened, tracked and waited. The surviving 'coven' had been planning a trip here anyway, and given Ashley's things had been tossed over, and the others had died aware they were on the block with no real leads to offer in their dying, he rationalised that visiting Kari's place wasn't unreasonable. A clue at what she'd been doing, what had happened maybe.

That aside, he was tired of blindly fumbling for answers alone - as a stranger to St. Portwell and the history behind it. Back on track. The upper floor had been cleared, for now. He didn't have the context or the background to know what else he might be looking for.

Voices outside. They were close enough now that he could hear them more clearly. Another one of their number had died. Lyss. Clancy made his way downstairs, one eye on the front door, and the other taking in his surroundings.

“.. let’s all huddle up, focus, and give Auri our undivided attention, okay? But first let’s take a moment to pay respects to Lyss. She was a good egg. A lot of us are standing here today thanks to her,”

A pause. Then, in the dark - a fire that resembled gaslight, blue and orange. Were they trying to pick the lock?

He realised it was probably easier to unlock the door from the inside and let them in, but-

“I dunno, maybe we can just give her a moment of si—”
BANG!


It burst open hard enough to dent the interior plaster and rebound back in the doorway, only for someone to catch it. Sloane - he remembered her from the church, although she hadn't noticed him yet - he was stood off to one side, in a blind spot.

“Door’s open. What are you waiting for? Let’s go accomplish fucking nothing again.”

It was clear she wasn't making any friends, judging by the reaction of the others.

”I know because you think Kari is dead; it doesn't matter what we do to her house, but I'm not going to sit here and let you, or anyone else, trash her home. I don't want to be here, and I don't think we should be breaking into her house in the first place, but we need to show her - and her possessions - some respect.”

Good friends indeed.

”She was one of us - the most vital in fact - and you should leave your little world for a second and remember that.”

"You could've knocked," Clancy answered, announcing his presence.

As before, he wore the same green and yellow sports hoodie and awkwardly cut-to-length jeans, now bearing a few extra dark spots from almost two weeks of exposure to dirt, grime and other detritus in the elements.

"At least your friend's kinda onto a point, but you really are a shitty bunch of friends, to Ashley and the rest, d'you know that?" His expression was a cold condemndation, almost glowering, but he shook it off. "If you can remember not to fight like a bunch of high school kids, maybe you'll get something done this time."

As he stepped into view, the duffle bag slung over his shoulder, along the length of his body, came into view.


@Punished GN@Atrophy@FernStone
Halloween Festival - Kid's Section



Worthless.

Clancy seethed, shards of broken plastic compressed into his palm. The phone had been a dud. Functionally and practically worthless to him in every sense. And one of the few people in this town that seemed to have any leaning towards where he needed to be had disappeared on him in the blink of an eye. one person of interest had disappeared on him, leaving more questions and-

"Holy-... are you OK, son?" A voice in his blindspot, some probably-middle-aged dad, acutely aware of the cane lodged through his eye.

"Hey, call the first aiders-" another voice, a woman - this time in his vision, an expression of horror spread across her features. He ignored them, pacing forward. "Fuck that, kid needs nine-one-one!"

"It's part of the costume." Clancy growled, working to maintain his composure. He was acutely aware of the cane's presence, not least because - while he was himself - it rendered him half-blind. Pain was a non-issue, something he did not and never would fear. He was past that point. But he had failed, and left with more answers than he came from.

"Jesus, he's in shock-" the same, masculine voice chattered away in the background, just noise to him in the midst of it all. With only a peripheral view of the cane's ornate handle spearing out in front of his nose, he reached upwards, fumbling for the length of it, and tightened his fingers around the shaft. When he tried to pull, he felt the strangest sensation of cracking inside his head.

"Woah-woah stop, you'll make it worse!" Someone stepped in front of him, and their voice matched one of those that had been talking about him; a bearded man with a faux-fur and leather jacket that almost resembled the leathers that his brother had once worn, in a memory stored away from what now felt like years ago. That same man reached out to him, trying to shop his hand away from the handle, a well-intentioned irritation encroaching on the boundaries he set for himself, until one of those meaty hands gripped around his wrist.

"Do not touch-" he growled, his voice briefly shifting away from what it should have been that primal, inhuman pitch that overlapped his own, and for a moment he felt the illusion of self and self-control slipping. Clancy twisted and pushed back hard enough that, amidst the sound of splintering wood, he felt the man's wrist strain under the force of it, and sent him doubling over in agony as nerves caught up to damaged bones and muscle tissues.

"-just leave me alone." A warning, uttered in his own voice. In the struggle, he'd broken off the end of the cane, leaving a splintered stake spearing out through his eye socket. As if to emphasise his point, he threw the broken-off handle at the feet of his would-be samaritans, then paced off.

Trying to get the remaining length out of his eye would mean doing this in front of dozens of witnesses, potentially unmasking himself in the process, and he recognised that he was not the only one in the neighbourhood, let alone the whole town, that had strength and power. He needed to leave, there was nothing of use for him here, and plenty of opportunity for things to get worse. For the most part, he'd cleared a small path, pacing through a crush of sugar-addled kids, teenagers and eventually some half-drunken "adults".

"Toga! Toga! Toga! Toga!"


A hint of reefer intermingled with the collective pungence of sugar-barbecuefLeSh-liquor-mEaT!, and it was there that he spotted some familiar faces amond the intoxicated as he moved through the explicitly 21's only pavilions, although he had to squint with his one good eye to see through the eyehole of his partially-torn hood. The faint chanting of "Toga!" was hitting him in a way he couldn't quite understand, as the drunken revelers speared through the crowd in a disorderly conga line. A sense of a loss he hadn't felt. Was this something he would miss out on?

