The Weekly Weird World, Part I (Commission)

Erin: When Erin had knocked on Sergei's front door, the food she was carrying was still piping hot, which was odd. It was not particularly well insulated - it appeared to be a dish of something involving shrimp and pasta and eggplant, along with a dessert that involved a lot of raspberries and melted fudge and generally made whomever ate it feel slightly decadent. The dessert was sitting in a bag next to a bottle of non-alcoholic apple cider, because after the wine incident Erin didn't drink much. For once Erin didn't look like she was angry with the food, which probably should have been a warning to the unfortunate soul it was about to be inflicted upon.

Erin: If there was one advantage to Sergei's hermit-like tendencies, it was that he was usually home, and usually free for dinner. Once she had sequestered herself inside, she set quickly to work trying to tempt him with the food. There were few pleasures in life sweeter than seeing his muted grey eyes light up.

The Storyteller: By this point, the general course of events had been reduced to a ritual. Sergei would protest that she didn't really need to keep bringing all this food over, and that he felt guilty about it. It was a largely token protest by now, and so Sergei moved on to more important questions, which included peering over the top of Erin's bags into the shrimp-pasta-eggplant concoction and asking plaintively "What is it?"

The Storyteller: At the moment, Sergei bore a certain resemblance to his namesake. His nose was twitching at the smells, certainly.

Erin: "I have no idea," Erin said mischievously, leaning over to peer alongside him. "You will have to try it and find out. It might be... dangerous. But for the sake of knowledge, you must be bold." She speared a piece of shrimp with a fork and offered it tantalizingly to him.

The Storyteller: "For you, I'll risk it." Sergei grinned, then leaned in to bite down on the piece of shrimp. His brows rose as he chewed. "Mmm."

The Storyteller: It was at this point that Erin heard the door to Sergei's house open and close. She was reasonably sure that Sergei hadn't given an Aleksander a key. She was also reasonably sure that since the pledge didn't strictly prohibit breaking-and-entering, so long as it wasn't for profit, that Alek had no qualms about letting himself in despite the lack of a key.

Erin: Erin was also reasonably sure she could order Aleksander to turn right back around and leave if she felt like it, but this was neither diplomatic nor conducive to her long term goals. And she was feeling in a rather good mood from the food and, more pleasantly, Sergei playing along for once. Instead she just raised an eyebrow and looked at Sergei, seeing if this was a common occurrence.

The Storyteller: Sergei, for his part, seemed resigned to it. He shrugged. What can you do?

The Storyteller: In the meantime, the other Russian had entered the kitchen. Aleksander had always been a looming presence, but over the last few months he had changed from stocky to built, and had started to dress appropriately. Tight t-shirts and jeans, an expensive windbreaker against the cold, he looked rather good. He also looked somewhat amused, glancing at Erin and Sergei in the kitchen, tucking what looked like a magazine under one arm. "Don't stop on my account."

Erin: "If you are not trying to sneak in, you ought to knock, Aleksander," Erin said reasonably. It was pretty evident that whatever was going on, it was stopping on his account.
"Would you care for some shrimp?" she offered politely. There was usually enough left over to stuff Rakesh full after dinner, so she wasn't worried about Alek making a dent in it.

The Storyteller: Aleksander glanced at the two of them, restraining a smile. "I'll pass. Though, Moth, I was wondering if you knew anything about this." The big Russian passed the magazine over to Erin. "I found this on my doorstep this morning. Which is odd, since I don't subscribe to it."

The Storyteller: It was a tabloid of some sort, entitled the Weekly Weird World, and the front cover was dominated by a rather dubious picture of a stereotypical uniformed schoolgirl covered in blood, photoshopped against a fairly mild, russet-bricked building. The title read Boarding School Blood Cult Slays Teacher in Bathory-Imitating Escapades!!!

Erin: Erin gave him a very peculiar look, as she often did when he called her "Moth", which settled into something rather fey. She, with a look for permission, gently took it up in her fingers. With a practiced eye she turned it over, then opened it to the center, then flipped it closed and looked at it.

"Hmm," Erin replied, after her cursory examination. "Poor paper quality. Poor illustration. Purposefully incorrect grammar." She made no comment on the article itself at the moment, drawing the paper closer and idly tapping it with an antenna.

The Storyteller: [Notwithstanding the rather sensational delivery system, the basic cover story is interesting in and of itself. Apparently a teacher died two nights ago at the Hawkworth Preparatory Academy, an all-girls boarding school over in Essex. Assuming the WWW could be trusted even a little, the teacher had been found in a hot-tub (it was that kind of school), completely drenched in blood, and quite thoroughly dead. The school was hushing it up, but the Weekly Weird World was on the case.]

Erin:[Inanimate Communion (glamour 5 >4)]

The Storyteller: [The paper was apparently misdelivered by a mailman. A fairly epic misdelivery, given that the original recipient lived in Liverpool.]

Erin: Erin set the tabloid gently down and folded her fingers together, which was quite a more involved process for her than everyone else. "It must have been delivered to the wrong address," she replied unhelpfully. "Hmm. A rather gruesome story."

The Storyteller: Sergei looked over and picked up the tabloid, glancing at the cover. "I didn't know you read these sorts of things." He said mildly, flipping through the magazine. "Horrible, if true."

Erin: "I had not heard of it before now, no," Erin said, in answer to his question. She paused after that, simply examining Aleksander. [Sense Motive]

Erin: "Hmm," she said again, then quirked up the corner of her lip into a smile. "If you are asking if I signed you up for this, Aleksander, I should hope you think a little better of me than that." She stood, picking up the tabloid again as she did. "Hmm."
"It is a bit late in the evening to get a ticket to Essex, but there may still be something available," she finished, idly snatching a chocolate smothered raspberry out of the bag and chewing it thoughtfully as she did.

The Storyteller: "So. Just a coincidence I got this, then?" Aleksander said, his tone of voice making exquisitely clear just what he thought of this. He'd been having a great many 'coincidences' in his life recently.

The Storyteller: "We can use my van." Sergei said, looking back at the tabloid. "Gruesome indeed... and at a school. Perhaps someone should take a look. Too many things begin as gruesome and end far worse."

Erin: "If it is a message, it is not from me," Erin said, snatching another raspberry out of the fudge. Not directly from her, at any rate. "Well, Aleksander? The most reasonable explanation is that it was simply placed on the wrong doorstep. And..." she gave the rag a rather charitable glance, "...that the journalism is exaggerated."
"If you are not convinced," she replied to his incredulous expression, "why not come along?"

The Storyteller: "Why not?" Aleksander shrugged. He'd been expecting this would end up leading to a trip to Essex, somehow. "I haven't anything more exciting planned for tonight.

Erin: Erin rubbed her hands together. "Well then... you had better eat before you head out, and before the food gets cold. Do try it, Alekander. I'll go fetch a small bag for myself, and we can go.

"And Aleksander..." Erin added, in a slightly soft voice that said she didn't have to ask. "Please knock from now on?"