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@FernStone@Punished GN
Sybil A Harkness MD

Clay's brow arched for a just a second as they were led in past the receptionist, the nurse, all the way to Doctor Harkness herself.

This wasn't quite quite he was expecting either; small town family doctor out in the swamps, at the least he expected someone older. That might've gone either way for them, he rationalised.

The act - she wasn't buying it either - not that he expected it would've worked for too long - and he got the impression doubling down hard would throw up walls. Best to go with a soft approach. Before Lily or Charlie could blow it for them, he decided to speak up, projecting as best of a warm, disarming expression as he could.

"Look, bein' honest I just ran into these girls, saw this one seemed a little green aroun' the gills. I help take care of a fire crew up in Memphis, so I get it, but I always figure best to play it safe, but..." he shrugged. "I'm a Tennessee boy, so I know how tourists up north an' east can't take too much sun like us..." he chuckled, trailing off a little, then projected a warm expression .

He offered out a hand to her, projecting a warm expression, "Hell, I bet you get enough tourists on your plate as-is, huh?" he led on, projecting that warm persona. "Name's Carl - sorry for wastin' your time."

@FernStone@Punished GN
Sybil A Harkness MD

"... not going to believe me when I say this, but magic? It's real. So are monsters and ghosts and other nasty things. Your fearless leader clearly has magic herself. I wooooould elaborate buuuuuuut... I can tell by the looks on your faces that you think I'm crazy! But, you all will find out on your own soon enough. Just uhhhhh... if you see a deer with flayed skin: run. If you see a tree with a talking skull on it: run. If you see a skeleton in a robe with a gold necklace: run. If you see a green werewolf... you're probably already dead. And whatever you do, stay out of the swamp - especially at night. I'll be around!"

Clay's expression crinkled as Odessa pulled away, but he didn't take things any further. That girl's skin was clammy, and cold. Only way he could describe it.
"What the fuck wqs that?" Lily asked, and he shrugged. "Better we don't get involved," She didn't have any track marks that anyone could see, and though she was cold she didn't exactly have the rotting teeth associated with meth mouth or sticking to the pipe. "If its drugs, or other issues, folk like that can get unpredictable if you push 'em while they're spiralling." Mental illness was another possibility, but some things didn't fully add up. She was awfully specific, and the spiel she'd run her mouth off on suggested she was going through some kind of episode. Didn't matter, he figured. They soon moved on.

"... Let's get a move on. Remember: we're going with the heatstroke story."

Nodding, Clay briefly gestured his palms towards Charlie.

"Doctor's gonna figure out quick that you're full of shit, so make sure you do it right. Remember, don't talk too much. You're head's gonna be spinnin', feelin' like you wanna throw up even if you've got nothin' in you, maybe your body's gonna feelin' tight like you got cramps everywhere. Head's gonna feel like it's on fire, and you're gonna be thirsty."

Then, as an aside, he chuckled "Anythin' else, we can really just put it down to you being a weak-ass tourist."

For added effect, Clay gently reached out for Charlie's tricep to lead her along into the waiting room.

"Hiiiiiii, mami, is Dr. Harkness available? Too obvious that. How's an out of towner gonna know the doctor's name firsthand? Sure, it wasn't implausible - there was a sign outside that read Sybil Harkness MD - but Clay felt it gave the game away a little too early.

"She's in the middle of someone's check-up, is this an emergency?"

"Ummm... Mami over here... she hasn't been feeling too good?

That was Charlie's cue. “I feel faint," she mumbled, "Think I’m gonna be sick.”

He felt the British girl lurch forward, almost on cue - and braced his feet to take some of her weight, just enough that when the girl accidentally lost her footing, he was better suited to take her weight. Instead of toppling over and pulling him down with her, she ended up swinging around into his side, with 'Carl' propping her up, "Woah, hang on-.." Playing this a little too well, maybe. With a grunt, he shifted the girl's weight against his shoulder to stabilise the both of them, then apologetically nodded to the receptionist.

"Sorry, ma'am," he interjected, not wanting to get on the receptionist's bad side with their unsolicited drop-in anymore than they probably had, "I'm not from around here - but I ran into these girls and this one looks like she might have been out in the sun too long, so I figured to get her checked out. I looked her over quick, but I think she's better off gettin' a professional's eyes on her. I'll wait with her while the Doctor finishes up, if that's alright."