The thought withdrew as he recalled what he'd witnessed that night at the cemetary.

"Fuck off."

Were they really Ashley's friends? Could he trust them? That he doubted in spades. He wondered if things would've been different if he'd been there. Maybe so, but for different reasons than most would've guessed.

Remember.

Pushing the thought to one side, he was also conscious that some of their circle had broken away from, or never been involved with the celebrations, and instead were preoccupied by the G-Men from the church, talking to them. Although they weren't uniformed, he'd been close enough to get a glimpse of their facess on two occasions now, and the impression had stuck with him.

These aren't your friends, he reminded himself, not family, either.

There was nothing for him here. He pushed on through the crowd, past the line of "Toga!" chants, in the direction of the dock.

Off on the horizon, the silhouette of a ferry awaited a small crowd of people waiting a return to the mainland, mostly younger families. He stopped in his tracks, then reconsidered.

Of course, crowds consisted of people, who asked questions when things seemed out of place. Like the jadded end of the cane, still protruding from his skull. Questions that led to the same people bothering him again, like the one he left nursing a broken wrist.

No.

Agitated, hungry and about as close to tired as he'd felt in a long time, he thought it better to take the direct route this time. Clancy tore the canvas hood from his costume, irritated enough by the situation that he could tolerate the poor visibility no longer.

Then, approaching an elevated section of the beachfront, he found a smaller fisherman's dock that wasn't swarming with departures and arrivals, where the lights were dimmed and pnly a few idle visitors slumped in various states of fatigue and intoxication.

Clancy stepped out as far as the structure extended into the sea, until he reached the very edge, then continued forward, his costumed form disappearing into the black water with little more than a splash amidst the raucous celebrations and ambient noise of waves lapping against the shore.

Shayton.
Interactions: Clancy @Zombiedude101.
Cracker Island. Halloween Festival. Not-The-Kids’ Section.
@Punished GN




The plan hadn’t worked, and so Shayton had slipped the dummy phone back inside its pocket, although he was aware eyes remained on it.

As he viewed it, the "Kid" was a lot smarter than a kid... Shayton's guess at the moment was that this bastard was a shapeshifter who’d assumed the form of a child to throw off suspicion.

Yet, that hadn’t explained why Maggy had jumped straight to shooting him. Shayton remained stony-faced; he had complete control of the situation, even if the ‘boy’ believed he was in control. There was that temptation to phone Luis so he could send a heavy hitter like The Pale Horse, but he knew the kid would snatch his actual or one of his burners... and he didn't need help, anyway..

Not now.

Not ever.

"Last time we spoke, you told me something: These days, everyone is a target. They don’t know it yet. I remembered that, just like I'd guess you're not the kind of person I'd expect to see playing games with a bunch of Nazi assholes and some losers on bikes. I wasn't born yesterday."
Clancy


"Correct," Shayton answered. "On both accounts."

What is his angle...?

"And I'm still old enough to know that people don't just appear with holes in their bodies, like your last boss did. Nice of you to let me take the fall for that with the G-Men."
Clancy


"Hmph... I killed Judas because, despite acting like he was the big man, he made it clear he was going to crack under pressure," Shayton calmly answered. "Someone like him doesn't belong in the business."

He was silent for a moment before he said,

"Sorry that it interfered with your investigation, but other hands are at play here."

"I still have questions since you cut into that last conversation. Father Wolf. Dollhouse. Ashley Stone. You know enough. Who is coming after a bunch of washed up ex-high schoolers? And your bosses, the real ones this time, what's their play in this? Because I'm sure, you don't want that bit of information spreading around town, any more than it may have gone already."
Clancy


Shayton grinned, the kid’s expression crinkling further..

"... Just so you know, I can escape at any given moment; I just don't want to mess up my suit," Shayton laughed softly before he wiped that smile off his face and answered earnestly. "As far as Ashley Stone, Father Wolf, and the murders... You are getting ahead of yourself because I know nothing about that. I am hoping to eliminate whoever is behind it all as serial killers are... bad for business."

Shayton remained quiet for a moment before he continued, "As far as I am concerned, Dollhouse has nothing to do with the murders. But, even if they did, I would not tell you because I'd be setting myself for death."

Shayton let the words hang in the air; he didn't answer the question about his bosses as Clancy probably would have guessed his bosses are Dollhouse.

"Does that answer your questions? If not, that's unfortunate because I'm done with this discussion," Shayton adjusted his sunglasses as he narrowed his eyes at Clancy, "Let go of me before I break free and make sure you never get off this island..." Shayton narrowed his eyes at Clancy and punctuated his point with...

"... Kid."

Shayton was unblinking as he stared at Clancy, preparing to take other measures.

"You-" the boy growled, his voice slightly intoning to a faint, uncanny resonance beneath the canvas that made up his costume.

Clearly, he’d touch a nerve. ”Not the first-” He'd seen a phone; firing out his other hand into Shayton’s suit-pocket to snatch it away, only to be met with the man’s cane being driven into the boy’s face, boosted by the Cheetah Spirit.

To the outside observer, Shayton had disappeared for just a second, then briefly reappeared several paces away; foreshadowed by a gust of wind rippling over their corner of the festival.

Discretion was done. Clancy doubled back, the cane now speared through one eye and out the back of his hood.

The boy’s head turned, the entire length of the metal-tipped cane pivoting with him - unstained by blood or viscera as one might've expected but still somewhere it didn't belong. Realising too late that the stolen phone in his hand was no more than a worthless lump of plastic, Clancy crushed it in his grasp, catching one last glance at his assailant.

