Prologue: Caveat Emptor, Scene II (Daphne)

   
Prologue: Caveat Emptor, Scene II (Daphne)

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February 22nd, 2007
Early Evening


Rook was as good as her word, and the next morning Daphne awoke to find a short summary of information in her inbox, courtesy of cordelia.corbin@gstt.nhs.uk. According to Rook, the unfortunate victim was named Thomas Pike, and he was a 43-year old insurance salesman who lived in a flat in Mayfair. Rather well off, but recently divorced, no criminal record other than a few DUI charges, all recent.

When Daphne finished work and drove out to Mayfair, she discovered that Pike lived in a good neighborhood and had a good apartment, at least judging by the outside of it. The block of flats had in a previous lifetime been a set of stately, Victorian townhouses, their rooms chopped up and repackaged to sell to secure professionals in London proper. There were a dozen names on the mailboxes in the lobby, and there, on the second floor, were Thomas & Megan Pike. Apparently, Pike had not changed the name on the mailbox yet.

More interestingly, jutting out of the corner of the mailbox, where it had been improperly stuffed in, was a scrap of green paper.


Daphne owned a dark green, stuttery Volvo, but the damn thing never died. She'd replaced the brakes once, but that was the regular wear-and-tear. It was one of her only possessions, really, and not one she used lightly. Not because it was a good investment or she cared about the carbon monoxide it coughed out, but because London had a brand-spanking-new charge to discourage peak hour congestion in West London. It had been in Central London for a few years, and despite the grumbling and crowded Underground, it might have done the city some good. This was where Daphne was headed, anyway, and going into the city at this hour wasn't like going out.

She parallel parked in a manner too precise for nearly anyone's taste a few flats down from Pike's place. Walking up to his mailbox/buzzer panel was easy enough, acting like a lost friend with a face full of consternation.

Glancing over her shoulder, Daphne tried to rip the advertisement from Pike's mailbox. Maybe all those DUIs were in response to harassment? Drowning out his sorrows...either that or a ****-all spammed mailbox.

With a bored sigh Daphne turned and peered through the locked door. A sad enough pout perhaps could get her in if someone came home soon.

Dice Roll: 6d10s8e10
d10 Results: 10, 5, 2, 9, 3, 4, 5 (Total Successes = 2)
Manip+Pers

The green paper ripped in Daphne's hand, half of it still stuck in the mailbox, but the rest of it made for clear enough reading. It was a flyer, the same as the one that she had found earlier, but with one peculiar addition. Down at the bottom, in the part which she'd managed to rescue from his mailbox, the word PROBLEM had been circled several times in a red marker. An encouraging sight, that.

About a quarter hour later, someone did come by to the apartment building. She was an elderly woman, definitely on the far side of sixty, and she moved with a walker. Nevertheless she checked her mail, and then looked at Daphne quizzically. "You poor dear, what are you doing stuck outside? It's getting late you know."

Daphne forced the wrinkles at her forehead to crease. "I know, I forgot my key, and my roommate won't be home since she's working late. Do you think you could let me in?"

She almost said 'boyfriend' but stopped short of that. Even if the woman wasn't staring at her brown skin (as many did, along with muttering about foreigners), she could be of the conservative type. If she was racist, the old thing might pity her for being naturally, eternally irresponsible.

None of this she said aloud, only a tense pursing of her lips escaped and one foot toward the door like a mouse waiting to scamper into its hole.

"Of course dearie." The old woman said kindly, digging through her purse for a key and unlocking the door. She waited to see if Daphne was properly through, and then hobbled slowly off to her own apartment on the first floor. "Do be careful next time."

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The Pike apartment was on the next floor up, but Daphne could tell that something was wrong before she even arrived. The door was ajar, and when the Changeling pushed it open slightly, she was before her a scene of ruin. The apartment had been ransacked. Heavy, stuffed furniture had been sliced open, the wooden table in the middle of the living room was overturned, pictures had been torn from the walls, vases smashed.

It looked as though a small whirlwind had passed through Thomas Pike's apartment.

"Hm," she intoned, and prodded a now-indistinguishable piece of china with her dirt-encrusted toe.

So...maybe this wasn't about her. It was good to know you weren't being f*cked with, necessarily.

Daphne poked through the house, expecting another green flyer to turn up regardless of its purpose. She leaned for a moment against the kitchen counter, flicking her fingers as she thought, then looked in Pike's fridge for a drink.

Well? Why not?

Dice Roll: 7d10s8e10
d10 Results: 3, 7, 7, 7, 8, 9, 8 (Total Successes = 3)
Wits+Composure

Three things leapt out to Daphne as she made her way through the apartment.

First, were the numerous pictures of Thomas Pike, his wife, and their son, who looked to be about eight years old in the latest pictures. They were everywhere, in every room. The signs of the boy were all over the apartment, finger painting on the refridgerator, toys in the small bedroom, boxes of breakfast cereal with cartoon characters in the cupboards. The young boy was obviously the king of this household.

Secondly, and rather more disturbingly, were piles of medical bills. Leukemia, apparently, all for a young boy named 'Josh Pike'. They piled higher and higher, until, rather abruptly, they stopped three months ago.

Thirdly, the apartment had been ransacked at least two or three days ago, and so far as Daphne could tell, nothing had been taken. It had not been searched or robbed, merely vandalized.

Daphne chose one of the IPA beers in the fridge. They were gaining popularity among connoisseurs, but she simply liked bitter things. Reminded her where the taste came from.

Beer in hand, she returned to a particular photo of Josh, one with a big smile plastered all the way across, frame to frame. That boy, she mused, had ruined Pike's life. Flourished and wilted it, right before his eyes. That's what parents get putting everything they've got in their children. You never know when they could just...slip away.

Then she toed at the stuffing from the couch. There were several scenarios in her head.

One, after Josh's untimely death, Pike went down the deep end and got into some mess with the wrong people. Her people, probably.
Two, Pike desperately tried to pay the medical bills. There wasn't enough and he got into debt. Again with the bad folk, and the mess.
Three...well, she had no idea. How else would he have gotten himself killed with an enchanted seed?

Dice Roll: 6d10s8e10
d10 Results: 9, 2, 8, 10, 9, 9, 4 (Total Successes = 5)
Intelligence+Wits

One thing was readily apparent, this was the kind of situation that was not Freehold-approved. To murder a mortal with such arcane means was a strict violation of the rules, and something none of the Monarchs would be very happy about.

Daphne's eyes fell upon one of the books that Pike had buried under the papers in his office. Thomas Pike had not been a great reader when he had been alive. But there were a few books nevertheless here, books with a well-used look to them, for all that they were books of childrens faerie-tales. The book was open to Rumpelstiltskin. A story, that is, of a child taken as payment by a faerie.

Before Daphne could pursue this line of thinking much further, she heard the slam of a car door outside, and then the sounds of someone coming up the stairs. Given that there were only a few apartments in this building, there was a perfectly solid chance that they were coming to the Pike Apartment.

Without hesitation, Daphne snapped the book shut (unless it was softbound, then it would make more of 'fwip!'). She rushed to the living room and toward the main window.

There was a fire escape there, good enough. She clambered out, all limbs and skirts and possibly branches, landing on her hands and knees with a dull clatter of the metal escape route.

Dice Roll: 6d10s8e10
d10 Results: 5, 3, 9, 2, 2, 8 (Total Successes = 2)
Stealth+Dex

Daphne squeezed against the fire escape, under the window sill. She pet the cover of the book as she waited to see what was to come.




 

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