Webb Family Coffee House

Clay sat through the rest of the conversation without much else to say, only loosening a faint, exasperated chuckle to Lily's suggestion of enhanced interrogation techniques with the doctor. It made sense, they could probably take the British girl over, have her pass off as a tourist who had come down with heatstroke. He'd seen it back during some of Memphis' worst summers, particularly among those coming a good few hundred miles northwards.

The others had things in hand, but he couldn't get much of a size of them yet. His gaze briefly flecked towards the kid with the Texan drawl, among others, but he didn't keep his focus there. Too early to say what this group were like. He did find it strange, however, that this Jennifer was basically sending them to go away while she did something solo. One

@FernStone@Punished GN
Doctor's Office

The Doctor's Office was far from what he'd have considered welcoming, even by the low bar set by some of the rougher local clinics of his hometown. Paint almost looked like it was ready to peel off the wals, the wood halfway to rotting, or at least that was his perception - not that it would've been a surprise if it was, in this humidity.

He questioned what they were really going to get out of this, but it was as good a bet as any. Maybe there'd be some medical records they could peel out of Dr. Harkness' office. And the supposed missing girls.

For the most part he kept quiet, gesturing or nodding as Charlie and Lily conversed. He did offer a brief suggestion, "So uh, if you're wantin' to speak with this Doctor, maybe you can pass off as a tourist?" he idly gestured at Charlie, "I mean, none of us really from aroun' here, but I'm guessing you ain' used to this sorta heat, right? I used to see that a lot when I was a Fire L-T, humidity and heat gets a lotta folks down this ways."

"Ah, mami, here's the place but there's something I gotta get off my chest, I can't just be the only one that doesn't trust our little fearless leader? There's something about her - especially with the little Bambi act she puts on - like she's up to something. Liiiiiiiiiiiiiike.... let's think... she drops all these fucking leads on us, waves in our fuckin' faces that she knows something, then insists she works alone then dips."

Clay shrugged, letting her continue back and forth with the British girl.

"It's just a hunch right now, mami. But, if she's using us or something imma' bitch slap her little nerdy ass with a padlock...." It was difficult to tell if she was being sincere, but anything was possible in this day and age.

"Jesus, goin' heavy there, huh?" 'Carl' snorted, puffing out an almost exasperated chuckle, "I mean, I dunno, I kinda figure where you're comin' from, but this whole thing's a little weird, right? We're all-" He didn't get a chance to continue that line of thought, as some stranger wrapped in a clay-tone cloak skipped over, near enough thrusting a rose of all things into Lily's hands. In this heat? Probably methed out.

When he saw the stranger keep a hold of Lily's hand, he didn't like that at all, instincts about her being a junkie or transient paying off. He was about to physically intercede, when...

"... You all need to leave Quintin, there are things here that none of you are equipped to handle! Just pack up and leave. Before you all get more in over your heads. Eleanor Black is not real. Repeat after me... Eleanor Black is not real."

The mantra echoed at the base of his skull, contrary to all manner of logic - and he held back from grabbing her by the arm. For a moment, he wondered if this was a set-up, and he was at the center of it - a nice big fuck you from IA. He peered over his shoulder, briefly pulling his eyes from the girl in the cloak, but the only thing that caught his eye was a momentary glimpse of a feminine silhouette, peering out through the window at them. He blinked, and she was gone.

"Mhr," he bristled, rubbing at his jaw, attention flicking back to the laughing flower-girl.

"I don't know her, actually. But, in a way, I might as well know her... because like your fearless leader said, other people came to Quintin looking for Eleanor Black. What she left out - either due to obliviousness or something more... sinister - is that twenty-seven people came to Quintin - including those girls, who I also tried to convince to leave - and guess what?"

Flower girl's name was long-winded enough. Odessa. OKM. Even more long-winded was what she had to say

""Twenty-six of them are missing... the body of one was found in town and umm... it's not pretty," Odessa snorted. "When I say that Eleanor Black is not real: something is luring you all here - and I suspect that something is killing you all." if not for the mention of Eleanor, he was ready to believe she was just a transient coming off her latest bump, and even then he wasn't convinced that wasn't the case anyhow. The vague threat to their person rolled off him, for the most part - but his hands were a little closer to his side, a little more self-conscious of his surroundings.