“Hmph,” Shayton shook his head, before disappearing in another gust of wind before anyone had the chance to notice he was there - leaving behind a grisly sight for anyone caught up in the local weather phenomena.
@Punished GN
Halloween Festival - Kid's Section



"Funny," Clancy muttered at Shayton's comment about his 'parents', his gaze briefly flicking to the handset withdrawn from the latter's suit; unaware that it was indeed a dummy phone, "Is that another 'report' to your bosses?" He maintained his grip on the sleeve of "Uncle" Shayton's suit, but kept his voice low enough to avoid inviting anymore unwanted attention.

"Last time we spoke, you told me something: These days, everyone is a target. They don’t know it yet." Word for word, he repeated what Shayton had told him, the night of the brawl at the club.

"I remembered that, just like I'd guess you're not the kind of person I'd expect to see playing games with a bunch of Nazi assholes and some losers on bikes. I wasn't born yesterday." Ever so slightly, he tightened his grip as they walked past some half-drunken teen trying to impress their friends by recreating some retro tune on an ocarina. Clancy shook his head in a disapproving gesture.

"And I'm still old enough to know that people don't just appear with holes in their bodies, like your last boss did. Nice of you to let me take the fall for that with the G-Men." Clancy's expression was masked beneath the costume, but the tilting of his head and the creasing of the canvas gave some indication that the boy might've been offering a humourless grin.

"I still have questions, since you cut into that last conversation. Father Wolf. Dollhouse. Ashley Stone. You know enough. Who is coming after a bunch of washed up ex-high schoolers?" Those were the most firm queries he had.

"And your bosses, the real ones this time, what's their play in this? Because I'm sure you don't want that bit of information spreading around town, anymore than it may have gone already"

Clancy was skeptical he'd get answers, but it was a starting point,

"The sooner I have answers, the sooner you can go back to talking up women half your age and pretending you're safe. Or?" He felt at the dufflebag strapped to his back, subtly noting the outline ofnthe artifact within, "Your last boss and Nazi friends went with or."


@FernStone@silvermist1116@Punished GN
Halloween Festival - Kid's Section



Hate group. Hate group? The words echoed in his mind, along with the second string.

White supremacists. Assholes, Clancy affirmed himself, and the realisation hit him. What?! He shook it off. He was no asshole like the bikers and their Nazi friends. One thing he did not suffer in his presence were bigoted assholes.

"I don't need help-"

A pang of... something irritated him, but he wasn't sure why. An old memory from a while ago, resurfaced, that he quickly pushed back as Lihn pulled out the 'spare' accessory which might've blunted the damaging effect of his costume.

"Cat ears," he echoed, the words joyless and almost disdainful, "Sure, why not?" That sarcastic edge, once again - but he took the ears without argument, slipping the headband atop his head and over the hood like a crown, so he looked like a perculiar caricature of a cat-ghost, or more accurately - a robed, white cat-boy, missing the tail in either case.

At the least, he could distance himself from the stupid assholes who wore robes and burned crosses on lawns, the blanks slowly filling in.

Stupid costume.

It was too late to seek alternatives now, in any case. He'd figure that out later, and began dwelling on another consideration.

Was he wasting his time here?

Remember what you...-

Noise in the background derailed his train of thought.A vaguely familiar voice, the accent distinct enough that it caught his attention.

"... drop on you...".

Turning away from Lihn, who at this point was probably moreso concerned about the uncharacteristic behaviour of someone she had known for thirty seconds, Clancy verified that the voice belonged to the man he suspected.

Shayton.

The suit, the white hair, and the distinctly foreign accent, only slightly dulled by time in this country. He was conversing with the other asian girl, the one who'd been watching a little boy.

"Prepared." Clancy muttered under the hood, observing the facial paint modeled after the cheetah.

Now or never.

A combination of restlessness, frustration, and persistence drove him to act. While Lihn tried to offer a helping hand, Clancy broke from their conversation without a word, pacing towards Shayton and his would-be associate, brazenly cutting into whatever conversation might've sprung up.

"-been looking for you everywhere, don't leave me like that ever again."

A robed hand clamped around the sleeve of the man's tailored suit, tightening just enough that pulling away would not be a viable option without tearing something up.

The intention was implicit.

"We've got tons of catching up to do, don't we, Uncle S?" There was little sarcasm and no bite to the statement. Only a cold determination masquerading as a poorly costumed child.

@FernStone@silvermist1116
Halloween Festival - Kid's Section



The rot in the air had pulled back, to the point he couldn't feel its proximity touching at him. Perhaps it was no coincidence that some of the raucous across the other side of the festival had died down a little, drowned out by the various speakers and other digital apparatus broadcasting their playlist of modern pop songs.

It was not to his taste, coming in as a watercolour of lighting, blended words and differing instruments, but he could admit that music was one of the few things he might still find relatable in this world, that he could still briefly find a level of inner-balance with when the right track came along.

It was how he'd centered himself, once - with the help of a walkman and the cassette left on a fallen oak tree, one tiny little moment of warmth and familiarity out in the wilderness some thousand miles back east. He wasn't sure why he was recalling that bit of personal history, until he realised someone was talking to him.

"You look a little lost.” A dull, buzzing noise in his ears, that had manifested as words. Clancy he ignored it for a moment, thoughts elsewhere. “Is somthing bothering you? Perhaps I can help.”

Clancy pivoted on the spot, ready to tell the next passer-by to mind their own business, fingers closing beneath the bleached canvas cowl that formed his garb. This time he pivoted, his eyes like dull, flinty chips of ice peering out through the holes he'd cut into the 'hood' of the costume. The passer-by in question, they - to be specific, she - was the asian woman dressed as a witch, or more specifically, the child's rendition of a witch, not dissimilar to those he'd seen when he was a little boy.

She was pointing at his outfit.

“I take it you're a sheet ghost? It looks a little, hmm, like something else. People might take it the wrong way. I’d recommend taking off the hood at least.”

For a moment, it dawned on him to tell the lady to mind her own business, or something else, but at the same moment something unusual had briefly touched against him that he couldn't parse. A strange, almost alien sensation. Warmth? Lihn's aura had touched at the guarded walls of his inner psyche, like warm oven gloves pressed against frozen metal - that was enough to give him some pause, even if she barely scratched the surface.

"No," he answered, "I'm actually just Pinnochio, can't you tell?" The dry edge of sarcasm was present in his tone, but only just - that momentary warmth sanding it down to a more rounded point. He hadn't caught on to her meaning, wondering if it was just some moral guardian trying to protect the children from the scary ghost costume while everyone else around them dressed like it was the monster mash.

"It's just a stupid costume, why do you care?"

It wasn't a challenge or an act of aggression, but a genuine question that had sprung to mind by her well-intentioned intrusion, only marginally underlined by the irritation he felt with people in general.

Junkyard



For the first time in...

... he dreamt.

"I need to show you something."

"....figure out..."

"Where it ends."

"Raven Jones caused all your problems."


He blinked, suddenly cognizant of the cabin he was hunched in. Daylight spilled through the skylight overhead, almost blinding as it bore down upon him. He didn't understand; it had been dusk just moments ago, before...

Had he slept? Had he been dreaming?

Who was Raven Jones?

The name didn't match to anything he'd understood. Why was he dreaming? That, more than anything else, unsettled him.

He had never dreamed. Not since-...

As far back as his memories could go, dream and sleep were just one of many normal things that had eluded him. He understood the concept of it, and had vague impressions of what it meant, but not the familiarity that he should.

Much of the dream, he didn't understand. He felt no different from before, save that he was no longer a passenger watching someone else's memories.

A trial. Robed figures, wearing masks of bone. A girl searching for her mother, entering the Pit, the black liquid and the snakes bursting from the contorted bodies painted across a wall.

Was this what Ashley had faced all those years ago? A nightmare of her own?

The creatures devouring the girl, and the dark place he'd sighted invoked memories of cold shadow and pain beyond anything the boy could've ever imagined, once upon a time.

Raven Jones was a name that held no familiarity for him, but he felt a certain sense of sympathy at the girl's situation.

"Raven Jones is a monster." The words echoed in his head.

"We're all monsters," was his reply to that.

It meant something that he'd felt more power here, in this place, than he had at any other point in the existence he'd known.

His memory of the last week was ephemeral. He'd arrived in this city with hints of where to go, pointed at the asshole sporting the wolf motif. He'd found that asshole, Judas, and with some difficulty had managed to get a private audience. He'd persuaded Judas to talk, only for the man to die seconds later. Shayton, the 'carpet bagger' - as one of the Nazis he'd spoken with had called the man, among other impolite phrases - had been there, and all-but acknowledged responsibility for Judas' death. And then he'd disappeared, claiming he had to report to his 'bosses' - Clancy had suspicions who he associated with, although he hadn't shared those with the others nor come to any definite conclusion.

He'd needed answers, and Shayton had taken that from him before he was done. Taken his chance to find Ashley's killer, and finish what he came to St. Portwell to enact.

The thought drove him to anger, but the rational part of him knew that it was pointless at this moment. The 'Father Wolf' killer was still out there, and the baritone immigrant's warning had remained in his mind.

“... I would suggest you keep your head down. Whoever- whatever you are. These days, everyone is a target. They don’t know it yet.”

Clancy pushed the thought to one side, looking to the 'home' he'd carved out in this space; the interior cabin of an abandoned RV parked out on a junkyard half a mile from the urban sprawl, where the most attention he'd seen had been some local assholes stumbling down the road on a bender, hurling bottles and pissing against the fence. Sections of tarp had been cut and draped over the windows to shield from prying eyes. A few discarded belongings were spread about the place, including his old knapsack and the cellphones of varying value and technological generation. The decor was dated, at least twenty years out of fashion, with ragged couch cushions that probably pulled out into a bed spread, if he were so inclined.

What passed for a kitchen unit was bare of running water or any other provisions, but settled on the countertop was his dufflebag, still bearing the ornate axe with norse runes and motifs decorating both head and handle. He realised, in retrospect, that there was some power that sat within it that was bestowed upon its wielder. How else had the asshole he'd taken it from - Victor - been able to push the weight of a car, and drive the blade through stamped steel?

It seemed important somehow, Clancy knew, although he himself felt no different - no weaker, no stronger - from holding it in his hands. Maybe that was his problem rather than the axe's, although he felt no disappointment at that fact. Power and strength came with a price he knew, and it seemed better it remain in his hands for now, than anyone else's. His parents had taught him how irresponsible it was to leave dangerous things in the hands of children who didn't know better.

Besides, if nothing else, it was sharp, and made a cleaner cut of felling trees, meshwork and other stubborn obstacles than any other method he could've tried.

Shrugging the thought off, Clancy zipped up the bag and slung it back over his shoulder. Waiting around wasn't going to help him, and he was restless enough as-is. The 'festival', as he recalled the others talking about, was upon them, along with a good chance of catching up with the locals and Ashley's-...

"Friends."

He bared his teeth in a humourless grin as his thoughts invoked the word. The escapade at the cemetery a week ago, something he had observed from the shadows, had led him to question that assertion, but they were if nothing else a means to an end.