Lily beat him to the punch, which he was glad for - how did she know about Eleanor?

"I was hiding in the bushes, listening to your whole conversation! Next time, close the window!" Fucking junkie, he quietly bristled with a certain inner contempt, before reminding himself that he was just a civilian here.

"That's not cute or funny at all..." Lily had trailed off, but Clay finished that line of thinking. "No, it's sick."

"But do you all have an idea of what's out here? Strange things that shouldn't be possible, but are!"

For all he knew, there could've been shades of truth in the apparent batshit crazy of it. Even junkies could carry fragments of a real story, however fucked their sense of reality was.
"Right, let's just back up" Clay stepped forward to firmly grasp and remove Odessa from within grasping distance of Lily, drawing on her wrist, "You're-... I'm just trying to figure out what's going on with someone. You can't be telling people they're gonna die, I mean how do you even know about all this, huh?"
Just popping in for a second to say that I'm still around. I'll likely get a post out today.

@Zombiedude101 Still with us?

Yeah, busy week mind. I'll get something out soon.

Somewhere in swampass Louisiana.

A faint snort of relief passed through his nostrils. Clay was glad to be somewhere with actual paved roads and buildings, not just endless backwater swampland. Though it probably was only a little different back in Memphis, the humidity felt just a little worse here, a little stickier, a little more poisonous. Whatever possessed the French to set up shop here a couple hundred years ago, he didn't rate it much.

But he was here for a reason, which had gone by the name of Eleanor Black. The recent turn of his career had been a clusterfuck - the only thing he could figure of it, and from what he had actually heard, was that Black played a part in that.

His career was all but over, he was eighty-five percent certain. Granted, charges would be difficult to stick, and the Department would've been reluctant to pursue one of its own, but the shitshow that came after Black "resigned" and skipped town was enough to almost guarantee there would be too much heat on him. On the slim odds he kept his job, that the internal review of his conduct turned up inconclusive, well... he'd be looking over his shoulders until he stepped out.

Options on where he could go from here was anyone's guess. Go private security; that was one option. Ex-law enforcement, even those with murky stories, could find work there easy enough. He'd considered it, but he'd also made a share of enemies out in Memphis. The badge wasn't a shield he could rely on anymore. Become a private investigator, well it's not like he didn't have the credentials, but he wasn't sure he wanted to spend the rest of his days casing out cheating spouses and serving court papers. Assuming the past didn't catch up with him, he could go anywhere now. It's not like he was tied down anymore.

He eyeballed the wedding band around his finger. He wasn't sure why he'd even bothered taking it with him. That ship had sailed, struck an iceberg and plummeted to the depths of the ocean. He'd played his part in that breakup, but it stung nonetheless.

Death by a thousand cuts.

She wanted a family, and he'd been reluctant about the whole idea, at least at that point of his life. What did he know about being a father? He was a badge, and that was his limit. Was he even capable of being a half-decent father? What baseline point of reference did he actually have for fatherhood?

It wasn't just his old man giving him a couple lumps, though it didn't help. As a cop, he'd seen enough kids in a bad way, babies left in week old diapers next to crack pipes, toddlers sifting through and eating garbage because their folks were too busy shooting up to feed them. He hadn't realised at first, but he'd subconsciously built up a higher standard of what a parent should be - and he couldn't live up to that. Half-decent didn't cut it.

Part of him still hated her for the divorce, though. The way it was done. God dammit, he'd tried to make sure she was taken care of no matter what. They didn't lack for means, but it wasn't enough, and the extracurricular work had made Lisa suspicious. Fair, he hadn't always been at the bar like he'd sometimes said, but that didn't mean he was sleeping around. For all his failings, all his loose plays, he had been faithful to their marriage. If it wasn't for that, the house being sold off, and all the other hassle inolved, he wouldn't have even needed the money.

Frustrated, Clayton slammed a palm on his dashboard. It didn't matter. What was done, was done - and he'd not travelled all the way to bumfuck nowhere for the god damn sightseeing. Checking himself over, and making sure his things were in order, he climbed out of the car and eyeballed the sign not too far away.