Approaching the exit, he twisted the door handle and pried open into the daylight; the locking mechanism barely functioned, and his original entry method had been through the skylight. Now that it was daylight, he didn't want to advertise himself as the metaphoric king of the scrapheap.

Outside, a layer of gravel, hardy grass and weeds awaited him, all partitioned off from the outside world by a chainlink fence crowned with barbed wire. The RV had been parked off at the far side of the lot, away from the main road or where most would've seen him. As he stepped out into the daylight, gravel crunching beneath his sneakers, he noted that the camper looked much sorrier in the dawn. ts tires had partially worn down to baldness, the alloys stripped off a long time ago.

Surprisingly, it still retained both windscreen and side windows, although the cracks in the glass suggested someone had, at some stage, attempted to hurl rocks and beer cans at it for fun. It was kind of old by the day's standards, dating somewhere between the late eighties and early noughts, with paintwork that had been bleached and rusted by at least a decade or two of exposure to the elements without due care and attention. Compared to this, the motel had been a penthouse, but the attention it drew was too much, the time he'd had left in the room too limited. Here, confined behind chainlink fencing with minimal oversight, was some privacy.

For him? It served. He'd seen worse places in his time; condemned buildings and shooting galleries where he'd stepped over the semi-conscious limbs of addicts enjoying their latest high. Sometimes, they bothered him, but never for long. He didn't need shelter, didn't need warmth. But as far as convenience went, less questions were asked if he had somewhere he could retreat without being bothered by people.Children wandering the woods at night so close to the city attracted questions, and he didn't want to become a lost child with his face plastered on posters and milk cartons all over town.

Been there, done that. The thought was a bitter one, but he pushed it out of mind.

Mind set on where he needed to go, Clancy paced over towards the fence. At the far end, he'd been able to cut a thin strip that he could peel back to slip underneath, circumventing both chainklink, front-gate and barbed wire. His clothes would thank him for that, no doubt; it was frustrating enough when he'd had to scavenge up a new set after the events at the club had ruined what had been an almost perfect fit, without dressing himself up as a baby.

Fingers gripped around the ringlets in the mesh and pulled, opening a space half a meter in width for him to slide through. Just as he was about to, however, it occurred to him; Halloween Festival.

His expression crinkled at the thought.

Was it essential to bring a costume?



@FernStone@silvermist1116
Halloween Festival, Children's Paddock



Days of watching, waiting, following the metaphoric breadcrumbs left by the Persons of Interest that had once been a component of Ashley's old life, the 'cult' that had been dubbed the Sycamore Tree coven. Waters muddied by a dream he shouldn't have experienced, names floating through his mind.

A voice, brief as it was, that invoked a familiar longing.

A week of observation had been fruitless, for the most part since the graveside visit. His quarry had spent their time talking each other to death in diners and bars, shopping, and other meaningless exercises. All of it, to lead to where he was now.

And it had amounted to whispers so far, with nothing tangible to show for it. At least he hadn't wasted his time sitting idly. He'd learned things from watching. Had they played a part in Ashley's death? He wasn't sure, but the graveside visit suggested they were far from the good friends they'd pretended to be, although he didn't understand any of the teenage stupidity that was behind any of the bad blood, between them, Ashley or the differing factions - covens - that had fractured apart from one another. He'd confirmed what he had suspected for a long time, that there was a government agency out there, dedicated to finding the ghosts, ghoulies and other creatures of myth of which he had probably been due some credit. That the girl, Alizee, was dead and gone, and the parasitic shadow attached to her - the entity that had needled him so - seemed to have disappeared with her, into the 'Void'.

That they were still no closer to finding Father Wolf, despite the threads that connected it all together.

This world, what had he heard someone call it? 'Shimmer'? It made him think how small and insignificant they all were in the greater picture.

So was he, come to think of it. In more ways than one, he had realised.

"Comin' through kid-"

Someone in the crowd brushed past him, catching his shoulder hard enough that they'd have knocked him over if he didn't have a greater sense of core balance and dexterity, threw him off track. They were gone before he could really make out the culprit, the crowd ahead of him blending together like watercolours on a dull canvas. Now he was back on dry land having disembarked the ferrry to the Island Festival a short while before, and conscious of the hunger pangs nipping away at him. He'd taken sustenance of a kind before arriving, but the crush had only tightened his appetite.

Clancy scowled beneath the veil of his current garb, frustrated at it. He felt no joy from being here amidst people, packed onto one of the ferry boats like sardines and shuttled across the water. At one point as they'd disembarked, someone had patted him on the head in a gesture of almost-drunken giddiness, and it was a credit to his restraint and sheer resolve that he hadn't thrown the offender over the railings of the acces and into the water. Instead, he'd gently nudged the back of their ankle with the tip of foot, ending the matter with a yowl on their part.

Clancy wondered if that had been the only reason to attract a few stares his way. His chosen costume in particular left much to be desired.

A few holes had been haphazardly cut into some bleach-white tent canvas, salvaged from the junkyard. Holes for the eyes, awkwardly punched out to give himself a reasonable peripheral vision. Slits for his hands to fit through, so he had some dexterity and maneuverability. Long enough that it covered him to just below the knee, so it wouldn't snag on the ground and get caught in anything. It had been a long time since he'd wasted his time with something as childish as Halloween. He had vague memories, recollections of being dressed in a white sheet that someone - Judy - had cut out for him, and this served his purpose. Likewise, he was cloaked now, ostensibly passing as a traditional caricature of a ghost, a relic amidst the humanoid wildlife, gangsters and other grotesques and characters of fairy tale myth.

If only ghosts were so simple.

At least it afforded him some anonymity, and if all else failed, he could dump the thing to one side and walk around as he was without the need for a stupid costume. Beneath the canvas, he wore the same clothes; the green hoodie with the duck mascot and the oversized denim pants, both a little dirtier after days roaming the wilderness and chasing leads. Tightly slung to his back was the dufflebag and the artifact that lay within.

Maybe he'd been better off getting himself covered in blood? That would've been convincing enough, sure, but he'd taken some liking to his clothes, and didn't want to ruin them just yet. Another consideration, made after some delay; finding a willing donor would've been a small complication.

Clancy pushed the thought to one side. By nature of his stature, he'd found himself funnelled towards the children's sector of the island by one of the event's security guards, where the stalls, rides and activities were considered safe and sane for the under-twenty-ones. He bristled at that thought, keeping his distance from toddlers and tweens alike, maneuvering between scattered family units and single parents alike, either tending or neglecting their offspring. The presence of massed human bodies in varying states of excitement needled him, a level of agitation that had once driven him to walk apart from society.

Sustenance.

That feeling was never truly apart from him, he knew. This wasn't good, he acknowledged , but self-control won out for the time being.

Nonetheless, he found himself instinctually scanning the crowds for outliers, briefly looking for anything that would excuse acting on that base need.

A man with a vaguely familiar face, walking with his wife and kid. With a scraggly beard and a shorn scalp, he resembled one of the assholes he'd watched breaking bread with the Nazi bikers, moments prior to an untimely industrial accident. What did it matter if the man's family were there? It just meant he was an asshole with baggage.

Clancy dismissed the thought. He wasn't familiar with the man's face, not realpy. But he, himself was in control of what he did right now. He reminded himself of the fact, and why he'd travelled to St. Portwell in the first place.

Remember why you're here...

... and for her.


Judy's name crossed his mind, and that was sustenance enough for now. The rest could wait until later.

Shaking it off, he moved away from the push to somewhere less crowded, walking past a witch conversing with a fellow mother as they watched a small boy in a pumpkin outfit. Clancy's head tilted upwards, gaze fixed upon the artificially generated fog that only amplified the localised weather phenomenon that seemed to be afflicting the island, working to tune out the crowds giggling teenagers picking through their buckets of candy, alcohol and other illicit materials being passed around.

Something rotting was close, a sensation worse than being immersed in carrion meat. His posture tightened, briefly, although he made no further movement. Overhead, his eyes remained locked on the black birds - crows circling where the adult entertainment had been settled.

It would, at least, explain some of the noise coming from that direction.

Old, Burning Church



"GET YOUR RIFLE!"

Clancy continued to slowly backpedal, silently observing as the SWAT who'd made the mistake of trying to put hands on him began scrabbling for the weapon that had been so easily taken away from him.

"..handle him, Mr. Champion."

One of others was looking at him, and judging by the subtle bobbing of their throat, they were talking to their colleagues. There was a certain familiarity about that one - he wasn't sure if they were one of the same cops that had run into Judas the night before.

What he was sure of was that they were about to walk into him: Maximilian was apprpaching him at an almost flippant pace.

"Do not try me," Clancy growled, posture arched like a wildcat poised to swipe. There was an anger building in his voice, an erosion of the careful self-control he'd erected in his mind as he backed away, "Or I bre-"

A wave of what he guessed was heat washed over the both of them, followed by a blinding light as something erupted skywards and set the ceiling alight.

Clancy himself was briefly dazzled by the intensity of it, backpedalling into then ducking under the nearest pew, seizing the opportunity that had been made to lose the SWAT uniforms on his fail. Black smoke mingled with that of the tear gas, forming a noxious, potent miasma that nonetheless did nothing but prod at his senses. He could hear the panicked noises of the others, coughing and spluttering, while the uniforms shifted their priority to hauling out the second-hand smokers.

Smoke inhalation wasn't a problem for him, but the fire... was an annoyance that would slow him down. Luckily, the smoke billowing downwards offered him a shroud, and the drum of heavy bootsteps in the direction of the exit gave him some indication they had or were almost wholly evacuating the church, and that itself gave him the impetus to withdraw. Creeping outwards, an oily black layer sheathing his features, Clancy crept under the remaining pews, near the center of the building, he pulled his form closer to the edges of the building until he found a beam he could scale, ascended to and with little more thought he thrust a limb through one of the dust-caked windows at the far end of the room, picking away at the dangling shards of glass until there was an opening wide enough for him to make an exit. It took a moment for his vision to adjust as the daylight glared down upon him; pulling back the shadow, he almost forgot to pull his new clothes in a little and stop them from snagging on the broken glass, pointing inwards like shark's teeth as he crawled out of the maw of the inferno.

He came out onto an old slate rooftop, sun beating upon it, and tucked himself as far into a crevice as he could. Over the sound of crackling flames, he could hear a familiar set of voices, and some unfamiliar.

".. see what happens to you! I won’t kill you! But I’ll fucking make you wish I did! Now, who here can tell me which one of you killed Agent Mahendra…”

The voice wasn't one he recognised, but he could follow along enough that she was furious about something. Peeking over the lip of the roof from the alcove he'd found, he saw

Mahendra wasn't a name that rang a bell, but he wagered - and won that wager - he was yet another local caught up in the murders that had taken Ashley from them.