"Webb Family Coffee House"

Right now, a coffee wouldn't be a bad idea. He'd missed out on that particular morning ritual for long enough.

The Webb Family Coffee House

For a little while, he sat off to the side, nursing a mocha in one hand and a ring donut in the other. He was nothing, if not habitual, and a part of his old routine was as much. Others trickled into the place, meeting under this Jennifer. Most of them looked like they were kids, or close enough. And he was willing to bet they were all out of town. None of the crawdad drawl you'd get around this side of the Gulf.

Hearing the stories, for a second he considered just upping and leaving. Million dollar question - who was Eleanor Black? By the word of these guys, she'd been a mother, daughter, doctor, lover, friend - but not a cop. For a moment, he wondered if he'd been wasting his time. Maybe these people were just conspiracists on a loose trail, or Black had been playing some other game - but it didn't add up. This was the screwy thing. He'd known an Eleanor Black, and in broad strokes she shared some common factors with the others - foreign romance and parenthood excluded. As the story went, she'd come in on transfer out of Quintin, backyard swampland, and ingratiated herself with enough competency that she joined the MPD's Investigative Division. But these guys were, for the most part, describing a Black that was wholly different. But he was out of options and the alternatives weren't worth considering; either wait for the music and spend most of his remaining life in a cell, or go on the run with nothing but the clothes on his back. At least this way, he had some damage control. For now, he'd play ball, see what he could find out. Worst case scenario, he'd just delayed the inevitable.

The truth was that Black was the only other badge that knew about the money. Moreso, she was one of the only people who knew how they came across the money, and what they'd done to keep it. When he asked, nobody said a word to him. But at the same time, this didn't smell like witness protection, and witnesses generally didn't get to make off with a stash of several million dollars.

As the talk shifted to this enigmatic family matriach, Mary-Louise Black, he gulped down another mouthful of his caffeinated cocoa. It was unfolding into a wild goosechase. Haunted swamps and old slaveholder families camped out on their rotting plantations, exherting influence through some incestuous connections to the town. He got the impression, at the very least, that local law enforcement would be indifferent at best, and obstruct them at worst - he wasn't willing to play the MPD card either, just in case that pulled the wrong strings back home. Not to mention the locals probably were none too friendly, but there were a couple different answers to that problem. So speaking to the woman herself, he was willing to hold fire for a little while, let someone else tackle that alligator.

The other leads, his brow arched at. The butler wasn't a bad start. Might've had a grudge, but that might've played in his favour, having background of the family and all. The missing girls, on the other hand... how long had they been missing, one night? Something about that spooked him just a little. They were jumping to conclusions, possibly, in assuming this local doctor was involved - but he could understand some of the rationale that one might go to hit that conclusion.

"Sorry, didn't want to interrupt. I'm Carl," Clay lied, "Eleanor is... was my wife, I guess." He briefly glanced at the metal band around his ring finger, then pushed some air back through his nostrils, "And I'm just tryin' to figure out what's happened with her and us."

The best lies are grounded in truth. Mentally, he built up a small profile of this new persona - making sure not to stray too far from a real foundation.

"It makes sense what you're saying, hurts to say it, but there's a consistent trend there. The Eleanors we know walked out on all of us without a trace, as far as we can tell, so they... she probably doesn't want to be found. Same is probably gonna go for these people from the old families."

While he wanted to go after the butler, a pang of... something made him think back to the missing girls. He looked towards the English kid who claimed an Eleanor Black from Quinton, Louisiana was her mother - and her suggestion of going after the doctor. "It's not a bad idea, what were you thinking?"

Sorry for the delay GN, my team just took on responsibility for a poorly run client account last week (with me being the SME for that on account of history with them) and my spare time was eaten up dealing with some dumb escalations and staff shortages. Anyhow, I have a long weekend and don't go back till Monday next week. Without further ado:

Say @Vanny, are you still accepting char sheets? I've this loose idea of a sleeper hit type celebrity (thinking actor/performer) with a Yorkshire (think Sheffield Pub Dweller) accent ending up tangled in this affair.
Is there any possibility you'd be willing to facilitate a player playing as a member of the faculty? Nothing perverse, before people get that impression. I can send you a rough idea of my character if you're not sure.
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