Clancy watched, waited, listened. They were agents, federal or otherwise, which validated his suspicions. The 'PRA' was something that felt as though it should be familiar, at a base level, but he couldn't relate it to anything he'd really known. It answered one question; they weren't directly here for him, and had most likely stumbled upon him by accident in the process of tracking down the cult that had formed around Ashley's social circle in her younger days. That wasn't to say he was wholly relieved, they had seen him and recognised a part of his nature. It was another potential annoyance that he would have to deal with along the road, so he kept himself concealed and continued to observe until they were at the point of withdrawal.

For a moment, he considered whether it would be easier to take them unawares, and hamstring them while their backs were to him. No. It was too much effort, time and psychological energy to commit for little return, and among their number he recognised power that made it more than just a matter of breaking arms, kneecaps and causing other debilitating-but-survivable injuries. To consider it at this moment broke too many barriers he'd set for himself. So instead, he let them walk away, now with one of the group in their custody. He didn't know her, and only barely recognised her as one of several who had recklessly thrown themselves in front of the bikers in the same way that had gotten the girl - Alizee - killed.

Eventually, the smoke had billowed up hard enough that he wagered it wouldn't be too long before the roof of the church gave out, and he didn't feel like picking himself out of soot-caked rubble, clothes ruined, and go through the tedious exercise that was stalking half-naked through the woods, searching for clothimg and sustenance. Too many possibilities of being stopped by do-gooders who knew nothing of him or the time they would waste, too many questions and obstacles it would throw up. It was a road well travelled, and one which he did not wish to revisit. Besides, the people he'd tracked- Ashley's friends, acquaintances and otherwise - were all here, and he hadn't yet tied up loose ends with them, given their conversation had been rudely interrupted by the federals.

Instead, he slipped down, hitting the dirt with a hard hud as his shoes bore the brunt of the impact. The ground cover was poorer here, but he used what sections of overgrowth he could to slip away, out of sight, watching from the treeline. It was easy enough to scale the trees, and no more difficult to vault between them when one had as much practice and verticality as he had. They were licking their wounds, angry, hurtful at each other.

Two stood out, the pair who'd been close to blows earlier. “... glad Father Wolf took Jinhai from you, you deserve as much.”

There was something especially low about that. Judy's name was the first that came to mind, even though it wasn't murder that had taken her, it cut deep. His sister, and then her-... Ashley. Who had been murdered, and taken from hom like everyone and everything else.

Clancy's fingers tightened just a little, until one of the branches he'd been holding onto broke in half under the pressure, reduced to splinters. Quickly, he adjusted his grip to avoid falling, but he realised being here, talking to people, dealing with their problems... was tiresome in a way he couldn't physically quantify. He'd spent so long alone, on his own terms, it was difficult to adjust to this again.

More time passed. The federals packed up and left, leaving the remaining stragglers to lick their wounds. Clancy followed one of the breakaway groups comprising Jasper, Luca, Lila, Lynn, moving across the treeline and through sections of tall grass, keeping enough distance so he wouldn't draw their attention, eavesdropping on the conversation.

".. have the Halloween festival coming up in a week, what if we all went to that together? Did a..”

Clancy could make an educated guess on what they might do.

“Group costume?”

He made a sound of disapproval, audible only to the bugs in the treebark.

”Group costume."

They didn't know him, and given the recent display, he wasn't a hundred percent confident he would get what he needed right now. He was sure he'd seen enough to recognise most of them now and that things were even more complicted than they had been, but not enough to have a full picture. This group were filing into their car, and in the distance, Clancy caught the approaching wail of sirens that had rung out the previous night.

The church, remember?

It wouldn't have helped anyone for him to linger here. As the others drove away, Clancy set off deeper into the overgrowth.



Motel




Moonlight hung over them. The signage of the motel was only just lit, the lettering sat under a flickering, ephemeral glow from lamp bulbs that probably hadn't been replaced for years and were on their way out. By all means, it wasn't the worst place he'd been to - there were much worse places to stay back home and along the Midwest. The building was relatively clean, although judging by the lighting and other signs of wear and tear, there probably wasn't a lot in the budget.

Clancy took a brief detour before returning to the room that his host had generously planned and paid upfront for almost a week. Stepping into the reception area, he quietly leaned over towards the rack of tourist pamphlets and perused through the contents. A few homely offerings, like bake-sales, markets and charity vents. A regional band on tour at some local bars. And the Halloween Festival. This seemed go be the crown jewel as far as he could tell, and had been the talk of the others earlier. If he wanted to catch most of them again, it was a measurable chance.

"Little late to be out, you alright son?" The night manager's withered voice almost made him pivot, but he kept his composure, "Yeah," he answered, not turning to face the old man, "Just grabbing something for my dad." He discreetly wiped at the corner of his mouth with the back of his hand, a dark wine-stain smear coming away. Clancy took that as a cue to make an exit, extracting himself from the office and pacing back towards the motel room, making sure that he wasn't being followed or watched.

They hadn't asked any further questions, but he'd sensed a degree of skepticism.
For good measure, he adjusted the Please Do Not Disturb sign hung over the door, before unlocking and stepping into a room kept alive by the dull, buzzing glow of a late-00s TV holding both darkness and silence at bay with late-night television.

First priority, clean up.

Clancy slapped the pamphlet on the nightstamp, unslung and dumped the dufflebag on the bed with a hefty thud, then made his way to the bathroom, a cramped box contained at the back of the room in a space just large enough to contain a toilet, sink and bath-shower combo.

He was conscious that, although it didn't particular bother him, the lingering presence of soot and tear gas threatened to be a literal eyesore for anyone who came near him. A scruffy kid caught attention, and the night manager had almost proven that. Peeling away the partially soiled clothing, Clancy ran the faucet of the sink and dumped the clothes inside to soak for a few hours, then proceeded to do the same for the shower, stepping under the water so that the layers of contaminant that clung to his form would wash away.

Hot or cold, it didn't really matter. The water could've been from a frozen river and it wouldn't have made a difference to him, this was just yet another opportunity to clean up, look somewhat presentable to strangers. Soot, dirt and a half-congealed wine-stain ichor sloughed off him, forming a receding dark circle over the floor of the tub as it disappeared into the drain. After what might've been an hour of staring at the tiles, he stopped the water, stepped back in front of the sink and began to wring through his clothes, working to scrub off the dirt with his hands.

In the mirror, he saw a face that felt more like a memory than a self. Once, out in the wilderness, he'd been spared that face, only forced to look in the reflections of lakes and streams, or cars parked in clearings. A thin speck of crimson remained smeared across the corner of his mouth, the shower having failed to dislodge it previously - he scrubbed that away with equal fervor.

Clothes. He turned his attention back to the murky pool that had formed in the sink.

It would have to do. He grabbed the soaked bundle of clothes, stepped back into the room and dumped them on a rack by the heater, leaving them to dry overnight. Wet clothes were likely to ask close to as many questions as they were when dirty. Once that was done, he went back to grab a towel and extract whatever moisture still clung to him, so it didn't track across the floor.

In the process of retreating to the bed, he felt his foot catch against something soft and heavy that had been haphazardly stowed under the bed; a large suitcase that had belonged to his host, positioned to avoid grabbing the attention of anyone who tried peering into the room. Clancy had neglected to take care of that particular matter, given the last twenty-four hours of events, but it would need to be done or there would be more questions asked that he didn't have time to deal with. Off to one side was a pizza box, darkened through with grease, the contents uneaten and soon-to-be moldering on the table. He made a mental note to dispose of that, too.

Second priority. Think.

He sat in the bed, drew his bare knees to his chest the closed his eyes. Nothing. it was pointless to emylate sleep, and he'd forgotten what dreams were. Even the quiet hours could be monotonous, dragging on, and his thoughts then drifted to other matters. Going on a walk in the night only encouraged those thoughts, and he didn't want to be reminded of how hungry he'd been, and how a core part of him still was, despite the wild game offering subsistence an hour ago.

Focus.

There was a week before the Halloween Festival, and Clancy had questions which needed answering. There had been a lot to digest, figuratively. Bikers. Federals. Ashley's 'friends'. Other things lurking out there, and in the midst of it all, Father Wolf.

@Atrophy@Fernstone@Punished GN
Church


Some had ignored him, or at least hadn't noticed his presence. Clancy looked away, and when he turned back - the host-girl and the parasitic monkey on her back had disappeared, while a few others at the back row were still bickering over something he could only guess was inane high school bullshit that none of them could afford to waste time on.

“... sorry for your loss, as I am sorry for our behavior. This situation has left us at our worst. My name is Sloane..."

Then, finally, he realised he'd managed to turn a few heads, but it took the first of them stepping up from the pew to finally acknowledge him, and imply she had some useful information. “...the rest of the congregation would like to offer this young man their condolences?”

Although he would credit the girl - Sloane - that, the gentleness of her tone betrayed a condescendance that he didn't have time for. "I don't need condolences-"

Two others cut in.

”...for your loss, Clancy. My name's Anya Baksh, and I also… worked with Ashley.”

The first, Anya, followed suit with Sloane, which wasn't much use given they had bigger issues on their plate. Hearing his name spoken aloud by someone else was something he'd almost forgotten, and not a thing he would get used to anytime soon, but that bottle had been uncorked already.

The second speaker, not so much.

”Oh, so you do know how to offer condolences, Sloane? You didn't even like Ashley. After everything Jinhai did for him, it's the least you could do, bitch.

This is going in circles. Exasperation made him question why it took a child to recognise their bickering was a waste of time, in light of everything. Seriously?! As the asian girl seemed ready to smash Sloane in the face with a book, Clancy stepped down from the lectern towards them, thrusting the axe back inside the bag so he didn't give in to the temptation to brain them with the flat end.

"Was I talking Yid-?!" he exclaimed, only for the last few syllables to be drowned out by the pitched crackle of broken glass. Clancy pivoted on his heels, fingers tightening around the handle of the axe, watching as a pair of cannisters bounced off the drywall and skidded across the floorboards of the church, a thin white trail of something noxious released from them, judging by the reaction the others were having.

This wasn't good.

Doors kicked in. People in full SWAT gear, wearing masks and yelling out orders.

“EVERYONE! GET ON THE GROUND! ON! THE! GROUND!”


They cops or whoever they were had arrived in strength this time, he knew. Clancy recognised a few of the voices, namely the asian girl from last night who'd offered him the business card. She seemed to have history with he girl with the bible, more bad blood.

For a moment Clancy stood there, lips pursed, apparently unaffected by what he eventually realised was tear gas. It rolled over him and he felt... nothing. He'd never been gassed before, not like this, but it still came as a surprise, the perplexed expression creased across his face as Bianca copped a bible nearvthe head and responded by tasing Linqian.

It was an expression that turned to momentary rage when a gloved hand clamped around his arm, close to the elbow.

“Hey, little guy-” the voice was cut off as he yanked the arm back hard enough for the masked man to lose his footing, landing on the floor.

"Don't-" he spat, seething at the masked man. Although he stood over him, he felt a semblance of restraint that kept him from taking that building anger any further.

“... What the hell?!” Samson asked.

Clancy stepped back, wordlessly planting a foot on Samson's rifle and kicking it to one side beneath a nearby pew, before anything stupid happened. His gaze was searching for an exit, fully conscious that all the conventional means of leaving had been covered by the SWAT team.
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